Monday, April 19, 2010

More Models To Ponder - or Modelapalooza

Since there has been a plethora of articles on Models of Magick circulating the blogsphere, I thought that I would add a piece that was part of my article “Magick and the Eucharistic Mass”, which was published in the book “Talking About the Elephant.” My first exposure to the concept of magickal models was from a book written by probably one of the greatest minds in the area of the occult and magickal philosophy, who is named Forrest Landry. This book was privately published, it’s not available to purchase on Amazon so don’t bother looking. I have produced a distillation of his introduction because I find it so interesting and compelling. You can read it over and come up with your own opinion.

According to the writings of Forrest Landry, in his privately published book (“The Theory of Magick” by Forest Landry  – Introduction, p. viii – xiv), there are five different theories on magic. Each of these theories is correct as far as they go, but each is limited. A metaphysical theory of magic is the sixth theory, which Forrest outlines in his book. I will briefly define each theory here, by loosely quoting his introduction. The Social Theory of Magic (as proposed by Daniel Lawrence O’Keefe) would fit into the Psychological Theory, since it is primarily concerned with symbolic manipulation, language and social psychology.

Spirit Theory - Magic is mediated by Spirits. The Spirit theory of magic attempts to understand the experience of the magical, and explain the practice of magic in terms of elemental (nature) spirits, faeries, angels, demons, and/or deities, and the decisions made by these (and other) nonphysical agencies of consciousness. The Universe is a force of Spiritual consciousness - magic is seen as a means of uniting with the divine.

Psychological Theory - Magic is a psychological perception. The psychological theory of magic attempts to understand the experience of magic and explain the practice of magic in terms of psychological, perceptual, or sociological dynamics and processes. The idea that magic is a form of deception (illusion) or that it is used for psychosomatic healing are aspects of this view - an aspect of specifically human consciousness, history, and bodily perception - described as aspects of one’s personal subconscious or unconscious mind.

Rhetorical Theory - Magic is a currently unknown physical science. The rhetorical theory of magic attempts to understand the experience of the magical and explain the practice of magic in terms of natural processes as defined by currently known causal and physical laws. Its primary claim is that magic will eventually (at least in principle) be fully understood and described as science. As such, the rhetorical theory of magic considers that magic will eventually be fully amenable to scientific understanding, even if it currently is not. The magical experience is described as an event that is currently and temporarily inexplicable by known scientific methods - like the relationship between alchemy and chemistry.

Energy Theory - Magic is mediated by paranormal energies. The energy theory of magic attempts to understand the experiences of the magical and to describe the practice of magic in terms of various nonphysical and subtle energies. In this view, the universe is pervaded with one or more fields of subtle energy and this energy can have effects on consciousness and certain physical processes. It is considered that these energies can be manipulated via a number of techniques, including magic. As such, many theories of paranormal energies posit cause and effect relationships as a part of their basis. In this context, magic is seen as a means by which one can influence the material world by manipulating or changing the movements and interactions of these subtle energy fields.

Chaos Theory - Magic is mediated by shifting chaos dynamics. The chaos theory of magic attempts to understand the experiences of the magical and to describe the practice of magic in terms of random, chaotic, or fractal processes typically found in nature. The chaos theory of magic describes all aspects of magic and magical experiences in terms of these dynamics and the mathematical models that define them. The physical universe is stochastic, or random, in nature. While the random processes of nature sometimes combine to form the appearance of stable laws of causality, this is viewed as an exceptional or unusual circumstance. Reality is arbitrary and is defined only as a function of one’s own beliefs. There is a correspondence in chaos magic between the methods of magical action and the theories of Quantum Mechanics.

Many Chaos practitioners consider the Chaos theory to be a meta-theory, using whatever model works at the moment while not being attached to any specific method or model. In my opinion, this ideal has not really been effectively followed, and Chaos magick appears to have succumbed to becoming a theory or model itself. 

