Friday, December 31, 2010

Old Year to New Year - Welcome 2011

Well, today is the last day of the old year, 2010, and rather than go to some party and drink my face off, I usually stay home and see the New Year in with reflection, meditation, some quiet celebration, thankfulness for the good that has occurred during the fading year, and a hopefulness for the coming year. I particularly like to work magick and be in a fully empowered magick circle just before the year turns, so I can sense the time displacement and mind bending qualities of briefly stopping time and existing within a nexus between the old and new years. This practice is something that I have done every year for the last couple of decades, and each time it is quite amazing and delightful. It also has the benefit of not producing nausea or a hang-over the next day, nor does it require me to travel home from some party and brave both the elements and the hazards of drunken drivers.

New Years for me is a quiet time, without any revelry, madness or much intoxication. I want to experience the lintel time of change without being bleary with drink or distracted by social buffoonery. It’s not that I don’t like to party or socialize, in fact I do! But there is something so very sacred about this time that I can’t just blow off steam or mindlessly celebrate, so at this time I forgo the usual custom of going to a New Years Eve party and socializing with friends. Instead I just stay home, and reflect, meditate, quietly celebrate my accomplishments, think about the things that I didn’t get done or failed to accomplish, and to plot my course for the coming year. In fact, when the hour of midnight strikes here, I can feel the past and the future merging into the present, and for at least just that moment in time, they seem coequal to me.

One thing that I didn’t get to do during these last two weeks of December is to re-engage with my HGA and perform again the Bornless One invocation rite on the same day that I performed it at the climax of the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal last year. There were too many things that demanded my attention, plus some minor annoying health issues. and also, I strongly sensed that now was not the time to re-engage with that working. I have received dreams and impressions that informed me to wait until the final working in that series is ready to be used, and then I must re-connect with all of the previously established elements before performing it.

The final ritual working that I have been researching and acquiring in strategic pieces has finally started to come together, so I will soon be able to write that up and add it to the lore of the ordeal. What really helped was reading “The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz” translated by Joscelyn Godwin and introduced and commented on by Adam McLean (Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, Phanes Press, 1991). Adam McLean’s commentary is absolutely brilliant, and it really helped me to understand the structure and the meaning of the obscure symbolic elements found in that work. From that commentary, I should easily be able to write up a ritual working that will allow me to pull all of the elements of the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal together into a final rite; where the three-fold aspects of me as eternal and ageless youth (spirit of the HGA), the bronzed fair haired nonpareil who is the goddess aspect, and me again as I am today, a middle aged ritual magician, all these will drawn into a seamless union. I believe that the Chemical Wedding put into a ritual working will do just that. Accomplishing that rite will allow me to complete the final working in the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal, which is to project my true will into my final destiny, which shall powerfully impact and color the last remaining years of my life. So I have something very important to accomplish and look forward to in the coming year.

Another thing that I have accomplished only yesterday was to put together a proposal for a beginner’s book on the Qabbalah and pitch it to a publisher. That task is done, and I look forward to the response because I suspect that it may be positive. My previous proposal for an introductory book on ritual magick for witches and pagan was rejected, so I have decided to put together my own publishing company and seek to publish that book as the first project for that new entity. The rest of my book projects may also get published under my own label, whose name and logo I will refrain from revealing at this time.

My reasons for going the direction of self publishing is because I wish to conserve my writer’s voice and to keep my content from being overly edited or omitted altogether. I have matured over the last year as a writer, so I don’t believe that I will need much more than a copy editor, layout artist and illustrator, as well as a reliable on-demand printer to put my several book projects into print. I have all of these resources already pretty well nailed down, so the rest is just up to me to assemble and execute. I am assuming that I may have more than one book in print by the end of next year, but we will see how things progress.

What I am thankful for and what I have accomplished this year represents quite a mile-stone for me as a writer and occultist. It seems that many things that I had studied years ago and had taken for granted are being looked at again, and in that way, I have discovered a lot that I either didn’t learn the first time around or overlooked for various reasons. I suppose that being more mature and having brought together a lot of new material in my mind is powerfully impacting the re-examination of that old material. A case in point are my current researches and articles about the Qabbalah. I have decided to take a decidedly Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean perspective, and I have found insights and deeper meaning in the Qabbalah than what I had previously determined. Here is a list of what I have managed to complete this year:

  • Publication of “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Greater Key” - this completed the trilogy that I sought to publish back in 2007, and first wrote back in 1995. To publish this series was a dream that I had fifteen years ago, but I am glad that it was finally realized this year.
  • Wrote 119 articles for the blog “Talking About Ritual Magick” - many of these articles were long and substantive. I apologize for the length of my blog articles, but I think that many of them have been well received and found useful to my readers. These articles have also helped me to improve my overall writing skills.
  • Successfully completed five online courses for writing fiction, including a grammar refresher and research techniques for writers. All of these courses required a passing grade on a final exam, so they did test what was supposedly learned.
  • Began to plan and formulate writing occult, horror and fantasy stories. I have a lot of stories and characters swimming around in my head, but now I have the tools to put them into actual fictional writings. I will be working on these projects in the coming year, and I hope to get a few of them to a final form before this coming year is over.
  • Attended and presented workshops at four venues - Pantheacon, Heartland Pagan Festival, Milwaukee Pagan Unity Conference’s Ostara convention and the Twin Cities Pagan Pride gathering.

Next year I will be presenting workshops at four venues - Pantheacon, Twin Cities Pagancon, Heartland, and Twin Cities Pagan Pride. There may be others as well as presenting regular workshops at my home town. I have also volunteered to design and direct a public ritual for the upcoming Samhain gathering, put on by the local chapter of COG. I will also be availing myself as a resource for the COG planned events in the coming year, either as a role player or as a musician. I am also in the process of developing an entire battery of workshops that will aid me in transferring the knowledge and experience that I have in the area of ritual magick to others. I feel that this is a special calling for me, and so I am drawn to share what I know with others.

This year was the start of the rebirth of the Order of the Gnostic Star. A new temple, the first in over a dozen years, started up in Massachusetts. The old mother temple, long dormant, has started to become reconstituted in the town of Kansas City. There are some old members who have recently come back together and some new members who have recently joined forces. A number of tasks will need to be accomplished before this group will be able to become fully functional, but I am looking forward to that time. A challenging set of ordeals have already been selected and agreed to, so I suspect that some of those ritual workings will be completed in the coming year. I look forward to their stories and experiences as these rites are performed.

Finally, various elements of my life on a personal level have been falling into place. I can’t talk about them, of course, but it would seem that the positive far outweighs the issues that still need to be worked out. I can look forward with optimism and excitement about the coming year. There will be a lot of amazing things to experience and learn in the next twelve months.

I also hope that the year 2010 has been fruitful and productive for you, and that the new year, 2011, will be even more blessed, fruitful and productive for you as well. We live in interesting times, but it is my hope that my words posted here will help you in your ever unfolding destiny, so that you will be able to experience and know the very highest of magickal and spiritual achievements. May we all achieve our dreams and realize our highest aspirations in this year and in the years following it.

Happy New Years 2011 -

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, December 24, 2010

Secret of Pagan Magick

Recently, David Griffin wrote a fascinating blog article entitled “Paganism: Freemasonry for the 21st Century?” You can read it for yourself here. What most intrigued me was David’s quote from an earlier article on the three types of orders of the Golden Dawn and how they compare to other orders. Yet even more interesting, he made the distinction between symbolic and operative kinds of systems, or ones that use symbolic or analogical surrogates in their work, and others that are direct. Those kinds of systems that use symbolic surrogates are called the “Lunar Mysteries” and those that are direct, are called “Solar Mysteries.”

One would assume that the Lunar Mysteries must be mastered before one is able to advance to the Solar Mysteries, since working with symbols and surrogates is more easily mastered than discarding any intermediary for a complete and direct exposure to the One. I found this article to be quite brilliant and very inspiring, as are most of the writings of David Griffin. However you feel about this man or whatever opinion you may have about him, he does know what he’s talking about when discussing the elements of occultism and how they are to be worked in the Golden Dawn.

In David’s own words, he defines these two mysteries in the following manner.

“In a further distinction, there exist two kinds of operative systems and orders. Firstly, in the ‘analogical,’ operative systems, practitioners operate with systems referring by analogy to yet higher, more direct, and more advanced operations and systems. Analogical operative systems are thus called ‘lunar’ mysteries as, much as the moon reflects the light of the Sun, their light is reflected by analogical reference to higher operative processes. Nonetheless, despite her reflective nature, the moon indeed remains a luminary.

David then continues with his definition of the Solar Mysteries to complete his point.

The Solar mysteries comprise an operative tradition that lies at the apex of the Rosicrucian as well as the entire Western Esoteric tradition. The Solar operative tradition represents the capstone of the entire Western Esoteric Tradition, lying as it does upon the Hermetic pillars Alchemy and Theurgy. Here, we find not some mere mystical meditation upon alchemical images or psychological nonsense, but rather the supreme esoteric corpus of operative practices that all other genuine magical and alchemical operations only refer to by analogy. It is the summun bonum, the apex of the pyramid.”

