Metaphor, Magic and Madonna

I was asked in a private email to elucidate my stance (last post) that the various magical grades are best viewed metaphorically rather than literally. As soon as I started replying I realised it might be suitable for MOTO. So here it is, and a little more 🙂

“We’re trapped in linguistic constructs… all that is, is metaphor…” ~ St Bob

Metaphors though real and powerful – ask any student of politics – cannot be pointed at, held or touched. We can experience the effects of a metaphor on denser levels, but actually many metaphors exist in an objective conceptual field rather than in an interior subjective psychological world. To understand the difference we can look at the process of thought. Now modernity has so moved the individual ‘I’ ego into the central frame of experience (‘My Documents’, ‘My Computer’ etc) that what I am going to say here will appear weird enough for that wonderful TV show Fringe.

Ordinarily when a thought or idea intrudes on our consciousness we say ‘I have just thought X’. Seems natural and right to us, eh? However, pre-modern people and a few of us weird esoteric folk are just as likely to understand this process as ‘I have just encountered the thought X’. That is, our subjective consciousness interacts with an objective thought/idea on a non-material realm and the interaction causes a reflection of that thought/idea to lodge within our minds. This occurs in the realm of pure thought, concepts or intuition and, as we have said, metaphor. This field or realm is as real as the material physical world, though seldom given much credence in the modern world. Pre-modern society, esoteric folk, and spiritual scientists like Goethe and Steiner all however agree on the objective existence of this world.

In the map of the subtle selves and levels generally used on MOTO, this realm where metaphors exist is called the mental level. It is part of a four or five level/self system described in a linked lecture, here. The mental level is seldom accessed consciously within our daily existence unless we are well experienced in and have many years of depth meditative or spiritual practice. However, when it is accessed it is the source for great amounts of emotion, vision, drive, power, delight and blessings for the ‘inferior’ levels of the astral, etheric and physical.

This view of the unseen levels of reality, in one form or another, is shared by nearly all traditional esoteric paths across the world. Going back to basics, at the most fundamental level the traditional view posits three interacting ‘worlds’ or spheres of existence. There is the physical, temporal world of phenomena – our material world (and the etheric world as link).  There is the eternal, uncreated, unchanging world of spiritual reality. And between these two worlds there also exists a world of transition and inner experience, often loosely called the ‘astral’ by modern western spirituality and by traditionalists, the psychic realm. The mental world we have been discussing functions as bridge between the upper, eternal realms and the lower realms of psychic existence.

The worlds are not separate to each other and function as a continuum. This is very important to bear in mind. How they function and inform each other is crucial to the full realisation of the human being. As a brief example of this we can look at how at three aspects of outer religion – sacrament, doctrine and myth – are temporal representations of inner reality.

A central understanding here is that human psychic experience lies between the outer (physical) and the inner (spiritual) world. Ideally it is informed by both: correct and balanced doctrine combining with openness to spiritual truth to create a personal realisation; correctly performed sacramental acts combining with spiritual powers to create interior blessing; and inspiring myth combining with the spiritual reality it points to in order to create a renewed sense of relationship.

The mental realm, the bridge between the higher and lower, the realm of the great metaphors is what allows this to happen. The metaphor of Christ’s Sacrifice and the Last supper is the key to spiritual power being poured through into the Sacrament. The metaphor of the doctrines of Original Blessing and Original Sin is the key to our realisation of spiritual truth through contemplation of doctrine. And the metaphor of the Creation Story is the key to renewing our sense of relationship to the Universe and the One through scriptural myth.

We can apply this framework to the magical grades also. Let’s say Sarah is a newly initiated Adeptus Exemptus. The qualities attached to this grade exist in a conceptual framework. This conceptual framework has been mulled over for fair number of years and draws on older concepts of the Tzaddkim or righteous ones in Jewish folkore. Additionally and crucially it is bound up with and contains the core universal concepts of compassion, justice, righteousness etc. It is thus objective to Sarah and draws on transpersonal forces and blessings, some from the mental realm itself and some from the spiritual realm where the mental metaphors refer. When Sarah in her physical life begins to meditate correctly on this concept and opens herself to it, the mental plane existence of the concept floods down into her astral-emotional-personality self.

This flood of blessings obviously forms a new experience in Sarah’s astral-emotional-personality self. In the initiate (and I use that word widely to include depth artists and others who have never seen a lodge room) the astral self has been properly prepared to receive these blessings and they now cohere into a coherent ‘form’ (and for those using magical personalities, it adheres to the magical personality). In non-initiates and those who have not prepared their astral-emotional-personality self through study and discipline, the blessings remain, though in a less coherent fashion and less able to be drawn upon at will.

Sarah though, as an initiate, is now able to connect with this form, which is able to inspire and promote her into Malkuth, physical action of the qualities of the grade. Of course to do so the circuit must be first completed through the Saturine path of Tau, where all the resistance and inertia to change and completeness come into play. The birthing of our ideals (mental realm) even if concretely seen and felt (astral realm) more often results in stillbirth than not. To help achieve this birthing we are encouraged to engage in physical actions resonant with the concepts in question, and this is why active compassion, charity and community work is so important.

When an initiate is moved to a new grade she therefore metaphorically has the qualities of the grade. They exist in her as metaphor, as potential, as a nascent new form of life. They do not exist literally. This can explain why at times initiates can act as noble as the grade implies and shortly afterwards as an absolute rotter. Living a metaphor is mostly part-time and while the more often we live the myth the more we hope we are changed, it is best not to assume we are and all is rosy. And of course this discussion does not take into account the vices of the grade, also awoken upon initiation for us to transform and master. That’s another story.

The principles outlined here, as hinted at above, are not confined to magicians with lovely robes and wonderful titles. It is used, or uses depending on how we look at the matter, artists, writers, poets musicians, lovers and far more. In a simple, though not necessarily simplistic, example the performer Madonna gives us a taste of how she personally uses these principles in her song Vogue. Can’t say I like the song much, but she knows what she’s about 🙂



  1. noel a light bearer · November 24, 2010

    this is a brilliant site
    how do i make sure i get your posts
    absolutely wonderful
    i live in ireland

  2. Peregrin · November 24, 2010

    Thanks, Noel. 🙂 You can subscribe to a RSS feed, top right corner, or


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