Everywhere and Nowhere, the Neophyte Meditation

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:

hqdefaulthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GkK8wS2WWc

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. 🙂

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Danger, Will Robinson!

The bulk of the message in this post is really the linked video below. It is well worth watching in its entirety, but if you are *ahem* ‘time poor’ or simply lazy then watch from 5:00 onwards.

The gist of the matter is simple:

(1) meditation, particularly ‘mindfulness meditation’ is not the universal panacea that many modern exponents in the West are portraying it as.

(2) somatic, psychic and spiritual problems can, and probably will at some point, arise from extended meditation practice. This is normal.

(3) traditionally these  problems were dealt with and transformed by methods and frameworks other than meditation itself.

(4) removing meditation practice from its spiritual and traditional context, for example teaching it as part of adult night school once a week, democratises the practise but does not address the problems and potential transformation that arises due to its practice.

space

Specifically and simply in a Buddhist context we need to remember the order of the Noble Eightfold Path.

  1. Right understanding or view – (Wisdom)
  2. Right intention – (Wisdom)
  3. Right speech – (Ethical conduct)
  4. Right action – (Ethical conduct)
  5. Right livelihood – (Ethical conduct)
  6. Right effort – (Concentration)
  7. Right mindfulness – (Concentration)
  8. Right concentration – (Concentration)

Notice what comes in at number one? In fact the practise side of things (concentration) does not start until we’ve developed some wisdom and ethics. Without these, depth meditation is at best useless or self-focused and at worst a precursor to psychic disintegration.

This is why these vast and gracious traditions developed around depth spiritual practices, traditions that include ethics, intellectual development, community engagement and service, without which practise is sterile. It is why traditionalist philosophy espouses the practice of an exoteric religion to house, ground and contain our esoteric transformations. It is why, in the video, HH the Dalai Lama refused to bless a new monastery that did not include a library but focused solely on meditation practise.

Stop Outer Order Magic Now!

We can apply this argument directly to Western depth spirituality, particularly magic. It is why, traditionally, magic was not really a part of the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn. It is why a religious or Masonic path was often seen as desirable before (and during and after) the practice of depth magic – to develop ethics and communal service. It is why there are repeated psychic problems with newcomers who practice magic from day one. Just look at any Facebook magic forum for examples.

I am probably a lone or lonely voice in this respect, but there you go 🙂 I’ll finish quoting myself from a similar post:

“Right understanding. This is not a practice, but an attitude, a focal point, a giving up of the ego’s sovereignty. It is the neophyte in the Inner Light tradition declaring ‘I desire to know in order to serve‘.” 🙂

A quick note on advanced practices

In my callow youth I was very much focused on the practical aspects of magic and spirituality. I would scrutinise any potential literary purchases with a careful eye – those that did not contain practical instructions were destined to enter the ‘maybe later’ category. This reflected both my own search for inner workings (as detailed in this post) and the emphasis on orthopraxy within the magical traditions.

This very understandable focus on practice within magic contrasts the development of western Christianity’s focus on creed and orthodoxy since the Renaissance.  Christians believe and magicians do – so the story goes. Of course, there are plenty of Christians, such as the Eastern Orthodox, who have a strong orthopraxis element. And interestingly, there are a number of magicians who adhere to certain aspects of their tradition (such as Secret Chiefs) via trust and faith without direct experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂

Now a heavy focus on practice alone can be a problem in itself. It took me a while (and many sighs from my teacher) to realise this, even though the nub of the matter is contained in this pithy saying I heard when a teenager:

Though a robe be washed a thousand times, how can it be clean if it is washed in dirty water?

Lobsang Rampa

This was described to me as a ‘Buddhist’ aphorism, though it’s just as likely to have stemmed from Rampaism for all I know. Here the various methods of practice are the ways to wash our clothes and the water is the context, the motivation and environment in which we practice. So, no matter how many times we practice, no matter what techniques we use, if our motivation and ideas are wrong or undeveloped we will not transform.

This is something I fairly hammer home in By Names and Images, repeating it several times, as I have seen the results of not understanding this principle far too many times in the magical community. To quote that old veteran of the esoteric, Gareth Knight:

To avoid unbalanced conditions of the astral light it is not sufficient simply to perform particular banishing formulae; what is required is the tranquillity of mind and heart that comes from stable outer life relationships and a selfless dedication.