Metaphysical Theory - Magic is mediated by deep metaphysical laws and dynamics. The metaphysical theory of magic attempts to understand the experiences of the magical and to describe the practice of magic in terms of deeper general conceptions about the essential nature of consciousness, choice and creation. The metaphysical theory of magic describes the various aspects of magic, magical practice and magical experiences, in terms of a natural dynamics of consciousness and various combinations of metaphysical principles of ontology, ethics and aesthetics. In its complete form, these conceptions and dynamics are based upon an even deeper formal theory developed in terms of three absolute axioms and three domain fundamental modalities.

Metaphysics, which considers the nature of self, the nature of reality, and the interrelationship between them, describes the essence of magic in terms of forward resonance between a multiplicity of worlds experienced by the self. Within this view, the universe (as a world) is considered to have, as an intrinsic of all events, a community of creation. This in combination with the focused participation of consciousness provides the basis of practical magic in each world.

In this view, magic is real, has a definite and unique process and has knowable, defined, and well understood characteristics. Although magic is real, it is considered by its basic nature to be un-analyzable and indeterminate with respect to observable scientific, causal, or physical processes. In respects to other theories of magic, the metaphysical view clarifies and supports some ideas (as representative of deeper truths), and discards or replaces others.

So these are the models of magick as proposed by Forrest Landry, and to which I completely agree. In addition, one could consider an anthropological model, that would propose that magick is a primitive and superstitious version of science. My friend Nicholas told me that some Chaos magicians believe in a Cybernetic model. “The Cybernetic model is based on information and computer sciences, whereby an act of divination is similar to downloading information, while an act of practical magic is compared to inputting specific values into a computer process and collecting the results.” (Nicholas is a good friend of mine and he has a blog as well, which you can find here.)

Now that I have listed several different models, and all but the metaphysical model are incomplete (in my biased opinion), the question is - what is your favorite model? Can you think of one that hasn’t been covered here? And remember, they’re just models!

Frater Barrabbas

Trouble With Models

I recently read an article by Jason Miller who complained about other writers using the term “model” when talking about a type of magick that they work. You can see his article here. I would have to say that I agree completely with what Jason said, but whenever I have used the term “model” I have always made certain that my audience knew that I was talking about a theoretical construct. In short, a model, in regards to magickal practice, is just a heuristic device, which is a fancy way of saying that it is a learning tool. I have often said that no one works with just one of the several models of magick that I have proposed, and that in the real world, magicians work magick using several of them simultaneously. It’s useful to talk about magickal models because it allows one to see a distinct quality of magick that may or may not be operating in what a person really does when they work magick.

The bottom line is to not confuse a theoretical discussion of a magickal model with the real thing, which is more complex and dynamic than what a single model would entail. Like all mental structures that are useful for classification, they have their uses and limitations. In the area of magick, one should never confuse a model, diagram or structure for what it is representing. We are dealing with phenomena that is difficult to classify, so if we simplify things to better understand it, then that doesn’t mean that the simplified explanation or theory is the thing itself - it is a theory that is useful for understanding something, nothing more.

When I discuss the energy model, or the spirit model, the psychology model, the chaos model or the rhetorical model of magick, I am discussing theoretical approaches to understanding magick. No one uses just one model, and even if they did, there would be more to what they were doing than what is understood by the model. However, using models as a theoretical construct allows us to see the various aspects or techniques of a magickal system, which otherwise, would be opaque and incapable of analysis. The purpose of classifying something is to categorize it in a general manner so it can be compared to other analogous things.

I believe that I set the tone for this discussion early on in one of my articles, where I said:

“Like the analogy for food, there are also several different theories about magic, and all of them take a very specific model and methodology and apply it exclusively. So there is a theory of magic that is based on Spirit, another one based on Energy, and still another one based on Psychology. All of them are correct as far as they go, but all of them are limited to a single model and their associated assumptions. I would also consider them to be gross generalizations, but models are good learning devices, since they challenge and help us to accurately think about the way something really works.”

