GD Magic … Rosicrucian or not? … a review of Sam’s Review :)

RR et AC Rose Cross

A little while ago I reviewed a review of the Golden Dawn from a ‘Rosicrucian’ perspective by Sam Robinson, Sam has continued with his review, here Examining the Magic of the Golden Dawn and I thought I’d quickly respond in kind 🙂 He’s done a nice job.

I am not really au fait with the various traditions that Sam draws upon to pronounce his ‘Trinosophia Score of the Golden Dawn’. So I cannot really go into that. However, I can (I think) comment with some accuracy on some of his points.

Sam states: “Without question the Golden Dawn system of magic is unrivalled” Nice.

However he quickly follows that with a question: “is it really Rosicrucian after all?”

Personally, I think we need to take one step back and ask is magic at all compatible with the Rosicrucian ‘path’. This is a tricky one and it all depends on the definition of magic we are working with. Plenty of Rosicrucians would say not. For me, it is a question (alluded to by Sam later on) of the rationale we bring to our magic. As I said previously:

Magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces she invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.

It is arguable, as  Canon Anthony Duncan asserts, that once we do we are in fact no longer practicing magic. Again, definitions 🙂

Sam writes: “For students the public vs. hidden Golden Dawn argument also points out how pop culture occultism has influenced the Order vs. the humble realities of tradition. Just keepin it real.” True, true and true. But not likely to be accepted by some folk in the ‘public Golden Dawn’.

One point I disagree with Sam on is this: “Firstly let us be clear, the G.D system is entirely ceremonial.” Well, maybe … but …

An example. There are many meditations within the tradition, and just because one may have moved to a different grade that does not mean we cease to practice those meditations ever again. The Neophyte meditation is beneficial in all grades. The meditations in the outer (and inner) Orders are linked to the expression of the soul (using that word as it often used in the GD texts) through the various ‘lower’ Sephrioth. When we move ‘beyond’ those Sephrioth in our grades, we are still functioning in the real world of work, mortgages and baby spew on our shoulders through those Sephrioth. The use of these meditations throughout the rest of our life keeps us transforming within those Sephrioth and opening more to the will and direction of the One.

Sam’s list of the ‘five main operations of magic’ of the GD draws directly from the Z document. However, there are other classifications and operations of magic within the RR et AC not linked to the Z or Formula of the Magic of the Light. Just sayin’ 🙂

Another quote from Sam, which may get him in a little trouble: “the magical practices employed by the G.D are put towards selfish ends rather than towards the ambition of regeneration of culture and humanity as the Rosicrucians intended.” Ouch.

Now, I have myself seen this many times, so prima facie I would have to agree with Sam. However, this state of affairs I believe is very much because of the infection of ‘pop occultism’ within the GD as Sam noted previously. It is not the essence of the tradition at all.

copy-of-pastoslid1As my anonymous correspondent reported, the inner plane authority that provided the spiritual (magical?) imprimatur for its existence withdrew that imprimatur when it became clear the GD was no longer serving its spiritual purpose of transformation. This is similar to scholar Tony Fuller’s reporting on the closure of Whare Ra and associated Order’s in New Zealand, except instituted by human agency. So it is clear the essence of the GD is far more than ‘selfish ends’, and the tradition itself is willing to die (and be reborn?) when that essence gets corrupted.

Again, I take a different approach to Sam when he writes: “G.D has bombastic methods, long winded rituals and elaborate performances that take several hours when done correctly, much of what is valued becomes a pursuit of ‘the more complicated it is the more special it must be.”

This may well be true if we are judging from the published and shared ceremonies. However, taking the Z formula for one example, the Adept over her time in the College internalizes the formula to such a degree (as well as the various methods of working like the pentagram and hexagram rituals) they do no need to produce a long scripted ceremony at all. They can enter the Temple and perform a full process with minimum outer work, without reference to notes and long winded speeches, relying on the simple principle that ‘by names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened’).  

I do however agree with Sam when he continues concerning: “… a pursuit of ‘the more complicated it is the more special it must be.’ Therefore students forever seek ‘higher teachings’ that are more advanced. This has led students to pursue teachings for their own sake.” I have addressed this dysfunctional approach in my post: A quick note on advanced practices.

We come now to some dog’s balls obvious stuff that seems to have made little impact upon the ‘public’ Golden Dawn. Sam again:

“Magically, the only thing the Rosicrucians said to do was to heal the sick freely and gladly.”

There is no doubt about that. It’s in the Manifestoes. However, I have corresponded with several adepts from a few different Orders who cheerfully admit that have not even READ the Manifestoes let alone studied them and integrated them into their souls. Oy Vey! What can you do? 🙂

Sam goes on to say:  “BUT Esoteric and Hidden Golden Dawn Orders still work closely with Rosicrucian intentions. The Public Golden Dawn does not. Thus there are two magical G.D systems. One that is more akin to ‘casting spells to get what you want’ and the other is very Rosicrucian, but is alas barely online.”

