4) Self as Redeemer
“There is no god but man” — Liber Oz
One common attribute of the Old Aeon systems is their insistence on the baseness, sinfulness, and helplessness of humanity. In this view, mankind is naturally in a state spiritual blindness, deafness, and dumbness; we don’t know what is best for ourselves, and we’re aimless when left to our own devices. This often translates into the necessity of giving oneself up to a higher power outside of oneself: to the priest class, to the guru, to God, and (most recently) to the State. In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond ourselves.
As was mentioned in the last section, each person must unite with both the “lower” (“the abyss of depth,” “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) and “higher” (“the abyss of height,” “the glittering Image”) Companion — those “Upright” and “Averse” aspects of themselves beyond the current awareness of the ego, which must be released, explored, and assimilated. A very important facet of this “great mystery” is that, “that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion” (“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 34-35). Although we seek to unite with those abysses beyond our selves (insofar as “self” is here considered as the ego-self), those abysses are parts of yourself. In terms of psychology, they are the unconscious aspects of the human psyche, which isn’t just “below” the ego (i.e. “lower,” “animalistic” drives, the “Qliphothic” in Qabalistic terms; “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) but is also “above” (insofar as it contains the “higher,” “divine,” the “Neschamah” in Qabalistic terms; “the glittering Image”). We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation. This is because “Initiation means the Journey Inwards” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”), and the Godhead we seek is not something other than our True Selves. As Crowley writes, “Behold! the Kingdom of God is within you, even as the Sun standeth eternal in the heavens, equal at midnight and at noon. He riseth not: he setteth not: it is but the shadow of the earth which concealeth him, or the clouds upon her face” (De Lege Libellum). Again, we assert that this Self is always present, even at the beginning of the Great Work of coming to know it, although we normally function in and revert to the state of identifying with our minds and bodies (i.e., our normal ego-conception of the self).
This Work of coming to reveal and identify with the True Self does not require the blessing of priests, the empowerment of gurus, the presence of a “Master,” the grace of God, or the funding of the State. Each person must “Lift up thyself!” (Liber Al II:78). In one sense, it is only by the individual’s own courage, persistence, and hard work that the Great Work can ever be accomplished. In another sense, Truth — the realization of one’s True Self beyond dualities — cannot be communicated.
It is as futile to try to communicate the experience of Unity with All Things as it is describing red to a blind person. We can use metaphors or analogies but they will never actually understand until they have experienced it themselves. As Crowley says, “all real secrets are incommunicable” (Magick: in Theory and Practice, Chapter 9), and this is because “truth is supra-rational” and so it is therefore “incommunicable in the language of reason” (Postcards to Probationers). Therefore, if there is any “faith,” it is the confidence conferred by the “consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:26). This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies; it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as that which is beyond dualities.
One can imagine the perception of Truth as a flower unfolding in the heart of every man and every woman: It is something inherent in the individual, which is revealed. Humanity is not sinful, degenerate, empty, or untrustworthy, but rather each individual is a Star, each a fountain of Godhead, and each inherently Divine. It is the work of the individual to realize this Divinity in him- or herself, coming to know themselves not as the ego but as the True Self which transcends all opposites: “ye [shall] look upon yourselves, and behold All Things that are in Truth One Thing only” (De Lege Libellum). This “consciousness of the continuity of existence” is no supernatural, extraterrestrial, supra-mundane, posthumous fantasy: Each person can attain to this awareness here on earth, during this life.
Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4
5) No Perfection of the Soul
“The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert
This idea is related strongly to the ideas in the last section of the Self as Redeemer. We assert there is no reliance on God, guru, priest, or any external authority, but it is a misnomer to say we “redeem” ourselves, for there is nothing to redeem. Crowley writes, “Redemption is a bad word; it implies a debt. For every star possesses boundless wealth; the only proper way to deal with the ignorant is to bring them to the knowledge of their starry heritage” (The Book of Thoth). The “soul” does not need to be redeemed for it is perfect and pure in itself; it only is because of ignorance of our own Divine Birthright that we think ourselves imperfect and transient. This “soul” isn’t the personality of the individual — the ego-self which identifies with the mind and body — but rather the Self which is coterminous with All Things.
The True Self never dies, as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself. The body along with the mind surely will expire but it is only through the mysterious mechanisms of this mind and body that the Self, beyond all limits and opposites, may become self-aware and consciously experience the rapture of existence. This Self does not need to be redeemed or perfected: there is no Fall of Man to be rectified (Abrahamic religions) nor a Wheel of Suffering to be liberated from (Dharmic religions). There is no sense of the soul incarnating to attain to higher and higher “spiritual states” or towards “enlightenment.” In the New Aeon, the “starting point” is not a fallen, suffering, and sinful state. Rather, we are all Royal and Divine, Divinity made manifest, and “existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) if it is seen with eyes that “Bind nothing!” (Liber Al I:22), i.e., eyes that see the unity underlying apparent dualities. As it is said, “Since all things are God, in all things thou seest just so much of God as thy capacity affordeth thee” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation. (Once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One.) Crowley writes on this imagery in The Law Is For All:
“We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil.'”
The important point is that “everything in itself is perfect” but our minds inevitably “muddle” the situation which ends with us identifying with the ego instead of the True Self. Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us; the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation. As Crowley explains in The Law Is For All,
“This ‘star’ or ‘Inmost Light’ is the original, individual, eternal essence . . . we are warned against the idea of a Pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we ‘attain.’ That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is as given previously, to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection.”
In the New Aeon, we go even further than one might expect: The “ignorance” of duality is not inherently evil or bad at all, either. In short, duality is “ignorance” for one who still identifies with the ego, but once one has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self, one recognizes duality as the necessary means for self-awareness. For the individual mired in duality and identification with the ego, “coition-dissolution” is her formula, but one who has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self has the formula of “creation-parturition” . . . and “The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss” (Book of Lies). The body, and the mind with its inherently dualistic concepts, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate. It may take the experience of the dissolution of the ego to overcome the morbid fear of death and accept duality not as the condition of our suffering but as the opportunity for us to rejoice in the uniting of diverse elements (self and world in each experience, along with the Supreme Union of ego and non-ego/subject and object). The world is both “None… and two” (Liber Al I:28) . . . None, the continuous, is “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all” (Liber Al I:29-30). In this conception, duality and the creation of the world as we know it (i.e., the normal, dualistic world which we commonly inhabit) is actually the condition of “the chance of union.” Only if two things are separate can they unite and have the possibility of “the joy of dissolution” wherein the self becomes “all.” Crowley explains, “Nuit shews the object of creating the Illusion of Duality. She said: The world exists as two, for only so can there be known the Joy of Love, whereby are Two made One. Aught that is One is alone, and has little pain in making itself two, that it may know itself, and love itself, and rejoice therein” (Djeridensis Working). Thereby does one embrace both unity and multiplicity (duality) in a higher Unity.
This perception of “the consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:22) is not something given by a god or a guru but a natural birthright of each individual. It is, as described in the first part, a natural step of growth towards psychological-spiritual maturity. And this also leads us to the final point: Even this is a step along the Path. It may be the “end” in one sense (the end of the dominance of the ego, for once thing) but it is also the beginning, for “death is life to come” (Book of Lies). One still has to live one’s life. One might say, “Before initiation: work, live, and play; after initiation: work, live, and play,” for coming to identify with the True Self doesn’t mean the end of one’s mind and body along with their normal needs. In fact, the mind and body — the ego-self — are not destroyed permanently but rather they are reborn with renewed energy, the veils of ignorance (of duality as well as the falsity of the doctrines of the Fall of Man and the inherent Suffering of the world) having been torn away. One does not suddenly obtain the earthly power of a king or have the intellectual power of Einstein, but the change is something largely “internal” or psychological, for in initiation, “nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier [sic] understood with every step” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). It is this understanding of our True Selves, beyond the veils of mind and body, which we each strive to attain so that we may more effectively and joyfully manifest our wills in the world. The task is then simple yet difficult: Each individual must dissolve the ego and his identification with it to identify with the True Self, always shining though we are unaware, which is beyond dualities and all limitation. In the end, “All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice” (The Law of Liberty).
“No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master
- Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic
- “. . . There is that which remains.” — Liber Al vel Legis II:9
- Death (both of the ego and of the body) is no longer seen as cataclysmic in the New Aeon.
- The New Aeon views Death not as an end but as the possibility for new Life.
- Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.”
- The Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth.
- The work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, that which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities).
- “With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me: ye shall lay down your heads upon mine altar, expecting the sweep of the sword. But the first kiss of love shall be radiant on your lips; and all my darkness and terror shall turn to light and joy. Only those who fear shall fail.” — Liber Tzaddi, lines 16-18
- The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse
- “My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.” — Liber Tzaddi, line 40
- In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil.
- The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium.
- Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains and transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual.
- “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.” — Liber Causae, line 32
- Embrace of the World
- “Enjoy all things of sense and rapture . . .” — Liber Al vel Legis II:22
- Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth.
- The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an lmage of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.
- The Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).
- The Formula of the Scarlet Woman applies to every individual (not just females) and refers to the attitude of accepting all things into oneself, refusing nothing, and growing through their assimilation.
- “Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.” — Liber Al vel Legis, II:24
- Self as Redeemer
- “There is no god but man” — “Liber Oz“
- In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond oneself.
- We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation.
- This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies: it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as That which is beyond dualities.
- Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4
- No Perfection of the Soul
- “The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert
- The True Self never dies as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself.
- The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation (once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One).
- Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us: the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation.
- The body and the mind, with its inherently dualistic conceptions, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate.
- “No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master
Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.
2) The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse
“My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.” — Liber Tzaddi, line 40
Initiation in the New Aeon is “the Child Growing to Maturity” by the slaying of the ego-self whose “death is life to come” for the True Self. But what is the nature of that True Self? Essentially, the True Self transcends dualities. Specifically, the True Self transcends the moral duality of Good and Evil.
People have a common tendency to imagine their goal as their “Higher Self” which they imagine as Absolute Good, caring, benevolent, etc. In short, many people construct an ideal or an abstraction of their highest ideals and believe that to be the goal. Crowley asserts in Magick Without Tears, “He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.” The term “Higher Self” is a delusion because the aim of Initiation in the New Aeon is to bring the individual to identify with the “Total Self” or “All-Self,” not the “Higher Self” (or “Lower Self”). We must explore and conquer both the “good” and “evil” sides of ourselves: in terms of modern psychology, we cannot neglect our own Shadow. As Crowley advises, “Every magician must firmly extend his empire to the depth of hell” (Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 21). As Nietzsche says, “The great epochs of our life are the occasions when we gain the courage to rebaptize our evil qualities as our best qualities” (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 116).
Much of Thelema’s imagery may be seen as “sinister.” Examples include the “Beast” and “Babalon” from the Book of Revelations (where they do not appear in a favorable light), the experience of divinity as “evil kisses corrupt[ing] the blood… as an acid eats into steel, as a cancer that utterly corrupts the body” (Liber LXV, I:13, 16) and “poison” (Liber LXV, III:39, IV: 24-25, V:52-53, 55-56), “the concealed” within oneself wherein “all things are in thine own Self” (Liber Aleph, “De Libidine Secreta”) is called Hell or Satan (who is identified with the Sun in Liber Samekh), etc. These could all be considered as attempts to bring the psyche of the individual to acceptance of both the upright and averse aspects of existence. One might even say it is the “darker” side of the self emerging because of its neglect in Old Aeon systems that focus on Good, Virtue, Grace, etc. and exclude their opposites. In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil. “Less than All cannot satisfy Man” (William Blake, There Is No Natural Religion).
This idea of the True Self as containing both Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, Upright and Averse, is captured succinctly in Liber Tzaddi, lines 33-42:
“I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth. In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion. Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say, lest ye seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells… Thus shall equilibrium become perfect.”
As mentioned in the last section, the True Self transcends the duality of Life and Death. In this section we see that the True Self transcends the duality of Upright and Averse, Good and Evil. The True Self is even “beyond Wisdom and Folly.” We must unite both with the Upright, “the glittering Image in the place ever golden,” and with the Averse, “that Blind Creature of the Slime.” Only thereby may man come to knowledge of his true Self: otherwise the individual will have a lopsided perspective of the self. One must remember that it is only because of its roots deep into the dark ground that a tree is able to produce fruit. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, “Man’s higher nature rests upon man’s lower nature, needing it as a foundation and collapsing without this foundation” (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968).
The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium. The equilibrium is not that of moderation, the Middle Path of Buddha (or the Doctrine of the Mean of Aristotle), where we seek to avoid extremes and remain in the center. The equilibrium of New Aeon Initiation is understood as the balance attained by pushing to both extremes of any duality. “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things” (Liber LXV I:45). We don’t take the upright (“white light”) or averse (“satanic”) of the Upright/Averse duality and aim for that alone; we aim for both the heavens and the hells. One might say, symbolically, the Old Aeon is like a pole or a tree, where the vertical section is straight and narrow, avoiding extremes. The New Aeon is then like a large building or a pyramid where the base is expanded horizontally. This symbolically shows that, by pushing towards the extremes (expanding the base horizontally in this metaphor), we enlarge our foundations which thereby allow us to withstand the “winds” of experience better. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! …But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” (II:70-72). William Blake also enigmatically stated, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” (“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell“).
Again, we can look again to Horus (with the Infinitely Contracted Core of Flame as His Heart and the Infinitely Expansive Space as His Body) as a symbol of That which transcends the dualities of Good and Evil, Upright and Averse. In uniting with both the “glittering Image” and the “Blind Creature of the Slime,” we come to know ourselves as the All which contains but transcends both: “For two things are done and a third thing is begun… Horus leaps up thrice armed from the womb of his mother” (Liber A’ash, line 8). As Horus says in The Vision and the Voice, “I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them. I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them. I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them.” We might add, “I am good, and I am evil, and I am that which is beyond them.” Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains & transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual; other cognate symbols include the point in the circle (the Solar glyph), the Rose-Cross, semen and menstrual fluid combined (two live, generative fluids combined into a third which “is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female” — Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 20), the Heart Girt with the Serpent (see Liber LXV), the cross in the circle, the circle squared (Liber Al II:47), the Sun and the Moon conjoined (called “the Mark of the Beast” in Liber Reguli and “the secret sigil of the Beast” in the 1st Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice), the Lion and the Eagle, the word ABRAHADABRA, and infinite others. In a certain ritual were the individual comes to identify with Horus (Liber XLIV: The Mass of the Phoenix), we proclaim our transcendence of the moral duality: “There is no grace: there is no guilt: / This is the Law: DO WHAT THOU WILT!”
