In the next month or so I will be teaching on the Neophyte Meditation of the Golden Dawn. Being an occasionally organised creature, I looked up my notes on the meditation and thought, ‘hey why not MOTO these’? And so here they are 🙂
The meditation forms part of the ‘Neophyte Knowledge Lecture’ made available to initiates after their initiation into the Order. It is often given as:
Let the Neophyte consider a point as defined in mathematics as having position but no magnitude and let her note the ideas to which this gives rise. Concentrating her faculties on this, as a focus, let her endeavour to realise the Immanence of the Divine throughout Nature, in all her aspects.
When I was first initiated our Order had this version and another also, which I have always found more profound and deep. I was told by the Imperator that ‘the Christian Orders’ used the second one, with the undertone that this was the right way to do it, ol’ chap! I was a callow-youth pagan back then, but tried it anyway and found it wonderful to say the least! This version has many putative authors from Empedocles to Voltaire. I haven’t bothered to find the ‘truth’ of the matter. I understand the version we use stems from St Bonaventure:
God is the circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Either form is rather neat, and I have found them to be among the most beautiful and transformational meditations within the Golden Dawn tradition. I write a little of this in my book ‘By Names and Images’ where I quote a fictional experience of the meditation by a modern pagan Witch in Stewart Farrar’s Witchcraft novel, The Sword of Orley:
…and then for a mere diamond-point of time only the Centre was real. But the point was infinity! The Centre was the Circumference … Frontier-less, the Goddess touched her…
Thus the meditation does not limit the experience of immanence to an abstract Oneness, but rather allows it to be perceived as part of meditators own religious framework. This is very important. So when I write here from a Christian perspective, it does not mean the mediation is Christian. The meditation engages us without a frontier, without barriers or self-definition so we may be touched by the divine. And in that touch we come to know the One and the world as the One.
This meditation may be practiced by anyone, initiate or not, and is certainly not to be confined solely to the period after the Neophyte initiation or equivalent. It can bring us spiritual blessing and insights for as long as we live. And I recommend all folk within the GD continually practice this meditation, even if they have ‘moved along’ into another grade besides Neophyte. Just as all numbers are contained in the zero, all grades within the Neophyte, all meditative experiences are contained within and have their root in this simple but wonderful meditation. More on that later.
The difference between the two versions is the inclusion in the second version of transcendence, the unknowable, un-plottable, nowhere circumference surrounding the immanent point. Experiencing and realising immanence is the articulated goal of the first version, with no mention of transcendence – which does not mean it is not there. This makes total sense, as the transcendence of the One / Divine / Mystery / God is not given much of an outing in modern magic. Indeed, there are some folk who quite deny the transcendence of the One, extolling a mystical pantheism or monism or other isms they are not really quite sure of. This stems from the valorisation of praxis over theoria and the magical view of divine union I mentioned in this post, which ultimately at the pinnacle, involves identification with God or immersion in God.
When we consider the inclusion of transcendence we can see why my first Imperator was clear the ‘Christian Orders’ (whatever they were) preferred the second version. In traditional Christian thought the process of theosis or union with God is eternally unfolding – we never reach the end and there is always the distinction between the created and the creator. Of course the originators of the GD curriculum had their reasons for emphasising the point and the immanent. The common or garden religious life of the time (Victorian England) was heavily focused on the transcendent God, with nary a mention of divine immanence or indeed theosis itself. This focus was insidious, distorted and so universal it remains easily identifiable so that Monty Python still hits home in this clip from The Meaning of Life:
Today in 2017 it is a different matter, and as I keep banging on about, I think magic (and indeed Pagans) can benefit with a good dose of transcendence to match our focus on the divine indwelling immanence. So I wish to focus here on the second version, since it can help elucidate a whole connection of spiritual ideas within one practice.
This unimaginable circle only comes into existence via the interdependent interaction of three ‘components’: the centre, the (invisible) radii and circumference. Each is their own entity, but each could not exist without the other two. A centre cannot be a centre without there being an enclosing circumference. A radius cannot exist without centre and circumference, and a circumference cannot exist without an enclosed and equidistant centre.
In this conception then we have the Christian Trinity: the Incarnate One, Christ at the centre, the transcendent Father in the circumference and the Spirit between the two, filling the unimaginable void. The whole is God, but none of the three, point, radii or circumference is the complete circle just as the persons of the trinity are not God by themselves – their very existence or ‘being’ depends on the other two. There is a mutual co-inherence.
Having this knowledge and conception will deepen our experience when we engage with the meditation. We can track this further however and conceptualise that humanity is also the centre with Christ, indeed this is what the meditation states – everywhere, which means you too. The invisible radii then become the approach, the paths of the Many (humanity at the centre) towards the One (unknowable, nowhere existing circumference). This is the path of theosis towards the unreachable transcendent glory, the circumference that is nowhere and thus cannot be reached.
God being everywhere, with everyone, is of course the basis for the overly trivialised evangelical draw card that ‘Jesus loves you’, the personal, messy earthy, person you are. This is true, but there is the rest of the circle, and what we experience as personal love, as separate persons, is, within the full breadth of our radii towards the One, experienced in many other ways. The English word love simply doesn’t cut the mustard here.
The circle envisioned by the meditation is impossible within temporality, and trying to conceive it boggles the mind. This the point (pardon the pun!). However, as a concept this imagined circle has much to teach us. A circle in normal mathematics only exists because the circumference and the centre are somewhere. Our circle however is not somewhere at all. It is everywhere and nowhere. As temporal creatures we have never experienced, and cannot experience nowhere or everywhere. Every experience we have of the created worlds relates one thing or one creature to another. Phenomena ABC only exists as position, magnitude, condition or what have you because we relate it to XYZ, another position, strength, condition or thing. Nowhere and everywhere are uncreated, not of the created, temporal order at all.
These conditions of nowhere or everywhere are beyond temporal senses and trying to conceptualise them in spiritual context will help awaken the deeper aspects of the mind-soul, what platonic philosophy and Eastern Orthodoxy calls the nous. Purification or healing of the nous will allow one to see the Uncreated Light of God; to experience the nowhere and the everywhere. This is why this simple meditation is so powerful; it allows us access to the uncreated, referred to in the Neophyte Ceremony itself when we adore ‘Holy art thou whom nature hath not formed’. And since we are touching upon the uncreated in this meditation we can see how, as mentioned earlier, it contains within it the root of all other Golden Dawn grade meditations. The uncreated contains what will be created in potentia. Indeed all the following grade meditations are on created things – objects, natural phenomena, symbols – which stem from the uncreated. It all ties together.
Our circle then is impossible within the created order. Such a circle with the inclusion of uncreated elements is in fact the reversal of the created order. If God were known ‘everywhere’ we would be experiencing, in Christian terms, the Kingdom. And how is the Kingdom described and shown practically by Christ? By reversing the human created order of things. ‘The last shall be first, and the first last’. God, the infinite becomes a vulnerable baby who leaves this world a tortured, desolate human being. A maiden of ‘low estate’ becomes the Theotokos, the God bearer, the other cheek is turned and we all, every one of us may ‘Awaken in Christ’s body’. All this is within the circle that is everywhere and nowhere. 🙂