I therefore get a little concerned when I hear of the heavy focus on practice, with people desiring more ‘advanced’ practices (secret, naturally) that they assume will ‘develop’ them further, ‘advance’ their understanding and raise their grade. Or something like that. I have known and know several folk who stay in dysfunctional groups because their leader has a promised advanced techniques in the next grade as a carrot. Since the publication of my book I have been corresponding with a few magicians in this exact situation, hopefully bringing a different perspective to the matter. The trick of course is to look at those promising the ‘advanced’ techniques and see if they show signs of being deeply transformed… or not? Look at their writings, their actions, the presence of compassion and tolerance in their lives… or not.

Now spiritual techniques are wonderful, and there certainly are junior, intermediate and ‘advanced’ forms, the latter type one would not use with novices. However, techniques themselves are not enough. Cutting and pasting from elsewhere:

Put simply, spiritual unfoldment is not the same as ecstasy or altered states of awareness nor is it brought on or developed solely by repeated experiences of the same. Other qualities, such as discipline, morality, compassion, altruism, introspection, and community service are required.

It is in this context we should read this article: Anders Behring Breivik used meditation to kill – he’s not the first.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Some readers of this blog may also be surprised to know that that icon of hatred, bigotry and murder, the late Ayatollah Khomeini was an accomplished and respected practitioner of Islamic mysticism, Irfan.

Meditation is not enough. Mysticism is not enough. Magic – even the most intense and ‘powerful’ advanced, secret-third-order-sex-magic – is not enough. The writer of the above article comes at the problem from a Buddhist perspective.

… the Buddha made right understanding the first item in his eightfold path because he knew that everyone is guided by a worldview and underlying beliefs. His teachings seek to reshape those views so they eliminate attachment and support liberation. Ultimately, that includes attachment to doctrines, but discarding them too soon means that pre-existing beliefs and prevailing opinion go unchallenged.

Right understanding. This is not a practice, but an attitude, a focal point, a giving up of the ego’s sovereignty. It is the neophyte in the Inner Light tradition declaring ‘I desire to know in order to serve‘. Nuff said? 🙂

Kenosis – self forgetting

Recently I have been engaged in the wonderful task of teaching meditation to members of the local Anglican Church. I have taught meditation on and off for over 20 years but there is a big difference between this group and my previous students. Of course they are not esoterically inclined in anyway, but the main difference I think is honesty. You see, over the years when I have asked people how their daily practice was going, I’d get the sneaking suspicion that some half truths were being told. “Oh, yes, every day”, would be accompanied by a slight sideways glance. Not so with these good Church folk – they are not doing a single jot of meditation between classes and quite happy to declare the fact to the group :).  Whether such honesty makes up for laziness or indifference is an open question, but I do find it refreshing.

However, despite only a weekly dose my fellow meditators are coming along very well and displaying all the characteristics of those delving into new spiritual realms – deeper connection to the One, curiosity, improved health, increased humour and sparkling eyes. And they all put this down to the fact they are meditating – even if only once a week! Much of this I think may also be due to several Christian Masters I am (sneakily) inviting along before and during our sessions. 🙂 Also, with the blessing of the priest, our third session each evening uses more esoteric or depth spiritual techniques than the Centring Prayer approach of the first two sessions.

Many of these later techniques are on the theme of kenosis, emptiness, or as Karen Armstrong likes to translate it ‘self forgetting’. In a general spiritual sense (as distinct from Christian theology) this refers to the emptying of the ego, our precious sense of self, the surrender of all which keeps us separate from the divine. Paradoxically this is in some way a mirror of the Christian theological concept where Christ poured out or emptied himself of His divine attributes in order to become fully human, as indicated in the great Kenosis Hymn quoted by Paul in Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Though hardly a magical principle per se, it seems to me such ‘self forgetting’ is very much needed in today’s modern pagan and magical communities. Since of course the self we are forgetting when practicing kenotic mysticism is not the self that survives death (or exists at all according to the Buddhists) it is hardly important. Yet too many of today’s ‘I am spiritual’ methods of unfoldment encourage holding onto ourselves. As we label and think of ourselves, as ‘spiritual’, ‘adept’, ‘psychic’, ‘priestess’ we may easily be increasing the self we need to forget.