“For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.” — Liber Causae, line 32
3) Embrace of the World
“Enjoy all things of sense and rapture… —” Liber Al Vel Legis II:22
We found the True Self which we come to identify with in Initiation is beyond the duality of Life and Death (part 1) as well as the duality of Good and Evil (part 2). Now we unite yet another divide with an embrace of the physical, “mundane” world. Another common dichotomy (at least in the West) that has split the psyche of man is Spirit versus Matter, or Sacred versus Profane.
In the ancient and medieval world, the predominant conception of the universe was of an earth below and the heavens above. People conceived the law of the Heavens as perfect and the Earth as degraded. Isaac Newton was one of the main figures who helped bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth. He said that the same force which makes objects fall on earth is the same force which makes the celestial objects in heaven move in their orbits: gravity. Symbolically and literally, Newton said the heavens and earth do not have separate laws but abide by one law. Also, we now know that the heavens are not above us but surround us on all sides. There is no separation between the “mundane” Earth and the spiritual” Heavens: Earth is literally immersed in the Heavens.
In the New Aeon we assert that “Every man and every woman is a star” (Liber Al I:3). On the physical level, we are all literally made of star-stuff (or “stardust”), as Carl Sagan was fond of noting, but there is a more important meaning here. Nuit — who says of herself, “I am Heaven” (Liber Al I:21) — is a symbol of the Infinite Space in which we are all immersed. Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth. Crowley writes, “Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection” (Liber Aleph, “De Somniis [delta]”). In an important sense, this asserts that we too are in a perfect course through Heaven just as the celestial stars are. In the New Aeon there is an “unveiling of the company of heaven” (Liber Al I:2): every man and every woman. We are each Gods, Stars going their unique Ways in Heaven. Crowley comments, “[The] Pantheism of AL: The Book of the Law shows forth all things as God” (“Djeridensis Comment”) and “The ‘company of heaven’ is Mankind, and its ‘unveiling’ is the assertion of the independent godhead of every man and every woman!” (The Law Is For All).
From all these considerations its easy to see that in the New Aeon, not only does the True Self transcend the duality of Heaven and Earth/Spiritual and Mundane, but there is essentially no distinction between them at all. The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an lmage of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.
In fact, the embrace of the world, and even an ecstatic embrace of the world, naturally comes from cosmological perspective of the New Aeon. “Existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) in the New Aeon (and not pure sorrow as some old hypochondriac and many pessimists since have suggested). We are also told, “the Truth of the universe is delight” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). This is because the Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).
“Hadit, who is the complement of Nuit [“the infinite in whom all we live and move and have our being”]… is eternal energy, the Infinite Motion of Things, the central core of all being. The manifested Universe comes from the marriage of Nuit and Hadit; without this could no thing be. This eternal, this perpetual marriage-feast is then the nature of things themselves; and therefore everything that is, is a crystallization of divine ecstasy.” —Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty
Therefore, in the New Aeon we see every experience as the joyful union between Form and Force, Infinite Space and Infinite Motion. The world itself is an expression of Divinity, and therefore there is no reason to retreat from it in New Aeon Initiation. Just as we must transcend the dualities of Life & Death and Good & Evil, we must transcend the duality of Heaven & Earth, Sacred & Profane. We are told in the 19th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, “Worship all things; for all things are alike necessary to the Being of the All.” This idea of worshipping all things, and not making a distinction between “spiritual” and “mundane,” leads to the Formula of the Scarlet Woman.
“The Formula of the Scarlet Woman” refers to a certain attitude to the world. The Scarlet Woman is traditionally associated with the image of a whore, who symbolically represents “that which allows anything and everything into itself.” The opposite image is that of a chaste woman who shuts herself up and does not allow any intimate contact with anything around herself. Crowley writes, “The Enemy is this Shutting up of things. Shutting the Door is preventing the Operation of Change, i.e. of Love… It is this ‘shutting up’ that is hideous, the image of death. It is the opposite of Going, which is God” (The Law Is For All). The whore is an image of Change and the embrace of all things without distinction, and the chaste woman is an image of Stagnation and the separation from all things. The chaste woman is also therefore an image of the ego which refuses to give up its claim to be “King of the Mountain” (the True Self is the rightful “King” and the ego its minister, but the ego insists on claiming this title). Just like a chaste woman will not “let herself go” to have intimate relations with others, the ego will not “let itself go” to dissolve in the non-ego, the rest of the world, so that the individual may become One (beyond dualities). As mentioned in part 1, the work of we mentioned that “the work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, That which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities).” We are therefore a “chaste woman” if we refuse to release identification with the ego and insist on a world of division (i.e. a world of ego vs. world of non-ego). This is another example of the “averse” or “sinister” symbolism that is often used in the New Aeon: the symbol of stagnation is a chaste woman (chastity being a “virtue” in the Old Aeons) and the symbol of growth and change is a whore (promiscuity/sensuality being a “vice”/”sinful” in the Old Aeons). In summary: the Formula of the Scarlet Woman applies to every individual (not just females) and refers to the attitude of accepting all things into oneself, refusing nothing, and growing through their assimilation. Crowley writes, “[This is] a counsel to accept all impressions; it is the formula of the Scarlet woman; but no impression must be allowed to dominate you, only to fructify you; just as the artist, seeing an object, does not worship it, but breeds a masterpiece from it” (Book of Lies, Chapter 4). Therefore, we accept all things but we do not thereby become a passive, lifeless receptacle which is buffeted by external forces; instead we must allow all things “to fructify” us. We all accept all things but we also turn these things towards the accomplishment of our Wills.
Here is an illustration of this point: a musical composer does not neglect C# as “profane” or “not worthy” but accepts all notes as worthy and beautiful in themselves, yet that does not mean his song will consist of hitting all the keys at once. On the contrary, he selects among the possible notes, arranges them in accordance with his vision, and produces a particular composition. The same idea is true for the Scarlet Woman, for the Formula of the Scarlet Woman is the acceptance of all things no matter if they are “unclean” or “mundane.” Crowley insists, “I urge you to beware of the pride of the spirit, of the thought of anything as evil or unclean. Make all things serve you in your Magick [causing Change in conformity with Will] as weapons” (“Djeridensis Comment”).
In short, in the New Aeon we do not avoid the things of the world or the world itself in fear of it being “unspiritual,” “profane,” or “mundane.” On the contrary, each individual is immersed in Heaven itself, as a Star among Stars. In the New Aeon, each individual proclaims, “All things are sacred to me” (Liber A’ash, line 29), and enacts “the Formula of the Scarlet Woman,” refusing nothing and accepting all. Thereby does each individual come to embody the union between (and the fruit of) Heaven and Earth.
“Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.” — Liber Al Vel Legis, II:24
Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.
No, you did not read that wrong. This is an article talking about other people’s realities, not other layers of our reality.
Recently, a friend posted a thought about her reality and how it seems that everyone that she knows insists that their own reality is validated, but then they refuse to acknowledge that her reality is just as valid and valued. This is a very simplistic discussion regarding acceptance of other people’s reality.
We operate on worlds and in planes that are constructs of belief. It makes them very subjective and very hard to quantify. Some quantification can be done simply through having been there or experiencing that for yourself, but the majority of this subjective reality is generally not open to being viewed by others.
You can view any reality, and you can translate that experience into a similar experience that another may have, but it is nearly impossible to experience another’s reality completely.
Cases like this most often vex those who are not in a magical community of some sort. Hearing about how one person visited Middle Earth and talked to Gandalf the White to gain some information on a spell, while also hearing from another that they went to the City of Brass and spoke to the Efreet there, makes most people who haven’t had similar experiences question the sanity of the speaker.
The basic problem is, what is real? How does one define reality? If you base what is real on what you have directly experienced, then how can you judge the reality of someone else’s experience that you have not had yet?
I think when it comes to accepting another’s reality, we must remember that we cannot completely judge it. Certainly if someone describes a scene to us with characters and beings that is an exact description from a fantasy novel or a movie, then we must take the rest of what they say with a grain of salt. But when there is a vivid description of a place that may or may not exist in other worlds that the speaker has interacted with, then we have to, as mature magicians, accept that they did have the experience they describe, no matter how odd to us.
Does this mean that we must buy into their reality wholeheartedly? Not at all. It is possible to accept that someone else had a specific experience without accepting the experience and the resulting changes in personality completely.
For instance, I can describe to you an adventure during which I went to another plane and caused changes in the peoples there, such that they went from being a single sex into being a typical dual sexual role. From there I can describe the consequences of that and the fact that they saw me as some sort of god.
Now, you can accept that I experienced it without accepting that it happened. The whole experience could have been a dream I had, it could be a fantasy I had, and I could also be making it up out of whole cloth.
This is where your judgment as a magician must play a role. You know what you have experienced and what you have seen. It is possible that you have seen something similar and can accept the adventure I describe with few reservations. But it is also possible that there is no way you can see that I had that actually happen to me, and so, you can reject it totally.
However, as a matter of courtesy, you should be able to accept that I believe it happened.
Acceptance of it happening does not mean that you believe it. You can have a healthy skepticism for what happened. If there is not any counter evidence that it happened, or if I am rational in all other ways, then it would be better to accept it and move on.
What this boils down to when we get rid of the extraneous stuff is “did this event have an effect on me?”
In most cases, the answer to that question is going to be “yes.”
It is this way for most magicians. The experiences we go through as part of our training, our self-study, and our practices are going to sound insane when we communicate them to others. This is why we generally don’t speak about these events to those who have not been through similar experiences.
Saying to another magician that you hear voices speaking to you will generally have them suggest shielding techniques or a banishing ritual. Saying the same thing to those who are not magicians will probably have them quietly calling Bedlam Asylum for the nice young men with the “I-Love-Me” jackets.
Did this event have an effect on you? Absolutely. Generally, events like these are the ones that have us believing in the Unseen, anyway. Therefore, our own personal acceptance of those events is paramount to our practice in a very real way.
So why is it that so many magicians can’t accept that others had seminal events like this happen to them? I cannot count the number of times that someone on a list brings up an event like this as a way of presenting magical “credentials” of a sort, and the rest of the list starts from the perspective of “no it didn’t happen,” and then proceeds to rip the event apart in various ways.
Why can’t those who are doing the ripping simply say, “Okay, you had this experience,” and move on? What is it about others having an esoteric experience that is so threatening? It’s not fluffy-speak to talk about these kinds of experiences among those who might have had the same experience and to get some more information and guidance.
They’re not asking you to buy into their whole philosophy of life, nor are they using that seminal moment as more than an interesting event to share. Would you question them to the same extent if they had an LSD trip and saw God? How about if they had a major revelation during sex? Or how about having a life-altering event happen while meditating in the barn?
If those events can be treated with disdain and incredulity, then they should be. But many major religions would have to change their foundation myths. If the events that created major world religions should be treated as sacred, then why can’t the experiences that another has had while in trance be treated similarly?
The fact of the matter is that no one’s reality is the same as anyone else’s reality. The reality I live in, where the people on the other side of my email account are just as important to me as blood relatives (and whom I would sacrifice more for than my blood relatives), is not the same reality that the CEO of TransAmerica is going to be experiencing in his office in San Francisco. Neither of those realities are going to be the same as the reality that a farmer in Africa lives with. None of those are going to be the same reality that Queen Elizabeth II lives with either.
Every one of you creates and carves out your own little pocket of reality where some things are important, and other things simply aren’t affecting you at all, and thus are of no importance. It is awfully hard to get a starving peasant in Russia interested in global warming, or to get a rich 20-something Jet Setter who has never been to a war-ravaged country interested in the danger of land mines.
The same holds true for magicians. There are going to be events and entities that are important to me that hold no meaning for you. That doesn’t mean that I hold them less sacred or real. It means that I have had a different set of experiences than you did, and that our paths are different.
Giving a “bye” to those who have different takes on the same situation is one of the first steps in a courteous exchange. It allows for those who have had vastly different experiences to come together and to discuss other topics at great length, enriching each other. It doesn’t mean that you have to buy the delusions of another, but you must treat their life-altering moments with the same sanctity and reverence that you ask for yours.
That means accepting other creatures they call upon, as well. Yes, I understand how odd it is to be speaking to their “invisible friend.” I have had a few awkward moments where I was forced to talk directly to a being I wasn’t sure was there, but I got over it. If you wish to gain something from the fleshy person you are interacting with, then accepting their Guides, Spirits, Totems, and so on as real is like accepting their spouse, children, and pets as real. It is simply kind and polite to do so.
©2007 by Daven.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
March 21, 2007 by Lupa
Filed under altered states of consciousness, columns, lupa's den, magick, mysticism, perception, self-created styles, self-transformation, shamanism, therioshamanism, totemism and animism
Alrighty, this month I’m going to diverge from my usual fare of animal magic to talk about something a little different that’s been bouncing around in my head: UPG.
Depending on where on the internet you hang out, you may have run into the acronym UPG. Unverified or Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is essentially any information about a deity or other entity, magical topic, or related spiritual item of interest that is gained through one’s own intuition and experiences rather than third-party sources.1 It originated in the heathen communities in the 1970s or 1980s, but has been used with greater frequency, particularly with the advent of the internet.
UPG is used to differentiate historically/mythologically accurate material, particular with regard to the reconstruction and study of pre-Christian religions, from things that people either acquired in personal experiences or otherwise couldn’t show any outside evidence for. Reconstructionism, especially with regard to Celtic, Germanic and Norse cultures and religions, tends to be meticulous about details. There’s debate in the respective communities about how much UPG is too much; for example, the Celtic Reconstructionism FAQ provides some guidelines for dealing with UPG in relation to accepted lore.2
Anyone who’s been in the pagan community for any length of time knows that it floats on a sea of UPG. Many pagans quite happily mix traditional mythology with personal experiences to meet their own spiritual and magical needs. A survey of various books on the market aimed at the pagan crowd shows a wide range of scholarship that traverses the wide spectrum between Uber-Serious History and What The Hell Were You On? and UPG can be found in a large selection of these texts.
Unfortunately, problems arise when UPG is presented as historical evidence (with or without other poor sources). The many books on “Celtic Wicca” are a good example. One particular thread of ficti-myth is the persistent “Irish Potato Cult” that arose in the early 1990s. Despite the fact that the potato wasn’t imported into Ireland until a few centuries ago, it’s been claimed that the pre-Christian Celts saw the potato as a fertility symbol and even created rituals around it.3 Whether this was UPG or just some really shoddy scholarship, nobody’s quite sure.
Still, it resembles the sort of thing that often ends up as UPG, and the issues that can occur when it is then presented as historical fact. Additionally, various pagans may combine several threads of myth and religion from assorted cultures because of UPG; again, the problem comes when this blended mixture is presented as something historically accurate. And then there are cases in which UPG goes entirely against the accepted canon surrounding a particular topic; for example, someone viewing Kali as a loving, gentle innocent maiden, or Aphrodite as an ugly hag.