He further states the goals of Rosicrucian ‘magic’ and alludes to the fact that the public GD is not cutting the mustard when it comes to these:

  1. The Reformation of the Whole Wide World.
  2. The establishment of a Christian Utopia.
  3. Healing any illness.
  4. The Philosophers Stone (alchemy)
  5. Spiritual Reintegration (Cabala)
  6. Divine Communion (magic)

It is good Sam makes a distinction between public and hidden GD here, because it is clear that ‘healing’ was an essential part of at least the Stella Matutina Smaragdum Thalasses temple in New Zealand (Whare Ra). As for the whole wide world, Christ and wot not, this from Dr Tony Fuller’s thesis:

Thus, a special responsibility was believed to lie with the Religious Orders, the clergy and with members of such specialist groups as the Stella Matutina, not merely to advance the Tikkun Olam along with the Second Coming of Christ, through their own spiritual ascension, but also to promote the microcosmic ‘healing of the Universe’ through encouraging the performance of prayer and other Godly acts by humanity in general. (p. 413)

Various GD Orders have been quietly getting on with this …

Sam points out that that GD magic requires invocation of the astral light but that light is limited in accordance to the virtue of the operator:

But unless you have virtue, truly have developed a Christ consciousness, then this transmission of light is dampened. This is also where Public Golden Dawn gets it entirely wrong. Such actions cannot be ‘willed’ alone into being. The quality of the soul is a conduit of Light.

This statement would be at home in the Whare Ra temple and the same attitude and realisation has been (over and over again) prompted here on MOTO 🙂 So it’s out there alright, as is the emphasis on charity Sam avers is a hallmark of Rosicrucian magic.

So, again, thank you to Sam for this review, which places front and centre some aspects of the tradition that can get overlooked 🙂

Magic and Vulnerability

‘The extent to which a ritual works is the extent to which we are vulnerable to the forces it raises.’

I found the above statement in some old ritual training notes I wrote 20 years or so ago. It is as true now as it was then. If we are not open, if we are not in some way vulnerable to the blessings of a spiritual force it will simply not affect us. This is because we are, all of us, whole, integral and a complete being in our own right. We are made imago dei; we are the microcosm of the macrocosm. We can remain shut off to any deep spiritual force – if we wish or if we, by habit, cannot open ourselves. This is why the Sufis say:

When a Master enters the room, all a thief sees are pockets.

We can perform deep and powerful invocations, ceremonies, evocations, prayers, initiations and wot not, and it won’t mean a thing unless we are open. This is why, which I keep coming across and keep getting asked about, magicians of many years or decades of experience and obvious ‘power’ can still be untransformed. They are not vulnerable to the forces they raise. And of course the forces may still be real, not a delusion, and their peers and students they perform the magic for can transform, but they simply cannot.

And to be fair, magic hardly teaches us to be vulnerable does it?

The need for vulnerability and openness is one of the reasons there are child deities in the world and one of the reasons Christ declared:

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

Children are the most open and the most vulnerable among us. They are also the most impressionable and the most able to learn, having less preconceptions and habits of reality. From that most wonderful song, Water, Fire and Smoke:

I’ve knelt in the ashes, in peace may I rise
Empty of knowing and full of surprise
Clothed all in silence a baby baptised

Children are also the most easily scared (and scarred) among us. There is a clue here. Spirituality and magic is not, if it is to be effective, always comfortable. It is scary, as the accounts of meeting spiritual beings and the One within many traditions attest. This is the panic we feel before the presence of the Gods reveals itself. This is the mysterium tremendum et fascinans described by Rudolf Otto in his description of the numinous where that which is wholly ‘other’ is experienced first through terror before it changes into an experience of Mercy and Grace. We poor humans cannot cope with God head on.

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Of course, unless we are vulnerable we will experience none of that. We can do ceremony after ceremony, year after year, grade after grade for our entire life and still not experience it.

To be vulnerable is not easy of course. And this is why many initiation ceremonies and processes consciously produce a state of outer vulnerability – to try and kick us into that state interiorly, whereby we can then be touched deeply by the divine.

Outside of initiations a good ceremony will also move us – if we fully engage with it – into that state of vulnerability. Why? Because we never know, we can never be sure, if the divine presence will be invoked, will respond to our call, and will enliven the temple. How can we as humans be sure, be absolutely sure, the Archangel Raphael will be there as we call her? How can we? And so in that moment, in each and every ritual, when we feel this, we are vulnerable and open. As soon as we are sure we have lost the magic.

A good group ceremony will promote and encourage vulnerability to the extent each member can be open to it. Much of this is the attitude and approach of the ceremonial leader. If they are sure, it is an uphill battle for the rest of the people. And sadly we see this in some Christian Masses also, though we need not. I remember talking with a wonderful Christian priest describing her Ordination. She explained that even though it was a result of a calling from God, years of discernment and training, and even though she had driven to the Cathedral, she was completely unsure if it would really happen. She was vulnerable. And an amazing priest.

Vulnerability is of course connected with ego. If we think, or even worse know we are right as a matter of course, if we are not open to new evidence and data, we are going to have a difficult time being vulnerable in ritual. Here I am reminded of the sainted Dion Fortune, whose notes and letters revealed years after her death, was secretly attending mediums to ensure she was not deluding herself and her students. She was vulnerable. And an amazing Priestess.