So it would seem that at some point in the development of an adept, the magician discards all of the symbols, analogies and surrogates in order to become totally immersed in the power, majesty and wisdom of the One. This phase would represent the beginning of illumination, enlightenment and at-one-ment with the Godhead. The magician, as an agent of the One, would fully engage and become a keystone in the continuous process of the emanation of the One to the Many. This concept makes complete sense, and should represent the ultimate goal of all individuals practicing the various forms of magick in the Western Mystery Tradition.

To complete his thesis, David tells us that the Masonic organization of the Blue Lodge no longer has a true and engaging esoteric organization, and that the remote symbology of the three grades of initiation shine dimly with the light of what was once a vibrant and powerfully transformative organization. Freemasonry, according to David, is a shadow of its former self and has been in steep decline for decades, if not the last century. This is not to say that Freemasonry can’t ignite one’s spiritual inner fires and cause illumination in a candidate, but that occurrence, by itself, is outside of the singular purpose and function of the organization.

If David has made that claim, then it would follow that other organizations that are based on Freemasonry are also in decline, however subtle or obvious to it’s members. What David didn’t say is that even the Golden Dawn itself is slowly losing its way and becoming, in a fashion, obsolete, or at least in terms of how it’s been practiced and organized for the last several decades. Don’t misread what I am saying, the Golden Dawn has been critically important to the development of a number of spiritual movements in the western arena, particularly modern Witchcraft and Paganism. The Golden Dawn was the source root for many pagan offshoots, and it continues to be relevant today.

However, the Golden Dawn has also given birth to its ultimate replacement, which is pagan magick, theurgy, liturgy and a form of sexual alchemy. Granted, modern witchcraft and paganism are relatively new and are just beginning to be formulated into the higher levels of practice and discipline required to achieve complete illumination. The whole first level is still being developed even as I write this article. But there are other elements that are being assembled which will ultimately establish a fully vetted operative system. Some individuals are already practicing this methodology, some deliberately, others unwittingly.

One other thing that David didn’t mention is that pagans and witches who practice their religion and magick, do so within a temple environment which allows for complete immersion into whatever is generated, invoked or evoked. This fact was well established in a previous article that I wrote some time ago, but which I will re-introduce again. You can find that article here.

Witches and pagans use a magick circle in most of their liturgical and magickal workings, but that circle does not function as a barrier or filter protecting them from the spirits and powers that they might summon. In fact, witches and pagans are naked before their gods, goddesses, ancestors, and any spirits that they would seek to invoke. All that protects them is their reliance on their personal and specific cult of godhead assumption. They work magick as their godhead, but in doing so, they are fully exposed to any and all of the spirits and powers that are summoned or generated within the magick circle. So it would seem that ritual magicians who are witches or pagans are receiving a fair amount of direct exposure to the totality of the inner planes. What analogical or surrogate components that do exist in their rites are simply those spirits and powers which have a single and common source, the One. Thus we can say that pagan ritual magick is halfway between the Lunar and Solar mysteries, and that it doesn’t take a great deal of intelligence or insight to adjust one’s workings to engage directly with the One. It just takes a lot of courage, imagination and an empowered discipline.

How do you shift gears and directly engage with the One? There are two methods, and actually both are used. The first method is an advanced treatment of the Great Rite, where two magicians assume the polarity of their associated godhead and join in sexual union, in emulation of the One. From a magickal stand-point this process still requires the use of surrogates, so there is even a more direct and reduced methodology, which is the direct ascension into the One through the mediation of the Higher Self. Still, both of these methods emulate the greater mind of the One, yet the challenge of the higher adept as avatar is to live with that union perfectly established, from day to day until the end of life, and perhaps even beyond. I can only vaguely speculate on these matters, but I do understand how they might be accomplished. Yet I have been working in that halfway middle ground for years, standing at the cross-roads between the Lunar and Solar mysteries.

What is needed is for me to put away all symbols, analogues and surrogates and open myself completely and totally to the full realization of the Solar mysteries. I look forward to that day, which I hope is already on the horizon. However simple it may all seem, it is the most formidable task that I have ever set my sights on achieving.

May you be blessed and filled with inspiration and understanding, wisdom and realization for this time of the calends, in the year 2010. I wish you peace and prosperity in the coming year.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Future Perfect Informing Present Imperfect

As you no doubt remember, I recently posted an article on retro-causality and its implications, both on PSI research and Quantum Mechanics. It has profound implications for occult phenomena as well. You can find the article here. Still, I basically felt that it perhaps vindicated experiences that I and others have had where the future has revealed itself, whether moments just before, or through longer periods of prognostication, such as what occurs in deliberative forms of divination. It makes the case for precognition and the ability to foretell the future a bit more scientific and rational than what might have been understood without the potential sanction of science. (We would still be doing divination despite whatever science says is rational or completely irrational.)

It’s all very intriguing and fascinating, but something else just occurred to me that would seem to be even more profound. What if the spiritual destiny that we seek, the Godhead that we sense through our higher selves, is actually our future self, having achieved complete mastery and full illumination? That would assume that anyone who is earnestly and valiantly following their spiritual path would, in fact, achieve complete illumination. Of course, human experience has shown that most spiritual seekers achieve a level of fulfillment and completion considerably below that exalted mark - only a few, if any, become truly exalted spiritual masters in a generation. So it would seem that such an endpoint in one’s future would actually be illusory for most.

However, what if that potential to be fully illuminated and totally enlightened was available to everyone, and had a nebulous, encompassing and tangible existence in the future, whether distant or near. That potential future, not yet fully realized, could still have a powerful effect, even if one were to fail or die before fully realizing it. It could also be considered a pathway to a yet unrealized future universe, where at least one aspect of one’s self would achieve full enlightenment, while others might fall short. Quantum mechanics could at least theorize about such possibilities, but if we apply them to occult perspectives, it paints a picture of one’s manifest destiny that is determined and established through a kind of combined realization of the present through the perspective of the future. This is, of course, very mind bending, but I find it very intriguing to consider.

So, what this means is that I am being inspired, taught at strategic moments, given realizations at just the right time not by a personal aspect of Godhead, but by my future self who has already achieved full enlightenment and has become that personal aspect of Godhead. That perfected future self gently but thoroughly guides and helps me at moments of crisis and catharsis so that I might be able to achieve full realization of it at some future date. It takes the whole concept of causality and spiritual achievement and turns it on its head. It signifies that I am attempting to replicate what on some level and in some future time space continuum has already been achieved. It is not only possible, but in some strange way, all fated to be - not because the future is already determined, but because the future informs the past and the present.

This perspective also would vindicate the mind before matter model, since it would view history as traveling backwards from total evolutionary enlightenment to the point in time where we are today as striving individuals. From the perspective of the future informing the present and the past, the mind before matter model makes perfect sense. It also doesn’t contradict the scientific matter before mind model, since that perspective would involve seeing the evolution of time from the past to the future. From the level of Quantum mechanics, perceiving time flowing in both directions without causing a collapse of causality would explain why both models are in fact different perspectives of the flow of history from past to future, and from future, informing the present and the past.

Wow! These are pretty heavy thoughts, but I think that I will continue to think them over and talk to some of my friends about them. The last word on this topic has not yet been stated. Let me know what you think of this stream of thought and wonderment. My higher self is actually my future self,existing just beyond that mystical moment after I die and cease to exist in this world.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, December 20, 2010

Qabbalah For Pagans and Witches - Part 2

Practical Qabbalah

We have examined the ten sephirah and the structure of the Tree of Life, and we have seen how the thirty-two categories of the sephiroth and paths can be used as a powerful table of correspondences. What are the other practical uses for the Qabbalah that might be used by a ritual magician?

There are three techniques of practical Qabbalah that are very important for magickal work. The first method is a form of numerology that ascribes numeric values for the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet and tabulates them - it is called Gematria.

The concept that letters are also numbers may seem a bit foreign to us, with our present distinct set of numbers used apart from letters. Yet the numbering system that we use today, which is of Arabic and Hindu origin, was also derived originally from letters, except, of course, the brilliant addition of the number zero. This Arabic/Hindu numbering system has completely supplanted earlier and more primitive systems of numeration based on letters or tallies (Roman numerals). A vestige of the Arabic source of our numbering system is that numbers are tabulated from right to left, which is the direction that Semetic letters have been written using the Syrian or Arabic alphabet.

Still, the Greeks and Hebrews utilized their alphabets as both systems of numeration and writing. It’s possible that this relationship was only deliberately manipulated later on, but a form of numerology was developed by the occult literati of the time. They did this by using only certain examples of an obscure relationship between numbers, letters and words, since only certain examples were meaningful, while the rest were merely arbitrary.

To find the occult number associated with a word, the Qabbalist would total up the numbers associated with each letter. This operation could also be done to phrases, as well as proper names. A Qabbalist could then make some judgements based upon the number associated with words, phrases or proper names. Thus it was believed that words which had the same numeric value also had the same corresponding meaning. For instance, the Hebrew word AHBH (beloved), which has the individual letter values of 1, 5, 2, and 5, when added together, is associated with the occult number 13.

Additionally, the Hebrew word AChD (unity), which has the values 1, 8, and 4, when added together also produces the occult number of 13. A Qabbalist would then contemplate upon the subtle interconnection between the words “beloved” and “unity,” noting their analogy, and that they could be interchanged as formula key-words in a ritual.