It’s entirely possible that deities may show sides other than the most commonly seen ones to individual pagans. In my opinion, deities are not one-dimensional characters, and I don’t believe they are limited solely to their mythical portrayals. For example, Artemis is a maiden goddess in the Greek pantheon; technically, when I got married I should have given up my relationship to her. Despite this (and the opinions of some modern radical feminists that Artemis only likes lesbians and hates all men), she never had a problem with the idea. In my private conversations with her, her main concern was that the relationship was a healthy one, and that I had enough room to be myself.
Granted, I’m not a Hellenic pagan. I’ve never really studied the details of Greek religious practices with regard to Artemis or any other Olympian. And honestly, I have no interest in doing so. I like the relationship I’ve developed with Artemis (or at least the independent, masculine female, wild-loving deity who refers to herself as Artemis in my presence). I’ve been maintaining that relationship for a decade or so, and it’s been quite spiritually fulfilling. My worship is through emulation, my offerings through actions and prayers. And that’s what works for me.
I admit it — I want my UPG. I am not a Reconstructionist of any sort, nor am I a Wiccan. In fact, I rather dislike pigeonholing myself with regard to religion — “Pagan” or “Neopagan” works quite nicely. The bulk of my spirituality and practice is UPG-based. My writing on Totemism? UPG-based Neopagan Totemism, not traditional. My relationship to and understanding of the Divine? My UPG coupled with observations of others’ UPG, as well as psychology, mythology and occultism. I tend to bristle a bit when people attempt to limit Paganism only to the modern worship of ancient deities; while I acknowledge the presence of deities, I neither see them as the ultimate manifestation of Divinity, nor even believe there is such a thing other than the sum total of all Realities.
To me, Paganism is the path I take to understanding my relationship with regard to all forms of consciousness and energy in the Multiverse. Deities and spirits are simply some of the other entities that I coexist with. In order to figure out where I stand, I have to use a lot of UPG to formulate my individual perspective on what’s both within and outside of me. For some people, preexisting religions and philosophies are sufficient for explaining Life, the Universe, and Everything. There’s nothing wrong with that; I just prefer to blaze my own trail, occasionally crossing those of others along the way.
Of course, there will always be those who are appalled that I’m “just making it up as I go along.” So what? I know that my beliefs aren’t Holy Writ or Accepted Canon. But they explain things to me, and in my worldview, that’s more important than making sure they match up perfectly with what works for others. To each hir own; I believe we’ll all end up in the same place eventually anyway.
- Anonymous (2006). Unverified Personal Gnosis. Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UPG
- Laurie, Erynn Rowan, Kathryn Price NicDhana, et. al. (2006) The CR FAQ: An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (How much UPG is acceptable in CR? How do you know?). Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://www.paganachd.com/faq/intermediate.html#howmuchupg
- Hautin-Mayer, Joanne (1998). When is a Celt not a Celt? Retrieved 6 March, 2007 from http://www.irishwitch.org/grove/When_is_a_Celt_not_a_Celt.shtml
©2007 Lupa. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
The Evolution of the Spirit
Inevitably, once a person has chosen a mystical, magical, or spiritual path, there comes a time when s/he is challenged in his or her commitment to that path. After the initial enthusiasm and often rapid forward movement, there is a period of stillness. This can be as relatively simple as an “Apophis” stage (see my column, Into the Aethyr, in this month’s issue) or as difficult as the subject of this article — the Dark Night of the Soul. The Dark Night is an essentially universal concept, one of those core truths that finds its way into all philosophies, due to the profundity of the experience and the deeply felt, vividly remembered effects it can have on an individual.
The Dark Night as Natural Selection
The challenge of the Dark Night of the Soul is intrinsic to the development of the spirit, as by its very nature it weeds out those too weak to sustain the necessary effort to progress beyond it. Those who, by contrast, can maintain their commitment to their goals despite the difficulties presented during the Dark Night will grow without having to do anything more than survive it. It’s a process of natural selection, if you will. The “weaker seeker,” so to speak, is incapable of waiting out the aridity, and even more incapable of accepting the pain and misery inherent in this experience. This seeker will either find something new and exciting to do, thereby abandoning his previous plan in exchange for the “new and shiny,” or he will discard all effort in studying new things and default back to his original, stress-free and automatic religion (usually, in our culture, Christianity). This choice is made in the mistaken belief that he has exhausted all that his magical study had to offer, and has found it empty and unfulfilling.
The thing that few deserters realize is that any true calling to any spiritual pursuit is going to include this particular challenge as a matter of course. Christian mystics experience it as distinctly as any other. But for most people, Christianity is a religion that inspires no serious work; rather, it is a comforting illusion of spirituality that people use to convince themselves that they’ve covered their asses in the event of Judgment Day. By contrast, anyone who takes his spiritual and inner life seriously will encounter the challenges that, over time, hone and shape the spirit into something more. Without challenges, we do not grow. Without trials, we sit in idle acceptance of the status quo and make little effort to gain anything that is not material or does not further ease our idle sitting.
What Makes You Think You Should Have It Easy?
The belief that a life full of spiritual meaning should somehow be less troublesome is amazingly widespread. It’s astounding to me that people can truly think that being close to God (or whatever they call their motivation) should exempt them from harm or from challenges. If God loves me, I should never lose a loved one, have an accident, experience injustice, lose a business deal, lose a political race, etc. What hogwash! An old saying states that “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” This is true (whether it be God, self, fate, or Universe), and what so many fail to grasp is that as we grow, our ability to take more challenges grows — so the challenges will also grow. This does not make them more difficult, necessarily, when you also consider the growth of our personal strength. It only makes them more impressive-sounding, and more tragic to the onlooker. We may find ourselves more horrified, or more convinced that any second now we are going to completely buckle under the weight of the current stressor, but the fact is that the only way we’ll likely buckle is if we make the choice to do so — a martyr’s choice, choosing noble defeat to collect the sympathy of those superficial witnesses so that we may coddle ourselves and attempt to believe our own bullshit. But if we choose to keep trying — to take one more step, then one more step, then damn it, one more step, we will make an important discovery: the pain will end. It will probably end a step or two past what we were certain was the limit of our ability to cope, but it will end, and then we will find that we were stronger than we thought. Because the fact is, when you’re facing a difficult challenge and you think you can’t possibly take another minute — surprise, time does not stop to give you a break. You might not be able to handle the idea of one more second of this, but the reality of that second, that minute or day or year, is way easier than the anticipation of it ever was. And if you buckle and choose the martyr’s way, then you’re simply prolonging that state of anticipation, and never getting the actual experience out of the way so you can put it behind you and move on. Martyrdom is masturbation, and it’s also one of the stupidest, least pragmatic choices you can make.
Healing, then, is a matter of standing up when it’s all over, and walking on your own power to the next signpost on the path. But I’m getting ahead of myself now.
Who Turned Out The Lights?
The Dark Night of the Soul is so named because when it hits you, all the light in your life is extinguished. The progress you were making stops. The connection you felt to your god(s) or to divinity in general, or to the Universe as a whole, is severed. There is nothing you can do to regain it, and you can’t go back and start over (though many try by constantly changing paths). Everywhere you turn, there’s a wall. You’re in a bubble of misery, unable to articulate what’s wrong, and feeling isolated, abandoned, and dead inside. Nothing inspires. Everything hurts. Depression hits, and at a level you may have never experienced before. Efforts to change things, to progress with anything at all, fail. Relationships suffer. Work suffers. Life is reduced to a routine, colorless existence. And joy becomes a distant dream, doubted in the past and unexpected in the future.
Occasionally (particularly when the Dark Night is coming to a close), you will get a glimpse of that profoundly moving connection, just enough to show you that it was real after all, that you didn’t imagine it. Then it’s gone again, for an interminable time. Exhaustion and despair strike once more, and seem cumulative over time, driving you to a depth of despondency that begins to take hold as the new status quo. At this point, surviving the darkness is most in doubt, and the seeker who perseveres is the fanatical one who absolutely will not be turned away. That seeker has found something with genuine meaning for him, and even if he desires to, even if he tries to, he cannot quite break away from the vision of himself he found in his earlier momentum. That seeker is a rare thing indeed.
The Inner Watcher
There is a key to the survival that you must find if you really want to make it to some elusive unimaginable goal, some “Great Work.” That key is this: Do not suffer over your suffering. Find a way to activate the inner Watcher, and when you need relief from your pain, transfer your awareness (or part of it) to that component of your psyche. The Watcher will always be objective, and will be able to view your situation without attachment. So, as you strain under the weight of despair and feel incapable of taking one more step, transferring the emphasis of awareness to the Watcher gives you the distance necessary to continue without collapsing. The Watcher says, “You know, this is really hard. But you know it’s going to end. It always does. It’s hard, sure, but it’s not endless, and you can do this. I know you can, because you’ve done it before.” The Watcher provides what no encouraging or supportive friend can: the certainty that this is an exercise. It’s not personal. It’s not pushed upon you because you sinned, or were bad, or because you don’t deserve good things, or because you’re not perfect, or any other reason that your inner voices of subversive bullshit are feeding you. It’s just a process of growth, as necessary as cutting teeth. It hurts where it counts — inside — because it provides growth to areas that never age and never break down.
Another facet of growth somewhat connected to the experience of the Dark Night is vacillation between ecstasy and agony, often in rapid succession. These little darknesses, or little abysses, provide exercise for the “psychic” muscles, allowing them to develop and strengthen over time for a more consistent long-term connection to the divine (or other levels of reality, depending on how you categorize your experience). These often precede and follow the Dark Night experiences, in a sort of warm up/cool down effect. They become easier to handle once you’ve gained some ground and realize that what you gain never actually leaves; it just changes, and sometimes that change can feel like starting over. But moving up a level is always rewarding in the long run, and moving down (or backing up) is simply not part of the program, regardless of how it may seem while you’re having those growing pains when initiation to a new level of awareness occurs.
Take strength in the knowledge that if this path is what truly captures your heart and inspires you, you will make it. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. You don’t have to force it, and in fact you can’t force it, but if you stick with it on some level of awareness, you will know when it’s time to apply effort again. You’ll feel the shift and things will start to move, and once again you will make great strides in your work. Until that shift occurs, any effort made toward moving things will fail. You can go through the motions, but the rewards will not be there.
In the midst of the Dark Night, despair is king, and its job is to keep you down. Assimilation of knowledge gained in your most recent leap forward takes place, and there is little you can do except review, digest, and try to cope with the frustration and pain that cycle through. How long will this phase last? Well, that depends. In my experience, a Dark Night can last anywhere from six months to three years. Shorter ones than six months can’t rightly be called Dark Nights, in my opinion, as anything shorter really isn’t that challenging. (See the “Apophis” stage at link above.) But I’m sure others have had longer ones and scarier ones than I’ve had. One thing I can say for certain is that it will shake you to the core. Its job is to test your faith, and it often results in a seemingly complete loss of faith for a period so long that you will believe yourself to have given up. At such point, ask yourself this: “Do I wish I could experience that surge again?” If you answer yes, you’re hanging in there.
Even if you’re convinced that your previous experience of attainment and growth was illusory or fluke, and that you are not worthy or capable of getting to that place again, in time you will rediscover the joys of movement and activity. No one will be able to convince you of that during the darkest moments of this rite of passage. You will be certain of your failure and of your inability to go on. You will be isolated and unable to get a glimmer of divine energy on command. You will be lost. But in time, eventually, you will find your way again.
A quote from Evelyn Underhill, in her manuscript Mysticism, underlines the necessity of understanding the individual experience of the Dark Night of the Soul:
In some temperaments it is the emotional aspect — the anguish of the lover who has suddenly lost the Beloved — which predominates; in others, the intellectual darkness and confusion overwhelms everything else. Some have felt it as a “passive purification,” a state of helpless misery, in which the self does nothing, but lets Life have its way with her. Others have experienced it rather as a period of strenuous activity and moral conflict directed to that “total self-abandonment” which is the essential preparation of the unitive life. Those elements of character which were unaffected by the first purification of the self — left as it were in a corner when the consciousness moved to the level of the illuminated life — are here roused from their sleep, purged of illusion, and forced to join the grooving stream.
The Dark Night, then, is really a deeply human process, in which the self which thought itself so spiritual, so firmly established upon the supersensual plane, is forced to turn back, to leave the Light, and pick up those qualities which it had left behind. Only thus, by the transmutation of the whole man, not by a careful and departmental cultivation of that which we like to call his “spiritual” side, can Divine Humanity be formed: and the formation of Divine Humanity — the remaking of man “according to the pattern showed him in the mount” — is the mystic’s only certain ladder to the Real. “My humanity,” said the Eternal Wisdom to Suso, “is the road which all must tread who would come to that which thou seekest.” This “hard saying” might almost be used as a test by which to distinguish the genuine mystic life from its many and specious imitations. The self in its first purgation has cleansed the mirror of perception; hence, in its illuminated life, has seen Reality. In so doing it has transcended the normal perceptive powers of “natural” man, immersed in the illusions of sense. Now, it has got to be reality: a very different thing. For this a new and more drastic purgation is needed — not of the organs of perception, but of the very shrine of self: that “heart” which is the seat of personality, the source of its love and will. In the stress and anguish of the Night, when it turns back from the vision of the Infinite to feel again the limitations of the finite the self loses the power to Do; and learns to surrender its will to the operation of a larger Life, that it may Be. “At the end of such a long and cruel transition,” says Lucie Christine, “how much more supple the soul feels itself to be in the Hand of God, how much more detached from all that is not God! She sees clearly in herself the fruits of humility and patience, and feels her love ascending more purely and directly to God in proportion as she has realized the Nothingness of herself and all things.”1
As she states, “We must remember in the midst of our analysis, that the mystic life is a life of love: that the Object of the mystic’s final quest and of his constant intuition is an object of adoration and supreme desire.” This, then, is the trick of it: love for the process itself, leading to the object of desire, regardless of whatever degree of abstract or concrete quality it may possess — this love is what carries you through. It may be repressed during the Dark Night to the point that you believe it to be extinguished, but a single glimpse of that original inspiration, revisited, will fan the hidden spark to a roaring flame in an instant. And then you’re off again… until next time.
- Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill. Oneworld Publications; Reissue edition (October 1, 1999) Excerpt link.
©2007 Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. You can read her blog here.
A teacher is never a giver of truth. He is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst. — Bruce Lee
In his article on active imagination in the current issue of Rending the Veil, Frater Auxilior Arti describes something I found very familiar, so I elected to write a companion piece to his essay describing how I use it in my magical work. In my work with Meridjet (my spirit companion, or SC; see previous columns of Into the Aethyr), I utilize a similar method which I call Processing. In the opening paragraph of his article, Frater A. A. describes, “Jung noticed that he could find revealing and non-self-gratifying imagery just below the surface of the mind, by making a suggestion to himself and then sitting quietly to see what might develop in his thinking. He found that if he did not steer his thoughts in any particular direction, merely sat as a passive viewer of what his mind might show him, many wondrous things would arise, including solutions to troublesome problems, intuitions, insights into his own nature (and that of others) often with a wash of curiosities that would set him to further pondering.”