Being vulnerable means we are in some measure admitting our powerlessness, and in some measure open to death, be that interior, conceptual, emotional or ultimately physical death. This is why Christ remains the exemplar of the mystery of the supreme power of vulnerable powerlessness. As the One, through Incarnation he experienced willingly and consciously the ultimate vulnerability, even as the liturgy states, ‘even the death of the cross.’

As Christ is us and we are Him, this is power of powerlessness is ours also.

This is Christ, the One, mocked and tortured and as Leonard Cohen sings, sinking beneath our wisdom like a stone.

This is Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land being murdered by an angry mob as he declares ‘l love you’.

This is Obi Wan Kenobi facing Darth saying: “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

This is Dumbledore in the sixth book, poisoned and injured, crying in pain needing to lean on his student Harry Potter.

This is Aslan sacrificing himself for Edmund.

This is who we are called to be.

This is who we will be.

Short and Sweet: the need for ‘readers’ and the inherent divinity in all

A couple of things have caught my attention recently. One is the appalling, abysmal state of esoteric publishing at the moment. Now there are many good publications out there, though the trend for limited editions of 93½, bound in unicorn hide and trimmed with centaur fur is placing many books out of the reach of lots of students. Sure publishers have to make a quid, but this used to be by producing books that sold well because they were GOOD.

And for every good book there are several poorly produced and severely silly self-published works or produced by publishers who act more as printer go-betweens than traditional publishers. These books include factual mistakes, are simply not edited and even have basic spelling and grammatical errors that would be bounced by a primary school teacher. I have even seen books that misspell the names of other authors on the publisher’s list in the ads at the back 😦

As occult-mystery writer Phil Rickman exclaimed:

I mean, have you read some of this crap? The most embarrassing thing is that people who can’t write are usually the very last to realise they can’t write. Even if you scream in their faces, YOU CAN’T FUCKING WRITE! they just think you’re jealous because they’ve mastered in a couple of weeks something that took you years of heartache, false-starts and terrible disappointments.

When I first catalogued the Simon Goodman collection at Murdoch University library many years back I came across what is now a curiosity in the esoteric publishing field. It was included with a rejection letter from a major esoteric publisher responding to Simon’s request they publish his ‘Working Tools of a Witch’ manuscript. The letter outlined clearly why they could not publish it and included a ‘Reader’s Report’ by some anonymous person which, page by page outlined the errors and mistakes in the manuscript. The reader was obviously someone expert in the field and was having no truck with Simon’s historical largess.

god_is_dog_backwards_by_inferorumcanis-d757eroReader’s Reports still exist in many publishing areas but have gone the way of the dodo for most esoteric publishers … and of course self-publishing removes this entirely. This makes me a very sad panda indeed.

So I am pleading to esoteric publishers, for the love of Dog use a Reader as standard practice for esoteric manuscripts. Even if you self-publish, get your work edited by a third party (yes PAY them) and submit it to an expert reader before publishing.

INHERENT DIVINITY

Social media has recently been reacting to the news of the death of Gavin Frost of the Church and School of Wicca. Frost, along with his wife, for a long time affirmed their right to perform sexual initiations with children. This naturally did not sit well with many folk and he was declared evil through and through by more than one commentator and eternal damnation of some sort wished upon his soul.

I have seen similar reactions by magicians and Pagans before, where someone is considered ‘evil’ ‘perverted’ or distorted in toto, within their entire being and beyond ‘redemption’. This view is in complete contrast with the traditional views of the nature of humanity that underlie modern esotericism and magic, and so I find myself somewhat confused. The Pagans I’m not sure about, ‘cos generally they don’t have much use for theology, ontology or similar wot-nots at all.

Traditional Christian understanding, and yes this tradition did underpin and underlie most of the occult systems in the west, tells us something completely different. Human beings are creatures created by our divine creator and thus we bear within us the imago dei, the image of the One. Being created thus by the One, this imprint, this image of the One cannot be undone or damaged. It may be covered over, or hidden by our actions and circumstances, but it cannot be erased. Why? Because it was formed by our Creator and the acts of creatures cannot override those of the Creator. Thus no one ever, not Hitler, not Osama, not the Yorkshire ripper is without the Image of the One. All are therefore worthy of love and all are therefore able to be redeemed.

copy-of-tree-of-life-with-three-triadsIn the emanationist theologies of Neo-Platonism and some forms of Qabalah (certainly most of magical Qabalah) we have the same idea, though expressed differently. If we look the Tree of Life, the ‘higher’ and divine aspects of the Soul, being ‘closer’ to the One Thing, are beyond the Abyss, which forms a barrier between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds. That which is ‘above’ the Abyss, has never been born, never been manifested into this world of blood and sunsets. It is beyond stain, division or damage by actions in the ‘lower’ worlds. Thus again, each of us, has at core a divine, pristine self that is worthy of love and which may promote restoration and restitution no matter what evil we have committed.