The number 13 is then given the significance of the two words (beloved, unity) whose numeric value are equivalent, so the number 13 now has these additional attributes other than just being a number. Using this numerologic methodology, the Qabbalist would produce a book of numbers and their associated words (Sepher Sephiroth). This book of numbers would show the numeric values of all of the important words, such as phrases from the holy books as well as the various names of the Godhead, Angels, Demons and other spirits.  Looking into such a book, a Qabbalist would also find other words associated with the number 13, such as Hated - AYB, Emptiness - BHV, and a Locust - ChGB, and many others.

All of These words would be used together to build up a set of attributes for each number, although it would be quite difficult to determine a specific unified meaning amongst so many diverse words, phrases and names. Noting the above collection of words associated with the value of 13, I myself would find it impossible to think up a single semantic meaning that would fit all of these words. Still, in theory, that is how one would complete a Sepher Sephiroth, by creating a semantic structure for a full range of numbers and words. Generally, a Qabbalist will choose the words associated with a specific number that has the most significance, and then ignore the rest. An example of this kind of selectivity is to choose the two words “beloved” and “unity” and ignore the other words that have nothing in common with these two. Basically, Gematria is used to find connections between different words, but only where those connections would have some kind of significance or importance.

Gematria is a word derived from the Greek Grammateia, meaning tabulation (denoting an account book or domestic listing). That was the first methodology that we just examined. The two other systems of numerology are called Notariqan and Temura. Notariqan is from the word Notarius; it’s an ancient method of shorthand writing which the Qabbalist used to create or define acronyms. Temura is a method of permutation that substitutes letters so as to encrypt or decode words or phrases. There are supposedly 22 different methods of substitution, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Temura is also used to create signatures and sigils from formula words or important names, such as Angelic or Demonic names. These are used particularly in the rituals of invocation and evocation.

I use Notariqan to build and craft magickal acronym formulas, or to determine acronyms from a given sentence or phrase. Temura is useful for crafting sigils or signatures from the names of spirits, using magickal squares or the system of Aiq Bkr to create them. Using ciphers or decoding messages is less useful to me, particularly since I am not prone to using archaic grimoires or books that might employ them. I have also found only limited use for Gemtria, since it seems kind of contrived to me, but other occultists have used it extensively to prove obscure or subtle connections, such as the writings and books authored by Kenneth Grant.  

To recap - I use the Qabbalah extensively in the follow ways:

  • Tree of Life as a model of the Inner planes,
  • Sephiroth and paths are used in a massive set of tables of correspondence,
  • Gematria can be used to determine connections between words, names and phrases,
  • Notariqan is used to create or explode magickal acronyms,
  • Temura is used to craft sigils or signatures from the names of various spirits.
As you can see, the Qabbalah is very useful and important, even if you are a pagan or a witch. If you practicing ritual magick, the Qabbalah is a critically important tool for determining analogies and connections between different symbologies. We will get deeper into these techniques and methodologies in future articles.

Neoplatonic Elements Found in the Qabbalah

You might be wondering by now where all of the ideas and insights came from that were used to build up the discipline and knowledge base of the Qabbalah. I previously stated that a lot of the ideas for the Qabbalah came from Neoplatonism, and that is why the product is more like a heterodoxy than representative of a purely monotheistic religion. This why some orthodox jews reject the Qabbalah, and many Christians are suspicious of its tenets, and rightly so. To follow the philosophical beliefs of the Qabbalah is to admit to the possibility of multiple aspects or attributes of the Deity. The Qabbalah is a monist based philosophy, but that does not give it any purchase with a strict monotheistic definition of Deity - they are in fact, incompatible. If Jews or Christians are also Qabbalists, then their concept of Deity would have to be very mutable, which would make them occultists who would espouse a very esoteric definition of their religious faith.

The reason that the Qabbalah is incompatible with a strict monotheistic definition of Deity is because its roots are in Neoplatonism, which was a system of philosophy that was inherently pagan and polytheistic, even though it had developed a decided monist perspective. Most of the concepts that I have already explained as central to the Qabbalah were first described and elucidated by the Neoplatonists of the third and fourth century C.E., most notably, Plotinus and Iamblichus. Iamblichus is important because he postulated a system of Theurgy that later became the impetus for the birth of modern ritual and ceremonial magick.

Neoplatonism taught that there was a greater godhead or source of all of the gods, which was called the One, and also the Good. The One was thought to be pre-existent, self-begotten and fully self-determined. That One also existed as the greater union of all of the gods, goddesses, daimons, demigods, spirits and souls in existence. The One, which was also called the Good, was the cause and source of all things, thus nature itself was good. Not only was nature inherently good, but all things in the natural world ultimately led back to the One.

The material world was created by a nested process called emanation, through which the One proceeded to generate three levels extending out from itself. These four levels were called the Hypostasis of the One, Intelligence, Soul and Body. The Hypostasis of Intelligence represented the Universal Mind which contained the Platonic forms or ideas. The Hypostasis of Soul was the producer and organizer of the sensible. There was the group or collective Soul of the World, known as the Anima Mundi, and there was the souls of individual people. The Body, of course, was the natural world, animated and ensouled by an interpenetrating of the essence of the One.

The process of creation involved what was called procession, where the higher level would automatically and without intention or will, generate the level below itself, which in turn, led the next level, creating the level below it. There was a natural tendency to “process” from the highest One to the many, and there was a corresponding pull attracting the many back to the One, which was called the return. The act of creation in no way diminished or diluted the source, since there was no dissipation of power from higher to lower. The higher was unaffected by the act of creating the lower, since it created without movement, inclination or will. It retained its integrity and wholeness, and did not need to engage with what it created, since the created lower level automatically inherited the structure and order of the higher. The full cycle of creation always involved a procession and a return, with a later stage called Abiding added in, which represented the state of immanence preceding creation. The Neoplatonists also consider the process of emanation to be continuous, infinite and outside of space and time, which is pretty much the same as what the Qabbalists thought about creation via the Tree of Life.

Iamblichus himself added an important rule, which he called the Law of Mean Terms. This law stated that in order for there to be any kind of communication or linkage between two things, that a third thing that acts as a mediator between the two must exist. This concept of intermediation is applied to all levels, which produces a seamless bonding between all levels of creation. Thus the concept of levels and divisions completely disappears, making the universe dynamic and continuous. This is an important concept when thinking about the divisions in the Tree of Life, because of the Law of Mean Terms, there really isn’t any actual boundaries or divisions between the levels.

Another important point is that Neoplatonism freely mixed with another related discipline, and that was Neopythagoreanism. Iamblichus used Pythagorean concepts in his philosophy, and even wrote a biography on the life of Pythagorus. Many of the great philosophers of the first and second century subscribed to pythagorean beliefs and practices, including some of the Stoic precursors to Neoplatonism. If we substitute Plato’s ideal forms with pure numbers, and apply that to all of the rest of Neoplatonic philosophy, then something of the Neopythagorean perspective is derived. Because the Qabbalah uses numbers and letters in the structure of the Tree of Life, and in the creative emanation of the material universe, one could also see a Neopythagorean influence at work in the fashioning of the first major book on the Qabbalah, the Sepher Yetzirah. 

Now that we have gone over some of the more elementary components of Neoplatonism, it should be pretty obvious that the concept of emanation, the levels of hypostasis, the manner of creation, procession and return - all of these concepts are used in describing and explaining the Qabbalah. I could, of course, bring up even more concepts and ideas from Neoplatonism, but that would over emphasize the points that I have already made. While there were indeed original beliefs and perspectives that have a Jewish origin in the philosophical underpinnings of the Qabbalah, the more important concepts were taken and adapted from Neoplatonism. I think it’s sufficient to say that great ideas don’t need to be constantly reinvented, and that the Neoplatonic sources of the Qabbalah are neither problematic nor do they devalue the overall quality of what has been adaptively created.

If you want to read up and study Neoplatonism, and perhaps find the sources of my above statements, I would recommend the book “Neoplatonism” by R. T. Wallis (Bristoll Classical Press - 2002).

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Very Magickal Solstice 2010

December 21 - 5:38 PM CST

Whatever your religious, spiritual or magickal proclivities, on Tuesday, a very special and sacred religious holiday will occur. That event is the Winter Solstice, also called Yule by many pagans and witches, who celebrate the turning point in the solar light season where the light begins its ascent during the longest night of the year. Perhaps the simplest recognition of the Solstice is to light a candle during the day, then extinguish it once the sun sets, and then relight it for the first rays of dawn.

Yule 2010 is going to be a very special event, because not only is the Moon going to be full, but there will be an observable Lunar Eclipse taking place during that time as well. The combination of Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse is quite unique, occurring only once every 456 years. Still, while the actual solstice will take place during the late afternoon, the eclipse will take place very early in the morning. This will make the entire day, from just shortly after midnight on December 21 to a few hours before dawn, then again when the sun sets later that day, and finally, the dawning of the next day. If you can manage it, try to do something during that day, from midnight through dawn of the next day. You will be greatly rewarded by the wondrous and auspicious nature of this very special Yule event. 

Here are the times for the eclipse - in Central Standard Time (US).

12:33 AM CST - lunar eclipse begins, where a reddish brown shadow (called the umbra) will be cast over the face of moon.

1:41 AM CST - moon is fully eclipsed - this lasts until 2:53 AM CST.

4:01 AM CST - moon eclipse has fully passed.