The Power of Free Association
He later notes, “. . . a group of problem-solvers in a highly productive think tank atmosphere . . . wrote down all ideas that occurred to them, regardless of how silly or inappropriate they might have initially seemed. By this method they were rewarded with a greater number of creative solutions that might have gone unnoticed had they been squelched promptly. It was as if the free-ranging creative process needed impropriety, silliness and whimsy to operate correctly and to arrive by whatever crooked path at useful solutions.” This method of free association is at the heart of Processing in my theurgic work with Meridjet and the other members of our Work (both words are capitalized to differentiate from the mundane sense) circle. It’s been a largely ineffable way of working, up to now, but people have asked about it so many times that I intend to do my best to describe it. I can’t claim that this is a common way to perform theurgic work; however, it works for me and for everyone who Works with us.
The bulk of our partnered Work takes place in text chat via Yahoo! Messenger; however, this is by no means a limitation — it’s simply that most of our friends live in far away places. When we begin with a new partner, we start with common ground. No doubt you’ve had the experience, particularly in magical or spiritual matters, wherein you find many parallels with new-found friends of like mind. Synchronicity can be a powerful validation at such times, and the more parallels there are, the more significant the new association appears to be. It need not stop there; if you can allow yourself free expression, synchronicity knows no bounds.
Meridjet as Director
During the get-to-know-you process, as parallels are discovered, we follow them, gaining mutual understanding and building enthusiasm. Something that Meridjet does with impressive effect is to center upon emotionally-charged events, associations, or triggers and stimulate them to bring issues to the fore. He does this with everyone, and after a certain time of working with him, the common ground we started with and the emotional triggers he uncovers become two sides of a single coin — a coin he flips at seeming random to stimulate Work. There is only one way to get to the true heart of the matter, and that is free association.
One of us will find that s/he is hurting, a mild heartache that still manages somehow to demand our focus and attention. It may come and go while she is busy with other things, but it will return at any moment of stillness, gaining intensity until she simply must Work to Process it. The source of the ache is generally a prior discussion that subtly triggered something deeper, an issue that is just now working its way to the surface as a deeply set splinter would find its way out of your finger. The difference here is that if you are serious about your Work, ignoring this is the wrong thing to do. With an almost sentient patience, the ache will wait until you face it, and like a sharply-stubborn loneliness, it gnaws at you relentlessly.
The first time this happens to a new partner, it is confusing to her. She will, depending on her personality type, either wish to talk about it incessantly or will try to bury it as not worth anyone’s attention. The resolution, however, lies not in indulgence of emotion, and not in repression of emotion, but in detachment of emotion. To suffer over your suffering is to whine without honestly dealing with your problem. To be the martyr and hide your pain (bringing it out on occasion to poke at it sadly, wondering why you feel so alone, and perhaps hinting at it to others) is merely another form of indulgence, but it is one that poisons you, rather than those around you.
Indulge in Detachment
Detachment — To feel your feelings, and to open to them, letting them flow, crying if necessary, but at no point giving in to them and suffering over them, you allow them to percolate through your consciousness and thereby heal, leave, vamoose, and get thee behind me. Anyone familiar with Dante’s Inferno will know that the way out of Hell is through the darkest, scariest reaches of the most inner circle. You don’t learn by avoidance, by escape, or by ingeniously finding ways to bury your psychological shite under layers of Happy-Shiny-People or I-Can-Cope-Alone-Cuz-I’m-The-Meanest-Fucker-In-The-Valley.
It takes practice. Once you’ve admitted your pain, you can move on to the real Work: banishing that issue by owning it. This may sound like stereotypical psychobabble of the ilk that tells you the only way to get over your childhood trauma is to relive it. No, that is not what I am saying.
Expression is the Means, Synchronicity is the Method
As you begin to verbalize (and this is the key) your issue, if you can trust yourself and the Process and let go the reins, expressing your associations as they arise (be they trivial or grave), you will find that your unconscious provides astounding insight and will offer you advice out of your own mouth. It is crucial, as Fr. A. A. stipulated, to express everything without first judging whether it’s worthy of expression. Trust your mind and your own psychological processes to lead you, and you cannot lose.
Synchronicities appear in the most innocent, inane comments. In the course of the interaction between the partner doing the Processing and the partner(s) in the support roles, little comments made off the cuff end up being huge in significance. External confirmation comes from so many directions. Perhaps a television show viewed that morning by your friend is mentioned in reply to a comment you made — because you allowed yourself to just talk — about a movie you saw in 1992, and the television show just happened to contain a scene with a tiger that she mentions precisely at the moment that you consider how you are reminded of the tiger totem you had never previously mentioned. The conversation, then, due to the shock of the validating reference, turns to totems, or tigers, or stripes, or something that leads to still further reflection — reflection that would never have occurred had you not been speaking to that friend at that moment, with both of you freely discussing whatever happened to come up, in the knowledge that this way lies resolution. Never underestimate the power of the Universe to take you precisely where you need to go, if only you don’t fight the current.
Meridjet, when he participates in the Processing chats, will not tell you like it is. He’s not a teacher who spells things out; he is a catalyst. He will talk without appearing to have any single topic or any goal or agenda. But he never does or says anything for the first perceptible reason. He will ask you questions designed to direct your thoughts so that you blurt out the answer to your own dilemma. He will answer questions with responses designed to incite emotion, for the same reason. He’s not an easy teacher, and he’s not going to coddle you — but by god, you will find the answers you need, and you will find that all he had to do was point — the answers were within you all along.
Free association and free expression of all thoughts that flitter by is the most effective way of healing past injuries, gaining understanding of the self, and growing at an astronomical rate that I have ever encountered. Stillness of mind is a wonderful thing. . . but to suppress the Process that holds the deepest, truest answers seems rather self-defeating to me.
Try it, and let me know what happens, will you?
©2007 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.
I intend to describe in this article a fundamental technique of Hermetic Theurgy that I have developed over the last 20 years, and with any luck the reader will find in my words something of value for themselves. It’s probably best to describe it as “active imagination” as Carl Jung coined the term. Jung noticed that he could find revealing and non-self-gratifying imagery just below the surface of the mind, by making a suggestion to himself and then sitting quietly to see what might develop in his thinking. He found that if he did not steer his thoughts in any particular direction, merely sat as a passive viewer of what his mind might show him, many wondrous things would arise, including solutions to troublesome problems, intuitions, insights into his own nature (and those of others), often with a wash of curiosities that would set him to further pondering. Stillness, of course, is they key. While I have not meditated as often as I probably should, I have heard stories from others using Transcendental Meditation and related techniques about this very thing. Of course, most meditation practices of an Eastern flavor tend to warn against following these story lines and vistas too far, as they are a hindrance to the stillness of mind the meditator desires. I propose that these stories and vistas of imagination can be a key to unlocking the inner area of the deep mind and a conduit for conversation with one’s Holy Guardian Angel (HGA).
I do not say this lightly. About 22 years ago I had a long and intense conversation with the being who is very much in charge of my destiny, and I took the time to write down what I can remember of it in my book Biting Through. What was then a very direct conversation with what seemed like another, infinitely wiser intelligence is now little more than a memory that from time to time provides me with the most startling of insights and memories, typically when I need them the most. It stands to reason that other folks can access this part of their consciousness too, and so long as one doesn’t take it as gospel truth (the revelations are often highly symbolic), one shouldn’t get into much trouble. The caveat here is to keep an open mind and try not to decide that a certain experience means this or that thing. One should merely observe, keep an open mind, and look for the full depth of any possible truths as they might arise later.
We’ve lightly brushed on the key of it here — the suspension of judgement. I once read a book called Applied Imagination, which recommended a nonjudgmental approach to creative problem solving, as it seems that instant judgement of a thought or an idea is enough to derail it from its true course. This book told of a group of problem solvers in a highly productive think tank atmosphere and noted that these people wrote down all ideas that occurred to them, regardless of how silly or inappropriate they might have initially seemed. By this method, they were rewarded with a greater number of creative solutions that might have gone unnoticed had they been squelched promptly. It was as if the free-ranging creative process needed impropriety, silliness and whimsy to operate correctly and to arrive by whatever crooked path at useful solutions. It is much the same way with active imagination — one doesn’t discard the odd bits of imagery or data that float by the mind’s eye; one merely accepts it and remembers it long enough to write it down later. There will be both signal and noise, to be certain, and often layers of meaning that are not initially apparent and that will require the passage of time to understand in greater depth. Much of it will resemble poetry, with unusually linked ideas or foreshortened concepts that seem important pieces of an incomplete picture. When it’s really happening in a big way, and one has the ability to surrender to it and simply write or speak what comes, as it comes, one is directly in the groove, as they say.
This technique has direct application for magical practice, especially with the meditations that happen in connection with the Star Rites or with the Contact of the Power Deeps in the matter of Planetary Magick. The ritual serves to formalize the business of being on the receiving end of a transmission from the deep mind, just as the invocation serves to focus its content. It’s a simple formula really — magically clear the space by casting a circle or setting the wards, tune your mind to the frequency of the matter by invocations and orisons, then still your mind to the degree that somewhere between the chatterings of the “monkey mind,” other data emerge. With time and practice and patient retrospection at a later date, story lines can emerge. While entertaining, these story lines say a whole lot about what is happening inside of one’s head, and in a way not normally encountered by ordinary rational thinking.
Speaking of ordinary thinking, it is good to know that sometimes this data comes in large packets . . . It is difficult to describe exactly, but I’ll say what I can about it. “Normal” creative problem solving (at least as it happens in my mind) typically proceeds from one concept to the next in more or less straight lines, each idea depending in some way upon the one before it. Occasionally, one has a Eureka! moment where some intuition allows one to assemble observations and facts in a very different and productive way, not unlike the story of Archimedes at his bath. For those that do not know the story, it is sufficiently illustrative to retell here.
The regent d´jour of Archimedes’ time was having a royal crown made and he did not trust the maker completely, so he beseeched Archimedes to find a way to learn whether or not the maker had made the crown from the all of the gold supplied to him for the task and had not transferred some of it into his pocket. Of course, weighing the initial gold and the resulting crown would seem a ready test, but it’s quite possible that, say, lead could be used, then gilded such that it would not be noticed without sawing into the crown and looking for it. Puzzling over how this might be accomplished, Archimedes slipped into a hot bath to soak for a while, and noticed that the water rose a bit more than it once did, doubtless due to the dreaded middle-age spread. So far, so good — he had all the data he started out with for this equation, but he suddenly saw it in a different way. He realized that the initial gold displaced a certain amount of water and would do so whether it was formed into a brick or a crown. If lead was introduced (and gold subtracted from the crown) it would displace a different amount of water, even though care may be taken to make it weigh the same. It was at this point that the cry of “Eureka!” sprang from his lips and he ran naked into the street to shout about it, the story goes.
This eureka moment may happen from time to time in creative visualization, but I’d like to introduce the reader to a slightly more bizarre concept, the story-all-at-once phenomenon. The only other time I’ve even heard of the notion was from the late Ben Rowe’s (Josh Norton) web site accounts of his scrying into the Enochian Aethers. He wrote that sometimes he would receive discrete packages of information of which reception he was aware, that would unfold over time and present entire catalogs of information to him, seemingly all at once. The analogy I like to make to describe this thought process is this: Imagine you have a large collection of small, symbolically interrelated objects in a simple, starchy sort of handkerchief, corners held together as a loose bundle. You drop it on a table and it lays open all at once, exposing the objects. Imagine too that you instantly apprehend not just the meanings of the individual objects, but also perceive how they are interrelated with each other and even what sort of relationship they have with each other in Time. Clear as mud?
In terms of the active imagination this articles tries to describe, it’s a bit like drinking out of a firehose. Imagine that, for a moment, you can be behind someone else’s eyes, experience the observations of their senses, reach into the their memories and the swirl of emotions that lurk just beneath thought, the hopes and fears . . . This information from the active imagination can sometimes take that shape, just as certain rich and deeply integral dreams can. The following is an excerpt from Passage D´aur (annotated), a book of writings that describes one such instance.
For ever so few moments, I felt as if I were in the mind of a court minstrel, called to a place to play a sort of role-playing game which was instituted by the Comte of that Court, and which was resounding in a social way throughout the land. Parties were held, ranging from summer picnics to gala balls and it amounted to us poor lads from the neighboring villages and shires, who were sufficiently schooled in the arte musicale to make this calling, going there as a seeming wooing of the ladies that were presented to us. This was no Pagan feast of flesh, I assure you!
This game had rules and had a framework in which these rules might be bent with a perfect cover to a real expression of the game, happening in it’s midst, as it were. While we were most of all boys and young men of no greater fortune than our poor academies can produce, some were young men of foreign courts (or so ’tis said) who come to gaze upon their prospective.
There is a dimension of this game that is just beginning to dawn on me. I was told but I did not understand at first. They say that a man’s soul is female and that is why Botticelli and others paint in the obscure symbols they seem to prefer. They further indicate that praise of the Soul is praise of God and so we are acting in a kind of mummery with song and dance to praise our very Souls, as played by the young ladies of the court and whatever Great Aunt’s Handmaiden might gift her way in. It not only made men of us, but made men of others, by hearing our songs, borne of the praise of the most ancient of Beauties, ever expressing itself in the flower of the present, and filling in those short spans of time between songs sung of War, daring-do and the generally mad howling of apes that otherwise constitutes the music of our streets.
Annotation: It was very real and very personal but nothing like the contents of my ordinary life. I felt as if I were in another’s mind for the space of a few moments and that I had access to everything they knew about the world around them and the moment they were soon to face. Of course, as a bit of a minstrel myself and with an interest in the courtly traditions, I’ve read about some of this, but the depth of what was there to see and feel was breathtaking. Of course, it is an extension of a discussion I’d had with [someone] about being in touch with my anima which I had countered with an illumination about the feminine nature of the soul, as viewed by Dante and his ilk.
Ultimately, these words are but an impoverished sketch of what took place in my mind for those very few moments, for I could hear, taste, see and feel my surroundings and I could think back to my not-so-happy home in a village an unknown distance away. I could almost hang names on dozens of faces of people I’ve certainly never met in this life. Have I touched upon a past life, I wonder? Or is my deep mind wrapping up an answer in fairy-tale clothing with an astonishing depth of scenery? I still don’t know, but am open to any possibility, including attempting to dig out some corroborating evidence of an equally dodgy nature via past life regression hypnosis. Of course, this proves nothing but can add dimension to the study of a given story, by which one might unravel the reason it was presented in the first place.
