Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lies and Lineage

One of the most pervasive aspects of Western Occultism and neopagan movements is the idea of lineage. Lineage can be very important from the point of view that you want to know that the person from whom you are learning learned something at some point. Lineages can also be a point of manipulation where the mystique of ancient lineages draws people into a tradition that simply doesn't have the goods.

I think that in the 19th century the prevailing attitude was that tradition was important. As the Industrial Revolution began to transform the world in which people lived, they sought out stability through tradition. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all had long pedigrees and the idea of ancient knowledge newly discovered spoke to the imagination of the time. Rightly so as the discoveries of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were rocking the world.

This extended through the 20th Century. Surrounded by a rapidly changing world, people wanted to cling to ancient wisdom, sought pre-Christian native traditions, and craved spiritual paths founded in antiquity. How many traditions claim lineage from lost Atlantis? Gerald Gardner claimed his Wicca came from the New Forest region of England and that it was an unbroken line from before Rome introduced Christianity.

The reality is that most of these traditions were invented, sometimes entirely from scratch. The "Charge of the Goddess" is claimed to come from ancient Greece, and yet the only known versions date no earlier than 1949. The Golden Dawn, founded in 1888 claimed lineage from Germany through a Frauline Sprengel, yet there is no evidence of her existence.

Both stories were created to add legitimacy to the creations of new ideas, concepts, and traditions. Surrounded by innovation and transformation, people wanted, yea needed, a sense of legitimate history behind anything in which they were going to invest their time.

Yet this takes away from the individual autonomy of the seeker. The Golden Dawn tradition was founded by a group of scholars, experts in occultism, initiates in other traditions and formed as a synthesis of the existing ideas, philosophies, and rituals of their day. They introduced radical ideas like sexual and social equity and equality.

Wicca was formed by Gerald Gardner, writing by himself, borrowing heavily from Aleister Crowley, and building a cult of personality surrounding himself with sexy young women who (he claimed) the gods wanted to be naked all of the time.

Both claim the legitimacy of ancient lineages, but they are not equal. One is a system built by educated men and women, the other is a religion.

So what is the difference? You can either accept or reject any and all of the claims of ancient lineage given by the Golden Dawn and still find legitimacy in the work itself. Rituals are built on a philosophical foundation and they can be deconstructed and examined. Wicca, on the other hand only really works if you believe that everything comes from ancient sources. When examined much of it is set dressing without any real purpose or function.

For example. Both traditions require certain dress codes within their initiated rituals. In the Hermetic tradition, this is based on a single white robe. This represents the Spirit and the removal of all social ranks and privileges. The only markings of rank are those earned within the Order or Lodge in which you are working.

In Wicca, to remove the social hierarchies and symbols of rank initiates are naked in their rites. They still have symbols of rank and power within the system (cords, necklaces, etc...) but the function of the white robe of the Hermeticist is replaced with nudity. So, OK, it's the same symbol, but WHY? The reason Wiccans work skyclad is that they are told to do so by a "charge" which claims ancient lineage. "As a sign that you are truly free ye shall be naked in your rites."

The separation of secular and sacred spaces and the removal of society's symbols of rank are reasonable and arguable goals for working within a spiritual context. In every way, this is better represented by the white robe. This is a special piece of clothing, used only for specific types of work. Putting it on gives a clear signal to the Subconscious that you are about to embark on spiritual work, and seeing your fellow initiates in their white robes keeps the mind focused on the work at hand. My experience is that the mind does not remain very focused on "the Work" when you're surrounded by naked bodies. The hind-brain has its own ideas about what you should be doing in that context.

Yet to question Wicca's requirements of nudity is tantamount to heresy. I feel that it takes away from body autonomy and breaks one's focus. If we question the fakelore of the Charge's veracity then we find that the only reason for the nudity is to get people's clothes off. The sexual coercion that takes place in neopagan and Wiccan groups is rampant, and all done in the name of the gods and ancient tradition.

Perhaps we're at a point where we, as a society, can put stock in innovation over fake tradition. In the "information age" there's no way to pull off the kind of plagiarism and fakelore that formed the foundation of groups throughout the 20th Century. I've argued for a change in many situations only to be told "this is tradition" even when it is clearly not.

A lesson on Atlantis which is designed to teach a psychological principle and give the student tools for decoding myth comes across as factual all too often. I argued to change this lesson to make it clear that we were not requiring blind faith in Atlantis, and was shut down time and time again. I have a feeling that my superiors at the time DID believe in Atlantis, not so much as allegory and myth, but as reality.

