are the 15 hermetic arts theoretically perfect?

that is,if one were to not take into account the limits of hermetic magic and breakthroughs needed. is one supposed to be capable of doing everything?
or would some new art be needed? has any such thing ever been published/suggested?

If I recall correctly, the latest issue of Sub Rosa had a Temporis Art - time manipulation.
Does that answer your core question?

One of the most glaring omissions in Hermetic Theory is a Form for "knowledge". Without one, you can't translate a book by magic.

There are, of course, game reasons for not creating such a Form. If characters could create knowledge, they could impart Abilities upon themselves. There would be no more need to learn languages. So I'm not saying such a Form should exist, but it doesn't now, and so the answer would appear to be "no," Hermetic magic cannot, even in theory, "do everything."

A related question, is

What form is a randomly found pawn of vis?

If the hermetic arts are not complete, then it might be that Magi are misclassifying vis that should properly be thought of as relating to the form of Blah, as instead Vim or Ignem or whatever.

I have assumed that this relates to the possibility of botching, and if the theory were improved to include the form of Blah, they could attenuate the botch probability for using vis. If you subscribe to this model, it is important not to say all misclassified vis is Vim, as otherwise the current Vim botch probability would surely be higher than botching with any other type of vis.


yeah but isn't hermetic magic(with a virtue from the mysteries) already capable of some divination?
also i think i recall reading something about a 6th technique. not sure about that though

Let the mathematician speak! Kurt Gödel's first incompleteness theorem could roughly be translated to Hermetic Magic, and then would state than given any fixed (understanding fixed as with a set of techniques and forms, or magical abilities, or whatever appears in any Ars Magica book) magical system, there will always be things that one can't do. So the answer is no.

Throughout the books there are ideas for different forms and techniques that have yet to be included into the Hermetic Theory
allot of the ability's of certain arts and techniques can be split apart into better fitting areas and are where they are due to the Hermetic Theory being currently flawed
(warning this may ramble a bit)

For instance, there is the Technique of Guard or Protect (I'm not going to attempt a Latin version); which would encompass things like the Parma magica, Aegis of the Hearth, Wards etc.
Art wise, Animal could be split as per Corpus and Mentum; having an individual art for animal body and animal mind; same could be said for Herbum
Each relm could be an art; Divine, Ferie, Infernal, and Magic (maybe even a mundane?)
The Art of Luck can be derived from Vitkir rune magic
The Art or Technique of Knowledge is also a valid option
There is also the issue of compound substances which will start showing up in the setting; How does one control gunpowder? or replicate the explosive effects?

Then we get into the idea that the limits of magic are just limits of the current theory, as Tellus informs us, there is the Temporis Art (time)
Limit of the Divine has its own issues but limit of Essential Nature is merely a result of the current way of thinking, ie Aristotelian rather then Newtonian (all objects in absence of an external motive of power will come to rest)
from there the limit of Aging may be only theoretical, as it is Magi can slow down the process and creatures of [relm] stop aging all together
Limit of Arcane Connection is broken in a number of ways
Limit of Creation is completly broken with Hyperborean Magic
Limit of Energy is broken with Folk Witches magic
Limit of the soul can be fiddled with thanks to Canaanite Necromancy effecting spirits beyond the veil of Death
Limit of Vis could possibly be tweaked through Philosphic Alchemy
Limit of True Feeling is meddled with by Vitkir Rune magic
Limit of Infernal is linked to Divine and Soul
Finally Limit of Warping, as there are ways in which warping can be different for magi to magi (ie Twilight prone, and the Enigma), it may be argued that a tighter more refined use of magic may break this limit; alternatively, closer ties to the relm of magic may help

Let's keep axiomatic systems where they belong, and do not stir them and Gödel's first incompleteness theorem into a mulligan together with Hermetic magic theory.
The latter is not an axiomatic system, has nothing to do with mathematical logic, and still waits to be (see A&A p.11 Hermetic Magic and Philosophical Breakthroughs) reconciled with developing scholastic logic.