And also, the statement:

“Witchcraft has the unusual advantage that liturgy and magical crafts blend together to form a single praxis. Devotional invocations to the gods can also be magical spells meant to cause changes in the material world. As we will see when examining the other theories, witchcraft is a hybrid, combining many theories into a blended and practical perspective.”

So as you can see, I have been careful about talking about the various models of magick. I never state that a true system of magick conforms to just one model, and in fact almost all of them have at least three or more models active in them. Yet I will be certain to state this fact from time to time when I talk about models so no one gets any ideas that they are anything more than a learning device.

Frater Barrabbas

Why I Don’t Give Away Rituals For My Annotated Workings

Not too long ago someone sent me an email asking for me to provide them with the rituals that I used to perform the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal. I had previously stated in one of my articles that I would conditionally provide the rituals to anyone who was interested in seeing them.

Here is the relevant quote from my article.

“Contacting me through that website will help one to gain access to the ritual lore of the Order. However, I would recommend that curious individuals first examine the By-Laws, which can be downloaded from that site.”

What I meant by conditionally is that if someone were truly interested, they would seek to become members of the Order of the Gnostic Star, and through it’s progressive sets of ordeals, a magician would over time be awarded the advanced lore for their use. Of course seeking to become a member of the Order has a catch to it. The interested party needs to form a functional temple of at least five total individuals and practice for a year before petitioning the elders for the basic lore, consisting of the workings from first through fourth degree. Since the more advanced rites represent ritual workings that are a part of lore of the inner order, it would take a competent occultist and magician a few years to master the lore of the outer order before being capable of receiving the lore from the inner order. All of this is clearly stated in the by-laws for the Order, which you can find here.

Therefore, you might be able to say that the rituals aren’t really available for anyone who wants them because there is a protocol that must be followed. The progression of personal ordeals was established by several fairly advanced occultists, although most of the work was accomplished by me over a period of a couple of decades. The question is - am I being disingenuous in expecting others to follow these protocols in order to receive the benefits of years of work, research and trials, without having to pay anything for them? I think that the answer is that they belong to the Order and I am one of the few arbiters of that lore, so if I feel that one must at least engage in the Order in order to receive them, then that is how it must be done.

I can hear the groans from many individuals already. I am expecting applicants to actually perform several years of practice and study so that they can ultimately share in the lore that I and a few others have developed. Who am I to make such rules? Is it really worth it to be forced into an intense regimen in order to have access to the lore of my Order? To answer this question, I will have to at least share some information about the degree progression as it currently exists in the Order, thus listing the ordeals and their associated degrees. Looking over this information, one can get a pretty good idea of what’s involved in the degree system of the Order of the Gnostic Star.

Associated with each degree is a specific ordeal whose completion entitles the candidate to seek initiation into that degree. Therefore, the lore is introduced at the previous degree, and the completion of the associated ordeal entitles the candidate to be initiated into the next degree, where a new body of lore is tackled.

  1. Neophyte degree - ordeal: Vision Quest and knowledge of the Order (by-laws).
  2. Acolyte degree - ordeal: Lunar Mystery Elemental Ordeal (at least 4 Elemental workings)
  3. Theurgicus degree - ordeal: Talismanic Lunar Mansions Ordeal (at least 4 Talismanic workings)
  4. Deaconis degree - ordeal: Ordeal of Evocation and the Lesser Enochian Ordeal (at least 3 Invocations, including archangel of the Order)
  5. Pontifex degree - ordeal: Advanced Enochian Ordeal and Ordeal of Lesser Archaeomancy (at least 2 Evocations - including Ruling Angel of Deacon and associated quinarian angels/demons)
  6. Sanctus Rex/Regina degree - ordeal: Ordeal XV (Tetra-sacramentary) & Advanced Archaeomancy Ordeal (Qabbalistic Dimensions - at least 2) - including Simple Bornless One Invocation.
  7. Hierophant degree - ordeal: Tessarenoi (Four Temples) - generation of all four trans-dimensional reliquaries.
  8. Dominus degree - ordeal: Ordeal of the Stellar Gnostic Seven Rays - including the advanced Bornless One Invocation Rite and the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal.
  9. Magus degree - ordeal: Ordeal of the Qliphoth (Abysmal workings and Gate Crossing), Invocation and mastery of Azrael, Supreme Archaeomancy Ordeal (Trapezoid Qabbalistic Dimensions), Bornless One Assumption ordeal.