Now magic approaches the matter from a different angle, seeking to hone and perfect the self according to the deeper purposes of the higher being, rather than emptying the self. The two approaches, of course, hopefully dovetail into a single realisation of the Mystery at the core of our existence. But I still think even the most seasoned and well intentioned magician or pagan can do with an inner spring clean and emptying out once in a while 🙂

Below is a simple kenotic formula which I use with my Anglican buddies. It is really just a series of notes I typed up for the evenings, so it is best considered as a skeleton upon which to build your own group or solo practice. Being adapted from a full ceremonial process used at the solar festivals, it is easily able to be (re)expanded into a group ritual or whatever. There are few Christian concepts here, but with thought and deep connection to another deity, the Christian references can be easily replaced with pagan or Universalist themes for those needing to do so. Enjoy…

Kenotic Meditation

Prayer (leader or group member): Our Father, the One the Eternal, the Archetype – you who manifest as body and blood, warmth and flesh, as Yehoshua, Lord Jesus Christ, and within our community as the Holy Spirit of inspiration, hold us and guide us tonight to let go ourselves, so to be filled with your grace and presence. In your Name, Amen.

Reading: (Philippians 2:1-13)

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Preparatory Meditation: The leader introduces this. Everyone gets ready, settles down. Members encouraged to engage in Interior Prayer for a minute or two. Meditation on breath, simple in and out of the nostrils, not following the breath or energy of the breath. When mind wanders, with relaxed attention bring focus back to the breath. Five minutes.

Prayer (Invocation) to the Archangels: See, invoke or pray to the four Archangels at the four directions, according to your tradition. East, Raphael; North, Michael; West, Gabriel; South, Auriel (reverse North and South attributions for the northern hemisphere).

Centre: Build up an image of Christ and His Incarnation. See Him at the centre of the circle. Sense and realise His kenosis, His emptying of the divine nature to become as we are – fully human. Inwardly intone or say

East: Imagine yourself moving to stand in the circle at the eastern boundary, facing the east. Behind you at the centre is Christ, the perfect expression of kenosis, the way towards our self forgetting. Stand at the east and open yourself to Christ. Let His presence hold and guide you to realise now, become deeply aware, see before you all your airy qualities –intellect, mind, communication, symbolising powers, language, etc (use all the airy qualities according to your tradition). As you become aware of these, let them go, pour them out of you. Ask Christ to assist. Inwardly (outwardly in ritual via censing) feel a great wind come from the East and remove, blow away from within you all your airy qualities.

North: Imagine yourself moving to stand in the circle at the northern boundary, facing the north. Behind you at the centre is Christ, the perfect expression of kenosis, the way towards our self forgetting. Stand at the north and open yourself to Christ. Let His presence hold and guide you to realise now, become deeply aware, see before you all your fiery qualities – power, will, force, illumination, etc (use all the fiery qualities according to your tradition). As you become aware of these, let them go, pour them out of you. Ask Christ to assist. Inwardly (outwardly in ritual via the use of candles or torches) see flames approach from the north and remove, burn away from within you all your fiery qualities.

West: Imagine yourself moving to stand in the circle at the western boundary, facing the west. Behind you at the centre is Christ, the perfect expression of kenosis, the way towards our self forgetting. Stand at the west and open yourself to Christ. Let His presence hold and guide you to realise now, become deeply aware, see before you all your watery qualities – emotions, intuition, flow, depth, feelings, love, attachment, etc (use all the watery qualities according to your tradition). As you become aware of these, let them go, pour them out of you. Ask Christ to assist. Inwardly (outwardly in ritual via sprinkling) see a great waves come from the Western shore and remove, wash away from within you all your watery qualities.

South: Imagine yourself moving to stand in the circle at the southern boundary, facing the south. Behind you at the centre is Christ, the perfect expression of kenosis, the way towards our self forgetting. Stand at the south and open yourself to Christ. Let His presence hold and guide you to realise now, become deeply aware, see before you all your earthy qualities – spatial sense, body, practical action, home, family, etc (use all the earthy qualities according to your tradition). As you become aware of these, let them go, pour them out of you. Ask Christ to assist. Inwardly (outwardly in ritual via burying your name in a small pot of earth) enter a deep, dark forest in the South and allow yourself to become one with the forest, letting go and surrendering all your earthy qualities.

Centre: Stand before Christ and ask him for help to further empty, to let go of your self. Inwardly or softly outwardly, repeat your name over and over softly, each time slower and slower, softer and softer until there is only silence.

Leader recites slowly and carefully:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

Silence

Path of Return

Leader softly intones Yehoshua or Christ several times. Directs everyone to inwardly intone His Name, alternately with their name, for example ‘Yehoshua, Morgan… Yehoshua, Morgan” several times.

South: Be aware of the south, of earth and Auriel… (depending on circumstances the leader will extend these return sections to ensure all return well and grounded by listing all the qualities of the element if required). Again, the leader directs everyone to inwardly intone His Name, alternately with their name, for example ‘Yehoshua, Morgan… Yehoshua, Morgan” several times.

