The Magical Life: quick lessons from the Cloud (no, not THAT cloud!)

Every magician worth his salt ends up a mystic. – Attributed to Dion Fortune.

Scanning around the internet and some publications we often seen a distinction made in modern magical circles between magic and mysticism.

Magic, in the modern theurgic ‘self-transformation’ sense (and really what’s the point in discussing any other sense?) is often described as a path of self-transformation via various practices with the ultimate aim of perfecting oneself or uniting oneself with the divine.

Mysticism, at least in the magical circles, is often defined simply as a path where the mystic seeks to unite themselves with the Divine by meditation and prayer.

The two seem similar in endpoint but at the pure end of the spectrum are vastly different in practice. At one end is the magical path of self-transformation: it is self-initiated and self-directed and primarily affects and transforms the self. At the other end of the spectrum, pure mysticism and its fruits await completely on the grace of the One and are directed by the One alone.

Naturally folk are seldom at the pure end of the spectrum. Magicians will ‘work with’ deities and the divine for their own self-transformation. Mystics will self-direct (or at least self-choose to act on directions) and engage themselves in various spiritual practices and prayers.

For me this distinction is not as important as another, seldom as well articulated. Mystical union (at least in the Christian tradition which underlies the esoteric traditions) is not the same as the divine union typically envisioned in magic. In magical and occult paths the concept of union involves, ultimately at the pinnacle, identification with God or immersion in God. This shows the monist conception at the root of much modern magical philosophy.

In the Christian mystical traditions even at the highest, “There is union, but not fusion or confusion. Although ‘oned’ with the divine, man (sic) still remains man; he is not swallowed up or annihilated, but between him and God there continues always to exist an ‘I-Thou relationship of person to person.” (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware). The path of Theosis is eternal.

This often unspoken and unthought difference stems from the presence or absence of the traditional religious view. When present, the divine is always something wholly other and is related to accordingly. When absent the separation of humanity and the One may be seen only as a matter of degree, not substance or essence.

Post WWII most magicians are not religious folk, at least in the “I-Thou” forms of religious practice. Most are explicitly not Christians, a complete contrast to the early 20th century. This, as well as the antithesis to Christianity means modern magicians are often not exposed to or explore the rich depth of Christian mystical traditions which may elucidate and aid them in their quest for the divine. One such source is the Cloud of Unknowing.

The Cloud is a late Middle Ages work on contemplative prayer in the form of advice from a senior monk to a young student (already practiced on the path a bit himself). It advocates the via negativa or the Apophatic path, whereby the One cannot be understood by the mind but must instead be described in a series of negations. And it suggests wonderful, practical ways of doing so. The Apophatic approach to the One is often contrasted with the Kataphatic which describes the One and its attributes. In Kataphatic practice we use our will, intellect, power, direction and imagination. We can easily see the temptation to describe western magic as Kataphatic and the more passive forms of mysticism as Apophatic, but there is a lot more to this story 🙂

I was re-reading the Cloud the other day and struck on these passages:

“… there be two manner of lives in Holy Church. The one is active life, and the other is contemplative life. Active is the lower, and contemplative is the higher. Active life hath two degrees, a higher and a lower: and also contemplative life hath two degrees, a lower and a higher. Also, these two lives be so coupled together that although they be divers in some part, yet neither of them may be had fully without some part of the other.

For why? That part that is the higher part of active life, that same part is the lower part of contemplative life. So that a man may not be fully active, but if he be in part contemplative; nor yet fully contemplative, as it may be here, but if he be in part active. The condition of active life is such, that it is both begun and ended in this life; but not so of contemplative life. For it is begun in this life, and shall last without end. For why? That part that Mary chose shall never be taken away. Active life is troubled and travailed about many things; but contemplative sitteth in peace with one thing.

The lower part of active life standeth in good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity. The higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life lieth in goodly ghostly meditations, and busy beholding unto a man’s own wretchedness with sorrow and contrition, unto the Passion of Christ and of His servants with pity and compassion, and unto the wonderful gifts, kindness, and works of God in all His creatures bodily and ghostly with thanking and praising.

But the higher part of contemplation, as it may be had here, hangeth all wholly in this darkness and in this cloud of unknowing; with a loving stirring and a blind beholding unto the naked being of God Himself only.