As you can see, the list of ordeals is quite extensive. All of the above lore for each degree is complete except for the degree of Magus - only some of these workings are done. We are talking about hundreds of rituals, all of them more or less modular and capable of being reused to access multiple levels of the spiritual domain.

These ordeals can be broken into eight different systems of magick, listed below.

  1. Elemental Lunar Magick - Elemental - Divine Tetrad - 16 Elemental Kingdoms
  2. Talismanic Magick - Planetary - Talismans - 28 Lunar Mansions
  3. Lesser Theurgy - Binary Planetary Talismans - 49 Bonarum - Heptarchia Mystica
  4. Greater Theurgy - Zodiacal - Elemental - 36 Decans - 72 Quniarians - enclosed within 12 Holy Houses
  5. Solar Underworld Ordeal - Tarot - Greater Arcana - 22 Gateways of the Cycle of Initiation
  6. Enochian Visionary Ordeals - Tarot - Lesser Arcana - 56 Dominions of the Aethyrs
  7. Archeomancy of the 40 Worlds - Qabbalah - Lesser Arcana - 40 Qabbalistic Worlds - 40 Qualified Powers - Great Nested Hierarchy
  8. Spiritual Archeomancy - Qabbalah - Greater Arcana - 18 Qabbalistic Dimensions

If we group these systems into their basic categories of magickal systems, we can see eight distinct systems in the workings of the Order. A ninth category would consist of the higher workings associated with the master adept of the Dominus and Magus degrees, such as the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal. To give you an idea of how complex and involved these different systems are, I myself have only completed all of the levels through the seventh degree, a series of tasks that I have been working on since the early eighties. The rest of the lore I can apprehend and realize to the point of being able to write and design the ritual workings, but I have yet to undergo them.

So if all of this has taken me years to master and undergo, then think of how much time it would take someone who is completely new to this system. I think that my requirements are modest and sensible, since this over-all system of magick is neither simple nor easily accessed. The way to approach and master it requires one to progress through the ordeals, step by step, beginning with the first step. If the first step is easy, then it will be passed quickly. There is no time limit imposed on completing this system. The initiate of the Order takes as long as necessary to master each step, before starting with the next one.

I suppose that because of the magnitude of this system of magick and how extensive it is, many erstwhile candidates would be put off by the massive amount of work that mastering it would entail. However, there is no simple way to master the path of a ritual magician. It requires decades of consistent and engaging work. It represents the fact that such a regimen produces its effects over a lifetime of practice and experience - just like any other transcendental spiritual system.

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Source of the Enochian System of Magick - According to Frater Barrabbas

I have an intriguing question for all magicians using the Enochian system of magick. What if instead of either using the plethora of books and materials on Enochian magick or consulting the various published and translated or annotated diaries, a magician decided instead to go to the actual spiritual source that supposedly produced this material and start anew, without any prior opinions or beliefs. Would a magician who took this path find out anything new or different from what is already known and in use?

I am not advocating throwing away any of the materials that exist, either in the form of the diaries of John Dee or the many books that have made use of this material and expanded on it. In other words, I am not proposing reinventing the wheel in regards to Enochian magick. What I am proposing is for magicians to contact the angels and spirits in a similar order that John Dee and Edward Kelly did nearly 430 years ago to see if there is any further lore to be had. This is exactly what I did back in 1991, and what I discovered was an entire system of magick and a specialized Qabbalah that had not been reported in Dee’s diaries. My reason for doing this is that I believed that there seemed to be a lot of missing data in the overall Enochian system, and I also believed that what I was looking for would not be found in the diaries. I assumed that it could only be discovered if one followed in the foot steps that Dee and Kelly had made centuries ago, revealing the source of that system of magick.