Understand, mystique, allegory, and myth are all extremely valuable tools, but they must be presented as such. We can decode the Genesis story of Eve being removed from Ha Adam as a psychological allegory, or we can argue that it really happened exactly as translated. It's a valuable myth and part of our collective Egregore in the West, but it loses its value when we demand blind belief in it as a fact. I feel the same is true of our lineages and traditions. Does it matter if something is new if it's based on a solid foundation? Does it matter whether or not it can trace an unbroken line into the past, into cultures that no longer exist, into societies that are no longer relevant? Or is it more important that it is relevant and valuable to today's student and initiate?

I feel strongly for the latter.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ritual Cumulation and Contact

Ritual is a valuable tool for any Magician, Priest, or Priestess regardless of tradition. From worship ceremonies to initiations to specific rituals with specific goals we all use ritual in some form or another. Those who have been part of a system of training will have noticed that there is a significant cumulative effect inherent in their work. It is more than just developing confidence in the operation, but something that makes the 100th time far more powerful than the 10th. It is this which I wish to discuss.

The performance of a ritual is more than just psychodrama and it is more than simply being a slave to someone else's idea of what you should be doing, but acts as a real, and powerful repository of force. When you perform a ritual you tap into that repository, you add to its power while at the same time directing that power. It is a curious thing which Paul Case commented on which is that the use of Light only seems to make room for MORE Light. Tapping into this power only seems to increase the power, drawing more into it from the universe, but also allowing you to direct it as befits the ritual.

When you create a ritual of your own from scratch there are two options open to you. You can build it from nothing, in which case all of its power must come from, or through, yourself. Or you can build it with traditional elements and symbols which will lend some of their power to the work in question. Of course any ritual takes time to learn, and performing it well might require dozens of practice runs. But in the end, what you will find is, as you repeat the ritual, over and over, it does become more powerful. Every time you do the ritual you draw in more power. If the ritual is designed to make a change in the universe, or the self, every performance exponentially increases the pressure that is employed to cause that change to come into manifestation.

This is why the traditional rituals are SO powerful. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have done the ritual before you, possibly thousands or even millions of times over decades or centuries. Every one of those performances adds to the power of the ritual. The more accurately you can perform the ritual, the more of that power is accessed. It is for this reason that the "Inner Temple" visualizations are often left out of published materials. It is also why many organizations make small changes to their rituals. These changes ensure that they can access a portion of the power of the original ritual, but also that they are creating a new centre of power for use by their own members and their own Egregore. Giving away the modified ritual allows others to access this power centre, and if you have people with malicious intent this can become a real problem, especially if it's their lodge/coven working and initiation ceremonies which have been compromised.

It is an interesting phenomenon that nearly everyone publishes some version of the Lesser Pentagram Ritual, and each one has subtle changes, or even sweeping changes. I've seen Thelemic "Milk of the Stars" versions, and Asatru versions where one "battles" the quarter guardians to prove their worth. Each replaces some aspect of the ritual from names to visualizations to even the weapon or implement being used. Each one is intended to tap into a slightly different energy source.

It is also inherent in the specific wording we use, for some words and terms have been "evoked" as magical talismans and using them connects you to their "current" of force as effectively as using their rituals. This is one reason why the Hermeticist uses the word "Qabalah" and not "Kabbalah" or "Cabala" as each is connected to a slightly different current of force. The word "Magick" is very powerfully attached to Crowley and his Thelemic religion. Using this term to refer to your own work connects you to some extent with that force and his work. (The "Introduction" of Magick in Theory and Practice is a very powerful evokation claiming this term as belonging solely to him and includes some very disturbing messianic and cult-like wording which he embeds into the very definition of the term.)

Now, of course, we know rituals evolve over time. Is the Lesser Pentagram Ritual given by Regardie an exact manifestation of an Hermetic/Rosicrucian ritual handed down for centuries? Maybe not. But the major elements are there, and it's been regularly used for over 100 years now. Consider that Mathers and the original GD were writing and working before they had electric light! Even if it is not many centuries old, it is certainly full of power at this point, and the elements of the ritual come from even earlier sources. The formulae being in Hebrew is just one more way of tapping into aeons of built up power. But there are ways of making a conscious effort to make these connections and accessing even more of the power stored in these rituals and formulae.

Before performing a ritual try to imagine yourself as being a central point that transcends space and time. For some it is the accessing of the Magical Personality, for others it can be tied to a keyword. I find that the Shema helps with its reference to eternity and the universe (all space and time). When taking deep breaths, grounding and centering, also imagine yourself as stretching back in time. You are not just you in this moment. You are also the you that performed this ritual the last time, the you from before that, the you of every time you ever performed the ritual. You are also every other person who has performed this ritual, from Paul Foster Case to Gerald Gardner to SLM Mathers, and so on. This performance of the ritual is a reflection of every other performance of the ritual throughout all time.