West: Be aware of the west, of water and Gabriel… Again,the  leader directs everyone to inwardly intone His Name, alternately with their name, for example ‘Yehoshua, Morgan… Yehoshua, Morgan” several times.

North: Be aware of the north, of fire and Michael. Again,the  leader directs everyone to inwardly intone His Name, alternately with their name, for example ‘Yehoshua, Morgan… Yehoshua, Morgan” several times.

East: Be aware of the east, of air and Rapahel. Again,the  leader directs everyone to inwardly intone His Name, alternately with their name, for example ‘Yehoshua, Morgan… Yehoshua, Morgan” several times.

Thanks and Closing.

All perform a Qabalistic Cross or the Lord’s Prayer.

Prayer: Our Father, the One the Eternal, the Archetype – you who manifest as body and blood, warmth and flesh, as Yehoshua, Lord Jesus Christ, and within our community as the Holy Spirit of inspiration, thank you for your guidance and holding tonight, for the mystery of Kenosis. May we be formed anew by your grace and light, to love and serve the world.  Amen.

The Leader ensures everyone is fully grounded and if required leads further grounding processes.

Esoteric Prayer

The stakes are high for real prayer:
You must gamble your self and
be willing to lose.

~ Sufi Poet Mahmud Shabistari

Please note: the various terms, ‘prayer’, ‘contemplation’ etc are used here in a specific way. They are also used in a generic sense by many writers and teachers and are also used and defined in other specific ways by a variety of schools and religions. Be careful when engaging in further reading that you do not assume the terms are being used in the same way as they are here.

Conventional and exoteric understanding of prayer considers it to be essentially an attempt at communication with a deity or the divine. The communication may be for worshipping the deity or a request for guidance, intervention, assistance or expressing of one’s thoughts, fears, or sins. Often prayer is seen to be connected intrinsically with spoken words such as a pre-composed prayer or hymn, or a more spontaneous outpouring of emotional and spiritual expression and aspirations. The ‘communication’ here can be one-way (no perceived response from the deity) or two-way (a perceived response, nearly always internal and personal).

In the western esoteric traditions, drawing from mystical Christianity and Hermetic Qabalah, prayer is seen in a different light. It is a process by which the esoteric practitioner connects with and ultimately aligns her will and entire being with her Sacred One(s). We consciously connect with our Sacred One(s) via the use of our body (words, chants, hand and body positions), our energy (via our intention, breath and other techniques), our personal heartfelt emotions (controlled and directed by our will) and mind (understanding the meaning of the prayer). This aligns our physical and subtle selves, astral through mental, to be open to and directed by the spiritual. All our bodies and selves are working in concert and in this way our lower self concerns, while not ignored are clarified and changed by connection to our Sacred One(s).

William Bloom, a western spiritual teacher connected with the Findhorn community in Scotland points out three main approaches to prayer: (1) Mystical Abandon, (2) Devotional Aspiration, and (3) Contemplation.

The first approach is often characterized by practice of spiritual dance, where surrenders to the One in ecstasy. This however, is not chaotic and in the formal traditions, such as the Sufi Mevlevi Order there is much study, prayer and spiritual transformation before being even allowed to dance. Other traditions are more organic. We may compare these two sub-approaches to mystical dance as representative of sub-approaches to mystical abandonment generally. The organic approach is spontaneous and directed by the influx of the divine at the time – however, only in certain traditions and on certain occasions is the practitioner ‘out of control’, and when they are there are many safety precautions put in place. In more formal approaches, each movement is learnt and practiced and the symbolic meanings integrated. This embodiment of the inner meaning of the dance allows surrender as the whole lower self knows what to do, and can therefore ‘switch off’ under the guidance of will. We can compare the two by looking at the difference between free-form dancing and ballroom dancing, both of which can produce intimations of ecstasy in the dancers. Similarly with other forms of mystical abandonment – some of it is spontaneous and some uses an embodied process of repeated movements, prayers, chants etc.

The second approach of Devotional Aspiration is characterised by the seeker yearning to be in the presence of their Sacred One(s). This approach is nearly always undertaken by people who have a clear sense or awareness of a particular deity or Being. It is rarely undertaken consistently by those who have a more general understanding of the Divine as the One. Classically this approach involves worship. The root meaning of ‘worship’ is ‘worth’, and so often the prayers of this approach begin by describing or reviewing the wonderful qualities of the deity in question. There are also two sub-approaches to Devotional Aspiration: the first is where the practitioner seeks eventual interior union with their Sacred One(s), the second where the practitioner remains in some way separate and so the beholding, love and worship of the Sacred One is not extinguished in mystical Unity. This latter is the classical love-adoration approach to God, called in Hinduism, Bhakti, exemplified in the classical Indian saying, “I want to taste sugar, not be the sugar.”

