One of the side benefits from my recent distress at the Golden Dawn community’s continued infighting is that through my keeping up to date I have come across several excellent blogs. Some of these are on MOTO’s blogroll, so have a look. Of particular interest is Soror FSQ’s blog, “Flight of Hermes“. There are several other blogs that interweave magical wisdom and personal experience within the Golden Dawn tradition, but Soror FSQ does it well. Sadly, it is hard to avoid stereotyping here: blogs of the same type by men seldom express emotional authenticity with such grace as this one by a woman. Within the Golden Dawn as a whole the men out number the women, particularly when we examine leadership roles and public presences, yet often the women make the most profound contribution to an Order or working sphere. The same is true of virtually any religious tradition in the west.
I have really appreciated Sr FSQ and other bloggers sharing their personal experience of magic and the Golden Dawn. I seldom have the clarity and courage to do so. Well … I once submitted a lengthy report of my youthful pagan religious and mystical experiences to an anthropologist who was writing a book on the subject and seeking personal stories. The first I knew the book was out was reading a review in the West Australian where my memories were quoted and held up to ridicule by the reviewer who could see no good in Pagan mysticism at all. I am now a little more shy in revealing stuff 🙂
One of the most wonderful aspects of magic is the way it can help us interweave all aspects of life into a single, coherent whole. It can unify the various parts of our lives so we are travelling with perhaps many intentions but of one spirit towards one goal. Magic for me is composed of three interlocking spheres: the personal, the mystical and the social. Naturally we can relate these to the Tree of Life 🙂
Magic on a personal level helps us change and transform. To begin any act of transformation we leave what is known as the Path of Return and step off the cycle of repeated existence and habitual thought patterns. We do something different and step beyond Malkuth, or in Golden Dawn terms we enter the path of initiation and leave the path of the Natural Man (borrowed from St Paul). This is the first step and often the hardest as it involves a form of self exile from the herd-tribal mind set and the social-genetic programs we have in inherited from our family and society.
However, there is no point in magic or any spiritual practice unless this transformation takes place. Unless, slowly year by year we are truly changing into a more compassionate, integrated, mature and wholesome person. Often this involves what today we call “healing” and really should be considered a precursor to any serious magical or tantric practice. We can relate these transformational actions to the lower four Sephrioth, Malkuth through Netzach with the prime area of change being undertaken in Yesod the sphere of reactions, the unconscious and sex. Every night I introspect on these three areas and try to see where I really am. How did I react during the day and why? What unknown or uncontrollable personal forces made my choices for me? How was I sexually, either physically or in imagination? I’d wager these are three vulnerable areas for most of us.
It is a common esoteric truism that to fully change any sphere we need to operate from the sphere immediately above it. Our physical bodies are moved by our energy. Our energy is clarified and strengthened by our emotions and thoughts which in turn are effected by our sense of self. So for full therapeutic transformation and to avoid the merry go round of therapy helping to pay for our counsellor’s beach house, we need to access the self, the Sphere of Tiphareth, or more accurately the lower facing aspect of Tiphareth. This is the aim of such ‘transpersonal’ therapies as Jungian analysis, which is wonderful when used in conjunction with body centered modalities but often just lovely mental gymnastics when practiced alone.
Such self focused work involves far more than a few therapy sessions or facing the interior imago of our parents from childhood conditioning. As we said such personal transformation is needed but is only one aspect of the personal change that magic directed by the One involves. Esoterically we are all the central point in the unlimited circle of the One. When I say “we are the centre” I do not mean our higher selves, nor our ‘balanced self’, nor our future self, but who we are right now, this very instant. Even if we are immersed in dysfunction and addiction. We are all the centre of God’s complete love and attention. This is a great mystery. As William Blake puts it, we are all, each of us the Only Son of God. This means God, whose circle of circumference is nowhere, beyond limit has each of us at His centre. Always. Yesterday, today and tomorrow no matter who we are or who we are not.
Once we realize this intense gift we are never personally empty, alone or broken again. The full gaze and love of the One is constantly upon us and therefore our personal lives begin to have meaning. How we act and love and serve in our personal life becomes incredibly important. This realization is not easy and for me my most personal act of transformation is learning to hold this truth for longer periods more frequently. Cleaving to this realisation is an act of standing, as we are, naked in God’s revealing light. Ultimately having the courage to be revealed in front of God is an act of returning love, from ourselves back to God. It is through this love our lower selves, Netzach through Malkuth may be healed. This is expressed beautifully by the great Sufi poet Rumi:
This is Love: to fly without limits
to cut through all the veils – now!