In the lower part of active life a man is without himself and beneath himself. In the higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life, a man is within himself and even with himself.”

Representing this schema diagrammatically may yield much.

three lives cloud two

The key of course is the mutual identification of the Upper Active with the Lower Contemplative. When we place this on the Tree with reference to the Three Orders of the Golden Dawn it becomes clear.

cloud lives on tol

By describing the Upper Active and Lower Contemplative as co-terminal we see straightaway how the Outer Order is said to depend on the Inner Order and the Inner Order on the Third Order. Similarly though to fulfil its complete function of active life, the Inner Order requires an Outer Order, and to fulfil the contemplative life, the Third Order requires an Inner Order. It all coheres in mutual interdependence. It is for these reasons, I think, that we read in Dr Tony Fuller’s masterful PhD thesis, ‘Anglo-Catholic Clergy and the Golden Dawn’ of the decision of New Zealand adepts to close the Cromlech Temple, often seen as the Third Order, following the close of the Inner and Outer Orders: there was no ‘body’ for the Spirit to inhabit.

Practically of course this also explains why it’s terribly, terribly difficult to be a magician in the Golden Dawn tradition on one’s tod.

Looking at the diagram and the text we see the Lower Active life encompassing spheres all connected with the material universe as represented by the basal Sephrioth of Malkuth. For this reason the author of the Cloud describes the work of this arena as ‘good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity’. This is the work of compassion expressed in the world, traditionally done through church membership, alms giving, visiting the sick and imprisoned etc. It is so very absent in the modern magical community though still present in the Masonic.

The Lower Active is an integral part of the full spiritual life. Nowhere does the author of the Cloud suggest otherwise. Rather he suggests only that to reach and stabilise the Higher aspect of each life we must ‘for a time’ suspend the lower. This is in direct contrast to many people’s understanding of the mystic life, and indeed descriptions from many mystics themselves, and is one reason why the Cloud is so groovy 🙂

“They (mystics) seek to ‘be in the world but not of it’. Their path is of non-attachment, removal of the ego, never working for personal gain etc., a gradual stripping away of everything that is not God until they find the part that is. Once this is attained there is only this unity to bask in. … The mystic has travelled so light to reach their goal that there is nothing more that can be done other than live the reminder of their life in a state of bliss and hope that others will be helped by contact with them.” (Nick Farrell).

More importantly, the identification of the lower contemplative and the higher active shows how the magical and the mystical, the Kataphatic and Apophatic approach are in fact working the same sphere of self and are both needed. This is not simply a matter of practicing magic and then practicing contemplation, but of fusing the two approaches. We see this most clearly in the Eucharist which uses our Kataphatic qualities to describe and Glorify God at the same time we Commune with the ultimate Apophatic mystery of Christ’s self-emptying in Incarnation and on the Cross.

Practically we can get a sense of how to incorporate the two in our ceremonial practice by listening to this remarkable lecture by Denys Turner on ‘Thomas Aquinas and the Pseudo-Denys on the Darkness of God’. Listen from 40 minutes on for how the outer Kataphatic action of the Sign of the Cross leads us also into Apophatic experience.

“When we … invoke the trinity in our lives, we pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and as we do so we make the sign of the Cross. When we do this, it is as if to say, as even the philosophers knew, it is true, God not being any kind of being, we are drawn by reason into God’s impenetrable cloud of unknowing. It is true, that the same darkness of God is deepened by the very demonstration of God’s existence, which far from placing within the grasping hands of reason, shows that at the heart of our highest part of rational power, we are drawn even more deeply and surely into the divine darkness … Then it is we that we make the sign of the Cross. Then it is we enter into the true darkness of God, God’s own darkness in the person of the crucified Son.”

Hope this helps 🙂


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.

Why I Love Magic – personal, mystical and social.

ctOne of the side benefits from my recent distress at the Golden Dawn community’s continued infighting is that through my keeping up to date I have come across several excellent blogs. Some of these are on MOTO’s blogroll, so have a look. Of particular interest is Soror FSQ’s blog, “Flight of Hermes“. There are several other blogs that interweave magical wisdom and personal experience within the Golden Dawn tradition, but Soror FSQ does it well. Sadly, it is hard to avoid stereotyping here: blogs of the same type by men seldom express emotional authenticity with such grace as this one by a woman. Within the Golden Dawn as a whole the men out number the women, particularly when we examine leadership roles and public presences, yet often the women make the most profound contribution to an Order or working sphere. The same is true of virtually any religious tradition in the west.