I find the lack of acceptance, and the lack of the promotion, of this basic concept in modern magic and esotericism disturbing. People, and yes I am gonna get gendered here, mainly men, seem to revel instead in sharing anger, sarcasm, denigration and broad sweeping statements that certain individuals are forever tainted and corrupted. This was touched upon recently in Mark Stavish’s excellent public Facebook response to the death of Dr. Joseph Lisiewski. Here Mark talks about the need for the magical community to replace anger with love. Pure and simple, and the key to all spiritual work and magic.

From a Roman Catholic perspective, and placed into the words of Pope John Paul II, ‘we are required to believe in Hell, but may hope that it is empty’. Yes, people can choose to commit evil, they can choose to continually reject the divine love, but there is no necessity for any to so choose, since they have the divine imprint within them.

And so perhaps our love and prayers towards folk like Gavin Frost, stemming as they do from our own imprint of the One, may stir into action their own inner divinity. It seems quite certain that anger and hated directed to them will not awaken it. Thanks 🙂

Social and Political Change, some lessons from Magic

We will start with singer Kasey Chambers: “If you’re not pissed off at the world. Then you’re just not paying attention.”

Following this, I assume you personally wish for the world to be different and take some action towards that aim. If so you may already be familiar with the three, broad ways of changing the world, which I first learnt with the bodacious Joanna Macy decades ago. I will explore these with reference to the current situation in Australia with regards to asylum seekers and refugees. Do click on the links to find out more – there are some awesome people out there!

  1. Interfering with the systems of oppression or injustice via direct action, peaceful or otherwise. Here think Love Makes a Way and Mums 4 Refugees. This approach does not produce direct change, but rather buys time for the other approaches and exposes the systems of oppression – at the very least to the arresting police officers and judiciary.

  1. Changing the system from within – being part of the system of oppression or injustice to whatever degree we can (and can stomach) to change it or dismantle it from the inside. Here, think Labor for Refugees.

  1. Changing the consciousness of the society itself so that the system of oppression is exposed and dismantled. Here think of those artists and storytellers presenting a different version of the myth of refugees to Australia, such the group performing under the tag ‘We’re Better Than This’.

All three approaches have their strengths and can be very powerful. All three however are vulnerable to the systems of oppression they seek to change. Alternate views within ‘the system’ are sidelined or undermined; direct action protests are often outside the law and thus render participants vulnerable to a range of legal problems; and novel modes of consciousness and cultural myths may receive little exposure or funding.

These three approaches can be viewed diagrammatically as a triangle.

three methods triangle

I place the third approach, the change in consciousness of a society as the basal arm because it is required for any lasting change. For example, unless a society has a consciousness which does not see race as a discriminatory factor, all the laws and advances engendered by working the system and all the continued highlighting of injustice will not be enough. Oppression will still continue. Ask a black woman in the southern USA, a country with a black president and an enshrined equality before the law. Speaking recently to friends from Dallas, they mentioned how many folk there still have not accepted that the Confederacy lost the Civil War. The consciousness abides.

The nub of this problem I feel was unwittingly highlighted recently by Ricky Muir, an unlikely Australian Senator for the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Honestly I am not making this political party up. This is Australia.

“Crossbench senator Ricky Muir has revealed he switched his position on same-sex marriage after a fight with his wife in which he said he would disown his son if he was gay.

The Motoring Enthusiast Party senator announced his support for same-sex marriage earlier this year, linking the issue to rural mental health. “I did have very opposing views to what I have now, but that’s because it’s ‘monkey see, monkey do’,” Senator Muir told Annabel Crabb in an episode of Kitchen Cabinet to air on the ABC on Wednesday. “You grow up a certain way, you’re told certain things, you go with it.” (source).

Obviously whoever or whatever hegemonic force controls the lead monkey, showing other monkeys how to act, controls the game. As the world moves to embrace same gender marriage it is now acceptable for Senator Muir to hold the pro view. Really though, he is still a monkey. And so, to a large degree, are the rest of us. I remember being convinced that same-gender marriage would occur in my lifetime after reading a Time article in the late 1980s on how large companies were creating advertisements targeting gay couples with disposable income. Economics demanded equality and so it came to pass.

The question then becomes not how to change personally as society changes, but how to get novel and new justice based modes of consciousness embodied within the culture to produce social change.

To explore this, we can relate these three arms, interference, change from within and change of consciousness to the now famous 60’s maxim: ‘the personal is political is spiritual’.

pps three methods

I read this maxim as magician, someone who sees spirituality both in its traditional forms, which includes converse with non-physical beings and in a broader, wider scope that includes artistic vocation among other things. This is not a valorisation of the contemporary ‘spiritual not religious’ self-focus where we pick and mix our spirituality to accommodate our ego. Spirituality, whether traditional, artistic or novel in form must be concerned with the non-personal and the transpersonal. Fr Matthew Fox sums it up: ‘the test of a spirituality is in its justice making: does it create justice?’