If the ritual you are performing is based on other rituals (such as Banishings in general) then go back further, hundreds of years, thousands of years, all of those rituals, all of those priests, priestesses, magicians, witches, all of them, all of their rituals, all of their work, flowing into this moment, this sacred space. You are the Priestess of the Mysteries in Atlantis (if you believe in Atlantis) the Priestess at Delphi, the Priest of Mithras drawing his circle of protection. You're the High Priest of the Mysteries of Isis which covered all of Europe and most of Britain. You're the Druids of Albion and the Priestesses of Avalon and everything in between.

All of this power, all of this force, exists in the formula of the ritual. It is all expressed in your Magical Personality, that cloak which you wear when you step into the ritual space. If you imagine energy as though it were data, it is the history of Human Banishing Rituals all stored in a single database which requires only the repeated passphrase in order to be accessed. (I use banishing rituals because they're convenient and one of the most common rituals.) You are a centre of expression for all of this, and the more accurately you perform the ritual, the more of that power is going to flow through you, the more of that power is going to manifest in your working.

You can try this with anything from a simple adoration (such as the Golden Dawn's adoration to the Lord of the Universe) or with any spell, prayer, or ritual to which you have access. You can tailor the visualization to the work you are doing and think specifically about certain people, places, and traditions in order to access their power. If you're giving the Charge of the Goddess, then see yourself as every High Priestess who ever lived. Imagine the Elusinian Priestesses, the Priestesses of Diana in ancient Greece, the Priestesses of Avalon, specific figures like Doreen Valantie, Vivian Crowley, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowiki, and even Priestesses you've known and respected in your own career. You are but a conduit for the same power they have all tapped, to which they have all contributed. You are part of a current of force, a torrent of tradition. With that built up, with the Goddess standing within you, give the Charge and see if it doesn't have a lot more kick than before.

Ritual has a cumulative effect. We may eschew tradition in our post-modern era, but tradition helps to build up these powerful forms. Everyone who works with the rituals makes them stronger. You can always build rituals up yourself, and perform them dozens and hundreds of times, building their force the same way pushing a wheel builds its momentum, and often that is a desirable thing, to work with only your own energy and work. Equally we should not reject the incredible force which is available to us in the traditional rituals, spells, prayers, etc... for not only is that power there for us to use, it is also our duty to help build them up further in the collective unconscious for future generations to access.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hermeticism and Religion

One of the greatest failures of our Hermetic Tradition (also called the Western Mystery Tradition) is that much of it is still based in a 19th century ideology. It was perfectly reasonable, in the time of the original Golden Dawn, to assume that any initiate was involved in some kind of external religious practice. In fact it would have been scandalous for them not to show up at their local COE church on a Sunday like everyone else.

This is no longer the case. With religious abuses being so common, and no longer hidden away, it seems most people who have an interest in Occultism have quite rejected "religion" believing all religion must be the same as the church who abused them. (This is a hot-button topic for me, but suffice to say that the Hierarchical and Conversionist nature of most Christian churches is representative of the world's religions.) As such a good percentage of people seeking work in our Occult Fraternities and Orders do not have a religious practice of any kind outside of what they are given by their occult organizations.

This creates a problem, because the very nature of an alchemical approach to training is to create a balance between the three principles of Power (Sulpher), Love (Salt), and Wisdom (Mercury). There is plenty of magical work and ritual work (Power) and lots of study, memorization and essay writing (Wisdom) but Love falls by the wayside. Without an external religious practice, there is little to encourage the Love principle in the student. By the time they get to the Second Order they've become the stereo-type of the haughty, arrogant, self-righteous Hermeticist or Ritual Magician.

Even the bits of practice which resemble religion, such as the adorations, are done with the understanding that the Lord of the Universe, or the Lady of the Aeons is just a principle of Nature or the Universe or the Self (or all three) but is not a "Deity" in any respect. It is an impersonal "thing" or "Property" along Newtonian lines of thinking. Daily adorations are done in order to align the self with the patterns of the Earth and the Sun, which is all well and good. The question is then raised, is it really "devotional" as the Love aspect is described, or is it like a Kata or Hatha-Yoga practice which helps align the body and train the muscles, good for health but not so much for soul.

Back in 1993 the Steward of the Fraternity in which I'd been initiated told me that the goal of his work with this organization was to reintegrate the two major traditions which came from Albion, the Wiccan and the Hermetic. The Inner School had never intended them to be separate and certainly not antagonistic the way they are today. I've never seen any evidence of this work, but I suspect there was a lot of resistance to it amongst the very Evangelistic Christian Southern United States.