I have really appreciated Sr FSQ and other bloggers sharing their personal experience of magic and the Golden Dawn. I seldom have the clarity and courage to do so. Well … I once submitted a lengthy report of my youthful pagan religious and mystical experiences to an anthropologist who was writing a book on the subject and seeking personal stories. The first I knew the book was out was reading a review in the West Australian where my memories were quoted and held up to ridicule by the reviewer who could see no good in Pagan mysticism at all. I am now a little more shy in revealing stuff 🙂

One of the most wonderful aspects of magic is the way it can help us interweave all aspects of life into a single, coherent whole. It can unify the various parts of our lives so we are travelling with perhaps many intentions but of one spirit towards one goal. Magic for me is composed of three interlocking spheres: the personal, the mystical and the social. Naturally we can relate these to the Tree of Life 🙂

Personal Magic

Magic on a personal level helps us change and transform.  To begin any act of transformation we leave what is known as the Path of Return and step off the cycle of repeated existence and habitual thought patterns. We do something different and step beyond Malkuth, or in Golden Dawn terms we enter the path of initiation and leave the path of the Natural Man (borrowed from St Paul). This is the first step and often the hardest as it involves a form of self exile from the herd-tribal mind set and the social-genetic programs we have in inherited from our family and society.

copy-of-tree-of-life-with-three-triadsHowever, there is no point in magic or any spiritual practice unless this transformation takes place. Unless, slowly year by year we are truly changing into a more compassionate, integrated, mature and wholesome person. Often this involves what today we call “healing” and really should be considered a precursor to any serious magical or tantric practice. We can relate these transformational actions to the lower four Sephrioth, Malkuth through Netzach with the prime area of change being undertaken in Yesod the sphere of reactions, the unconscious and sex. Every night I introspect on these three areas and try to see where I really am. How did I react during the day and why? What unknown or uncontrollable personal forces made my choices for me? How was I sexually, either physically or in imagination? I’d wager these are three vulnerable areas for most of us.

It is a common esoteric truism that to fully change any sphere we need to operate from the sphere immediately above it. Our physical bodies are moved by our energy. Our energy is clarified and strengthened by our emotions and thoughts which in turn are effected by our sense of self. So for full therapeutic transformation and to avoid the merry go round of therapy helping to pay for our counsellor’s beach house, we need to access the self, the Sphere of Tiphareth, or more accurately the lower facing aspect of Tiphareth. This is the aim of such ‘transpersonal’ therapies as Jungian analysis, which is wonderful when used in conjunction with body centered modalities but often just lovely mental gymnastics when practiced alone.

Such self focused work involves far more than a few therapy sessions or facing the interior imago of our parents from childhood conditioning. As we said such personal transformation is needed but is only one aspect of the personal change that magic directed by the One involves. Esoterically we are all the central point in the unlimited circle of the One. When I say “we are the centre” I do not mean our higher selves, nor our ‘balanced self’, nor our future self, but who we are right now, this very instant. Even if we are immersed in dysfunction and addiction. We are all the centre of God’s complete love and attention. This is a great mystery. As William Blake puts it, we are all, each of us the Only Son of God. This means God, whose circle of circumference is nowhere, beyond limit has each of us at His centre. Always. Yesterday, today and tomorrow no matter who we are or who we are not.

Once we realize this intense gift we are never personally empty, alone or broken again. The full gaze and love of the One is constantly upon us and therefore our personal lives begin to have meaning. How we act and love and serve in our personal life becomes incredibly important. This realization is not easy and for me my most personal act of transformation is learning to hold this truth for longer periods more frequently. Cleaving to this realisation is an act of standing, as we are, naked in God’s revealing light. Ultimately having the courage to be revealed in front of God is an act of returning love, from ourselves back to God. It is through this love our lower selves, Netzach through Malkuth may be healed. This is expressed beautifully by the great Sufi poet Rumi:

This is Love: to fly without limits
to cut through all the veils – now!
The first instant – to reject the life you knew.
The last step – to give up feet entirely.
To see right through materialism,
To refuse to see addiction as inevitable.