The spiritual then, as the basal arm of our triangle is concerned with justice making, personally and collectively (politically). It is for this reason, Australia’s greatest Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, could make this bold statement about Labor governments (and I would say ANY government):

“In any civilised community, the arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be seen as remote from everyday life. Of all the objectives of my government, none had a higher priority than the encouragement of the arts – the preservation and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual heritage. Indeed I would argue that all other objectives of a Labor government – social reform, justice and equity in the provision of welfare services and educational opportunities – have as their goal the creation of a society in which the arts and the appreciation of spiritual and intellectual values can flourish. Our other objectives are all means to an end. The enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.”

This really says it all. If we work for the artistic and the spiritual we achieve it all.

When we superimpose the two triangles upon each other we can see this. The personal links directly to the personal choice to interfere and risk legal penalties. The political is expressed through the political and economic systems that are changed from within. And the spiritual finds equation with the change of consciousness – except that this is seldom fully realised.

The reaction against religion in Australia and the modern secular west means our artistic and other modes of changing consciousness are seldom seen, promoted or empowered as real spiritual events and actions. The artists We’re Better than This, I mentioned earlier, are secular artists, not religious or spiritual. Yet, I would argue that by seeking to change the dominant myth of refugees in Australia they are seeking spiritual ends. Gough clearly equates the two and clearly places them as the raison d’être of government, as does traditional religion. And here is where liberals and secularists get nervous mistakenly seeing the promotion of spirituality and art as throwback to medieval Christendom or Caliphates. Not so of course for Gough who was modern, western and secular but with a vision lacking in virtually all modern politicians.

Fully linking the spiritual traditions and the non-human spiritual realties to the action to change societal consciousness is seldom done. There are a few traditions and churches that attempt this, but by and large the division remains. We can highlight the effects of this division by looking at magic.

One of the key symbols and tools within western magic is the Triangle of Art. This is a physical and outer representation of an inner construct, created in the consciousness of the magician.  A classic example of such a triangle is this:

triangle_of_the_art_by_arsadraoi

The purpose of the triangle of Art is to evoke, to bring to manifestation in this physical world a ‘being’, typically an angel or spirit,  that embodies or will carry out the will or desire of the magician. This will, in spiritual magic, is always concerned with the spiritual and personal unfoldment of the magician or some repair or healing of others or the world.

The ‘being’ becomes manifest in the centre of the triangle. Around the arms are written divine names of special significance to the magician. When they are empowered and spoken their interior blessings interact to create the inner construct of the triangle and keep it integral and sealed. It is the interaction of theses blessings that creates the ‘interior atmosphere’ that will allow the ‘being’ to manifest. It is like fish bowl or a space suit in function, allowing something not here already on earth to be here temporarily. This temporary quality is then delivered to the magician by one method or another, and she is changed or she becomes the agent for changing the world.

The interaction and interdependence of these three divine names and powers is shown by placement of a divine name, separated in three sections, at each of the three apexes. Here we see this with the name of the Archangel Michael. This placement leads the eyes and the consciousness around the triangle, connecting each side with each other. Another concept in magic is of the ‘Triune Flowing Light’ which inherently is dynamic and interdependent flowing throughout the triad and bringing the interior forces into manifestation.

An absolute clear principle of magic is that outer actions are always mirrored by and embody inner actions, such as visualisation and prayer. Outer actions alone will never create magic.

So with reference to our other we can produce a social change Triangle of Art thus:

ta refugees

At the centre is the justice we are seeking. At the arms we place the interference of the system, the working within the system and change of consciousness. The ‘atmosphere’ that will allow the change we are seeking, in this case humane treatment of refugees, will come about through the interaction of these three arms, these three approaches.

However, this only represents only the first level we examined, the first triangle. To create magic, to bring compassion for refugees into this world, we need to include the other levels: the personal, the political and the spiritual.

Again, I contend the missing element here is the real, authentic, actual spiritual element that includes the reality of non-physical beings, shared consciousness and interior streams of blessing of hindrance. Without this connection, the spiritual dimension our Triangle of Art will remain incomplete and what we seek to manifest will not occur, or will occur partially or in a distorted fashion.

It is interesting that out of all the possible arenas of magical action, personal wealth, love, employment, healing etc, the most seldom taken up is that of social or political magic. It is rarely taught or even mentioned as a primary reason for magic, as I talk about in this post on the Iraq War. In some form though this approach has often been there in western magical and spiritual circles. To quote from my own post:

“Active political magic is one thing, though very much part of the Western Tradition (for example see Gareth Knight’s The Magical Battle of Britain). The inability or unwillingness to look beyond the obvious is another. Esoteric after all means ‘inner’, occult means ‘hidden’. As esoteric students, pagans or magicians we should be looking beyond what our media and our governments dish up. Otherwise we are not being conscious, which is the essence of all authentic spirituality. And once we become conscious of what is actually occurring, we must be moved to act against it, in some manner. After all, another hallmark of authentic spirituality is compassion.”

So to round things off, this post is a call to do exactly what I believe will create an effective Triangle of Art for manifestation of justice: the linking of the spiritual and the political via the personal. This will fully link the non-physical realms to our work and deepen the interaction of interference, working within the system and changing the consciousness of our world. Without this linking our Triangle cannot fully manifest what we are seeking and praying for.