Joining Wicca and Hermeticism would solve the problem of the imbalances which I often see in both traditions. I've met many "Wiccans" who eschew reading and books, preferring to be "wild spirits." There is a distrust of academic learning which seems rooted in a prejudice which is, too often, truth when it comes to arrogance and self-righteousness amongst "stuffy ritualists." The Hermetic Magician sees this and is equally put off of anything Pagan or Wiccan feeling that they are too chaotic. A synthesis would result in the ability to worship truly, deeply and, sometimes wildly, while at the same time having complex and allegorical ceremonies and intellectual challenges to round out the individual.

In Orthodox Judaism, which is the assumed root of our Western Mysteries, there is no such imbalance. What is often seen by outsiders is a dour, strict and oppressive regime of rules and structure. But this is only one portion of their religion. For example, during Purim one is expected to get so drunk they don't know Haman from Mordecai (the good guy from the bad guy). Often their festivals are raucous affairs with noise makers and music. It is a primary tenant of their faith that the world was meant to be enjoyed, not enslaved. We have lost this, and I believe it comes from a 19th century view of the world as something to be conquered, as an object of Newtonian mechanics and not part of a relationship which is relative to, and inclusive of, the observer.

By removing anything resembling a personal relationship with some manifestation of the Divine, I believe we break down and repress the forces represented in Netzach and Binah. I think this was one of the reasons Dion Fortune wrote The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. The Hermetic system focuses too much on the Left Brain, Logical, Objective mind, even to the point where some people claim that any emotional response is simply a projection of one's shadow, either Golden or Dark. This dismisses any genuine connection with the universe, it breaks down and sanitizes compassion, passion, faith and belief in a very destructive way. "God" becomes a formula, a chemical energy signature for causing changes, not something with which to engage.

In most religions there is a personal relationship with the Divine, in whatever form it is perceived. If the One-Light is infinite, then it certainly can inhabit any form we can imagine, even a woman with the head of a cat if that's what is required. The point is, we can only interact with the Divine using our own brains, personalities and consciousness. If One-Force can appear to me as a beautiful woman with great wings, then that's the right form with which my psyche and personality can connect. It also means that I have a lot in common with others who also connect to this image of the Great Goddess. I am aware that this is not the absolute truth of the Divine, only the form which works for me, in this body, in this mind, in this time. What is important is that the Great Goddess manifestation gives me something with which to connect.

It is all well and good to know and even experience the One-Light, the Life Force which "eternally creates and sustains the universe" but it is so far beyond what we can grasp that we cannot relate. I cannot construct a real relationship with the stream of electrons we call "electricity" but I CAN relate, in a limited way, to images created by its power on a screen, or sounds created by its power on a vibrating membrane. If a system exists (like a telephone or video conferencing) which then allows me to relate to something beyond what the electricity shapes, so that it is a representation of a real personality, then I can actually relate to it and build a personal relationship THROUGH it which includes it. The Source of All, the No-Thing, the Tao, is not something that can be described. We can point at it, we can wrestle our brains around it, we can have moments of pure grace and understanding of it, but we cannot truly relate to it.

By reducing the Divine to mere symbols and principles we strip it of anything to which we can relate... and we create a lie for, though the One Light may be all of those things, it is also none of them. On the other hand, interacting with a Divinity which is a manifestation of that Light on a higher arc (whether God, Goddess, Archangel, Deva, Buddha, Avatar or Messiah) we become open to an understanding of the true Divine for which it is another mask, as are we. On the other hand, our Hermetic tradition was primarily formed by people who were used to going to Church every week to have a Priest act as intermediary and spend an hour or so telling God how to behave. Though separated somewhat from a "personal" relationship, they were still engaged in religious practice, the mystery of the Eucharist (which is very intimate in the COE) and some kind of worship.

Until a true synthesis can occur, though, I do urge those who study the Western Mysteries to explore religious practice as part of their work as long as they can be equally respectful of others. Any religion that insists on Evangelism, Dominionism, or Conversion cannot be compatible with the Mysteries. The point is to help build up the Love, Salt, Mother principle and balance the Father, Sulpher principle, not to push it into the Qlippoth.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Problem of Ritual Magic

Ritual Magic is a term often used to include Hermeticists of all kinds, though there are those, often working from old books, who use nothing BUT ritual in order to interact with their magical universe. I've heard Ritual Magic described as being an approach where people us ritual to get what they want. This seems to be based on a very narrow interpretation of Crowley's definition of Magic as being "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will." There are many kinds of change and people like Fortune use the term "changes in consciousness" in this definition.