Another time I beheld a story the setting of which seems close the A.S. current, even if only for its perceived ancient Florentine location:
I enter a chamber at a friend’s or relative’s house and I observe a chessboard. I know that the arrangement of the chessboard is not a game in progress as such, but it represents the deliberate arrangement of pieces in such a way as to describe a situation that he has called me there of which to learn. It is likely that he has guests of some sort and his are the sort of guests that do not need to hear of our news as they are far too central to its power and promise.
Our Uncle is the Duke, and his wife the Duchess, so I expect to see them as the King and Queen of the color opposite the doorway into this room. Their adviser is the Abess of (. . .) who came to this court from the Duchess’s family, so she is the Queen’s Bishop of course. I see that both knights are on the King’s side of the board and that they oppose the other side’s King’s bishop and by that I learn that Charles and Rodney are at odds with the Bishop of (. . .), but I also see that the opposite Queen holds the King in check, and that was what I was there to see. There is a curious pattern of [rooks] that suggests they are moving to cover their Lords, but I cannot discern more without some clues. Ignoring guests, I select a pawn and move it one step to the lateral edge of the game to show that I understood most of what was being presented to me, then I repositioned the knights in such a way as it seemed a whole lot more natural than the result of the tour upon which they had been supposed to ride. It is a game to fight the spies.
I don’t really know who I was in this story, only that my uncle was a powerful and rich man and that my loose lips might sink their ship which necessitated that my cousin (whom I was visiting) and I played a code-game upon the chess set that resided in the drawing room of this mansion. The pieces represented different members of our extended family and showed their current political relationships. My movement of the pieces indicated that I understood the message. I felt as if my cousin could enter the room at any moment and we might play a few turns to provide cover for our communications.
Nikito and Eshabirodja
These scenes are but deep moments in a reverie, but the storytelling function can take on a large scale, offering key moments in the history of a whole life, it would seem. Such is the tale of Nikito and Eshabirodja. Fair warning: this story is terribly personal and rather sad. It has features I’ve never encountered before in my active imagination and they are well worth pointing out. Like much of Passage d’Aur, this story came in direct response to my seeking a greater depth of information in my real life, for I had come to hold a deep and unexpected attraction for someone I have known for many years and was aware over the entire course of time (in which we came to deal with it productively) that there was a pronounced spiritual or karmic dimension to it. Naturally, I wanted to explore that and I felt that my exercises in active imagination might open up some new vistas. I was not disappointed. Bits and pieces of this story came to me over many months.
This place was black almost all the time, else black on gray with some fitful snow. We kept a hearth going on every hour of every day and the aroma of our scat fuel permeated everything and seemed to do so for generations into our past. There was a gentle slope to the river and our living was made from that river, but I can only guess how . . . fish maybe . . . and there may have been beaver or other furs . . .
I think it was a summer camp, an ancestral place where we stayed in that season. It was the only time we had alone. At our other home we lived in the lodge with all the others. On our bitter cold journeys by the river, I came to know you as I know you now. You were called Eshabirodja, for the delight you brought to our repast.
We kept to that way as we grew very old and were venerated, then taken for granted, then ignored. We did what we said we would do and spent ourselves to our last days giving the Salmon to the Family.
This is the first time I ever really felt I got more than mental pictures from this exercise. This time I heard the wind blow, smelled the smoke from turd-fires, and heard her laughter and someone call her name as she came down the lane towards me. It sounded Russian and I thought the caller said something that sounded like “Siberia.” I listen carefully and the name was repeated with different stresses, but still sounded oddly familiar. When I wrote down the name the way it must be spelled and puzzled over why it might be so, I quickly discovered that an actual person’s name was buried amongst it, the letters appearing in exactly the same order as they do in my love’s real name, and that this was the person I was asking about. Typical stuff from the puzzle-maker of my unconscious mind, come to think of it. Thinking about it later, I sorted this out into 2 boxes, one being labeled “past life, mine or someone else’s,” and one being labeled “symbolic story from the unconscious.” I still have no good tools to figure out which words to put in which box. In no event do I believe that the puzzle of the name is anything but my deep mind telling me that this story is about her after some fashion and I’d better pay it some attention. I didn’t know how far it would go. I kept drilling away at it, trying to get some sense of my own name or the name of this place or of my tribe or time but all I got was a collection of letters that could’ve meant anything: N . . . k . . . i? Nicholas? Nikita? It took awhile, but I think I came close.
We sat at the edge of the river and dropped our stakes. I thought about how you are and how you look and that made me think about how I see. Uncle Shadow-vision told me something a long time ago about how he sees, part in color and part in black and white, and I wondered if something like that could make people see different faces on others or maybe not be able to tell anyone apart? I told him that I once mistook someone else for him and called him by that name, but he just said, “I ain’t yer ‘Uncle Scatter-vision.’ Scram!”
After awhile, I get up to pee, and I see that it is I that has put your line out for you, even if you are not here to tend it. When I got back, I rolled up a bomber and sat smoking it while the bats started to come out of the trees that hugged the wide bend in the river. The tops of them were touched with the same pink fire that licked across the ragged horizon.
Nikito is back on the river with Eshabirodja here, but it changes to a memory of my own, seen through the eyes of another. The bomber seems like an invasive thought, or just my word for Nikito was doing.
The moon wasn’t up yet, but when it did come up, I knew I would be reminded of a certain thing. I once actually talked to someone who knew what I was talking about — the sight of the moon passing from cloud to cloud and drawing a silver veil over the things you see so that they seem to change. I remember the night I had my first woman, I held her on the couch where the window was, so we could both feel the restless wind that breathed there in the hot summer, the only cool place just then. She had blond hair and blue eyes but she didn’t look bad at all for a White woman. I did not look at her for very long just then, but even as I did for just a short time, I saw that her face looked a lot like another girl I knew when I was in The School at Madras and again like someone else, a teacher I had. For a minute or two it seemed like she could be just anybody . . . anybody. What a blessing, I thought.
It’s worth pointing out, as I have done in the annotation above, that there is indeed signal and noise and one cannot often tell which is which. If I have no word for what someone is doing or what sort of people they are, my unconscious mind will substitute something more familiar. Nikito and Eshabirodja seem to be primitive Eastern Europeans, but my mind persists in presenting them as Native Americans, probably because my knowledge of the former is almost non-existent and of the latter more familiar. I considered it a possibility that we have two similar stories cut-and-pasted together by my unconscious to illustrate a theme.
This reminds me of the Saki story called The Window. Nikito is very sad because Eshabirodja is gone, but I do not know until the last line if she has gone to pee, gone to town, gone to visit her mother for a year, or gone for good. I’m not sure if Nikito knows either, and there is a hint of madness or forgetfulness about it. His mind feels like a child who is left alone for a time and wonders if his guardian will ever return. Perhaps he enjoys lamenting for its own sake. It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like to be in his head here, but it mostly feels very hurtful and sad.
These things were written chronologically, and this is the first bit where I realized (a few months later) that the river can be viewed as a symbol of life and death like the rivers Styx and Lethe (or the Jordan, for that matter). He “crosses over the river” and views his life from that side, then returns with a different perspective. Or does he go mad and flee to a hallucination? I sense other layers. Also, I sense that this way of life for him is an adaptation to something very big that changed everything about they way his people interact with the world. The world has changed in some big way and this life is part of his tribe’s adaptation to that change (and there’s a bit of a metaphor to that, too, isn’t there?). Maybe a freak storm changed the course of migrations, maybe a conquering people changed how he earns his keep. It seems to shadow everything he does and I wonder if he is giving Salmon to his people as a fisher might or is he giving this Salmon to traders, to Caesar, to Massah. Salmon, of course, is a Mercurial symbol associated with knowledge and communication and a pretty short trip from “Solomon.”
The face of the sun is hours away, but its light graces the river at my feet and lovingly sweats the fog off the crisp, slow waters. Ducks have been flying by in pairs and groups since there has been enough light to see them — maybe an hour. They don’t know where to go, for it is not warm anywhere right now.
I think you have been gone a long time now, for there is a hole in my wind where your words used to blow, where the scent of your perfume and the glint of eyes still glow. I keep talking to you as if you are there and I also know that you are not there and maybe I wonder if it matters any more. My ass is sore from sitting on the cold ground, but I can scarcely care enough to shift and stretch.
There is here a perfect picture of everything one could want from the great gift of the Spirit: The wide river of Life running through the wasteland of our new world, the knowledge of what needs to be done, who needs to do it and the honor of being one to so dare. Too, there is the further grace that my life and your love may intersect for such a time as they can and give to me this special melancholy moment. It is a hard and cruel diamond, but it shines.
I must have dozed. I pulled myself up and hauled on our lines. I put the fish above where the fire would be if I had remembered to actually build it. I hooked our lines across the limbs of the trees and inspected every knot, wiggled the tiniest scrap of meat onto every barb, then waded out to the log that I could walk across and drop it back into the waters. I decided then to sit on the opposite side of the river.
Things looked different here, aside from just being on the other side of the waters. I could look across the way and see our camp laid out in the pattern dictated by the fewest steps: there was our wanagan, our ramada, our fire, our snowshoes, our sledges and our shivering ponies. Mmm. For them I will build a fire! There is a lot of dry wood on this side of the river.
The fire has been warm now for an hour and the ponies would draw almost as near as I. Will the sun never come over the edge of the canyon? I think about how long you have been gone and I have to weep until I’m done. I cannot remember. I cannot remember anything but placing our lines, building our fire and taking the Salmon to The People.
Later there is a faint sound, as a bird leaping from a slight branch at the top of a tree, and it is at some distance. I hear the calls that come after and listen for what the wind will offer. It passes and is quiet again but only until I hear and feel a pat-pat-pat in the soil — almost, but not yet a sound. I stand, against all odds, against the frost that has frozen my blanket into a strange shape, and I lean against the tree to see farther down the path to our place beside the waters.
Eshabirodja . . . I see you come down the path home again.
Nikito’s last day on earth. He is either mad with grief or just mad period. Eshabirodja is gone and he doesn’t know or cannot remember why or to where, and he cannot cope with his grief. He ceases to care for himself and dies (I think) from pneumonia. His last words are actually a northwestern Native dialect, but it’s the only way I could say what he meant to say.
I do not know what is real, at least in the sense that the White man thinks of a thing as real. I think everything is real and that unreal things are misunderstandings; truth is everywhere and in every thing, but fear and monkey-shine make them seem to be less real than they are or make us so confused that we cannot connect with it and hear its words to us. I am no different than any other man.
Eshabirodja had been gone for such a long time that I did not know whether or not she was real any more. What made it hurt the most is that I did not know what happened to her, and I had to live with that unknowing until it drove me mad and alone into the place of the spirits. I think she went away because she did not like our life and wanted to do something she thought was better than [connecting] Salmon with [People]. Maybe there was a city and she wanted to go there, or maybe there was nothing and she just wanted to walk away, away and keep going away until she learned what else to do. I lived with the torture of believing that she had been savaged and killed on the road by bandits or that she had become a camp follower to give herself in that small way to the greater need. I was sick and I did not get better. I felt the frost on me like a gnawing animal, crouched on my chest as I lay in reeking animal skins. I think the ponies are sick and I haven’t heard the voice of one for all the time I have lain inside out of the snow. I find I have nothing to do but pray that the spirits will come and take me away from this terrible loss . . . spirit-helper have pity on me.
Spirit-helper have pity on me.
Again we have an illustration of a shift in language and content to show an unfamiliarity with what must be the actual language and content. The final phrase is a Siletz or Kallipuia Indian phrase I heard many years ago when I made a recording of two medicine men singing peyote songs at a gathering.
The truly odd thing about this story is that it doesn’t seem to portray in any sense the actual goings-on of my waking life. No one was leaving me (quite the reverse) and I was not terribly sad about the things I was going through. I reminded myself at the time that it is often useful to put myself in the place of other people in the story and try to see it through their eyes in order to gain a different perspective. It seems that these stories are reflections of real events around me, but told from different perspectives to help me see around corners in my mind. There is yet an even deeper version of this phenomenon.
From time to time, it will seem as if the storyteller pauses in the narrative and addresses me directly, offering words of wisdom, couched in the oddest of contradictory phrases. This is usually accompanied by a complete stillness of mind which slowly blooms into a sort of joyous weeping and a cathartic swirl of suppressed emotions. I can typically feel this shift in consciousness very distinctly, it seeming as if my creative faculties are suspended and I am just listening intently to what is said to me. When this happens, I signal it by the use of italics.
Sometimes, and on this occasion certainly, the ‘narrator’ of this story stops telling the story and addresses me directly. I can feel it happen. There is a shift in content, in word and meaning. It is as if a storyteller stops telling the illustrative tale long enough to tell me, the listener, what it means to me personally. These words almost always have many, many layers of meaning and interpretation and so, when I can identify them, I put them in italics. I don’t know whose memory this is, but I don’t think it’s mine. There is no electricity here and it happens at night by the light of glass lamps and fireflies. It seems like Nebraska in the ’30’s for some reason.
Not always in a lonely place do I behold you — sometimes it is at a café on a piazza I cannot name, sometimes on your grandparents’ farm where you held my hand under the table and asked me about the stars. You’d just heard about the pictures in the stars that were put there by the men who would tell stories at the gatherings. You wanted to know what I knew and I only knew about the pictures and I pointed them out to you, if I remembered them correctly. It was enough for you then, and made for us a simple moment to treasure.
As children of Earth and the Starry Heavens, our story is in those stars, forming a long way back in the bright spiral of time and calling out to our present ears as a collection of words upon the only Tongue that speaks the Word: I am your Heart. I am your Pain. I am the reason for your next breath. Thou art my life and I love thee. Your own love is a reflection of that and no more, but that is more than enough. Do not ever forget that.
I cannot read these words without tears.
I was mad at my wife, mad at the feelings I had in me and mad that I made the object of my love mad at me. I fell off the tobacco wagon and was struggling to climb back on. I held my wife in my arms and smelled Pall Malls distinctly, as if a cigarette was burning in the room and recalled that her mother died of cancer and that was her brand. It felt like a presence, a ghost. I don’t smoke Pall Malls. My muse speaks again and in that twisted and maddening ‘angel-speak’ that simultaneously enlightens and obscures.
You don’t need my words want my words reveal my words
Speak my words but hear my words you do in the deep of yrself.
Today I held you while we both cried and I felt your mother draw near.
Was it my own breath reeking of sticky yellow death or the touch of her love flavored by what she could not leave? Quitting is easier than this but the sea must be calmer than this I tell myself today
It cannot be every day that way
Dear heart, I suffer with you and in you
&you are every woman I have ever known
as I am every man I have ever been
Angel-speak w/o preamble. Possibly one of the most important insights I’ve received from this time. It is presented in an unusually clear fashion.