So the entire event of the lunar eclipse will last for around three and a half hours. Sunrise will be around 7:49 AM CST, and sunset will be around 4:30 PM CST. During the eclipse, the moon will not be completely blocked of all light. It will take on a dark orange or dark red color, sort of like a “blood red” moon. The significance of the coloration of the moon, the lunar eclipse, full moon and Winter Solstice all happening at the same time I will leave to each and everyone, but it can’t but be significant and even profound.

Those of us who live in Minnesota, the weather forecast is light snow showers during the day, but supposedly cloudy both day and night, so it's possible that there won’t be much to observe up here, except perhaps for a deepening gloom of the night not long after midnight. Who knows, perhaps it might clear up, and I am hoping that it will. I have the whole period off from work, so I will be in the magick temple during this time, and also outside, laying out some offerings to the local gods in the grove.

Anyway, I would like to wish one and all a very happy, deep and renewing Yule. May you find all of the love, happiness and magick that you seek - in this season and the coming year.

Bright Blessings -

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thoughts About Retro-causality and Magick

Just the other day I happened to come across an article written by Cassandra Vieten on the Huffington Post web site. Casandra is a writer and researcher who is the Director of Research at the venerable Institute of Noetic Sciences, and is the author of “Mindful Motherhood.” Anyway, Cassandra wrote a very excellent article entitled “It's About Time: The Scientific Evidence for Psi Experiences, ” which would seem to answer my quandary about divination. You can find her article here. She has reported that in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), Cornell psychology professor Daryl Bem will publish a ground breaking article entitled “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.” In this article, the esteemed professor will present evidence from nine experiments involving over 1,000 subjects that will appear to show that future events may be able to influence events in the past. This is, of course, a concept called “retro-causality,” an idea that has been the subject of discussion and experimentation in Quantum Mechanics.

Some of the experiments reported by Dr. Bem showed that students were able to guess at future events in a frequency that was well beyond mere chance, in others, it appeared that the future was directly influencing the present. One might easily dismiss this evidence as the product of poor science or shoddy experimentation, but the paper has been vetted by peers and Dr. Bem has a reputation of being a very solid research scientist, in fact, his prominence is global and certainly beyond reproach. So it would seem, in a stroke, that Dr. Bem may have produced some definitive proof that human beings have the ability to sense and know events before they have happened, which is a form of PSI, psychism, or precognition. If Dr. Bem’s experiments can be replicated, and there is every indication that they can, then what does this say about occult methods of divination? Perhaps they are made more legitimate, since certainly, as more experimentation is done, scientists will begin to isolate more of the variables, such as certain individuals are more psychic than others, psychic phenomena will occur more frequently under certain circumstances, etc.

In a previous article that I wrote nearly a year ago, entitled “Thoughts About Magick and the Science of the Impossible,” I stated that divination had a problem with one of Newton’s laws, the third law of mechanics which deals with causality. Let me quote what I said at the pivotal moment of that article.

“Precognition is the power to predict a future event, it includes forms of clairvoyance and clairaudience. What that means is that in order for precognition to occur there would have to be a complete collapse of causality. According to Michio, one of the many sets of physical laws determined by Newton that appear to be inviolable is the law of cause and effect. In order for precognition to exist, the law of cause and effect would have to be altered, allowing effects to occur before their causes. One would assume that a person could only sense a future event if it were perceptible, and that perception in itself would violate causality, since it would predetermine effects. If such a phenomenon were possible, then causality itself would be nullified, causing the world to be physically inconsistent to an absurd degree. ”

As you can see from what I wrote, there appears to be a fundamental problem with the future affecting the outcome of the past, or where one would be able to sense the future from the standpoint of the present. It is Newton’s law of causality. There would have to be some powerful evidence that would force physicists to re-evaluation Newton’s law of causality. Well now, it would seem quite fortuitous that in the scientific field of Quantum Mechanics just such proof has been produced very recently.

For decades there has been a conundrum in Quantum Mechanics that kind of goes like this. Suppose you have two completely identical atoms of a radioactive substance. The first atom might undergo nuclear decay at one moment, and the other would decay at some point later in time. There isn’t any way of explaining why the two identical atoms would decay at different times from each other, given that they were identical. The only difference between them are the events of their decay, so scientists have speculated that perhaps there is a line of information from the future that informs the past. In other words, the information about when one identical atom will decay compared to another is not found in any variables in the past or present, but only in the future. This process, where the future informs the past, is called retro-causality. The mathematics for this process were determined decades ago, but the proof has only been shown to exist in the last couple of years. This interesting bit of news was reported in a Discovery magazine article back in April of this year. You can look over the Discover magazine article here. It’s entitled “Back From the Future” and was written by Zeeya Merali; it was also linked in Casandra’s article.

So what does all of this mean? It means that there appears to be a scientific basis to precognition after all, which had not been previously proven. It means that Newton’s law of causality has exceptions, and that divination and precognition can and does indeed occur. What we don’t yet know are the specific conditions and talents that make this process work. As further experiments are performed, it would indicate that the world will become much more complex and interesting than it had been, which had been so narrowly confined by the dictates of science. This would also downgrade precognition from a class four impossibility to class one or even less.

I myself have experienced all sorts of causality anomalies and time distortions while engaged in working magick and being completely immersed in its operant field. I have had experiences where divination predicted flawlessly what was going to happen, even though there are other times when it has produced results that were vague or completely wrong. Precognition is a very touchy phenomena, when it works, it’s incredible, when it fails, which is more often than not, it fails miserably. Maybe this means that the transmission of information from the future to the present isn’t always clear or perceptible. So with that in mind, all divination has to be taken with a very practical and slightly skeptical mind-set, otherwise one can be hugely led astray.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Furor Over Trials of the Moon

I recently wrote a review of Ben Whitmore’s self published book entitled “Trials of the Moon,” which found a number of problems with Ronald Hutton’s book “Triumph of the Moon.” You can find my review here. Needless to say, I did indeed read Whitmore’s book and found it concise and thought provoking. What it did is nothing more than the author set out to do, which is to remove the iconic status that Hutton has in some academic and pagan circles and show that not all of his arguments are to be equated with absolute truth. Some of Hutton’s arguments are not iron clad or irrefutable, but on whole, his work is to be considered monumental, ground-breaking, but not the last word on the subject. That’s all that the book “Trials of the Moon” had established as its scope. In no way did Whitmore seek to propose an alternative theory on the history of witchcraft and paganism, their potential survivals and their historically verifiable antecedents. His book does nothing more than just open the door for other studies and further work, a door, I might add, that some may have considered already closed. As a thinking and breathing human being, Ben Whitmore is entitled to his opinion, and if he so wishes, he may share it with others by posting it on the internet or publishing it as a book.

Lately, some individuals have taken it upon themselves to unfairly excoriate Whitmore and his book. First, he is criticized because the book is self-published, so we are to assume that it was published in this manner because no respectable publisher would have touched it. Then, Whitmore is criticized because he is not a reputable historian with the correct academic pedigree. So that would lead one to somehow conjecture, “How dare he even think of criticizing someone of Hutton’s stature!” Then, Whitmore is taken to task for his supposed “ethos” instead of actually looking in a critical manner at the arguments presented in his book, and then, of course, pondering on them, as I and others did. 

Chas Clifton dismissed Whitmore in his blog because he was another one of those tawdry self-published hacks, and then he linked to a rather harsh critique of this book, while admittedly not having bothered to read it himself. You can find his critique here. Of course, the blog article that started this whole imbroglio was penned by Peg at TheMediaWitches, who wrote what I thought was nothing less than an “ad hominem” attack on Whitemore and his ethos, but which seemed to miss the whole point that the book presented in the first place. Perhaps Peg read Whitmore’s book, but certainly not very carefully, nor did she ponder over any of the main arguments that “Trials of the Moon” attempted to make. Instead, we got something like this “Again, HUH? HUH?, I say.”

It isn’t very hard to mistake contempt and arrogance in the way that someone writes a critique. I found Peg’s review to be a sad kind of statement about being emotionally attached to ideas and individuals, and not being capable of reasoning in a dispassionate manner. The fact that both Chas and Peg are also brother and sister witches or pagans to Ben Whitmore makes the whole affair quite tragic. I guess it’s a lot easier to put a knife in the back of a brother all the while smiling and pretending to be their ally than it is to have a fair fight with a worthy opponent. Of course the obvious question is, why put a knife in the back of a brother?

The bottom line to all of this controversy is that we should all examine Whitmore’s book in a cool and dispassionate manner. Look at what he has to say and how he backs it up. Does he site his sources? Are the sources verifiable and do they indicate what he says they do? The fact that Ben Whitmore is not an academic and that his book is self-published is completely irrelevant. His arguments and their associated proof are the only valid areas for our unbiased consideration. We can agree with his thesis or not, and if not, then present in a civil manner exact areas where that thesis can’t be backed up with relevant facts. To dismiss someone simply because he doesn’t have the required academic credentials or because he is self-published shows a level of hubris and arrogance that truly astonishes me. That it comes from two individuals that I admire is even more astonishing.

It also disturbs me that certain individuals seem to have put Ronald Hutton on a pedestal and treat him like a demigod. Giving Hutton his due is important, but not at the expense of any other opinions or theories. As witches and pagans, we can benefit from the work that Hutton has done, but that work has only just begun - it is not yet complete. Other pieces of the puzzle have already been delivered, such as the two books published by Philip Heselton, and much more remains to be done. Doubtlessly, more information will be forthcoming, like the latest book just published by Emma Wilby on the witch trial of Isobel Gowdy. All that Whitmore has said is that we should keep an open mind and not accept anything written by anyone, no matter their reputation or stature, as the gospel truth.