Although there are forms of ritual which are intended to "get" something or "change" something, there are also an elaborate collection of ceremonials which teach something. Let us, for example, look at the Neophyte Ritual of the Golden Dawn.

Other than the actual initiatory psycho-drama which is intended to alter the consciousness of the new initiate, there does not seem to be a lot of purpose to this ritual. There is nothing asked for, nothing is produced, it is not a worship ceremony, so what is the point?

The point is that it is a ritualistic allegory of the human psyche. We look at this ritual from the side, or as an officer, and consider what exactly we are doing and what it represents. The ceremonial has six internal officers and one external, if there is room for a sentinel. Along the centre-line of the temple we see three officers and we can correspond them to the various layers of our human entity. This remains even during the initiation ceremony, for we see the Hegemon, who represents the individual's conscious self, coach the new initiate in the correct words and formulas, but only at the instruction of the Hierophant who represents the Higher Self or the Inner Teacher (Key 6).

In fact nothing happens in the temple at all except by the command of the Hierophant. This is an example of how the ritual shows us the truth of ourselves. We think that the "I that is me," or the personality, is ultimately responsible for the thinking and the acting, but it is our Higher Selves which give instructions which then filter down into our own minds as ideas. This is why we can have sudden flashes of genius which seem disconnected from our idea of ourselves, for they originate at a much higher level.

When the initiates and officers walk around the temple, they are lead by the Kerux, carrying lantern and staff, like the Hermit, guided by part of our subconscious, and not by our conscious selves at all!

These rituals are filled with these allegories, just as the Masonic rituals are, which show truths that can be extracted and understood as a kind of 4 dimensional teaching aid. The changes that result are those of the individual's understanding as it affects everyone in the group. If possible it is of value to video-record the ritual and review it as a group, see what interactions occur, and how they occur, and who initiates them. When does, say, the Hierus appear to act on their own?

This is the reason that the opening of the ritual is taken up by each officer explaining their purpose and the symbolism of their tools. It is like the expositional dialogue of a play or film, letting you know this person's role so that when you observe their behaviour you know why and what it means. All of this requires a considerable study or a very, very good teacher, but it is there, and it is the true purpose of the ritual. There is also a certain re-connecting to the Egregore that occurs, but it could be established through other means, such as a worship ceremony.

Some people complain that these rituals "accomplish nothing" but do not see the value in the play itself, the mysteries which are being enacted. This is no less "Ritual Magic" from a technical point of view, but it is quite different to what most people think of when they imagine the subject.

This then creates a problem when people think about Ritual Magicians, for the name may imply Hermeticists who, amongst other things, use ritual, or those working purely on a Ritual path such as is dictated in books like the Legematon, The Arbatal of Magic, The Books of Solomon, The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, and other books of ritual. The term fails to take into account rituals done as teaching allegories, or the vast array of subjects studied by groups like the Golden Dawn.

Ritual is but one tool, and it can be used for many purposes. Whether that makes you, or someone else, a "Ritual Magician" I cannot tell you.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Is Religion?

I define religion as "any strongly held set of codified beliefs." What does this mean? Well "strongly held" might seem obvious. In this I mean that the beliefs are, in some way, core to the individual's identity of self. I should point out here that one can belong to more than one "religion" at a time, very few are truly exclusive. "Codified" refers to some standard set of beliefs. This might be the Apostle's Creed, the Republican Party Platform, Libertarianism, Feminism, Hinduism, or Evangelical Christianity. Each of these has an outline that defines the belief system of its members.

A religion, therefore, has a level of homogeneity amongst its members. They often identify themselves by the religion even moreso than by their own achievements. "I'm a Christian" or "I'm a Liberal." Rather than define their own specific beliefs or where they may, or may not, agree with a specific label, they identify with the label. This can cause a great deal of psychological stress should the label they use to identify themselves become altered in the public perception.

An excellent example of this is the United Church or Anglican Christian who has suddenly found themselves a significant minority when it comes to the word "Christian." The label has been altered in the public eye because evangelical and coercive sects have become the majority. Christian, in the public lexicon, no longer refers to the core values of the average Anglican or United Church member.

Another example has been the re-branding of the Alliance and Reform parties in Canada. These extreme right wing parties were doing very badly until the Progressive Conservative party of Canada was almost drummed out of Parliament for various scandals. They then re-branded themselves with the Conservative colours and name (The Conservative Party of Canada) and stole the election after a similar Liberal scandal. The problem is, they have continued with their extreme right wing policies to the point where old-school Conservatives are embarrassed to use the term. Once they identified strongly with the word but now it has taken on a completely different meaning. (Sadly, they were also mostly those who voted for them thinking they were voting for their old party.)