Listen to me, you had an important thought there: She (whoever She is) is the love of your life but cannot be your love of Life, dig? If I exist as a different octave of your being, it is proper to say that I am the Life of your love. This is a formula, and when you work it forwards you find Her. When you work it backwards you find Me. See again:
Life of your love . . . you’re love of Life . . . Love of yr life
Thee . . . Thine. . . Thou
Solve Coagula Est!
“Toluca” is your invocation
and you must know by now that you are but one more flower blooming in a bucket of shit
“Toluca” is a poem I wrote 20 years ago and it has always felt special to me. I’ve recorded it as a music & spoken word piece and performed it from time to time, and whether hearing it on tape or performing it live, the room is always very still. Here I am told that it is nothing less than my own personal invocation of my Holy Guardian Angel and I have since used it as such to solid effect.
There is an immense wealth of information available to us, if we’d only take the time to listen and to suspend immediate judgement. The rewards are as great as one’s patience, both with the process and with oneself. It took me many years to unravel “Toluca,” and it hasn’t revealed all of its secrets yet. Twenty years ago, my only clue that this poem was in any way unusual was the fact that, at some point, I began to quote verbatim the Bhagavad Gita at decent length. I have read the Gita, but I certainly have not memorized it and didn’t ever expect it to show up in such fashion. I shall close this curious essay with “Toluca.”
Toluca is home sometimes where you stare down the road with black and ancient and wond’rous eyes you see your soul entangled in mine but this you do not yet know . . .
Can these elaborately constructed forms differ so much from one another that no route can be see of forward-going-apace? The path of metamorphos-is is the path of divine light and also horror.
Thou art desire . . . thou art desire
Thy beauty is in my I
Thou art madness . . . thou art madness
Thy beauty is in my I
Thou art God . . . Thou art Goddess
Thy beauty is truth & lie
Both truth & lie
I hate my masque
Seven years of de-votion Seven years of backward motion
Had I but known the words I would have penned the song
“Voyage on your blood for it is love & no other”
The spiritual equivalent of the hydrogen bomb? Cum now be reasonable if you be know a sage then so shall it be — be not distracted that you do not perceive the slightest wisdom in what you are doing at this moment or any other who cares to seek for that perfect freedom? One man perhaps in many thousands then tell me how many of those who seek that perfect freedom shall know the total truth of my being?
Perhaps one . . . Perhaps every one
As we are all one and that one is all of us, who can it matter who among us would run to take the light?
(For it is all ours always was always will be) You have nothing in your I your I is in me of me it is me
I am you
©2007 Frater Auxilior Arti. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Frater Auxilior Arti (nee Fr. Adsum Iterum) is an initiate of the Astrum Sophia, co-founder of the Companions of the Glyph and author of the Book of the Glyph and PRAXIS: The 2nd Book of the Glyph. A life-long student of the paranormal, he brings a scientific/Fortean viewpoint to the subject, a thing he feels is sadly neglected. You can find his Facebook page here.
Notice that in speaking of destruction of the intellect, nothing more is meant than recognition of the vanity of the intellect in relation to the absolute; so also for conscience. Twice two still makes four, and killing is still murder; but all this is relative, and relates to the individual in his limitations, not to the absolute. This very simple truth, that the planes are separate, is the greatest of all the discoveries of Fra. P. It is a complete key to life.
— Aleister Crowley, Equinox I:8, p. 23-4
Is a person that does the right thing due to fear of religious, judicial, or legislative repercussions ethical? What about people whose behavior is based on fear of losing societal standing? Can ethics be a part of a person’s genetic makeup? Does a person will ethics, or can ethics be forced upon a person by society? Can ethics be used as a means to discover one’s true nature?
Society can try teach ethics (via formal education), and enforce laws by exacting penalties for failure to act ethically — but doesn’t this type of society risk becoming a fear-based society because the motivation for right action will be based solely on self-interest instead of a love for Light, Life, Love and Liberty?1 Furthermore, some laws require unethical behavior. Law is concerned with what is legal rather than what is right. Wouldn’t you rather be a member of a society composed of ethical citizens? People who act ethically out of their own desire to be ethical, rather than motivated by fear? People acting out of fear are not inherently ethical. Ethics concerns itself with action.
We have seen what occurs when unethical people use fear in order to make laws in our own society. Consider how in recent days Americans have given up freedom of association, freedom of information, freedom of speech, the right to legal representation, freedom from unreasonable searches, the right to a speedy and public trial, or the right to liberty.2 The message those laws and regulations send is that it is okay to do the wrong thing, even when it violates the lofty ideals upon which this country is founded, provided that it is legal or lawful.
Right thought leads into right action. Words mean nothing. So if we are to make intelligent decisions about other people, then we must ignore what they say and pay attention to what they do. If a person complains, but makes no effort to correct a situation or condition, then it seems clear that the issue is not really serious in that person’s mind because it hasn’t driven them into action.
What shall we say of a person who is aware of corruption and injustice in government but who ignores political involvement, such as voting? Is a person who ignores their knowledge of unpleasant things, preferring instead to justify inaction by believing lies when the facts are in front of his face, being ethical?
“Nevertheless have the greatest self-respect, and to that end sin not against thyself. The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.”3
“Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!”4
Ethics and laws are often opposed to one another. This is clearly the case when we see people who sacrifice their own freedom for their fellows, principles, ideals, or even ethics by breaking bad laws. Laws are not necessarily ethical, as when regulation and licensing prevent freedom of movement, freedom of speech, or making a living, when laws based purely on religious morality force non-adherents into compliance, or when government or big business (same thing, really) can make use of loopholes (not available to all) in order to avoid responsibility for wrongdoings. In fact, law is a bad model for ethics — unless, of course, Love happens to be the Law. What shall we say of a justice system that jails Martha Stewart, whose only crime was to sell her company’s stock when she heard that the market was about to crash, but lets off criminals like Tom DeLay, who committed perjury, smoked Cuban cigars during an embargo against Cuba, took bribes from casinos, and funneled corporate contributions to state campaigns during the 2002 election cycle? What pride can we have for our modernness with all of our medical breakthroughs if the best, most sophisticated bioethical solution for a woman on a feeding tube is to allow her to starve to death? Sometimes humans seem to get more excited by the possibility of cloning sheep than they are by advancing as an enlightened species.
The law should only be a marker for minimal standards for behavior necessary for a productive society. We must never forget the fact that laws are often created so as to have an unethical end, such as the laws justifying Apartheid in South Africa. Legislators that create and support laws like these also create a social disrespect for them. It is not unlike the disservice that a zealot does his religion when he uses it to justify his own means. Nor should a law’s popularity be a marker of ethical value, since an unethical law can placate the majority of people, as occurred in Hitler’s Germany. The absence of social agreement on many issues makes it impossible to link ethics with what is socially acceptable. The same is true of Thelema, but that shouldn’t stop us from discovering our own, personal ethical standards.
Ethics, on the other hand, are something more than forced compliance. One cannot be forced into ethics; they must be willingly embraced. But today, so-called “ethics” tend to focus on rules, and this is simply another form of control. Furthermore, ethical values should be in compliance with one’s True Will. This is not to say that it is impossible for groups of people to adhere to a unified code, or agree on a codified set of ethics in order to accomplish a task that would be impossible without the assistance of others.
Aristotle tells us that the focus of ethics is on character, not rules. In other words, how one tackles problems is a measure of a person’s self-worth. It reflects an idea of one’s value. According to Aristotle, the central question is what one should be, rather than what one should do, because if good character is in place then by necessity, good action will follow. Right thought leads into right action. Therefore, he tells us, we would do well by developing our character rather than trying to fit into some moral rule or law . . . unless, again, Love happens to be the Law.
Rabelais appears to have held similar beliefs. “Do as thou wilt” is the only rule of his Abbey of Thelema, for a person with good breeding will naturally do the right thing at the right time. Consequently, you won’t find any clocks in this monk’s Abbey, since according to him it seems ridiculous that man would regulate his life in accordance to a mechanical time-telling device, because the Thelemite (being possessed of the above mentioned good breeding) can only do things at the right time.
The Ego is a topic of both metaphysical and psychological concern, and in many instances the line that separates these two fields of human study is quite blurred and becomes important to the topic of ethics. This is especially true in present times where pseudo-intellectuals have reduced the spiritual reflex and the domain of the soul to simple but comfortable well-known psychological impulses, without offering any real solutions to the problem of living a spiritual life in a world that demands selfishness and greed. God Is Dead. More on this later.
The following example is by no means all-inclusive. There are many paths that a person can travel to find spiritual freedom. The observation that follows is what I perceive as the ideal or best case scenario, and comes in part from watching people and reflecting on my own experiences on the path to self-discovery.
This piece necessitates an explanation of how the term “ego” is being used. For the religious creature, the ego signifies arrogance, self-importance, and unearned pride. For the psychologist, the ego is the function in the human psyche that organizes the different aspects of the Self5 in order to create a facade of wholeness and integration; it is a function of deception that serves to affect the individual and those around them. It is a necessary tool for survival in the world. Both schools of thought are correct, but again, neither offers a clue as to how to use this information to create a true method for gaining access to the Higher Self.
There is a false assumption in religious types that this ego must be destroyed. Individuals that have actually had some success in this area find themselves having to go through years of therapy to get it back. In fact, the religious insistence of defining the ego as an enemy that must be destroyed at all cost may be little more than a sinister strategy to control people. The ego questions everything and insists on individual freedom. It will not readily accept unjust or destructive demands of religious groups. It is an ally of the Will. Destroying the ego in order to achieve some resemblance of enlightenment is ludicrous because it is a component of the Self, created by the Self to interact with all other aspects of the physical universe.
For the purposes of this article, I choose to define “ego” as the narcissistic, automatic, habitual desire to see oneself as separate from the universe and from people within and without one’s sphere of influence. It isn’t anything evil, but it can be problematic when it is immature. In our present state of evolution, the ego is underdeveloped in most people. The ego can often be so successful in identifying the “I” from the “not I” that it can become self-centered and behave in ways detrimental to its own self-interest, as well as the interests of other individuals.6
The following stages have been oversimplified, but they serve to illustrate the point.
- The unrestrained articulation of the Ego. “I do whatever I want.” In the first stage, the individual has been duped into seeing his ego as the whole of the self. He enthusiastically surrenders to every whim promising exaltation or pleasure, often believing himself capable of indulging in destructive behavior without consequence. Here we may find people with unhealthy obsessions with drugs, alcohol, sex, or material and financial gain. They may have little regard for how their actions affect the lives of others. During this stage of development, there is little hope for progress in the area of true love or understanding toward others, much less for oneself.
- The awareness of the Ego in relation to others. “Doing what I want causes unhappiness for those around me, which may ultimately alienate me from others.” Here, the ego has come to realize others as intrinsic parts of its own existence and well-being. This realization usually comes as a result of trial and error and various failed attempts to act without consequence. This is the stage of most adults. The realization that they have hurt others frequently results in feelings of guilt, then backlash when the individual attempts to find redemption by immersing himself in religious or metaphysical practices. On the surface this appears to be a desirable step in the process of development, but in some cases an individual will develop a sort of psychopathology, because he may (as a result of all that spiritual practice) begin to see himself as better than his fellows. In reality, at this stage, this is nothing more than another mask the ego has spun out of arrogance. One vice has simply been replaced with another, much more palatable vice that pretends to espouse a higher, more lofty ideal. One may be capable of seeing the Holy City from this stage, but it is an illusion projected by the ego itself. Many religious people are inadvertently caught in this direful trap. Sometimes the use of drugs is employed to escape, or one may simply stop here, feel sorry for oneself, and blame problems on everyone else, rather than taking responsibility and moving on.
- The subjugation of the Ego to the True Self. “I am more.” After various attempts to achieve some relationship with the Higher Self, or to connect with something outside of its own delusions, the ego may actually be perceived at work, and the individual may become conscious of its capacity to deceive. Here, an individual may safely offer this false aspect of himself up to some higher cause or deity. The emotional attachment to the ego provides the necessary fuel. This sacrifice cannot be offered as an act of faith, but rather as a modest, cognizant, and intentional undertaking that adheres to the magical paradigm embraced by the individual. In our particular case, this must be a sincere and total sacrifice: an act of love under will.
The ego experiences an inner struggle during this stage of development, as it is only concerned with its own survival and fears its own demise more than anything else. This is where our mettle is most severely tested. Courage and perseverance are the most useful keys. Some people have associated this struggle with “The Dark Night of The Soul.”7 To succeed is to embody the Law in the flesh, and achieve the inner peace during tribulation that so many mystics have written about throughout the ages. One becomes a Lover in the Sufi sense, as the absence of the ego8 makes it possible, for the first time, to see oneself in all things, and the way to the Higher Self is opened. The longer the individual continues to hold this position, the greater the reward, and the clearer the road to the Holy Land. Many have tried to write about this experience but have failed from a lack of a suitable language.
This is important: The actual act of questioning something greater (as well as the actual act of sacrifice) does not originate with the Higher Self, or God, or whatever you choose to call it, because It already knows. The Ego itself is doing the questioning. Remember: The ego’s function is to question, and now we are seeing it exert itself in order to become self-aware. In this stage, we can observe the ego actively progressing toward enlightenment.
- Union with the Higher Self. In Western Hermeticism, “I who am most like himself” or “I am that I am” — in the Sufi tradition, “I am the Truth,” “I am Love,” or “I am the Law.”
This may appear to be a contradiction, or even a similar condition to what is explained in Stage Two. The difference is that the Ego (having been completely united with the totality of the Self) is in fact an integral part of that Truth which is the Higher Self. The deluded ego described in Stage Two can only make these statements while thumping his chest like a frightened gorilla. At this stage, the individual makes these statements in humility, realizing that his Truth belongs to all.
“Remember that this earth is but an atom in the universe, and that thou thyself art but an atom thereon, and that even couldst thou become the God of this earth whereon thou crawlest and grovellest, that thou wouldest, even then, be but an atom, and one amongst many.”9
To explain the differences between the ego and the Ego, consider the following statements, as they serve to illustrate the two stages very well.
- “I am God.” — One doesn’t become one, or come to full realization of this in the Gnostic sense, by simply saying it. It doesn’t matter how often one repeats it. Whether “God” is really in there or not, the host will never really know it because he or she is trying to assume something without knowledge. This is faith.
- “I am not God.” — By beginning here, one is forced to separate those parts of his or her makeup which are made of “god stuff” in order to examine them objectively. After one has externalized the entire idea, one can go about assimilating it as one’s own attributes. When one finds himself indivisible from the Higher Self, the Ego sees no reason to cheapen the experience by broadcasting it.