The third approach, contemplation is often viewed as a more interior, less emotionally based approach. It involves the direction of the entire being of the practitioner, through a mind deprived of contents and activity towards the Divine or their Sacred One(s). It may be thought of as form of religious meditation. It mostly involves no outer activity or expression, though should produce deep states of expanded consciousness, love of the Sacred and compassion when practiced over time.

Stages of Prayer.

The understanding of prayer within the esoteric traditions in the west has been influenced by mystical Christianity and the Qabalah. It is only since the Theosophical Society (1875 onward) that other influences have come to bear upon it. One of the most influential and profound studies of prayer in the West was by Saint Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite Nun of the 16th century. Some of her work on prayer has recently been re-presented to the New Age community by Caroline Myss in Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul. Saint Teresa classified the states of prayer and mystical experience and developed instructions for the correct and balanced approach to God. Her stages can be summarised:

Natural Prayer is based on our own human will and the innate divinity within us. This can be practiced by anyone, anytime and has four ascending stages:

  1. Vocalised Prayer – intended to increase and generate devotion and love to God.
  2. Meditation – the term here is used differently to our usage – involving study and intellectual contemplation of God’s love.
  3. Affective Prayer – being open to the return of love from God. (Stage one generates love to God, stage two contemplates God’s love, stage three opens us, passively to receive God’s love into our own being).
  4. Simple Prayer – being in relationship with God, open to His Love while adoring him with focused and directed attention.

Mystical or Supernatural Prayer is based on the influx of God’s grace; it cannot be readily practiced by everyone. Natural Prayer leads up to Mystical Prayer, but the mystic must await and be passive to the will of the God.

  1. Contemplation Infused by God – a passive experience of the inflow of divine grace and God’s love into the entire intellect.
  2. Quiet Prayer – the descent of the love and power of God moves through the intellect and infuses the human will, aligning it with God.
  3. Prayer of Union – the descent of God’s love increases and transforms not only the intellect, and will but also the memory and interior imagination. These become so infused with God’s presence that the interior distractions (wandering mind etc) to prayer cease. Ecstatic trances may be experienced.
  4. Conforming to God – the descent continues even into the physical body. This has several characteristics: (1) exterior happenings no longer distract from God’s love, (2) the experience of a desire to physically die so to be united fully with God, (3) constant ecstasy or altered states of being. As the body is purged and purified by the presence of God there may be experiences of changes in body temperature, bodily pain, fainting, temporary epilepsy etc.
  5. Transformational Union – The process of descent is now complete and the whole person is aligned with God from the body ‘upwards’. The desire to die disappears and the desire to emulate Christ arises, the self is forgotten and love is expressed to all including persecutors. There is a constant remembering of God and ecstasy ceases as the self has been remade in God and the union between the soul and God is complete. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Soul; the practitioner is a just one made perfect.

By looking at these stages (and there are many other maps around) we can see that prayer is far more than muttering a few words or being emotionally moved. We need to be aware of this and realise that to effectively practice esoteric prayer techniques we need to examine our own assumptions concerning prayer, the divine, God, intervention and intercession. We need to answer for ourselves certain questions, not just with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but looking at ‘how’ and ‘why’.

  • Is it possible for the Many (humanity) to communicate with the One or with Deities?
  • If so, how – what special conditions (interior qualities) need to be present?
  • Are the various Deities interested in our attempts at communicating with them?
  • Do the Deities like or even need us to pray to them or worship them?
  • If we don’t, then what?
  • Can the One or the Deities or ‘lesser’ beings intervene to bring about changes?
  • If so, in what realms – in the physical world?  And if so, how – what special conditions (if any) need to be present for this to occur?
  • Is prayer more about changing the person who prays than answers or changes to our lives?
  • Can we pray for or on behalf of someone else (for example, the sick or the dead) – intercession?
  • Can we pray / persuade lesser beings, Angels, Archangels, and Saints etc to intercede on our behalf to the deities?
  • What morality surrounds prayer? Can we pray for someone who does not know about it, or even someone who rejects our faith?

I would also recommend viewing the questions posed in this post, Spiritual Transformation or, a whole hunk of questions.

Prayer and Yearning

Worship through prayer can be defined as “becoming one through love”.  This definition shows both the purpose of and energy behind prayer.  We desire to unite our consciousness with that we worship by using our love, focused through prayer.  From the Western esoteric point of view, this is love “under will”, that is, we control and direct our love into a one-pointed desire and ‘need’ for connection with what we worship.  Our love then becomes the vehicle by which we transcend or move beyond our ego limited perception and enter a state of divine bliss.  For some people this may appear to come easily – however all traditions recognize false states of divine bliss where we are deluding ourselves, so we need to watch for these.