The point is, a "religion" is strongly held in that it is often one of the things that we use to define ourselves as we integrate the codified beliefs into our personality. It helps us to feel that we are part of something greater than ourselves, gives us purpose and helps us to identify like-minded individuals. Psychologically this is an important part of our development and it is often easier to work with a predefined set of beliefs than it is to deconstruct ourselves and figure out what we are when we are not identifying as x or y. This often happens in middle age. Some individuals become so comfortable with themselves that they are able to deconstruct and analyze themselves as individuals. Others become comfortable and reinforce these predefined beliefs into a hardened and impenetrable structure.

More and more, though, we are seeing people trying on various ideas of self at earlier ages. They reject the religions of their youth and seek new structures, often confusing Religion with Christianity. Is the "Goth" subculture really any less of a religion than anything else? Their shared belief structures create an homogeneous whole often through emulation of one or more iconic individuals (what we might call "cult of personality" or "prophets" in ecclesiastical terms).

It should be pointed out, though, that even amongst spiritual religions, Christianity is a minority. Most religions do not have internal exclusivity. A majority of people in Japan, for example, consider themselves both Shinto and Buddhist. In the Old World it was considered polite to make sacrifices to the local Gods when travelling, regardless of what Gods you personally worshipped. If you were a Priest of Hern in Brittania, you would still throw incense on the coals as you passed a shrine to, say, Diana, while walking the streets of Rome. Even Orthodox Rabbis I've known do not feel that they have the right to impose their Law on others. The seven Laws of Noach which everyone must observe to live in Hebraic lands ask only that you respect their God, not that you must conform to their method of worship.

And this brings me to the most interesting aspect of Religion in the West. We've managed to make almost all of them confrontational. The Christian Majority believes that all others MUST conform to their way of thinking. This has tainted Political Parties, polarized our countries and made everything confrontational. The Right vs the Left has caused them to drift so far apart that they will shut down a proposed law just because the other team thought it was a good idea. It may have BEEN a good idea, but this level of religious "rightness" prevents them from seeing it as anything BUT adversarial.

I believe this is because Christianity adopted the Zoroastrian idea of an adversary. Whatever you believe, someone is trying to work against you, destroy you, and make you suffer for eternity. Even those of us who have escaped the primary Christian programming cannot escape our society's adversarial nature. Materialists take every opportunity to proselytize their religion even in the face of possible doubt. Atheists violently oppose the idea of God believing that all concepts of the Divine revolve around a voyeuristic vending machine sky daddy. They are so ready to argue and defend their position that they cannot even HEAR the words that are actually being spoken.

They do not tend to be self-aware though. Just as a Christian can point to their Bible and have a huge percentage of people on the planet agree with them (about 30% for New Testament, around 40% for the Old (Tanakh)) so too does a materialist rely on a consensus when they believe in things they cannot see. I cannot see an electron. I have a friend who works with them. If he shows me a plate and says "look a picture of an electron" I can either believe him, or not. He may be lying to me or be outright wrong for all I know. We read things in scientific books, but we are still putting faith in the people writing them.

When we get into more complex systems there are people who believe in M-Theory, and people who believe in Quantum Loop Gravity theory and people who believe in other theories. They are all certain that they are right, just as certain as most other religious adherents. Some conform to both a scientific and a spiritual religion seeing the beauty and perfection of their work as proof of a sublime consciousness in the universe.

In the end, Religion is a process of the brain whereby we believe in certain concepts and "truths" based on an agreement with others along the same lines. We integrate those beliefs into ourselves to the point where we begin to define ourselves by that structure, label and code. These beliefs then become the foundation for all of our motivations, actions and activities in life. If we believe in universal love and compassion, we will try to help and heal others. If we believe in fear and adversarial theology, we lash out and become a threat to others. If we believe in helping the poor, either through compassion or by commandment, then we will make efforts to do so. If we believe in free market corporatism then we will do our best to maximize our own profits at the expense of others.

It is for this reason that a study of religion, both domestic and abroad, can give us significant insights into the behaviour and motivation of ourselves and others. Religion and Culture are very closely related, as we can see by the development of our divisive culture based on adversarial Christian values vs. more unified Asian cultures where there is greater acceptance for one's countrymen based on a non-exclusive cosmology.