In Golden Dawn terms what we have been discussing is the Outer Order and the liminal grade of the Portal – well, that’s the theory. In practice most of us are still bumbling around with our Yesodic reactions even after we have dressed up very nicely and been declared “Greatly Honoured” 🙂 Grades are an artificial construct and have nothing to do with our spiritual unfoldment or personal transformation. However, even though still only a map the progression through the layers of self just outlined is useful. We all need maps. Nearly all the great mystical and magical traditions have some form of this progression mapped out.

Mystical Magic

There has been much unproductive polarisation of magic and mysticism where the two are seen to be opposite ends of the spectrum of spiritual experience. Maybe they are for some, but not for me and certainly not for the traditional esoteric schools and teachers in the west. Magic is practical mysticism, a series of artificial bridges based on sound spiritual skills to engage the higher aspects of the soul. Here we are specifically referring to the upward facing aspect of Tiphareth through to Daath (if we are blessed). Again there are maps and sequences of unfoldment laid out in most traditions. Mysticism is not a free for all experience of the One complete with visions, spasms of energy and psychic flashes, though it can quickly degenerate into such unhealthy states. For most of us this is almost guaranteed to happen, in some form, if we attempt magic prior to engaging in the self transformation outlined above. The works of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila are classic examples of the discipline required in mystical work. So too when examined properly and practiced with altruistic intentions is the curriculum of the RR et AC.

It is important to state something again and again, as most of us do not get this, and indeed we cannot ‘get’ it until we have experienced it. This little quote sums it up well:

Spiritual growth does not come merely through intellectual or emotional development. There is another state of being to be reached, another quality of awareness that reveals new aspects of reality. (Theodore J. Nottingham: The Mysticism of Christian Teaching).

In one sense then ‘we’, the regular everyday Peregrin and whoever you are reading this, the person who does the shopping, does not experience mysticism or magic. It is the upper spheres of the Tree, the so called ethical triad of Tiphareth through Chesed which are the vehicles for mystical magic and most of us do not shop or work or even love with these spheres. To enlarge our selves to be active within the realm of mystical activity very much involves dying to who we are. Each time we expand in some way we die; it is a natural part of the process. So, strictly speaking ‘we’ do not think or feel or react when engaged in mystical and magical states of being. We may need the language and concepts of feelings, emotions, thought, bodily sensation and our own self to express the experience but none of these are really the modes by which the experience unfolds. Magic (like Tantra) is the best way for us who are not born mystics to achieve this state. In Buddhist terms magic is the skillful means by which we reach these transformational and blessed states. This is what magic is all about.

Social Magic

Once we have properly engaged in mysticism and magic we have gone beyond ourselves. We thus are waking from the lie that all people believe – that there is a separate being called Peregrin or Mr Rudd or you. This, as I keep talking about on MOTO compells us to compassion. We know we are all interdependent; that we are the asylum seeker on the crowded, fear-ridden boat, that we are the lesbian who cannot bring their partner home for Christmas and we are the rapist locked in internal and external prisons. This knowledge impels us to act; we just have to. And here is the beauty of magic, particularly of RR et AC magic. The very practices, the actual skillful means by which we become mystics can be used to bring about change in the social-political world. The rituals, the processes require very little modification to help us change the world. Isn’t this beautiful? 🙂 Qabalistically of course, we revisit and act in the world of Malkuth where we started, the real world of love and pain, hope and fear.

Joanna Macy, activist, deep-ecologist, writer and teacher talks about the need for change and transformation to occur on three levels. Firstly, there is the activist level, which really is buying us time. Activists however act as the Biblical prophets – they disrupt the social order, the status-quo and hold our choices and injustices up high for us to see so they become conscious. Secondly, the level of internal change within ‘the system’ itself where change agents are white-anting the dominant power systems, slowly bringing about change and new ways of being to foster justice. And thirdly, the level of group consciousness, in magical terms the cultural and society egregores. It is here that magic really comes into its own and can produce wonderful changes. There is not much written about this, though the best examples of the principles behind the processes can be found in the works of Dion Fortune and the magical stream stemming from her work – and of course in the works of Starhawk and Reclaiming.

However, even on the first and second levels social magic is possible and can produce results. I have seen this happen. We can change the outcomes of actions and protests. We can support those tackling the “system from within”. We really can. And this is why I love magic so much – personally, mystically and politically 🙂