To my knowledge, no one has taken this perspective and attempted to replicate what Dee and Kelly did so very long ago. The obvious reason for this is that there already exists a very large body of data in the form of Dee’s diaries. Occultists have been pouring over these diaries now for over a century. Why would anyone want to re-do all of the painstaking skrying sessions that Dee and Kelly performed only to produce either what is already known or something that would be less interesting or engaging? Purists like to say that they have taken accepted methodologies, like the pronouncing of the Enochian language, and gone back to the diary sources instead of using Aleister Crowley’s or Israel Regardie’s techniques. Yet despite the fact that there is so much material, I stubbornly suspected there were things missing as well.

Why did I think that and what were my reasons for believing that to be the case? Perhaps it was an intuition, but certainly I decided long ago that the Enochian system of magick was a thing that was separate and beyond even the writings and speculations of John Dee or the emotionally volatile intuitions and insights of Edward Kelly. Dee was a 16th century man, and the Enochian system of magick seemed like something that was both timeless and beyond the boundaries of any kind of occult or spiritual speculation from that time. One glaring omission was the lack of any authoritative archangelic spiritual entities in the Enochian system. We are talking about Briatic level spirits and not various entities associated with the Elemental Squares or planets. Once Dee had progressed beyond the basic known archangels of Uriel, Raphael, Michael and Gabriel, no other analogous class of angelic spirits is to be found.

I am sure that some Enochian adept would handedly dispute this claim and perhaps even point out some spirits that I had missed in my studies, but still, I am presenting the reason why I thought that the Enochian system was incomplete. It also seemed to lack much in the way of ritual structures, initiatory transformations, etc. I found the alphabet of the Enochian language to be difficult to work with, since there were only 21 (and not 22) letters - so close yet so far from the Hebrew Qabbalah. So with this intuition and perhaps limited understanding, I proceeded with the project of invoking the spirits in the order that Dee seemed to access them, and see if there was any other material to be had from the spiritual source of the Enochian system of magick. Instead of using a shew stone and performing the skrying sessions that Dee and Kelly performed, I decided to use the ritual lore that I already had in which to facilitate the invocation of the archangelic spirits. Since I use a system of direct immersion, I was not only going to invoke these angelic spirits, but I was going to enter into their domain as well. I not only was able to contact and receive a great deal of additional information, but I also received a very curious bit of lore as well. That the archangels had sealed much of this information away because it had been the provenance of another class of spirits altogether. These spirits were called the Nephilim, and it appeared that they were the reputed authors of the entire Enochian system of magick. I found myself transported from looking at historical information to engaging in speculations and insights associated with legends, myths and even a bit of archaic theology.

Therefore, I proceeded to perform quite a number of invocations, starting with the four basic archangels and Ratziel, then the corresponding four angels of the Nephilim and going even beyond that boundary. I got to talk with these various entities at length and learned that John Dee and Edward Kelly had only received a small part of this lore. That even after years of working with these entities, I have extracted probably only another small (but significant) segment. Yet what I have discovered is that this system of magick is active and larger than what anyone had previously realized. Hopefully, others will read my words and perhaps even perform some of the rituals, seeking to expand the knowledge that currently exists so that someday the Enochian system of magick will be represented by a whole and complete system, divorced from the pious religious perspectives and narrow belief systems of the 16th century, and brought fully into the 21st century - renewed and redeemed.

This is the sequence and names of the spirits that I invoked using lore that had been developed within the Order that I worked (Order of the Gnostic Star). My assumption was that it was loosely modeled on the progression of steps that Dee and Kelly performed centuries ago with their skrying sessions.

Invoke the four Archangels - then Ratziel and finally Naluage - which led me to invoke the four chiefs of the Nephilim.