These notes are just pointers to this mystery – the actual practice of prayer and your own worship will teach you more than can be said here.

As mentioned previously worship derives from “weorth”, or worth.  This shows us that we need to see clearly the worth and value in Who pray to.  Focusing upon this worth is a useful starting point to prayer.  For example, if we are going to pray to Isis, we can focus upon and meditate on the worth of Isis and our connection with Her.  We can recall times and stories of transformation in Her presence, we can remember what She represents, what strengths and power She calls forth from women and men, the healing She brings.  Doing this before the prayer, indeed as we go about our daily lives, will enable us to enter a deeper state of prayer, deepening our own connection with Her.

Many esotericists would say that we are naturally born worshipful, full of wonder and amazement, and it is our socialisation and maturation that removes or limits our capacity for prayer and worship as an adult.  This has occurred to such an extent that there is an underlying derision in western secular culture for anyone who worships or prays to anything.  This has even spread into the Pagan and magical community with some Witches saying they do not worship the Goddess or God, and many magicians having an almost psychological view of the Gods.  In some New Age and Neo-Pagan approaches the Goddesses and Gods are chosen for ‘invocation’ based on the qualities they can bring to a ritual, a magical working or the practitioner.

Both Osiris and Christ are used in Golden Dawn ritual, but in different places and in different ways. Neither one is an object of worship … Rather, Christ and Osiris represent a pattern of forces – in the Order’s terminology, a formula – which is used to structure consciousness in various ritual contexts”. – John Michael Greer.

However, to fully worship and pray to a Goddess or God involves recognition of our own limited personality and ego.  When a divine presence moves into our sphere of consciousness, we will find that, in contrast to this presence we feel ourselves limited and powerless.  When this occurs it is an invitation to stand, naked and humbly before divinity, not as a lowly supplicant but as one half of an intimate relationship and partnership between God and human.  If we cannot or do not accept this invitation, if we cannot own our own limitations and ego restrictions, we will find worship and prayer difficult.  What may occur then is that we, out of need to protect our ego, may block off or shut out the divine presence.  One of the fundamental truths of esoteric spirituality is that any spiritual process will affect us only to the extent we can be open and vulnerable to the energy it raises.  If we are not open to Isis, She will not enter our beings.  If we are open She will touch us and change us.

In Western esotericism one of the most useful skills we can learn (or re-learn depending on your point of view) is how to yearn effectively.  Yearning, when correctly done, raises and directs our emotional energy into a force capable of calling forth truly transformative powers from ourselves and the inner realms.  For example, yearning, at the correct place in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, allows us to clearly connect with the divine, transcendent Light.  Yearning is also an essential part of the process of dramatic invocation.

As children in our culture we are often taught to restrain our desires and wants.  This may be done quietly violently or abusively.  We thus never learn to mature our yearning and desires, and when they spring up spontaneously they often do so in childish and inappropriate ways.  Energised yearning re-awakens our child-like ability to really, really want something and uses this desire to achieve connection with the divine.  To do this we need first to learn to re-awaken our yearning and turn it off again in a safe and controlled manner.  Then we need to learn how to place it under the control of our will.  The first is achieved via the practices at the end of the notes, the second by the practices also, but mostly by development of the will through practices already given. Having a developed and controlled ability to yearn greatly increases the effectiveness of our esoteric prayers.

An Outline of Esoteric Prayer Practice

  • Perform the Qabalistic Cross.

  • Be seated in a comfortable position. If traditional poses such as kneeling help generate your powers of yearning, feel free to use them, but you need to stay in the position for a while so use whatever pillows and other aids you need.
  • Reconnect with the Divinity experienced in the  Qabalistic Cross.
  • From that space – and only from that space (take as long as you need to regain that connected space) – examine yourself and honestly name those parts of yourself that do not seek Communion with your Sacred One(s). Name those actions and attitudes you remember that limit your connection with your Sacred One(s). Do not enter into the consciousness of those parts of yourself – observe them, as you do during your introspection practices. From your connected consciousness, make a willed decision not to engage in these actions and attitudes from now on. Then let go of the awareness of these attitudes and actions. Reconnect with the divinity from the Qabalistic Cross (perform it again if you wish).