The first instant – to reject the life you knew.
The last step – to give up feet entirely.
To see right through materialism,
To refuse to see addiction as inevitable.
In Golden Dawn terms what we have been discussing is the Outer Order and the liminal grade of the Portal – well, that’s the theory. In practice most of us are still bumbling around with our Yesodic reactions even after we have dressed up very nicely and been declared “Greatly Honoured” 🙂 Grades are an artificial construct and have nothing to do with our spiritual unfoldment or personal transformation. However, even though still only a map the progression through the layers of self just outlined is useful. We all need maps. Nearly all the great mystical and magical traditions have some form of this progression mapped out.
There has been much unproductive polarisation of magic and mysticism where the two are seen to be opposite ends of the spectrum of spiritual experience. Maybe they are for some, but not for me and certainly not for the traditional esoteric schools and teachers in the west. Magic is practical mysticism, a series of artificial bridges based on sound spiritual skills to engage the higher aspects of the soul. Here we are specifically referring to the upward facing aspect of Tiphareth through to Daath (if we are blessed). Again there are maps and sequences of unfoldment laid out in most traditions. Mysticism is not a free for all experience of the One complete with visions, spasms of energy and psychic flashes, though it can quickly degenerate into such unhealthy states. For most of us this is almost guaranteed to happen, in some form, if we attempt magic prior to engaging in the self transformation outlined above. The works of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila are classic examples of the discipline required in mystical work. So too when examined properly and practiced with altruistic intentions is the curriculum of the RR et AC.
It is important to state something again and again, as most of us do not get this, and indeed we cannot ‘get’ it until we have experienced it. This little quote sums it up well:
Spiritual growth does not come merely through intellectual or emotional development. There is another state of being to be reached, another quality of awareness that reveals new aspects of reality. (Theodore J. Nottingham: The Mysticism of Christian Teaching).
In one sense then ‘we’, the regular everyday Peregrin and whoever you are reading this, the person who does the shopping, does not experience mysticism or magic. It is the upper spheres of the Tree, the so called ethical triad of Tiphareth through Chesed which are the vehicles for mystical magic and most of us do not shop or work or even love with these spheres. To enlarge our selves to be active within the realm of mystical activity very much involves dying to who we are. Each time we expand in some way we die; it is a natural part of the process. So, strictly speaking ‘we’ do not think or feel or react when engaged in mystical and magical states of being. We may need the language and concepts of feelings, emotions, thought, bodily sensation and our own self to express the experience but none of these are really the modes by which the experience unfolds. Magic (like Tantra) is the best way for us who are not born mystics to achieve this state. In Buddhist terms magic is the skillful means by which we reach these transformational and blessed states. This is what magic is all about.
Once we have properly engaged in mysticism and magic we have gone beyond ourselves. We thus are waking from the lie that all people believe – that there is a separate being called Peregrin or Mr Rudd or you. This, as I keep talking about on MOTO compells us to compassion. We know we are all interdependent; that we are the asylum seeker on the crowded, fear-ridden boat, that we are the lesbian who cannot bring their partner home for Christmas and we are the rapist locked in internal and external prisons. This knowledge impels us to act; we just have to. And here is the beauty of magic, particularly of RR et AC magic. The very practices, the actual skillful means by which we become mystics can be used to bring about change in the social-political world. The rituals, the processes require very little modification to help us change the world. Isn’t this beautiful? 🙂 Qabalistically of course, we revisit and act in the world of Malkuth where we started, the real world of love and pain, hope and fear.
Joanna Macy, activist, deep-ecologist, writer and teacher talks about the need for change and transformation to occur on three levels. Firstly, there is the activist level, which really is buying us time. Activists however act as the Biblical prophets – they disrupt the social order, the status-quo and hold our choices and injustices up high for us to see so they become conscious. Secondly, the level of internal change within ‘the system’ itself where change agents are white-anting the dominant power systems, slowly bringing about change and new ways of being to foster justice. And thirdly, the level of group consciousness, in magical terms the cultural and society egregores. It is here that magic really comes into its own and can produce wonderful changes. There is not much written about this, though the best examples of the principles behind the processes can be found in the works of Dion Fortune and the magical stream stemming from her work – and of course in the works of Starhawk and Reclaiming.
However, even on the first and second levels social magic is possible and can produce results. I have seen this happen. We can change the outcomes of actions and protests. We can support those tackling the “system from within”. We really can. And this is why I love magic so much – personally, mystically and politically 🙂