I have attempted and attempt a number of these actions, the most public and recent for refugees described here. This current post is the beginning of a manifestation of more, where you will be invited to be part of healing the world via your person, your politics, your art, your spirituality and your magic. THANKS 🙂

Also published on Medium at: https://medium.com/@mrperegrin/social-change-some-lessons-from-magic-2d95613e535

Short and sweet – follow the rules

Another gonzo – no edit – post: I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

Free advice for any neophytes / novices / apprentices on my feed: do follow the structure and order of your group / school / coven / lodge. Do not think it doesn’t have to apply to you, or you’re somehow ‘different’. You’re not.

Responses varied with one basically saying that working beyond your grade (my term) is fine, so long as you are doing the work of your grade also. Any magic or practices you do will either not work or produce an imbalanced state from our unconscious that needs to be dealt with anyway.

I’ve heard this argument many times before and it seems a reasonable way of looking at things from the modern liberal, individual mind-set. However, there are – to my mind – clear problems with it. To wit:

THE REALITY OF SPIRITUAL POWERS. The above attitude is only relevant if we consider all the many blessings, beings, angels, powers etc spoken of in our various traditions as ‘within us’ – and any imbalance our presumptive actions produces would be from ‘our unconscious’. Of course traditional Christianity, traditional spiritual magic, traditional (re-booted) Paganism does not think this at all. The beings are real. And to throw in a deliberate ‘don’t do this at home’ warning, this from Israel Regardie quoting an anonymous student:

“The writer of the above method adds a note, which in my opinion is worth paying close attention to; it coincides with my own view as expressed elsewhere.

“There is reason for concern that some students may misinterpret certain of Crowley’s magical writings. For example in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter IX, p. 69, he writes: `The peculiar mental excitement required may even be aroused by the perception of the absurdity of the process, and the persistence in it, as when Frater Perdurabo…recited From Greenland’s Icy Mountains and obtained his result.”‘

“Now there is no doubt that the ego, excited to the proper pitch, is capable of placing such a strain in the Astral Light as to cause some sort of manifestation, perhaps even that of the spirit it was desired to evoke (but more likely a phantasm masquerading as such). But without the presence of the Divine Force, such a being, once evoked, cannot be controlled, and there is no effective means of banishing it.

“Depending on the nature of the spirit, and the degree of its manifestation, it is likely that the spiritual progress of the magician is at an end – at least as far as his current incarnation is concerned.”

Ouch!

THE EGO. Let’s seriously think about what is going on here. When we join a spiritual group, take a spiritual director or guide or enrol in an esoteric school we are entering a relationship. We have consciously chosen this; no one forces us. We have consciously chosen to accept their wisdom and advice, because we think they have something we do not have at this time. They can help us unfold, to uncover the true nature of ourselves, the image of the One, who we really are – letting go of sin, or that which we are not. If we then, at some point think, ‘hang on, I think they are wrong’, we have an obligation to be honest and say that. Otherwise we taint that relationship with falsehood and we might as well not go on.

And, if our director or group says, ‘well, thanks for your opinion sunshine, but you still need to do it this way …” we have to accept that. Or leave the relationship. Because we have created a situation where our personal ego knows better than our teacher. And to enshrine the ego as better or more knowledgeable than our teacher or our Order is not a good idea. At all. It encourages all sorts of daft notions. Of course we do not need to do a whole guru-yoga number and listen to all the words and ideas of our teacher as the words of a Master, but we do need to respect them and believe they have more wisdom than us. Otherwise, what’s the point? As my pal Eric sings:

If we call for the proof and we question the answers
Only the doubt will grow

SERVICE. The biggest problem however with the notion that we can do things how we like, even if it damages us, throws us off kilter and makes us learn, and that’s all good, is the question of service. The spiritual life is one of dedicated service. If we go ‘off the rails’ because of our ego choice to do something our curriculum or spiritual director says we should not we have limited our service. Dealing with our ‘unconscious’ (or really-real problematic spiritual forces) means we have to focus on ourselves rather than others – and that is the exact opposite of the spiritual life. What a waste!

At this juncture we can look, cos people often do, at Aleister Crowley. Crowley was BADLY let down by his first teachers, George Cecil Jones and Alan Bennett who encouraged him and joined him in the practice of magic during his outer order years. As I have said, and keep saying, the GD (originally) followed the threefold structure, mirrored in the three Orders, of renunciation of the false self (Outer Order), followed by re-creation of a functional self, as directed by the Divine (who God made us to be) (Inner Order) to eventually embody the revelation of the eternal verities (symbolised by the Third Order). And the fact that the Third Order could never be reached meant something too in this schema.

The dangers of premature magic or depth spiritual practices are real, as are the results which are sadly visible in any modern Neo-Pagan and magical community. Simply put, we cannot use magic or spiritual practices to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation. This occurred with Crowley, and whereas once when young he wrote to A.E. Waite seeking advice from someone more experienced and committed to service, Crowley quickly became his own light and own authority. This did not end well. And while is there no doubt of Crowley’s intelligence, drive and originality, these were not realised in service for the world or others. His efforts and talents were misdirected towards his own squalid life and a set of followers and sycophants in Orders which he hoped, paradoxically, would produce enlightenment within the world at large. We can explain this anyway we want, but I apportion some of the blame to magic – too much, too early and too boundless.