It’s my hope that cooler heads will prevail in the future and that Ben Whitmore’s book will be given a proper and dispassionate examination by adherents and scholars alike. He is due no less regardless of his background or academic standing. Meanwhile, Whitmore’s book has given all of us a lot to think about, ponder, and discuss in an civil manner.

Frater Barrabbas

Qabbalah For Pagans and Witches - Part 1

Sorry - this blog article was removed pending the publication of “Magical Qabalah for Beginners” published by Llewellyn Worldwide - you can find this material in that book, published on January, 2013.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Art of Armadel, Theurgic Ascension and Sethian Gnosticism

We have already obliquely defined the art of Armadel as the art of disposition, and that such an art was dedicated to the acquiring and obtaining knowledge, wisdom, deep mystical insights and illumination - a kind of gnostic wisdom. We have also been able to determine how the magician would approach the grimoire and unlock its various sigil characters in order to obtain that knowledge. However, the biggest stumbling block to organizing the Grimoire of Armadel into a fully operational work is to organize, decipher and make sense out of the strange sub-chapters where the sigil characters are exhibited. In other words, we need to make thematic sense out of the two books, which are entitled as Book I, “Theosophy of Our Fathers”, and Book II, “Sacro-Mystic Theology of Our Fathers.” As they presently stand, there seems to be no pattern or structure to these two books.

A cursory glance at the sub-chapter headers for each of these books seems to only demonstrate a profound disorganized confusion and a seemingly obsessive focus on highly obscure biblical themes. What could possibly be gained from unlocking the sigil characters of Zaphkiel to have that spirit reveal the secrets of the lives of angels before the fall? One could acquire more insight by reading and studying Milton’s “Paradise Lost” than performing this operation. Even more absurd is the sigil character for Thaveal who reveals supposedly what transpired at the circumcision of Jesus at Nazareth. How do these operations aid the magician to obtain the coveted blessed state of illumination? This question goes unanswered, but it would seem that each of the sub-chapters would represent some kind of step or stage in the process of acquiring a god-like acquisition of the Spirit World and all that it contains.

As I have said previously, it is likely that the chaotic thematic nature of the books and sub-chapters would have to be exchanged for something that does make sense. I even proposed making use of certain Sethian Gnostic works that are near and dear to my heart, but before that can be done, I will need to determine the structure and operational use of these two books - to plumb their nature and function. Perhaps the only way to accomplish that task to is first step back from these two books and look at them in a more oblique manner.

Book I contains twenty-two sub-chapters, which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering that the grimoire has an obvious Qabbalistic bias. Book II contains sixteen sub-chapters, so it would represent a more earth-based mixture of good and evil, light and darkness, since the number sixteen is analogous to the Divine Tetrad emanating into physical manifestation.

The first book could be compared to the twenty-two paths of the Tree of Life as well as the Ten Sephiroth, which would accord some of the archangelic spirits a dual representation. The key to Book I is the occurrence of nine Hebrew letters thinly disguised as angelic spirits. One could assume that all of the sub-chapters in Book I are associated, either directly or indirectly, with the twenty-two paths of the Tree of Life. When Qabbalists encounter the pathways in some work, they realize that this indicates some kind of implied spiritual ascension. To walk the pathways is synonymous with ascending the planes through transformative initiation, ultimately achieving full union with the Absolute Spirit - the One. So the thematic function of Book I is to provide a catalyst for union with the Deity, which is a form of theurgistic ascension.

If we carefully look over the twenty-two sub-chapters, we can see that there are eleven archangels, nine Hebrew letters and one Olympian spirit. Samael is listed twice, and the attributes of Haniel and Anael both refer to the Sephirah Netzach. The sub-chapter “Concerning Pythene - Abuses of Necromancy,” which is attributed to Samael, and the sub-chapter “Concerning the Nature of the Genii,” which is attributed to Anael, could both be swapped for two sub-chapters in the second book so that each of the attributes of the first book would be unique, refering to qualities that are not influenced by demonic spirits. For this reason, I would pull the sub-chapter “Concerning the Life of the Angels Before the Fall,” which is attributed to Zaphkiel, and the sub-chapter “Concerning the Creation of Angels,” which is attributed to Och, from the second book and put them into the first book, thus allowing all of the attributes to be unique. So we now have twenty-two unique attributes containing the first nine pathways, followed by eleven Sephiroth (Samael is now accorded to Daath) and two planetary Olympian spirits, which are Mars and the Sun.

With the all of the attributes determined, the twenty-two sub-chapters of the first book can be directly associated with the twenty-two paths of the Tree of Life, where the paths begin at the lowest level and ascend to the highest level. Since the first nine paths at the highest order are already determined, it’s only necessary to find attributes for the remaining thirteen paths. This was accomplished, but the results were less than satisfactory, since the top three Sephiroth were already fully allocated to the top nine pathways; less troublesome were the two planets, Mars and the Sun. However, the list of archangels, angels and planetary spirits can now be grouped in a logical order, beginning with the bottom most path (Thav) and ascending to the top (Aleph). I have determined the following list of spirits, but I would assume that others might come up with a slightly different list. (The two paths with an asterisk were taken from Book II.)

1. Caphael (Thav)
2. Michael (Shin)
*3. Och - Sun (Resh)
*4. Zaphkiel (Qoph)
5. Gabriel (Tzaddi)
6. Phaleg - Mars (Peh)
7. Samael (A’in)
8. Raphael (Samek)
9. Haniel (Nun)
10. Camael (Mim)
11. Uriel (Lamed)
12. Zadkiel (Kaph)
13. Thavael (Yod)
14. Tetehatia (Tet)
15. Hathatia (Chet)
16. Zainael (Zain)
17. Vau-Ael (Vav)
18. Hetael (Heh)
19. Dalate (Daleth)
20. Gimela (Gimmel)
21. Bethel (Beith)
22. Alepta (Aleph)

The second book contains sixteen sub-chapters, and looking over the spurious topics, it would seem that there are eight sub-chapters associated with diabolic themes, three associated with the Deity, three associated with humanity, and two miscellaneous topics (paths of wisdom and knowledge of good angels). As I have already said, sixteen sub-chapters are synonymous to the sixteen elementals. If we are able to attribute positive and negative qualities to these elementals, we would come up with eight negative and eight positive ones. This is done by making a relative determination that Fire and Air are positive, and Water and Earth are negative. That means that combining the elements using only positive to positive and negative to negative attributed elements will produce four combinations that are positive, and four that are negative. When combining a positive element with a negative element, if the top element is positive, then the resulting elemental will be positive; conversely, if the top element is negative, then the resulting elemental will be negative. Using this simple rule, four positive and four negative elementals will be produced - giving a total of eight positive and negative elementals. The following list should make my proposed structure quite clear.

1. Fire of Fire (pos.) - Cassiel (God universally One)
2. Air of Air (pos.) - Michael (God as Trinity)
*3. Water of Water (neg.) - Samael (Concerning Pythene)
4. Earth of Earth (neg.) - Lucifer, Belzebut, Astarot (Angelic Rebellion and Expulsion)
5. Fire of Air (pos.) - Gabriel (God as Preserver, Destroyer, Creator)
6. Air of Fire (pos.) - Spirits/Angels of Power, Joy and Love (Three Paths of Wisdom)
7. Water of Earth (neg.) - Hemostopile/Mephistopheles (Invisible Devils)
8. Earth of Water (neg.) - Brufor (Binding Devils)
9. Fire of Water (pos.) - Zadkiel, Sachiel (Knowing Good Angels)
10. Fire of Earth (pos.) - Phul, Gabriel (Life of Man)
11. Air of Water (pos.) - Ophiel (Regeneration of Adam)
12. Air of Earth (pos.) - Aratron (Destiny of Man)
13. Water of Fire (neg.) - Bethor (Devils and their lives)
14. Water of Air (neg.) - Asmode, Leviatan (Binding Devils)
*15. Earth of Fire (neg.) - Anael (Nature of the Genii)
16. Earth of Air (neg.) - Laune (Knowledge of Devils and Banishing them)

Notice that numbers three and fifteen were pulled from the first book.

I have now given a structure and an organization to the two books where little or none had existed previously. The names of the two books could also be considered spurious, so in my opinion, better names for them would look something like this:

Book I - Ascension of the Initiate Into the Heart of God,

Book II - Descent of Spirit into Light and Darkness - the Heart of Mankind.

These two names would be much more functionally useful, so I will use them instead of what was used in the original grimoire. Therefore, it would appear that the two books now have a completed theme and structure, which consists of a theurgistic ascension and then a descent, ostensibly, to redeem and regenerate the material world with the product of that ascension. This brings us to our next consideration, and that is elaborating on the specific themes for all of the sub-chapters, since what is listed and elucidated in the original grimoire seems quite superficial and even extraneous. I am proposing, of course, to institute a completely different theme altogether; yet one that will further and deepen the thematic structures already solidly determined.