Here we approach the gates and stand before the two pillars flanking the door to the Temple: Love and Law.
- “I am God.” — One doesn’t become one, or come to full realization of this in the Gnostic sense, by simply saying it. It doesn’t matter how often one repeats it. Whether “God” is really in there or not, the host will never really know it because he or she is trying to assume something without knowledge. This is faith.
- The Ego is assimilated by The Higher Self. “There is only Truth.”
This stage marks Freedom in its ultimate sense. One is an agent of his own Divine Force and moves through the world confidently, without fear and completely trusting his newly found Divine guidance. The individual has been reborn10 into an existence where every experience is an encounter with the Divine. Here, and only here, can a person say of himself: “There is no God but Man.”
There is an idea that has become quite popular with pop-occultists, which espouses the concept of absolute happiness once one reaches this stage. I believe that there is a tremendous joy that comes from being able to view the universe beyond the veil of illusion and deception. Suffering and sorrow, however, are still there, but you may now appreciate them (and isn’t experience what Nuit calls us to do?) without the necessity of being emotionally involved with them, because you will know that these experiences only have meaning in the duality of the physical universe. Existence is Existence, and tears of joy are no less salty than tears of sorrow.
“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.” — Mark Twain
Consider the Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood and what they mean. Some of them have a more obscure, deeper meaning. See if you can get a sense of how these qualities are necessary to our own personal mission of gaining knowledge of our true nature, or our world mission of promulgating the Law of Thelema through acts of charity and service.
Valor — Right action in the face of any challenge
Valor means to be valiant, brave and strong, both mentally and physically. It is the ability to face danger with firmness11 and courage. It is the power to do the right thing, stand up against wrongdoings, and it is synonymous with courage, heroism, bravery, gallantry, boldness, and fearlessness. But its Latin root translates into “value” and “worth.”
Valor is the state one is in when one does what must be done, when one understands and accepts the consequences of one’s actions, even if those consequences are painful. It means doing something with the foreknowledge that one may be hurt, may lose, fail or not make any difference at all, and then doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do. It is the ability to accept fear, and it is possessing the inner strength necessary to undergo trial.
Valor is not recklessness, however; we must constantly consider the source of our courage to make sure it comes from a worthy place. Shakespeare once said of valor, “When valor preys on reason, it eats the sword it fights with.” He was right.
The Rose Cross is a worthy symbol to explain the idea of valor. The Rose simultaneously symbolizes a sacrifice of our desires and the blooming of our True Will.12
Nobility — Poise and elegance in both word and deed
This term is very misunderstood. Generally speaking, the word “nobility” describes a class of persons (the peerage of British society) distinguished by high birth or rank, such as dukes and duchesses, or barons and baronesses. The Order of Thelemic Knights prefers to reward members with titles for displaying a state of being possessed by superiority of mind or character, and commanding excellence, rather than acknowledging individuals simply on the notion that nobility can be inherited. Therefore, the Order of Thelemic Knights defines nobility as a quality belonging to all individuals that possess these following virtues:
Discernment — Piercing all glamour to see the Truth in oneself and in others
Synonymous with discrimination, it is the faculty of the mind that distinguishes one thing from another. It is the faculty of the mind which demonstrates keen, acute insight and good judgment. It is a skill that, when developed, enables us to view the differences in people and the relationship between us all. Discernment is the power of penetrative and discriminate mental vision, and is capable of seeing a multitude of things that escape others. A discerning person is not easily misled.
This shouldn’t be confused with the nonsense that so many blathering idiots on the internet try to pass off as “critical thinking.” In fact, discerning people will not waste their time educating individuals that already know everything.
Pride — Having a true sense of one’s worth
True pride is free of guilt and fear. It never second-guesses. Many good, deserving people are generally incapable of feeling pride. The insistence of humility over pride by misguided Christian leaders has created a social neurosis where people are afraid to exceed or take credit for their hard work.
“O be thou proud and mighty among men!”13 Pride is a wonderful thing. It is what one feels inside when one has triumphed in the face of adversity, created beauty, acted correctly and honorably, or faced his own illusions. Acting ethically leads to pride, and so we don’t view pride as a vice but a virtue. Pride is not humble, and is often confused with arrogance.14 (Arrogance is indeed a vice because it is an attempt to deceive others, but most importantly, it is a great source of willful self-delusion.) To say it another way, pride is the ability of deriving pleasure, self-respect and confidence for knowing and accepting oneself without indulging in some delusion of adequacy that does not exist. It is the willingness to reveal something within or about oneself to others as an example to one’s peers, and taking joy in personal honorable achievement or the achievements of one’s comrades.
The virtue of Pride leads to an accurate realization of one’s self-worth. Its vice is an over-inflated impression which relies on the comparison of oneself with some other person perceived to be less worthy. A good example of malformed pride is clearly visible in today’s so-called “intellectual Thelemites”15, who take great pride in pointing out the faults of others and insist on the need for dialectic and critical thinking, while they themselves are completely clueless with regard to the “scientific method” or the proper tools by which to measure a person’s worth. This is the problem with individuals that are Thelemites and intellectuals in name only — they fail because they spend more time looking for faults in others than trying to understand their own. They are therefore unable to develop the tools and social skills necessary to make the criticism philosophically valuable. Their approach only serves to placate their petty needs for external validation. These “misguided prophets” often congregate in small groups where there is always someone nearby to pat them on the back and tell them just how great they are, but are also always on the lookout for some poor unsuspecting soul to add to their collection of “followers.” They often quote the great philosophers to prove their own limited view of the universe, and are completely impotent when it comes to grasping more lofty meanings hidden in the writings of the philosophers they claim to know, or when it comes to creating something original.
When it materializes as a person’s truth, Pride is a source of ethics, an elevation of character and dignified bearing, and loathing for what is beneath or unworthy of oneself — a deep and uncompromising sense of self-respect and noble self-esteem. When a doctor puts his career16 on hold to help the poor, he or she often does so because of a deep belief that he has the knowledge, know how, and gumption to do a job no one else seems willing or able to do. It may be that the way a doctor is forced into conducting business is at odds with the Hippocratic Oath he or she has taken upon hir graduation from medical school. Perhaps pride prevents them from the hypocrisy inherent in capitalist medical practices or in the radical idea that sick people should be patients and not customers, or that hospitals should not be instituted for the generation of capital. Such actions and thoughts originate with pride.
Pride comes from a sense of purpose, and a love of accomplishing the impossible. The more difficult the obstacle, the more lofty and ethical the mission may be, the greater the sense of pride. Just ask any soldier that is willing to sacrifice his life defending his kin or countrymen if he is proud.
It is pride that pushes and gives us a sense of accomplishment, even when beginning a task that we can never hope to finish, because there will always be someone dying from hunger or a lack of medical attention. Liber Librae tells us to work for its own sake.
“Do good unto others for its own sake, not for reward, not for gratitude from them, not for sympathy. If thou art generous, thou wilt not long for thine ears to be tickled by expressions of gratitude.”17
We may become overwhelmed by this work, and we may often ask ourselves why we even bother when one person’s contribution is so small in the face of such huge problems. Support from a fellow soldier during those difficult times can provide light, encouragement and motivation in the darkest times. Working together, people can make a noticeable change in the world, and this is the position of the Order of Thelemic Knights.
A prideful person with a strong ego is not threatened by being a part of something larger than himself, because he is aware of the resources that they are able to provide for the greater good. A prideful person takes pleasure in the knowledge that while he is a necessary component to achieving a communal objective, he is no more or less important than anyone else lending their talents to the accomplishment of the goal. People have pride in something they value highly. Pride is confidence stemming from the projection of one’s personal values. Our communal values are the reason that members of the Order of Thelemic Knights are prideful.
Coincidentally, a pride is a gathering of lions. A consciousness of power (and hence, responsibility), fullness of spirit, lust and sexual desire. Interestingly, an excitement of sexual appetite in a female beast.
Compassion — The vice of Kings!
Have you ever had a deep awareness of the suffering of another living thing and wished to help for no other reason than wanting to relieve suffering? This is compassion; it is a human quality. Pity is not compassion. Compassion manifests as a sensation of sorrow provoked by the affliction or misfortunes of another. Pity, on the other hand, is the act of placing oneself above those less fortunate. Compassion is everywhere; it exists in nature, and therefore, we consider it a spiritual quality. It follows, then, that it should be integrated as a spiritual practice.
Fidelity — Loyalty to oneself, one’s comrades, and one’s word
It implies faithfulness. It is adherence to careful and exact observance of duty, truth, honesty, integrity or a discharge of one’s obligations.
You cannot have an army without fidelity. Spiritual warriors must be faithful to their obligations, duties, or observances, or they are little more than loose cannons or mercenaries. They must stand fast by their allegiance with the principles they have embraced, regardless of the circumstances.
Hamilton may have described our Order’s approach best: “The best security for the fidelity of men is to make interest coincide with duty.”
Passion — To do all with love under will
Passion comes with boundless enthusiasm, ardent love, conviction, and certainty. It is a powerful emotion. People who are unable to take a stand one way or another are not possessed of passion.
A passion can be one’s desire, such as the passion for one’s duties, art, or lover. It is the fervor and zeal with which we approach our missions, the fire that burns within us, and the driving force behind any pursuit and the enthusiastic partiality for anything.
Strength — The body is the Temple of God
In personal terms, strength is a source of mental, physical, and ethical power to resist strain or stress. It is a form of control necessary to hold firmly to one’s ethical or intellectual position firmly. It is an attribute or quality indicating worth or utility; it is an asset.
Organizationally, it is the embodiment of protective and supportive supremacy, the capacity to endure or resist attack — impregnability. It is the gumption to carry out a mission in the face of opposition, the ability to work effectively, efficiently, and to produce an effect and secure results. Or, as Rudyard Kipling puts it, “Enough work to do, and strength enough to do the work.”
Each of us is strong in our own areas, each according to his or her True Will. When we put all of our strengths to the service of Our Order; we become an army. Force19 is the application of strength.
Discipline — Perseverance, that the Work may be accomplished
Discipline is the organization of behavior subject to will. It is any exercise that is expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces ethical, physical, or mental improvement or self-control. It is indicative of a branch of knowledge, such as the discipline of martial arts, yoga, or psychology. It also alludes to the rules regulating the practice of a church or religious order. It is synonymous with education, instruction and training.
When a man submits himself to a certain lifestyle or ethical code in order to remove badly formed habits and substitute them with good ones, he is exercising discipline.
Self-Reliance — Only a free man may walk our path
Freedom begins with the recognition of a person’s sovereignty. The next step is to use that freedom to self-govern, to choose one’s course. Independence and freedom come from the reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, and resources. When a man or woman is self-reliant, he or she does not become a burden to his or her Brothers and Sisters. On the contrary, such a person is an asset that can be counted on to do his own share of the work and contribute to the best of his ability. . . each and everyone in compliance with his own True Will. A self-reliant person will never need anything because he is self-contained.
Hospitality — To share what one has with others, especially those far from home
Cordial and generous reception of, or disposition toward, guests is synonymous with Chivalry and Courtly Love. Hospitality is a lost art form. Few individuals really understand manners and a proper upbringing, preferring to lump it all in the rebellion of society and modern culture. It is a display of pride, generosity and respect toward one’s peers that is infectious. Unlike charity, hospitality is designed as a gesture of mutual recognition of one’s autonomy. It can be best described by the Sanskrit word namaste, which is to say, “I respectfully greet the divine spirit within you.”
- Consider the motivation behind paying taxes in the absence of equal representation. Is it done as a sense of duty for one’s country or social responsibility, or out of a desire to stay out of prison? If it is the later, then is it unreasonable to think of taxation as something akin to extortion?
- If this seems fictional I would encourage the reader to examine the so-called “Patriot Act.”
- Liber Librae, Paragraph 15.
- The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis III:57
- The archetype of personal totality; the governing nucleus of the psyche, and that influence that surpasses the ego.
- In many ways, the Demiurge and the Ego are synonymous because both take credit for being they aren’t, or having done something they haven’t.
- Often encountered in magical work, this is a non-pathological condition marked by depression and a lack of mental and physical energy. The energy that is not available to the conscious is re-routed and used in other areas of the mind, usually the imaginative functions of the brain. It is symbolic of the decent into Hades, an immersion in the unconscious. The experiences of Osiris, Christ, and Dante are examples describing this state. This condition is normal and even desirable, since it often leads the individual to a break in neurosis.
- The use of the word “absence” is misleading, since the Ego hasn’t really gone anywhere, it has simply transcended its home in the lower places. Also, this stage is what the Sufi calls “mystical love.”
- Liber Librae, paragraph 14.
- A process usually experienced following The Dark Night of The Soul whereby an alteration of the personality has occurred. Examples of rebirth appear in the world’s mythology in the form of The Transmigration of the Soul, Resurrection, and Reincarnation.
- This can be done with little to no though when one knows his or her True Will.
- Liber Tzaddi, paragraph 16
- The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis II:77
- Unearned pride. Pride has no problems with humility, whereas vanity, on the other hand, avoids it at all cost.
- “Nietzschean Thelemite” might have been a better term, but it would have given Nietzsche a bad name.
- And financial goals.
- Paragraph 11.
©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.
The first step to expanding your reality is to discard the tendency to exclude things from possibility. — Meridjet
Paradigm Shifting and Reality Tunnels
“‘Paradigm shift[ing]’ has found uses… representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing…1”
Robert Anton Wilson uses the phrase “reality tunnel” to describe looking at reality from a certain perspective2. In occultism, these two concepts, paradigm shifting and changing one’s reality tunnel, essentially represent the same thing — changing your point of view in a profound way that influences your overall belief system, whether temporarily or permanently.
Within the spectrum of alternative spirituality, there are many beliefs that could be (and often are) labeled “unusual” or even “strange.” Anything from the Otherkin phenomenon to past lives as someone important, to believing one has a special destiny, and so on. It could be said that even Aleister Crowley bought the myth about having a special destiny, and if there’s one reality tunnel that I’ve seen in play with most consistency across great numbers of occultists, it’s the belief that one has some greater role in the shifting of humanity’s collective consciousness. There are people who believe they are angels incarnate, here to initiate great change. There are people who believe that they are going to become some powerful all-knowing guru/leader who will single-handedly shift the dominant paradigm.
We’re on a Mission From God™
Most commonly, there are people who believe that they’ve got something important, as yet unknown, to do in the overall change to a New Age or a New Aeon. These people typically believe that not only will they have an individual role, they will also be part of a small collective of super-VIPs. This typically evolves with a group of close friends, who will have a prominent collective role and purpose, even if they don’t know yet what that purpose is — and typically as friends are dropped or gained, the people playing the individual roles in the group change. Again typically, rarely does someone within the chosen few dare to question why this occurs. They tend to chalk it up to mistaken identity with regard to the rejected individual.