THANKS 🙂

Short and sweet – how spiritual ‘authority’ may be a good thing

The modern liberal, progressive mindset in spiritual matters is really clear – we are each our own authority, our own truth and guiding force. We should not be hampered by exterior pressures, controls or authority. We find out own light. Right.

OK – but here’s the thing. A little while ago I spoke to a three people who each told a very similar story. They are all Christians, members of Anglican parishes. Each is also elderly. And each was raised to be homophobic. It was an ordinary part of their culture and upbringing, reinforced no doubt by the church attitudes of the post war era.

All three then reacted mightily and uncomfortably to their church’s openness and welcoming of lesbian and gay parishioners in recent years. It was just not right. All three felt like the church was wrong. Yet, all three stayed within the church, listened to the church and her priests as authority and stuck the course. They did not jump ship to another, less than gay-friendly church (of which there are dog’s plenty).

So each of these lovely people, over many years, met and befriended the occasional ‘gay’ person. They shared communion with them, sat in council with them, worked for the community with them. And in the course of all this  – only because they submitted to the higher authority of the church – all three learnt a lot about themselves. And they learnt about their gay sisters and brothers.

Each of these people spoke openly how they had changed, opened their hearts and become better people – not because they wanted to, but because they were directed to, encouraged to – by the actions of their church. One now has an ongoing and deep relationship with her lesbian niece, a woman she had seldom spoken to for decades. For this she thanks the church and curses her own prejudice that forbade this relationship for many years.

So … maybe, just maybe, spiritual authority can be a good thing. And maybe we do not always know what is best for us … just maybe 🙂 Thanks.

Self Development? Bugger that for a lark!

hero-personal-growthOK – another Gonzo post, because I just want to get this off my chest. Hopefully my memory and writing skill will produce a lovely, cogent argument 🙂

A recent innovation that has crept into Paganism, esotericism and even the Anglican Church is the concept of ‘self-development’. This is nearly always meant in a personal sense, developing and improving our personal self and attributes and wot-not. This irks me. A lot.

The concept of self-development is modern – coming out of certain schools of psychology in the early-mid 20th century, like those developed by Adler, Jung and Maslow (from memory). Its proponents sometimes harken back to traditional methods of fasting, prayers, and exercise undertaken in various cultures for millennia. However, the linking is completely invalid as it ignores the key focus and purpose of the ancient exercises – religion, which is by-and-large considered as irrelevant, taboo, superstition or primitive psychology by personal development gurus.

Naturally I think they’re wrong. Regardless, the religious context and purpose means there is no link between these ancient methods and today’s modern culture of improving the self. This means it is a modern innovation and thus partakes of all the problems of modernity and contemporary western culture – it can be shallow, appealing to the negative self-image inculcated within us, commercially based and available only to the richer folk of the society, etc. Strike one.

The inclusion of self or personal development within religious and esoteric systems makes little sense to me at all, because a central truth of all religions (except the daft ones) is that we are all going to die. This means our ‘self’. And no matter how much ‘development’ that self has done, no matter how many EST courses we’ve taken, that self will still die.

Even those traditions that maintain a mysterious post-mortem resurrection of the personality focus on the ‘mysterious’. They do not attempt to discern what the resurrected ‘self’ will be. We cannot know if it will be our 3 month old ‘self’, our 18 year old ‘self’, our 45 year old ‘self’ (graduate of many PD courses) or our 75 year old ‘self’ with dementia or some other ‘self’.

We all come to naught in the end and, with or without self-development.

EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY …

Of course the bleedin’ obvious counter to the truth above is that, “It’s about life NOW not after death”. Ho hum.

The trouble with this argument is the simple fact, from sheer common sense (and some studies I forget) that largely self-development DOES NOT WORK. Strike two.

I think I remember reading that 80% of self-development folk go back for more courses etc, even if they personally felt the first course did not work for them.

Think about it. The number of folk in the west who have participated in ‘self-development’ since the 1970s must be staggering by now. Has the overall enjoyment of life and the socio-economic improvements of life matched the growth of self-development in the west? No.

Of course, we cannot explain this to those who seem enamoured or addicted to this concept. Why? Because, well … I’m going to cut and paste from myself a few posts ago and change a few words:

imagesAll self-development systems are worthless in themselves. They lock us, often unconsciously, into a system of practice that feels good but ultimately produces no transformation. Most self-development systems are predicated on a two value premise and a ‘promise’ to move between the two: ourselves now, ourselves later (developed, healed, more in tune etc.) and the practices/adjustments or courses that move us between the two.

The danger in such a view is that it can become a closed loop. The person I ‘am’ now can never be the person I foresee at the ‘end’ of the process, since my definitions have already separated the ‘I’ now and ‘I’ desired. The gap between the two, while impossible for ‘me’ to bridge, is “self-development” and while I engage in that I have the sense of moving forward. Of course ‘I’ can never actually reach the goal, but simply having this mental structure and doing some practice I will experience the sense of moving ahead.