Neoplatonism, Sethian Gnosticism and Cultic Ascension

Spiritual ascension, as determined by the practice of theurgy or religious rites, has many mythic and metaphysical exponents in the Western Mystery tradition, beginning with late classical times and continuing through the modern age. This is not a new spiritual perspective, by no means, and we can therefore pick and choose from any number of pagan, Christian, gnostic, Masonic, Rosicrucian, alchemical, occultic or even neopagan perspectives. However, the structures of the two books have determined at least that the basic foundation will be qualified by the Qabbalah, regardless of the system used. What may not be completely realized is that this underlying theme will allow us to choose something that hearkens back to the Neoplatonic roots that they all share. Still, if I am going to build a specific theme from a known tradition, I should state my reasons for doing so, and also apply that tradition to the existing underlying structure. That, of course, is my next objective. (I will keep in mind that everyone else is free to pick and choose their own source tradition to work with this grimoire.)

For the past several years I have been reading and studying the written works of an obscure Gnostic group called by scholars, Sethians or Barbeloites. They are called this because they believed that they represented a secret line from the third son of Adam, who was known as Seth. Whereas all of the people who considered themselves Jews could mythically claim to descend from this remote biblical ancestor, the Sethians believed that they represented an exclusive or rare lineage. Sethians also appeared to believe in a spiritual being whom they called Barbello, a feminine Spirit or Goddess like entity who, along with the ineffable and unnameable One, generated the host of entities who were collectively called the Pleroma (fullness). If you could imagine a Qabbalistic system consisting of the Sephiroth Kether through Hod, excluding Yesod and Malkuth, then that would be a good approximation of the Pleroma.

Was this lineage that the Sethians wrote about a secret blood line? No one appears to know - the last Sethians probably disappeared before the fall of Rome. Yet looking over their texts, they seemed to promote a secret teaching and represent an esoteric lineage of individuals, who happened to chose a specific biblical patriarch to mythically represent their cult, rather than a rare blood line. The Sethian cult probably emerged out of Alexandria, and it may have initially contained a splinter group of esoteric Jews, however their religious beliefs were based much more on a deep antinomian interpretation of Jewish religious beliefs and traditions, making them more like a counter movement. They seemed to have engaged in some form of baptism or ritual immersion, although whether that rite involved any kind of water is unknown - it may have been more like a cultic initiation. They also appear to have practiced forms of Neoplatonic theurgy and extensively used the philosophical constructs of emanationism, the three Hypostases, cultic ascension and salvation through spiritual wisdom (gnosis). The Sethians would have found the modern Qabbalah to be a system very close to their own doctrines and beliefs, since both drew heavily from the same Neoplatonic sources. Therefore, their writings should be capable of being interpreted and understood from a Qabbalistic perspective, which would server a dual purpose of determining the sub-chapters of the grimoire and defining the specific gnostic scriptures.

Perhaps in many ways, the Sethians seemed to mix, in a heterogeneous manner, pagan philosophy, gnostic and Jewish beliefs and practices. They were also reputed to engage in some kind of practical sex magick and erotic sacramentation, at least according to their Christian polemicists. I have found these ancient practitioners and their beliefs to be surprisingly very similar to my own, even though the context of my practices are rooted in a post-modern setting, and the Sethians existed in antiquity. I am a polytheist pagan, but also a monist (in the Neoplatonic definition of that term), who practices ritual magick and theurgy. Qabbalah and Angelogy are very much a part of my occult work, so what I do has elements of Jewish Neoplatonism blended into it.

Reading over the surviving books from the Nag Hamadi collection has shown me that the Sethians and their spiritual perspectives are very similar to my own. Therefore, I believe that two of their texts, the “Apocryphon of John” and the “Trimorphic Protenoia” would be quite suitable to act as the thematic basis for the two books in the Grimoire Armadel. I also believe that certain sections and text can be also taken from the “Three Stele of Seth” and the “Secret Gospel of the Egyptians.” The latter two documents are actually rituals; the Stele documents were used in a fragmented cultic ascension rite, and the Gospel of the Egyptians was a baptism/initiation rite.

I will select specific textual parts from these documents and use them to give a gnostic-pagan Qabbalistic theme to the Grimoire of Armadel. However, before I do that, I will need to carefully analyze, examine these four books, beginning with a general overview as well as highlighting those sections that are very pertinent to the work of the grimoire. We are looking for twenty-two sub-chapters that will be used to build a form of theurgistic ascension, and also sixteen sub-chapters that represent the descent into matter and the provenance of daimonic intermediaries of the Godhead. With these points in mind, and the internal qualifications of the twenty-two paths and the sixteen elementals, we have our work cut out for us. 

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Brief Overview of Sigil Magick

Sigil - pronounced like “sidjel.”

Sigil Magick is defined as a magickal system that makes use of occult characters, diagrams, condensed verbal intentions, geometric symbols, mystical alphabets, angular signatures of spirits and other kinds of symbolic or hieroglyphic representations. The word sigil comes from the Latin word sigilum, which means “seal.” Of additional significance is the Hebrew word SGULH or sagulah, which means “some kind of word or action” that has a specific spiritual or magickal impact. The use of sigils in magick has its roots in antiquity, possibly from Hebrew sources, since sigils often accompanied magickal squares, which were used extensively in the Jewish tradition of ceremonial magick.

Most often, sigils, or specialized characters, were incorporated into grimoires and had a traditional use, requiring the wielder to copy them exactly as depicted, even though they had to have been invented by someone at some point in history. These kinds of sigils were carefully crafted using very specific techniques (and not derived from either imagination or revelation), but the methodology used for their creation is typically missing from those same works. (A good example that shows how these sigils were developed can be found in Donald Tyson’s version of “Three Books of Occult Philosophy” originally written by Agrippa - particularly Appendix V on Magick Squares (Llewellyn 1997).)

Some believe that magickal sigils or characters have a power and potency all to themselves, others believe that a sigil has to be activated, at the very least, by the imagination and will of a trained and competent magician. Some grimoires are notorious for the sigils and characters that they contain, lending weight to the superstition that sigils have an independent volition quite separate from whoever invented or wields them. Most often, sigils are reputed to be the specialized symbolic names of angels, demons or various spirits, and the sigil is used to summon and evoke them. This makes a sigil similar in some ways to the “Veve” as found in Haitian Vodoun. Still, sigils used as the symbolic name of a spirit assumes that the sigil is a more pure and direct representation of that spirit’s true nature, and of course, whoever knows the “true” name or nature of a spirit has direct power over it.

When I perform an invocation or an evocation, I will employ a sigil crafted from the name of the target spirit. That sigil can be derived from a number of sources, but I generally use the Rose diagram from the Golden Dawn Rose Cross, which has the Hebrew letters drawn on the three concentric circles of petals, representing the triple division of those same letters (3 mother letters, 7 double letters and 12 single letters). One could also derive a spirit sigil from one of the appropriate magickal planetary squares, depending on the spirit’s hierarchical association, since there are different squares for each of the seven planets. There is also the Aiq Bkr magickal square that can be used to craft a sigil from a spirit’s name.

Essentially, a sigil is a visual magickal sign of some sort, whether it’s taken from some traditional body of magickal lore (grimoire or tradition), or created by the magician to represent the name of a spirit or to encapsulate a specific intention or desire. Manufacturing sigils became the hallmark of the famous British witch and sorcerer, Austin Osman Spare, who proposed a system of creating sigils by condensing and extracting the forms of the letters from a phrase that stated the magician’s intent. Spare called this methodology “sigilization,” and it was later adopted by Chaos magicians and others who use it as an independent system of magick. Sigilization is employed for casting spells, organizing and deploying an “alphabet of desire” for the same, or building up thought forms. However, it is probably one of the most direct and useful methods for creating a magickal link that I ever seen or experienced.

First, let me define what a magickal link is, and why it’s important in certain kinds of ritual magick. A link is employed whenever a magician seeks to make something happen in the material world. It is usually tangible in some manner and it should model or symbolize the magician’s intention. A link is a symbolic quality that establishes a connection between the magician, his desire, the magickal power raised and the intended target, whatever that happens to be.

In archaic forms of magick, the link was usually something that was directly “linked” or attached at some point to the target, such as hair, finger nail parings, blood, jewelry or clothing, if the target was to be a person. If the target was more general, then the link consisted of herbs, power objects (stones, crystals, odd shaped pieces of wood), bird or animal parts (or even human parts), bits of metal (magnets, nails) or other curious odds and ends collected while on the hunt for internal occult connections. A table of correspondences would also help the magician sort out and select analogous items consisting of colors, incense, herbs, gem stones, precious and semi-precious metals - the list is nearly endless.

These various objects would be put together in an artistic manner to symbolize the intent, such as piercing an apple with rusty nails, piercing dried organs or herbs with thorns, or creating a poppet or miniature human shape out of wax or some tuber, adorning it with bits of hair, finger nails or cloth, and then baptizing and naming it for the intended target. The objects would be blessed, charged, assembled, and the final product would be used in a spell to make something happen. The completed link object could be put in a metal container or a bottle, a leather or cloth pouch, and either kept, buried or burned. In some cases words could be printed on the object, or perhaps even a scrap of cloth or paper could be used to contain drawings and words or names. In antiquity, curses were drawn and written out on lead sheets, folded and dropped into a well or stuck between the stones of the victim’s home.

Organic or inorganic links are called “gross links” because they are made from organic or inorganic materials, where the actual physical form and structure determines its use and intended purpose. Writing something down on a parchment, paper, cloth or a thin sheet of metal is a very different kind of link. A drawing or writing represents a transitional kind of magickal object, becoming more of what I call a symbolic link, since it uses symbolic forms to depict and establish the link.