This process is the esoteric meaning behind Catholic confession –facing our own limited selves and the conscious decision to let them go. There should be no negative emotion here, only observation and determination. This clears our interior space before communion with your Sacred Ones and is very important. Personally I use the sixth line of the Aramaic version of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ at this stage:

Washboqlan khaubayn (wakhtahayn) aykanna daph khnan shbwoqan l’khayyabayn.

This translates poetically as: “Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of other’s guilt”.

  • Focus upon your body. Once clearly aware of the body, focus upon the energy within your body -this is your etheric self. During these stages, do not change anything or judge. Simply be aware and be conscious of the connections between the physical body and etheric self.
  • Now move your consciousness from the etheric self to the astral=emotional self. Again, pay attention to the connections and do not react, simply be aware. Finally, move your consciousness through the astral-emotional self to the mental self. Stay with this consciousness as much as you can.
  • From this position, having aligned all the lower bodies with the mental consciousness you begin to pray.
  • Dedicate the prayer to all within your web or all Beings. This generates more consciousness within the transpersonal self, the mental self.
  • Now using whatever prayers you wish, pre-learnt spontaneous, mantra etc, generate emotional ‘desire’ through yearning to connect with your Sacred Ones.
  • Keep repeating this process until the desire is strong.
  • Then consciously move this yearning energy from the astral-emotional level to the mental. The translation from astral-emotional energy to mental plane energy is quite distinct and will take much practice to achieve. However, even in the early stages continue with the next stage anyway.
  • Use the influx of mental energy (translated upwards from your astral self) as a vehicle by which your prayer is carried towards your Sacred One(s). Literally direct your prayer/consciousness into this energy and move it ‘towards’ your Sacred One(s). Again do this each time as if it is perfect, and over time you will develop this fully.
  • During this process keep praying outwardly if you wish.
  • Allow Communion or connection of your prayer with your Sacred One(s) to occur.
  • At some point draw the blessings back through all of your selves: mental, astral-emotional, etheric and physical.
  • At the end of the connection, consciously bring your consciousness back through each self. At each stage reflect for a moment on the blessings of connection now present within that self.
  • Thank your Sacred Ones again.
  • Ground more formally if required. Once adept at this practice the final stages are grounding themselves.

Resources Page

The astute observer will notice a new Magic of the Ordinary page, “Resources”. There we will collect all links to the various Aura and other papers we have plonked up lately. You really should look, as thanks to Simon and Emily who have slogged over scanner and keyboard, there are some new ones 🙂 THANK YOU 🙂

We’ll update the resources page as we can, so leaving this main page for the classical Blog experience – me raving on about something or other 🙂 Since WordPress does not allow tagging extra pages though, I’ll put in the various tags about the material here. If your search or click has brought you here, click on the resources page and download happily. Thanks 🙂

The Blessing of Change, the Self and the Neophyte Meditation.

In my quest for Samsaric relief while stuck in Freeway traffic (see this post) I have dug into one of those boxes in the shed. The object of the search was some music cassettes I had recorded over 20 years ago. This involved the ancient arts of recording from a friend’s LP disc (precursor to copying files from CD to IPod) or hitting record at the right moments when the ‘Album Hour’ was playing on the radio (downloading from the Net).

In an effort to maximize resources, we would plonk unrelated songs at the end of an album to fill up space. And so it was I came across treasures like Aztec Camera’s liquid-light acoustic version of Van Halen’s “You Might As Well Jump”. And, sadly, “Love Me Slowly” by Dollar. Now the picture to the right will give you a perfect taste of the genre and feel of the song, which should cause anyone with any taste to immediately start gagging. I remember chasing it up because of its producer, Trevor Horn.

And just yesterday my mother (who has been ‘tidying’) presented me with a letter and newspaper piece I wrote when a naff Pagan teenager, in which I display ideas I’d forgotten about. This and my obvious once-upon-a-time liking of ‘music-to-make-you-vomit’ made me praise the Gods for blessings of change.

While it is obvious that ‘I’ did once like Dollar, and that ‘I’ did hold opinions I now cringe at (though ‘I’ have no memory of them) can those ‘I’s  be considered ‘me’ now?

If yes, then what is the constant essence, the unchanging identity, which enables the 18 year old Pagan ‘I’ to be the same person as the 42 year old Buddhist ‘I’?  And if we do not identify with that unchanging identity that connects the numerous ‘I’s along the way, can we be said to exist in any meaningful way at all?