This is because of this eternal truth: the self cannot transform the self.

LEVELLING UP

The Tree of LifeA key esoteric principle is that the full transformation of any aspect of the psyche or being requires the intervention and inclusion of a force or presence superior to that aspect. Think about your body. Left to its own devices, the body will simply go on until it dies, subject to the changes forced upon it by environment (diet etc). It will not change itself; develop a six-pack or a terrific bum for the beach. It takes our consciousness, our intervention to direct and change it.

It is the same with ‘the self’, and here I will mention a little Qabalah. Most of us function as bodies (Malkuth), Reactions (Yesod), Thoughts (Hod) and Feelings (Netzach), all directed by a mostly underdeveloped sense of self in Tiphareth – when we even think about who we ‘are’ at all.

If we have a reaction (Yesod) to Aboriginal folk (hey we’re in a racist society), that cannot really change unless we direct the reaction by thought (Hod), stemming its hold or explore it with emotional truth (Netzach). Even then it’s still likely to ‘pop up’ at some point.

And so to the other areas of ‘the self’ – our thoughts and methods of thought and our emotional apprehension can only be transformed by the consciousness of Tiphareth, our ‘self’. The ‘self’ itself however cannot be changed by self-reflecting. We need something ‘higher’ than the self to transform it.

In Qabalah this centralising state of consciousness, Tiphareth, looks ‘down’ towards the personal and ‘up’ towards the transpersonal. This shows the interrelation of the two, while recognising that the correct ‘upward’ view – the motivation and awareness of the individual – is required to embrace what is beyond us. That is, and here is the fucking rub:

The self cannot change itself for self-based reasons.

As soon as we want to change our selves for personal reasons we, by definition are working in the personal sphere. We therefore cannot access the transpersonal sphere required to change the self. This is not just me being cranky towards the New Age wankers out there; it is a description of the way things are. Self-change for self-based reasons can at best move the Lego-blocks around but cannot actually produce transformation. Strike three.

IT’S BEEN HERE ALL ALONG

While it would be great to have functioning folk, moral folk, conscious folk within the esoteric, Pagan and magical communities, I do not feel ‘self-development’ is the way forward at all. It does not and cannot, work and can easily distract us from what we are really about and what really causes transformation – the mysteries (for want of a better word). Let’s have a look at this, since it is all there in traditional religious and esoteric methods.

Once upon a time, the esoteric or deeper aspects of a tradition were not normally bandied around for anyone to see and engage in. People had to be vetted or assessed in some way, and if their moral motivation was not of ‘the right view’ – see this post – they would not be invited in. These days things are a little different…

Of course, any decent religion or spiritual path recognises that we are all broken, that we all are motivated by ego and petty interior forces. To counter this brokenness and the ego-focus of ‘the natural man’ as St Paul would say, many spiritual systems teach us to adhere to moral codes and conduct based on how we would act if we were NOT subject to these petty interior forces. Traditionally these moral codes were often supported and enforced by the community. The classic and most wonderful example of this occurs at each Western church service:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Which when we think about it, blows our minds – loving our neighbour as fully as we love ourselves is like loving God!

Anyway, we of course FAIL at this all the time, every day. Every hour. No matter how many times we look in the mirror and repeat ‘every day in every way, I am getting better and better’, we will still fail at this one. Which is why the Service continues with an act of communal ‘confession’ where we acknowledge our own failings and generate a desire to go beyond them. This is also the function of solitary Confession within the Christian traditions, and a range of similar processes in Tibetan Buddhism. I am not sure of any equivalent within the Wicca or GD.

Symeon the New Theologian

This openness to our weaknesses, our real state of being is crucial because it allows the transpersonal blessings we encounter through participation within the mysteries to enter all of our beings, even the most unlovable and ‘evil’ aspects.

“…everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light”.

So it is the presence of the transpersonal, the divine forces, which enter us, even our secret places, that will cause actual transformation, as they/Him/it chooses and wishes, not as we, our ‘self’ chooses. And this the fundamental point: we are actually changed and transformed by that which is outside and ‘above’ unto service. Not because ‘we’ want to change or ‘we’ want anything.

And of course all the authentic traditions provide ongoing opportunities for the divine to enter us. We meditate and we pray.

The stakes are high for real prayer: You must gamble your self and be willing to lose. ~ Sufi Poet Mahmud Shabistari

As Christians we partake of the mystery of the body and blood of Christ – He enters us. In Tibetan Vajrayana we realise we are non-different to the deities and the realised guru. In Wicca we receive blessings from and can touch the Goddess as flesh and blood and enter the sweep of cycles beyond human ken. It is these moments that produce the real transformation in our lives.

Of course the transformation instigated and produced by our Sacred One(s) still has to be grounded and activated in our selves. Real life will give us plenty of scope for that; moments when we will be called upon to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. Change does not occur in church or in circle but in life; even ‘self-development’ teachers will say this. What they do not say, what they cannot say, is the actual cause and power for transformation of the self is beyond the self. THANKS 🙂