A symbolic link is more versatile than a gross link, which is normally used just once. A symbolic link often caries no trace of any previous spell on it, so it can be reused for other purposes. A link that could be fashioned to be used multiple times would require that the original intent was the same. For instance, you could fashion a symbolic link for acquiring money, use it for yourself, and then at another time, use it for a friend. So long as there were no identifying factors or names, a general symbolic link can serve multiple purposes.

In the energy model or theory of magick, a link is used to imprint the raised energy before it’s exteriorized to fulfill the magician’s intention. The raised energy can be highly qualified, or not, but it still has to be imprinted with the magician’s desire. In the system of magick that I use, a sigil is employed to facilitate the instrumentation of a link. The act of imprinting the energy is where the magician wills the link, in the form of a sigil, and the raised energy into a unified field. (This technique will be discussed in more detail later in another section.)

Crafting a sigil to be used as a link doesn’t usually trigger it’s inherent effect or cause the desire to become manifest by itself. This is because one needs to charge or consecrate the sigil after fashioning it, and then apply it as a link within a magickal working where the energy is raised. Others may perform sigil magick as an independent magickal mechanism, so in that situation it’s possible that the act of crafting it might actually trigger the spell.

Since it is my habit to always craft a sigil just prior to performing a working (and I have never, to my knowledge, crafted one without it being used in a working), it would be difficult for me to judge whether the act of crafting the sigil prematurely triggered a working. I just know that in order for a ritual working to be successful, a link must be fashioned and used to imprint the energy. The two magickal operations performed sequentially are being blended together, but it’s possible to fulfill a working with just the internalized application of the link. Now that I have explained how I use sigilization in my magickal workings, I should probably describe how to actually craft a sigil.

The general rule for crafting a sigil is to start out by writing a phrase that encapsulates the intention of the rite. It should be written in upper case, then the phrase is reduced to a simple pictographic diagram through a process of reduction and simplification, where the curves, lines, and intersected forms of those actual letters are reduced to a unique set and reassembled into a kind of logo.

Let’s go through the steps that one would typically follow to produce a sigil, keeping in mind that there are a lot of variations and methods used in this technique. How I do it may not be exactly the same as how others do it, but each practitioner will ultimately find a technique that works for them.

1. Write out a phrase of your intent; make it as simple and specific as possible. You can also eliminate words like “I” or “desire” or “will” from the phrase since that would be redundant. Just state what you intend or seek to make happen.

To make things easier, you will want to print this phrase out in all capital letters, but actually, I prefer to add the nuance of having larger and smaller letters in the mix. Using all caps actually helps to reduce the number of linear forms in the sample of extracted letters.

The act of succinctly stating one’s intention also helps to simplify and refine the intention of a work. It’s better to reduce the intention down to one thing. If you are seeking to make more than one thing happen, then you should employ more than one phrase and then build multiple sigils from them. (It might also be necessary to perform separate workings for each sigil link as well.)

2.  Looking over the phrase, from left to right, eliminate all redundant letters - or letters that occur more than once. Now the phrase should just have all of the unique letters in the order that they first occur.

3. Next, eliminate letters that are variations of each other, for instance, “M” and “W” are analogous to each other. Break out of the letters the various analogous structures, like the cross bar in the “E”, “R”, “F”, “A”, “H” or “G”, the curve in the “B”, ‘C”, “D”, “G”, “J”, “P”, “R”, “S” or “U”, and the vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines that are found in the remaining letters. All of the these forms are reduced down to a single form, or dual forms facing left or right. The “O” can become a small circle or it can be fused with the rest of the curves, being a left and right curve joined together. What you have now are just single incidences of multiple structures (essential forms) arrayed in a line, like letters.

4. Assemble the line of essential structural forms together again to create a condensed linear form, which should look something like a pictographic representation or logo of the original phrase. This last step may require several attempts to find a final structure that “looks” elegant and interesting to the eye. You can fashion a single sigil form, or multiple sigils. Using multiple iterations to build a sigil makes for a less cluttered final sigil structure. If you are going to use a name in your sigil, then I would recommend making that a separate sigil form from the actual intention.

The point of this exercise is to produce a final structure that is simplistic, looks something like a pictograph of the intention, and the letters used in the original phrase can still be perceived in the final shape, although this last condition is not as important as creating a memorable pictograph.

I usually have to make four or five passes using this process before I am able to condense the form down to something that is esthetically pleasing and interesting to look at. Austin Spare was something of a graphic genius when it came to this kind representation (he could probably do it automatically and in one pass), but you don’t have to measure your results by that very high standard.

While working out the sigil, I will use a pencil on a scrap of paper, but the final form will be rendered on parchment with a special water-proof ink. It could also be painted on a piece of board, cloth, etched on metal, or even drawn on the floor or wall of your temple. However it is finally done, it will become an important magickal instrument, so the act itself should be executed as if it were a magickal rite, with the intention of the sigil and its associated desire strongly fixated in the mind of the magician.

Once the sigil is crafted, it will need to be consecrated if it’s to be used in a magickal working. This step is not followed by many who use sigilization magick, but this is how I do it, and it keeps the sigil from being too active until its intended use. I will consecrate the sigil with just a spot of lustral water (carefully applied with a wand) and then fumigated over an incense burner just before performing the working. For the sigil of a spirit, I would use consecrated wine, leaving a small stain on the corner as a sign that the sigil parchment has been activated.

Although I don’t actually work sigil magick without also performing a working of some kind, the basic idea behind it is to fill the mind with an emotional charge associated with the desire or intention so that no other thoughts or feelings are possible. This is a type of powerful obsession, often accompanied with a deep focused trance. This mind state is gradually built up through the process of crafting the sigil and then it’s elevated once the sigil is committed to its final form, executed in ink on parchment, or in whatever media is elected. The magician holds the sigil before his sight, focusing on the image of the design (not the words that were used to build it), while the emotional sentiments associated with the spell are worked to a climax. Then the sigil is either destroyed or set aside and promptly forgotten, allowing the image of the sigil to work in one’s unconscious mind. The magician can generate an intensely focused climax in a number of different ways, such as an orgasmic release through sex magick, masturbation, or even assuming Spare’s Death Posture. Yet often just intensely focusing the mind for a period of time and then quickly releasing it, is sufficient to obtain a good result. 

I should probably mention two other methods that are used to create a sigil device. These are the methods of fashioning a mantra or using condensed pictures. The mantra technique is similar to the word based sigil, except the reduced set of letters and vowels are arranged to spell out a magickal word or formula. It will most likely (though not always) be a nonsense word, but it will symbolize a specific intent. It will function as a barbarous magickal word of power, which can be used in a chant or as a mantra. A sigil derived from a picture or symbolic images (such as the symbols for the elements, planets, astrological signs, alchemical symbols, or even international traffic signs) uses the same methodology as stated in steps 3 and 4 for building a word sigil, where the forms are broken apart, condensed and reassembled.

That’s briefly how to formulate and use sigils as links in the discipline of ritual magick. This is based completely on how I do it, so of course, there will be a lot of possible variations. I doubt that two magicians who use this technique do it exactly in the same manner, but I believe that I have revealed the basic steps that most would follow. A more thorough resource on the art of sigil magick is to be found in the book “Practical Sigil Magic” by Frater U.D. (Llewellyn, 1990), which I heartily recommend.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, December 10, 2010

Art of Statue Animation - Making a Magickal Eidolon

One of the most often discussed and reported magickal phenomenon found in the notorious god-making passages of the Hermetic Corpus (found in Asclepius III, sect. 23b, 24a) is the ability to animate a statue. What is meant by this is to somehow cause the spirit of a deity or daimon to reside in the statue, so that giving it offerings and devotions will give the magician an intimate target with which to engage. One could also assume that the deity or daimon would also be able to directly aid and bless the magician. What this doesn’t mean is building an electronically fully animated statue ala Disney’s animatronics that has no recognizable link with the Godhead, although such a device could act as the basis for being inhabited by a spirit, but actually, any statue will do quite nicely.

It would seem that one of the divergent capabilities of mastering the discipline of theurgia would be the animation of a statue with a spirit. I say divergent because the aforementioned book doesn’t present this capability as either an important or a critical point in the overall exposition. I would assume that the author in antiquity, briefly referring to this magickal effect, was stating what could be possible when pursuing the really important task of spiritual ascension and union with the One. I will quote the requisite passage to reveal that although mentioned, the what, where and how is mysteriously omitted.

“I mean statues, but statues living and conscious, filled with the breath of life, and doing many mighty works..”

The Church condemned this belief as a form of idolatry and saw it as the obvious worship of demons, even though many church statues were considered icons that had the power to bestow blessings and miraculous healing. The church would perform a kind of consecration, where a newly erected statue of a saint or an apostle would be blessed with holy water and incense during a votive mass, but it was the unquestioning faith of the people who saw these statues as emblems of divine power and grace that made them truly holy relics. Renaissance magicians, however, had no problem using unsanctioned statues and other devices for their reconstitution of Hermetic magick, but few had ever really written down (as far as I am aware) directions that would show how to make such a thing.