He who is rejected or who grows in a different direction from other individuals and thereby finds himself alone or with new friends will often face hurdles in adjusting his paradigm in a way that allows him to retain both a sense of purpose and an acceptance of past beliefs — beliefs that he may now view as “inaccurate.” He may feel that his former viewpoint was illusory and must be rejected as false, to allow full acceptance of the new viewpoint. He may feel that his earlier beliefs were silly, juvenile, or “fluffy.” Along the path of individual evolution, however, inevitably there comes a time when what is important now necessitates releasing something that was important at an earlier stage of your personal growth. When that shift concerns a key aspect of your personal mythology, such as what you believe to be your higher purpose, then there can be a great disillusionment. It’s difficult to evolve a core belief without feeling you must deny or dismiss the former view outright, either from embarrassment or from the simple need to distance yourself from a perspective that you feel is less evolved than the current view.
Does Change Have to Mean Rejection?
Reality is fluid. It changes with your perspective and your personal interpretation. Each person’s viewpoint is unique in all ways — this is the crux of consciousness, the single absolute factor in anyone and everyone’s existence. When you change your perspective and adopt a new preferred reality tunnel, the impulse to ridicule your old one is often irresistible. You can see this online with the frequent dissing of eclectic Wicca by former eclectic (non-initiate) Wiccans, who, for the most part, wouldn’t admit their past alliance in a million years. The recently-coined term “Neo-Wicca” was created, arguably, to set these eclectics apart, so that initiated Wiccans boasting a lineage could distance themselves from these fluffier, uninitiated counterparts — in other words, so they could feel superior.
However, it’s my opinion that when you dismiss a former perspective as stupid or embarrassing or otherwise not fit for public archiving, you cheat yourself out of valuable experience. It may always be with you, technically, but if you don’t embrace what you learned early in your magical history, not only will you be impatient with those less knowledgeable than you, but you will also develop a knee-jerk rejection to anything that smells too much like that old point of view, thereby potentially limiting your future growth.
Recently, Meridjet (my spirit companion) instructed a friend of mine about my friend’s recent paradigm shift, which was leading him to feel that his former perspective was in error. In fact, no reality tunnel can really be wrong, as Meridjet was quick to point out. . .
“All belief systems are metaphorical, because the reality is beyond your comprehension. This does not make them wrong.
“You are familiar, I’m sure, with various translations of old books, such as the Bible or the Tao Te Ching. Each translation bears the unmistakable mark of its translator. This shows in bias as well as in interpretation of more ‘objective’ concepts. Mythologies are interpretations of interpretations, ad infinitum, that give expression to basic archetypal concepts and beings. These mythologies are living and breathing histories in the sense that they have been infused with so much energy that they literally manifested accordingly. And yet, they remain interpretations, further interpreted by the translation of the mind of the reader or listener.
“The listener or seeker, for example, you, thereby invest your own energy into the personal interpretation that inspires your heart and brings you closer to something one might call “home.” When you bring others, like-minded, into your circle and together further interpret things and choose roles and what have you, this is just as literal as it is figurative — you are also creating your own group interpretation of the mythology. Through your group, the mythology continues to live and grow, just as it aids your growth.
“The figurative portion is what the mind brings into play in reaction to the literal portion, and the literal portion is created on the subtle planes in the realm of ideas by the figurative interpretation [of an experience] that you applied at the start. It’s a self-evolving paradigm, alive and real but also dependent upon a variety of factors for survival as what it is now. If you drop your role as [this person/being/archetype etc], for instance, then the mythology you lived will evolve on without you. This is how it should be. Perhaps a new being will take your place, perhaps not. Either way it does not matter, as the mythology lives through its proponents and vice-verse. What happens to you is that your mythology evolves and moves, perhaps in a new direction than your circle in general — but this is not wrong. In fact, it is very right.”
“So yes, [the events of your past, and their relative interpretations] happened. You can’t invalidate it. But you can, and will over time, shift your view of it so that it might feel invalidated. As I once told Sheta, when we see the past, we see through the lens of today, of now, and that changes the past. You can’t see then through then’s eyes.
“Therefore, allow yourself your growth. Allow others their growth, or stagnation. Allow each to be what he will be — and be yourself, too. It will all bring you closer to where you want to be, if you do not deny it.”
It’s All About the Journey
When you undertake a conscious spiritual journey, you accept the challenges that arise, or you become one of those who can’t cope and so fall away from the trials of the “dark night of the soul” that all must experience at intervals. We learn by experience, and our perceptions of our experiences change with our growth and evolution. The “then” that Meridjet refers to will change in our view with our changing understanding. This is a never-ending process. If you can beat the odds and weather the changes, you will be all the richer for it. In a future column, I will expand on these stages of learning and the challenges intrinsic to them. Meanwhile, just remember — the journey is the reason for the destination… not vice-verse.
©2007 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.
When we are born, that part of our brain that holds our identity is a blank slate, waiting to be written on by the impressions of our physical senses. As we age, we acquire more and more experiences, and these are stored as memories. We are the sum of our memories. Take them away, as happens sometimes in severe stroke, and we cease to exist. Our body continues, but it is no more than a physical shell. It is not who we are. Who we are is undifferentiated super-consciousness, acting through the filter of our various levels of memory, which shape and define that consciousness, limiting it into what we know as our personal identity.
We can never conceive anything apart from the input of our senses. That is the tragedy of the human experience. Try to conceive of a thing that is not based on your prior sense impressions and you will see that it is so. You cannot do it. If you think of a monster that has never existed, you will see that it is built up of familiar parts that you have learned about through your senses — skin, teeth, legs, eyes, ears, a tail. It will be certain colors, will emit sounds, will have a distinctive smell, be rough or smooth to the touch. We simply cannot imagine anything other than sense impressions. Even when we try to imagine completely abstract things, we can only hold them in our minds by translating them into familiar sensory models. This is the reason we cannot picture higher dimensions of space, but must use three-dimensional models to suggest them. It is a fundamental, inherent limitation of human consciousness, part of the very nature of what we are.
Even more startling the first time it is understood is the realization that the entire universe that we know and everything it contains exists only in our mind. That is not to say that another level of the universe might not exist apart and independent of our awareness, but if so we can never know anything about it. That is the key insight. We are prisoners of our own perceptions. Our consciousness is based on perceptual information, and the universe for us exists only in our mind.
You may have heard about Plato’s cave. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote in his dialogue The Republic that human beings are like prisoners chained in a cave who sit with their backs to the fire and perceive nothing of what passes behind them apart from the shadows that play across the cave wall. The cave is human consciousness. The light from the fire is our senses. The shadows are the things we build up in our minds based on our sense impressions. All we know consciously are the shadows. The moving shadows on the wall constitute our reality.
However, the cave is not all we are. In our higher natures, we transcend its limits. Sometimes, beings from outside the cave of sense impressions interact with our awareness. We call them gods, angels, spirits, ghosts, fairies, demons, aliens, and countless other names that attempt to define them in a way that our mind can handle. These beings from outside our perceptual reality are faced with a quandary. They exist beyond our senses, and we can only understand things of our senses, so how are they to reach our awareness?
They do it by using a technique that I have named sensory metaphors. A sensory metaphor is nonsensory information that has been translated into sensory information. The mind is incredibly versatile, despite its inherent limitations. It is capable of translating one sensory input into another sensory input under extraordinary conditions such as illness or a head injury, or under the influence of mind-altering drugs such as LSD. We can, under certain conditions, hear colors, for example, or see sounds, or even taste concepts. One sensory input can substitute its information for another input from a different sense.
But the mind is even more versatile. It can process information that has no sensory base at all into sensory data, thus allowing us to become aware of its existence, and to consider it by analogy. That is to say, we can never consider the super-sensory data itself because it lies beyond the reach of our consciousness, but we can contemplate the sensory metaphors of that unreachable data, in the same way we can represent and manipulate the higher dimensions of space with three-dimensional models.
When an angel appears to a human being, it has no physical reality. It cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. You may object that reports of angels throughout human history record that they appeared as physical beings. Often angels are said to walk among us in the guise of ordinary human beings who can be touched. Women have even made love to angels.
True enough. It was not the angel that was perceived, but the sensory metaphor generated by the angel, which exists in a realty that lies beyond our capacity to comprehend. Only because the angel has generated a sensory metaphor of itself do we even know that an angel is present. If the angel wishes to communicate with us, it must express itself in a way we can hold in our thoughts and imprint on our memories. It must become sensory data in our minds, even though that data never passes through any of the physical avenues of our senses.
Unless a spirit generates a sensory metaphor of itself, we continue unaware of it even though it may be very near. It is sometimes said that the world throngs with spirits of all kinds, but that we remain unconscious of their existence. This is true. To become real to us, a spirit must engage our mind on our own level of understanding.
Sensory metaphors of a simple kind arise spontaneously under unusual conditions. When we see a ghost, we do not actually see anything at all — rather, we have the impression in our minds of seeing. The true nature of the ghost, which we cannot perceive directly because it lies beyond our senses, is translated into a sensory metaphor. Usually this takes the form of a visual image. It may be indistinct or translucent. Sometimes the ghost takes the sensory metaphor of a sound or series of sounds, sometimes an odor, sometimes a touch, and only very rarely it appears as a taste. Ghosts can simulate more than one sense at a time, and we may both hear and see a ghost, or feel the touch of a ghost and simultaneously smell a distinct odor such as cigar smoke or perfume.
Complex spirits, who have a more developed intelligence, seem able to at least in part control the sensory metaphors that we perceive, so that they can present themselves in whatever way they think is to their advantage in dealing with us, and if necessary, change their appearance. You have no doubt heard of demons summoned into the triangle of evocation by magicians who come first in a frightening and horrible form in an attempt to intimidate the magician, but when commanded by the authority of names of power, will put on more pleasing forms in order to converse with the magician.
Spirits are not in their essence the sensory metaphors that represent them. They become those forms in their dealings with us, in order to be able to make us aware of their existence and communicate with us, and to us they are those forms, just as to us a human being is the body that he or she inhabits. But apart from our consciousness the essence of the spirit is a thing we simply are not capable of comprehending. It is what lies outside Plato’s cave and we can never turn our head to look directly at it, because it is not within our capacity to do so.
The doctrine of sensory metaphors explains many mysteries about the nature of spirits. For example, why a spirit can seem completely and physically real to one individual, yet pass unperceived by another individual who is nearby. It explains why a spirit that can be touched cannot be photographed. Whether or not genuine spirit or ghost photographs exist is a matter for debate. My own belief is that such photographs do not exist. A being that cannot be perceived directly by human senses cannot register on photographic film, because in a strictly material sense, it is not there at all. Yet the sensory metaphor of that spirit can seem completely real and present to whomever it is presented.
All the tricks of capricious spirits become understandable. Fairies were noted for their fairy feasts, which would be there one moment and gone the next, and for their fairy gold, which after being given would turn to straw or vanish away completely. The doctrine of sensory metaphors explains the sudden appearance and vanishing of spiritual beings of various types, how they can seem material yet pass through solid walls or doors, how they can appear to turn to smoke or mist, how they can transmute themselves into the shapes of beasts.
Sensory metaphors should not be thought of as completely arbitrary and ephemeral. True, they are not real in the narrow sense that our sensory impressions of physical objects are real, yet they often express accurately the nature of the spirit that adopts them. When a spirit retains a sensory metaphor for long enough, it effectively becomes the spirit, just as we are our collection of thoughts and memories. A goddess conceived for thousands of years in a certain form, with specific characteristics, becomes that being permanently, in so far as anything in this ever-shifting universe can be said to have permanence. The name given to the goddess becomes the name of that spirit. Aphrodite is Aphrodite, she is not merely a spirit pretending to be Aphrodite.
A spirit that manifests over a long period as the sensory metaphor of Abraham Lincoln may truly believe itself to be the spirit of the dead president. And who is to say it is not correct? Its identity is based on the same motivations, the same beliefs, the same memory of experiences, that formed the personality of Lincoln. If it is not the actual spiritual essence of Lincoln’s soul, assuming such a separate and discrete essence to exist, then it is a clone of that essence. Perhaps the spirit is even able to tap into some higher aspect of Lincoln’s being, a kind of divine template of Lincoln that is stored in the Akashic records.
The control higher spirits have over sensory metaphors should cause us to be thankful most spirits are benevolent. The ability to control what we perceive through our physical senses gives these spirits the power of life and death over us. We have all had sensory tricks played on us by spiritual beings. We put down our car keys, turn round to do something, and when we turn back, the keys are gone. We search the table they were on, the room, the whole house without finding them, and the next day when we pass the table, there are the keys, sitting just where we left them in plain sight. This kind of thing happens so often, it scarcely causes us to think about it. However, if we considered the matter, we would realize that someone has been playing games with our perceptions. How else could we fail to see what was in plain sight the whole time we looked for it?
Poltergeists play with human perceptions all the time. This is the primary way they work their tricks. Usually this manipulation of the senses is coupled with the spirit possession of a human being, who unwittingly acts as their physical agent to move things or perform various physical tasks. Much of poltergeist phenomena is physical, but much of it only appears to be physical, but is actually composed of sensory metaphors. For example, everyone in the house may suddenly hear a deafening clap of thunder, yet no one in the neighboring houses will have heard a thing, because the thunder was not an actual sound, but merely the metaphor of thunder that existed only in the minds of those who heard it.
There seems to be some kind of natural law that prevents spirits from killing or injuring human beings in large numbers through the malicious manipulation of our senses. It does happen on rare occasions, but the demons who do it are outlaws or renegades who have stepped over the bounds of normal spirit behavior. Apparently there are no laws against playing with us, annoying us, or terrifying us, other than the general laws of good manners and good taste, and some spirits delight to do these things, though what their motives may be is a matter for conjecture. Maybe they are amusing themselves at out expense, or maybe they derive some personal benefit from generating strong emotions of anger, frustration or fear. Perhaps these strong emotions nourish lower spirits, and it is for this reason that they manipulate our senses in order to generate them.
The concept of sensory metaphors is essential to a useful understanding of human-spirit interaction in the twenty-first century. The old mechanical notions of spirit nature simply will not serve our purposes in this quantum age. We cannot weigh and photograph spiritual beings, and it is high time to get over this simplistic understanding of our reality. What we know is conditioned by our senses, but it is not limited to our senses. Our reality contains higher levels and higher dimensional beings with which we can interact, but only in a secondary way, by a process of translation that models the higher levels of reality in sensory forms that our mind is capable of handling. We should be thankful that our minds are so versatile, they allow this translation to occur, for without it we would know nothing of spirits, not even that they exist.
©2007 Donald Tyson. Edited by Sheta Kaey
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.