This is where I note that in "Magic Shoe," the Ars Magica/Gumshoe game currently in development by Atlas, there is a new Form called Fabricum which specifically governs man-made objects, regardless of material.

It's a little awkward to explain how the Magic Realm appears to be divided up according to the Hermetic Forms if one assumes that the system is incomplete and basically arbitrary.

The Arts are not perfect in themselves, nor between themselves, nor are they complete. The Arts lack a way of manipulating the celestial spheres; have problems with states of matter (as opposed to elements); has odd misplacements - places thunderbolts with air, rather than fire or vim, for example; is ambiguous on whether Vim is elemental or compound or something else. These are just flaws off the top of my head - there are more.

However, they are an expression of a flexible and robust system and application of theory, which is gradually improving over time.

Magic's division is strange, in that some magical traditions can use any vis to power their magic, but hermetic vis needs to carefully identify a type and use the right one. Soqotran magic requires a little vis for every casting, but is much more efficient at boosting spells with vis than any other. Every tradition warps in a different way, suggesting how you respond to Twilight and the Realms depends on how you were initially trained.

Perhaps the Magic Realm isn't subdivided up according to the Hermetic Forms, and it's a gigantic observer effect - whenever a Hermetic Magus tries to access the Magic Realm, they access a part of that realm depending on their Arts, whereas a Solomonic Sahir might access it depending on what legends they know. Then again, maybe other traditions don't care - a hedge mage enters the Herbam division and goes "oh look, a magic forest" and leaves it at that.

Unlike other responders, I'm not quite sure what the exact question is. But I'm quite sure the answer is no!

If you mean "Do the 15 Arts cover everything, in the following sense: given any Miracle, could we assign a TeFo combination to it that "made sense""? The answer is clearly no. There are things like Luck or Time that are clearly outside the scope of current Arts. A "canonical" 11th Form is Aether (see Dies Irae) that becomes accessible once those who-would-have-guessed Criamon breach the Lunar Sphere (I'm not sure how this interacts with "if one were to not take into account the limits of hermetic magic").

If you mean instead "does each of the 15 Arts cover everything within its scope - as in: does Imaginem cover everything species-related"? The answer is also no. The books are full of little, explicit exceptions in the form "This should be covered by this particular Art combination, and it runs against no Limit of Magic, but Hermetic magi still don't know how to do it and do not understand why". One example is the ability to create procedural or inscribed memories (see HoH:S, p.68), in a nutshell those represented by Abilities. Another is the ability to turn species into solid stuff (again, see HoH:S, p.63).

I would add that Hermetic magi themselves realize that (Hermetic) magic theory is currently incomplete - see GotF for a discussion on this.

You have to forgive me, it was just that the question made me think of Hilbert's formalism, translating the set of axioms needed to do all Math with the techniques and forms to do all magic.

But ok, let's dispatch Gödel away and move on to the mathematical weapon of choice: the counterexample. Figuring only one spell undoable solves the whole thing. The first thing that comes to my mind is a spell to kill God. So, would hermetic magic, given enough breakthroughs, be able to make such a spell?

The problem I guess is that even if the answer is yes (and it's quite a hell -probably literally- of an answer) just thinking what that spell would look like makes magic virtually non perfect. Just imagine the pile of vis you would need to put on such a ritual (and, well, beating God's magic resistance, which is probably quite high).

So I think the answer is a pretty safe no.

Maybe NO magic can affect time and Aether is just conjecture (despite it appearing in a published adventure). Luck is a bit hard to explain, since other traditions can affect it. Then the Magic Realm would work, more or less, as written.

I call this the Limit of Overly-Complex Game Rules. In the early days of Ars Magica, the Limits defined what wasn't possible to Hermetic Magic and everything else could be assigned a level, albeit possibly an insanely high one. This was a simpler and better way to design a game than to have all sorts of hidden restrictions, imo.