Years ago, as a ritual magician of no small ability, I decided to see if I could figure out how to do this operation within the context of my own system of magick. Not only was I intrigued by the Hermetic legend, but I also was exposed to the “statue as god” practices from a friend who was deeply involved in Voudoun and Santeria. I was also exposed to Michael Bertiaux and some of his heterodoxical voudoun and European magick.  Still, I needed to develop a methodology that would work within my own personal system.

Basically, I concluded that the requirements for crafting a statue that housed an aspect of the Godhead would have the following requirements:

1. An appropriate statue of that deity or some other analogous form made out stone or metal,
2. To place an energy field into the statue that would be perpetual, self-regenerating and whose characteristics would be analogous to the aspect of Godhead,
3. Perform a Godhead invocation through a gateway structure that would draw that Godhead and powerfully associate it with the statue,
4. Engage the statue in a mystery working where that Godhead aspect can communicate, bless and empower me and whatever else I magickally seek to impact.

So the first task would be to find an appropriate statue made out a material that would be amendable to the working. That would eliminate anything that is made out plaster, plastic or cheap metal (aluminum). It would also make the statue more expensive and perhaps even something of an object d’art. I had three statues that were made out of pressed alabaster, and therefore, were perfect for this work. They could also be made out pressed resin as well, since a lot of beautiful museum replicas are made out that substance these days.

The second requirement was, at first, something of a conundrum. How would I apply a perpetual charge to the statue. I thought this over and came to the conclusion that I could charge the statue like it was a talisman, which in sense, it was. The best charging mechanism that I had in my repertoire was the generation of a talismanic elemental, which is the combination of a planetary intelligence fused within an element charge. A talismanic elemental can also be invoked as one of the Enochian Seniors, as well as one of the Lunar Mansions. I chose to work with this specific perpetual charge as both an energy and a spirit, thus embodying the statue with a base line energy field that would hold and contain the particular godhead that I sought to invoke into it. So for each of the three statues, I would choose a specific talismanic elemental charge. I had a total of twenty-eight different constructs from which to choose. Timing would be an important factor, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to perform the invocation of the talismanic elementals whenever I chose, but it would have to be done when the Moon was waxing and when it entered into the targeted Lunar Mansion.

My three goddess statues provided me with the inspiration to choose the planet Venus for a talismanic elemental for each, so I chose Venus of Fire, Venus of Water and Venus of Air. Thus I had the charge determined for these three statues. The working called for a fourth talismanic elemental to be invoked and set to charge a special consecrated crystal - for that, I chose Venus of Earth. So all four element variations of Venus had been selected to be used in this working. Now on to the next step, where I would have to figure out how to do a Godhead invocation and somehow get it to materialize in the statue.

The key to getting an aspect of the Godhead to dwell in a statue was to be found in the ancillary rite used by the order to set a talismanic charge, called the Talismanic Elemental Application rite. This rite sets up a proper and powerful field in the target object that is to be charged. I will quote a section from that rite, which will establish the base for the applying of a charge, and help us visualize and determine the next step.

“The basic structure of this ritual consists of an Inverted Pentagram of Spirit Feminine that is set in the center of the circle, representing the Holy Feminine Spirit descending and bestowing its manifest blessings. This central power object is surrounded by a potent vortex that is generated with four hexagrams erected in the four Angles. The object to be charged is placed upon the sigil of the Talismanic Elemental in the center of the circle. The magician may use a central altar to perform this operation and focus the rite.”

So an inverted pentagram of spirit feminine is set in the center of the circle in the ultra-point, symbolizing the descent of grace and spiritual power into a material frame work, which is the target object. There is also a vortex consisting of four unicursal hexagrams in the four angles, embedded in a crossroads energy structure with another unicursal hexagram set to the infra-point, energizing the nexus point where the crossroads meet. The hexagrams set in the four angles are drawn to invoke the planetary intelligence of the Sun, and the one in the center of the circle is set to the Moon - thus creating a powerful vortex polarity of Light and Darkness, Solar and Lunar aspects.

As a form of preparation, the statue is sprinkled with holy or lustral water and then anointed with holy oil. These sacraments have been prepared through a votive mass. Other sacraments, such as wine and a host, may be kept in reserve after the Mass to use in this working.

Using the powerful ritual structure that is already in place, the magician then performs a ritual to summon the Godhead, in this case, one of the three Goddesses that I sought to work with. I will quote from the directions in the ritual “Enneagramic Gate of the Goddess.”

“The Celebrant then draws a great [Rose] Ankh in the Ultrapoint and seals it with a colored energy, depending on the nature of the Deity. The Celebrant then intones the Invocation of the Goddess and implores her to manifest and reside (in part) within the Eidolon - which the statue has now become.

When the above steps are completed for each of the Eidolons, the Celebrant shall light an offering of incense before it and then proceeds to anoint the statue a second time, thus sealing the power [and spirit of the godhead] into it.”

In addition, the magician may also give or feed the statue an offering consisting of a consecrated host particle dipped in consecrated wine. The statue is now fully activated and has a resident aspect of the Godhead fully active within it. It will, of course, require periodic feeding and rites of devotion and adoration, but that is the responsibility of the magician as priest. It is an obligatory part of his or her personal magickal religious cult, and should never be neglected. What I have done at this point in the working is set up a shrine of the three goddesses, and decorated it with power objects, other god statues (to keep them company), and periodically gave them offerings of flowers, incense and devotions, and consecrated sacrament to feed and keep them active.

The Fourth and final step is engaging the living statue in some kind of powerful mystery rite, one where that Godhead can be deeply and magnificently integrated into the spiritual process of the magician. How this is done is to incorporate a gateway of the mysteries and build a kind of mystikon (telesterion) where the Deity may intimately commune with the magician. Because I chose three goddesses who had a special primacy in my personal pantheon, I used a triple gateway consisting of nine points, or an Enneagram to establish a mystikon for all three of them. What this structure looks like is quite simple. It consists of a Western Gateway, a Southern Gateway and a Northern Gateway. You can consider that the west is the gate of darkness, the south is the gate of the summer solstice (ascension of light), and the north, is the gate of the winter solstice (death and rebirth).

An enneagram gateway structure is erected only when all three of the statues have been completely animated with the charged aspect of the Godhead, so until that task is completed, the triple gateway mystery can’t be done. Thus this rite of the triple gateway is performed with all three active goddess statues. Each gateway is erected and established for each of the three goddesses, starting with the north, then the west, and completing with the south. In this manner, an anticlockwise progression is established, producing a further vortex-like energy signature. The magician has now progressed through three gateways and is at the very center of the triple mysteries associated with the triple godhead. Achieving this point is quite a momentous and powerful magickal experience, but there is still more that needs to be done.

The magician then invokes the Talismantic Elemental of Venus of Earth and uses the Application Ritual to charge a specially selected crystal placed in the center of the circle. This can be done prior to the working, or it can be done in the very center of the working. I chose to make this talisman prior to the triple gateway, so instead of building up yet another structure in the center of the circle, I just brought out the crystal and set it up with the three statues of the goddess in their shrine, as mentioned previously.

Once this is done, then the magician takes the transmutar wand and draws all nine nodes of the gate structures together through the center of the circle in the ultra-point beginning with the Western Watchtower, and then ending after transiting the Northwest, North, Southeast, South, and Southwest. Now the enneagram is fully established and all four element aspects of the talismanic elemental of Venus are deployed.

When all three gateways are established, then the magician sets an inner circle in the center of the consecrated magick circle, proceeding in a sunwise direction. This inner circle has the quality of fusing all of the three gateways into a singularity, and the sunwise direction establishes a counter movement against the negative vortex, intensifying the energy at the center. An enneagramic trigon is placed in the center of the circle to establish the confluence of the nine points of the triple gateway.

Finally, the magician performs the opening of the portal gesture before the inner circle and steps into it. Then he or she declares the combined gateway keyword formula for all three gates and summons the combined power of the triple godhead. This completes the erection of the inner mystikon, and the magician then sits in the center of the circle and meditates in silence while communing with the combined godhead. He/She may place before that Deity composite shrine offerings and also sigils of his or her personal desires. When this communion is at an end, the magician backs out of the center of the circle and bows low before it. The three gateways are then sealed with sealing spirals, locking them for future use.

The final action is where the magician erects and projects an Eastern Gateway that represents an ascension into the light, as well as an exteriorization of all that was established in the mystikon. The ritual may be completed, but it can be revisited whenever the magician has need of communing with the triple powers of the combined Deity, through the artifice of three fully animated and empowered statues of the Godhead. To revisit, the magician performs a macro rite, that consists of the basic elements of the mystikon rite without all of the elaborate structures that were required to erect it the first time.

So that’s my detailed solution to fully animating a statue with a summoned and invoked Godhead aspect. I have tested it and the methodology works quite well. What this does is add a potent dimension to the devotions and priest-like obligations of the magician, and it gives him or her the ability to go directly to the Godhead and request any kind of assistance, guidance, council or just reassurance. It also makes the temple environment much more sacred, holy and imbued with the active and dynamic powers of the Godhead, which seem to be alive and fully empowered within the boundaries of the shrine. Since I went through this process and I now have living statues enshrined in my temple complex, I can’t imagine any other way of establishing a living connection with the Deity.

I hope this article has given you some ideas about how you might perform this working for yourself. Those who are members of the Order not only have the rituals to perform this working, but also some newly written documentation to walk them through it. 

Frater Barrabbas