I know it is common amongst Occultists to reject all "organized religion" and, by doing so throw out all aspects of codification, often turning to Chaos Majik or some other pseudo-chaotic approach. (Chaos Majik is JUST as dogmatic and codified as anything else by the way.) But the organization and structure of, say, the Roman Catholic Church exists in no other spiritual faith tradition. Even Judaism, which is often seen as the Father of Christianity (much to the Jew's chagrin) does not have even regional organization. Each congregation builds their own Synagogue and hires their own Rabbi. Shinto shrines register with a central registry, but they function on their own. Therefore I do encourage you to examine other religions, see what they really say for themselves and even if there is nothing there for you personally, you will have learned to understand another group of people in a way you never could before... and if we're all expressions of the same Limitless Light, then learning about your brethren in this way can only help us in our journey.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Student Question: Perfection and the Qlippoth

A student recently asked me to post this response to their questions concerning perfection and the Qlippoth.

Perfection is something we judge, it comes from our own point of view. We perceive things and say they are imperfect. Does the Life Force make mistakes or do we think they are mistakes because of our particular perspective? If you're standing in the middle of the chalk outline in Uffington, can you see the horse? If you're a dog or an ant, can you even see that there is an outline?

Alan Watts wrote that the "bad" things that seem to happen to people are not happening to someone else. God is not punishing an external individual but experiencing suffering for Itself. Rabbi Kaplan once told me that visiting the sick and offering charity are Mitzvot (commandments) but if there were no sick and there were no poor, then we could not perform these Mitzvot. Everything we think of as a mistake is, in essence, something we may not understand.

It is the reason there are so many beings in the world of Briah. Gods, Goddesses, Archangels... all expressions of God, but simplified that we may interact with them on a direct basis. The Limitless Light is too much for us, we cannot wrap our primitive minds around it, they would burn to even try. In a universe that complex, how can we know what is a mistake and what is "perfection?"

There is no such thing as perfection, for every person has their own requirements for perfection. What is a perfect world from your perspective? What is perfect from the Evangelical Christian's perspective? The Shiite Muslim? The Zen Buddhist? Which perfection shall we create in the world in order to have a "perfect world?"

Sometimes it's the journey, not the destination... We may never reach "perfection" in this life, but we can strive for it, we can travel the path a little further than we did the last time. Each step brings us closer to our return to the Light, to passing the Ring-Pass-Not, or Ain.

The still small voice is sometimes very clear, but the lessons are not always obvious. Remember that any message from the Higher Self must be filtered through our own subconscious mind before our conscious mind can become aware of it. During that journey it must pass through all of our baggage, our shadow, and everything else before we are aware of it consciously. Also, sometimes, when we meditate, the brain falls asleep and we begin to dream. This can also be mistaken for the voice. I'm not saying this is the case, but it's useful to know in case.

The Qlippoth are forms of the Sephiroth which represent imbalance. By having free choice we can choose certain things. We can choose to move forward (good) or we can fight evolution (evil). Imbalance is something we all face at times. Too much Severity is but Cruelty and Viciousness. Too much Mercy is but weakness which would allow evil to go unchecked. We symbolically represent these as the Qlippoth.

Think on this though...humans or sentient beings in Assiah, are hanging between the Celestial beings (Angels, Archangels, etc...) and the Infernal beings (Demons, Devils, etc...) yet of all beings, we are given the freedom of choice. Nothing exists that is not holy, nothing exists that is not of God. We alone were given free choice. The Infernals are just as much a manifestation of the Divine as the Celestials, only that they represent a more primal part of our evolution. We, who descended from the Divine and were given free choice, climb back towards the Divine.

Our animal natures, for example, are not to be hated and reviled, but accepted, acknowledged, loved, and put behind us. The spirit of competition which was vital for survival in our pre-civilised state now prevents us from coming together as a people and working as a whole. If we were not competing with one another as nations, as corporations as individuals... how long would it take to wipe out world hunger? How long would it take to find a cure for AIDS or Cancer? How long before we left this planet and began to live amongst the stars? Those demonic, selfish, egotistical beings are representations of parts of ourselves we no longer need as a race. If we repress them, we give them power, just as the Shadow of our own psyche. Neither is it good to explore them without training... for they are ancient and powerful and can overwhelm you. This is why they are not approached in the early work.

It is like facing the shadow in psychology. It is not recommended to go at it alone, even with significant training in metaprogramming, magic and meditation. It can overwhelm you. Breaking down the personality can be an important step in the evolution of the magician, but if you don't know how to rebuild it, or you have nothing to replace it with, it can drive you insane. It's like hooking a plain LED into a mains outlet... it bursts. Yet if you know how, it can be done quite safely (building a board with the appropriate resistance and power inversion).