This is a debate going on behind the scenes of the game, among the writers and editors. It is part of the "meta game," the game of designing the game.

Timothy Ferguson discusses it in a recent podcast, prompted by Jeff Tidball's description (in the first issue of Peripheral Code) of Hermetic magic in the 5th edition as "an object oriented programming language for reality." To Tim, Jeff's description clearly means that there are any number of possible programming languages that might be invented, and Hermetic magic is just a really really good one. This is in contrast to Timothy's approach, which is that the Forms objectively exist and Bonisagus figured out how to access and use them. The division of the Magic Realm into the 10 Forms would seem to support Timothy's version, and not Jeff's.

Even more so than most things, this is probably something best resolved at your table, like the truth about House Diedne or the Duresca Scrolls.

So you grabbed a conclusively resolved debate - that about Hilbert's Program - to orient your own thoughts about the completeness of Hermetic magic. That's fine for heuristics.

Gödel's incompleteness theorems showed, that the goal of Hilbert's program, a complete, finite, axiomatic system to base all mathematics on, was unattainable. This has nothing to do with modeling the world, e. g. with unifying theoretical physics in a single comprehensive theory. It has also nothing to do with modeling the world of magic in Mythic Europe.

Sly questions with their assumptions well hidden, like:

can't be answered with such heuristics.

  • You can answer them to the letter - like that affecting aether from outside the lunar sphere requires a new Form in DI p.9ff The End of Time, or that God and his will are untouchable by magic.
  • Or you can point to the design process of Ars Magica, and different ideas of its authors, how Hermetic magic and Mythic Europe relate. This certainly provides more substance, and better understanding of game and game world.
  • I'd like to point out, that in-game Hermetic magic is the product of about a dozen Gifted persons, who starting from Bonisagus' ideas established it's basics in roughly 40 years. How can such a project be "perfect" or "complete", and able to encompass all the magic in Mythic Europe? It took nearly two centuries to sort out magic and the Realms, and reaching the current form of Muto magic took even longer. In 1220 Hermetic magi just can't know, how capable of further adaptation their magic theory is - though on high holidays their favourite orators might expound the vastness of its potential. It is up to individual sagas to decide, which further research can still bear fruit, and which is doomed to wither. Mythic Europe itself needs not be static, and if it follows real history for just a few decades it cannot be: thereby affecting the potential of Hermetic magic as well.


Hey man, I think I made it clear that I am a mathematician: as one, I have perfectly clear that Math actually have nothing to do with the world: it's the world who have to do with Math, on his compulsion to copy math stuff (curved spaces, planets moving geometrically, quantum mechanics running on complex numbers and, well, actually everything).

Anyway I didn't 'oriented' my thoughts with that debate: I just thought of it. The biggest argument I have to give the answer no comes from other side, my gut and experience: whenever anyone asks if in a complex system (and even if it's not that axiomatic system, I think we will agree that hermetic magic is complex enough on its own) everything fits into something, something happens every time or all stuff behaves in a certain way, the answer will probably be no, as, again, if you have room for a whole universe of different effects, some of them will probably be impossible to achieve, if only just because 'everything' is a pretty big thing.

But after all I agree with Doctorconomics: the only true answer to this topic's question depends of your saga, as the examples he gives (the truth of House Diedne, Dureca Scrolls) ...or, well, the continuum hypothesis.

I will only add, that by game design, Bonisagus theory has to be incomplete: the game creators want to leave room for each type of Saga to be played - this aspect has been clearly emphasised in 5th ed with clear Breakthrough rules and many suggestions of possible integration accross every supplement.
A fully define and definitive magical theory will remove a large range of story type and opportunity for players to explore. A lot of games focus on world & social exploration, Ars magica is one of the few games which allows opportunity to allow the game to evolve by adding new mechanical element supporting the story. Thus magic theory cannot be definitive.

and what about these aether and time forms?