If no, then why do we consider these two ‘I’s the same person (in this case me)? Is it just the convention of name? (bearing in mind that ‘I’ changed mine). Is the convention of having the same body/face? (and what part does plastic surgery and amputation play in this?). And if they are not the same ‘person’ then what marks the boundaries between one ‘person’ and another ‘person’? Do we become a new person every few years? After a radical change of opinion? After a major life event? After an initiation? After death? After sleep? After sex? (Of course we may become a different person during sex, but that’s another mystery) 🙂

The answers to these questions ultimately lead to enlightenment, so of course we are very keen on them. From an esoteric point of view we are constantly changing, constantly dying and being reborn: through physical death, every time we sleep, orgasm, meditate deeply and in smaller ways throughout the day:

“For the moment of death is every moment and at every moment we may rise in the Light as One, knowing ourselves for the first time.”

The western esoteric traditions, drawing from theistic antecedents postulate the existence of an unchanging Essential Self, unborn and hence undying around which both our lower and higher attributes of ‘self’ formulate, incarnation after incarnation. Many non-theistic traditions, like Mahayana Buddhism, argue there is no independent, self-existing essential self, and views all manifestations of the ‘self’, including serial incarnations, as dependant on causes and conditions alone.

The two, apparently divergent point of views can be graphically represented. In the western view the Soul or Essential Self is the thread of light connecting a string of pearls, each one of which is an incarnation. So at the centre of each incarnation is the Essential Self, eternal, unborn and dying, beyond stain, perfect and therefore unchanging. This centre gives rise to and is the focal point of the lower self life.

In the Buddhist view each incarnation can be considered a layer of lemons in a box. Each layer determines the subsequent layer (incarnation) by the way it is laid out (karma), but there is no essential Self within the lemon box, nor is there an exterior force that lays out the lemons. So while it is right to say every layer is the same person, the connecting factor is no where to be found, yet it is still there. Because without the lemons (person) in layer 1, layer 2 does not exist and so on.

It is important to understand two things about the Buddhist viewpoint. Firstly, the philosophy of no-self does say we do not exist, only that we do not exist as an independent entity which we may point to. We obviously exist, but only on in a conventional sense (like the convention of naming and physical form). Our existence on the conventional level is real, otherwise who is typing and who is reading? We exist though only through co-arising in interdependence with all and from causes and conditions such as Karma.

Secondly, our conventional selves are extremely important, a view that is different to some mistaken views of Buddhism which sees negation of the self as the goal. If there is no Higher or Essential Self to be found, then our conventional self is the only way of accessing and changing who we are.

The Traditionalist and esoteric viewpoint, as well as the exoteric pluralist viewpoint, is that there is only Truth and all authentic traditions simply point to that Truth. So the esoteric and Buddhist views must be pointing to the same mystery and can be reconciled. More and more I can see this is the case, and is one of the reasons why I get so excited when studying Vajrayana Tantra alongside the RR et AC tradition.

Many modern magicians and Pagans make some fundamental errors in reasoning and some wide assumptions when it comes to the concept of the self. I’ve mentioned some of these before (see this post) and examples like pointing to and naming the Higher Self or believing the Higher Self engages in psychic battles or finding parking spaces are others. Holding any belief in the ‘reality’ of concepts like these is ultimately producing more barriers to illumination.

The way through such barriers is mercifully given in the Golden Dawn tradition right at the start of the journey in the form of the Neophyte Meditation (this is the most potent and beautiful variant):

“God is the circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”.

This meditation is naturally replete in meaning and blessing and one of these relates to the concept of the self. We may relate the centre to Buddhist idea of  the ever present conventional self, the magical ‘Lower Self’ – the ‘I’ that is always around even though one year it may be an 18 year old gay Marxist, and another year a 49 year old straight Liberal voter. This conventional self cannot exist alone – it is at the centre where everyone exists – and is interdependent with all – it is formulated by the environment around us and our responses to it. We cannot be a Marxist alone, a Liberal voter alone or human alone.

The circumference we can relate to the Buddhist concept of no-self, the magical Essential Self, and is empty of existence and reality, yet is still there. ‘I’, the lower conventional self, cannot experience this circumference; it is nowhere to be found. Yet it contains and gives rise to the conventional, lower self at the centre (no centre without a circumference). From a magical Qabalistic viewpoint, a personal level we can relate this to the Empty Room of Daath and on a transpersonal level to the Negatively Existing Ain. The process of ‘moving’, interrelating between centre and circumference can be related to the Higher Self or in Vajrayana to the Beatitude Body.

Once we grasp, even imperfectly the true nature of self, once we experience the true power of this meditation we are changed forever. And it is so freely available for anyone to do, right where you are sitting now. This is so wonderful and so beautiful it deserves to be celebrated over and over. Hence this post 🙂