We are what we think about. The personality is very plastic. Should we focus too much on the unbalanced and outworn parts of ourselves and our species, it will warp our personality vehicles, often resulting in Fundamentalist Christian style paranoia.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Explaining Paganism

Some of us who walk High Magic's Path are also Pagan and work with the Earth Magic as well. Sometimes, though, it is very difficult to explain to our primarily Christian society what it is we do without using pejorative terms. They have taken the words Pagan and Heathen and made them analogous to Evil and Satanism. This is their own misunderstanding but it is one that is deeply ingrained in them. Sometimes it is difficult to explain in terms they can understand.

One thing that has become very common knowledge is the Native American/Canadian's attempt to recreate their Native traditions. Those very traditions that our governments have driven from them through such atrocities as the Residential School System and the relegation of them to some of the crappiest corners of the land. Yet this attempt to reclaim their heritage is sometimes seen as heroic, or at least looked upon in a kindly fashion. They had something taken from them, and now they are trying to cobble it back together.

But what is Paganism but OUR Native Tradition? Caucasian people from the British Islands and Northern Europe (even into the Mediterranean) have lost our heritage, we have lost our Native Traditions and, worst of all, have lost our homes. It was not so long ago that generations of our ancestors lived in the same place century after century. I don't mean the same house (though for some families with an ancestral home this was true) but the same village, community or county. Our blood bound to the land, and the land to our blood. Sons and Daughters of Alba or Eire or Gaul know the connection they have to their land. Patriotism isn't political, it's blood and stone, earth and breath. It cannot be washed away by a few generations of migration.

When we are formed, the energy of the land affects us. From the food our mothers ate to the vibration of the land under the home where she lived, the spiritual energy of 'home' is somehow part of our very DNA, it's in our blood and it calls to us. This is what I think home-sickness is truly about. And though it affects us in this body, at this time... when a family has been in one place for a long time the bond is greater and it is not replaced by being born in a new land, only added to. In time, it could be washed out, the new land becoming the true home, but for most Americans and Canadians that generation is a long way off.

So what are we, dispossessed from the land of our blood, in a foreign culture (Christian) to do? Certainly we brought Christianity with us, but even into the late 19th century Pagan practices were still a major part of agrarian society, and therefore part of our culture and our land. Here we have lost most of those Pagan parts of our culture, the few remaining having been vastly watered down by Christian symbolism.

Don't get me wrong, I know many very good Christians, and have no issue with the more enlightened sects (such as the Anglican, United, etc...) but they have taken away what was part of our connection to the land, our celebrations, our rituals, our cultural heritage.

So being Pagan means that we are reconstructing our Native Traditions in an attempt to connect to our roots, our past, our blood, our land. These are our Native Caucasian/European/British Traditions, no less worthy of respect than the Native American/Canadian Traditions. Sometimes it helps to make this connection when explaining it to modern day Christians. They seem to have more sympathy when you associate your Paganism to that of the people who truly belong to this land.

For us, though this is made even more difficult by the sheer vastness of our countries. The land of our forefathers was cultivated over a long period of time in small nations with their individual egregore. Such egregore mated to the land and they became one. In those days (and sometimes even today) that marriage has a human manifestation. "The Land and the King are One!" We were part of something tangible and we could see the symbol of that embodied in a person. And when that person worked against the good of the land, the people rose up and destroyed them.

Here, though, we can go hundreds of miles away and not have left the province, let alone the country. We have tried to take too many nations and force them into one identity under one ruler who does not stay in power long enough to be part of the land. We have someone in Ottawa now who was born in the prairies, what little connection he has to Canada is far removed from Ottawa from where he is attempting to rule. What he may feel is good for the country can only be good for that place from which he came. We are all like that, which is why the American Countries are having so much trouble. We're too big, and we do not connect to the land... in fact we've become so stoic and scientific that we even go out of our way to break that tie, not wanting to believe in it, and by doing so, becoming unhappy and nobody knows why.

So there are those of us who seek to connect to our land, to give treats to the local Fey population, to dance around the bonfires and to celebrate our Native traditions, even if we are in a foreign land. Even families that have been here for a hundred years are still immigrants from the perspective of their blood/land ties. A thousand years in Eire is not washed away by a hundred years in Canada, especially if you've moved from city to city during that time. Performing the Native Rites of our forebears gives us some connection, some feeling of Home that has been lost to us. We are practising our heritage and honouring our blood and our families and our homes back where our families were born from the rock and soil. Like our Native American/Canadian brethren (especially in the Eastern Woodlands) we have lost our heritage and now we reconstruct it in order to rebuild a sense of self, a sense of belonging and a sense of roots in our world and our new land.