  • Uriel
  • Michael               
  • Gabriel
  • Raphael
  • Ratziel - 28 Spirits of Light
  • Naluage - Four Chiefs of the Nephilim

It is only now in the present time, when my ability to write and structure my thoughts has matured, that I have decided to begin publicizing this work, started almost twenty years ago. Some will dismiss it as either pure speculation or even worse, the imaginings of an undisciplined mind. Others will consider it totally out of synch with orthodox beliefs and practices that have already begun to harden and restrict speculation and artistic exploration. I am certain that those who consider themselves experts in the domain of Enochian magick will scoff at my ideas and claims since they deviate so profoundly from the base material of the diaries. However, it’s my belief that the diaries are limited, so if we consign ourselves to working only with them, we may misrepresent what is a living and dynamic system of magick. Times have changed and so has our understanding of magick and occultism. This alone might compel some to examine my work and perform the rituals for themselves to determine if I am correct or delusional.

So for this reason I have decided to share with my readers some of my more unusual theories about the Enochian system of Magick. I admit that there are a lot of magicians working this system or parts of it these days, and there are quite a large number of books expounding in exhaustive detail on this subject. The more faithful practitioners stay very close to the actual diaries produced over four centuries ago by Dr. John Dee, but a small minority, such as myself, engage in a certain amount of speculation. These diaries are the sole source of this system of magick, so all one has to do to get a real understanding about any part of the Enochian system of magick is to examine the relevant diary material. However, it seems little understood that the diaries were actually the raw repositories of Dr. Dee’s occult speculations and investigations. These diaries were used by Dee to produce a finished grimoire, now lost, that he claimed was angelically inspired and transmitted, and, I believe, was an analogous version of a noted 14th century grimoire, called the Sepher ha-Ratziel, or the Book of Ratziel. Although Dee thought that the Ethiopian Book of Enoch was that grimoire, it would have actually been the Book of Ratziel. Dee never acquired either the Ethiopian Book of Enoch or the Sepher ha-Ratziel, but he believed that a master grimoire existed, containing the language of God and his angels. Dee sought this language because he believed that it was a requirement if he were ever to be as honored in having intercourse with God as Enoch was reputed to have been. 

Why do I believe that the mythical grimoire that Dee sought was the Book of Ratziel? Because according to Jewish myths, God instructed the angel Ratziel (God’s Mystery) to produce a book of occult mysteries and give it to Adam. However, some of the other angels were jealous when they heard about this gift. So they stole the book and hid it away in the depths of the sea. Ratziel searched for a long time to reacquire this book, but when he finally found it, Adam had long since passed away. The latest patriarch was Enoch, so Ratziel gave the book to Enoch. This book then was handed down from one generation to another, perhaps lost and rediscovered many times, according to legends, until a Jewish scholar rediscovered and made it available to the learned few in early 14th century Germany. Whether the resultant Book of Ratziel was newly written from existing traditions, created from whole clothe, or indeed was an ancient recovered book is unknown; but an examination of it shows that it was contemporaneous with Hebrew grimoires from that time period. So it was either cobbled together from existing traditions or created as a whole new magickal tradition. The book is filled with many angelic spirits but no angelic language, since Jewish magicians would have believed that God and his angels spoke classical Hebrew. John Dee’s preoccupation with a legendary grimoire supposedly authored by Enoch gave his own work an authenticity and legitimacy in the eyes of himself and other learned savants with whom he deemed to share any of his secret works.

So Dee actually believed that he was rediscovering a lost system of magick that would allow him to gain direct communication with God. This system of magick was called Enochian because of Dee’s fascination with the patriarch Enoch and his wisdom. The angelic language that Dee and Kelly uncovered was later called Enochian, perhaps in honor of the patriarch that Dee so admired. However, connecting this system of magick with the patriarch Enoch has powerful and mythic consequences. To fully understand the supposed Enochian system of magick one would also have to know something about the patriarch Enoch, including what is found in the bible and in various apocryphal books.

This is where we get to some interesting speculation. If we examine the myths and legends about Enoch, especially the Book of Enoch and the Book of Noah (which only exists in fragments), we discover that Enoch knew and appeared to traffic with a group of fallen angels who had come to earth and chose mortal women as their wives. They must have also acquired corporeal bodies, since they began to produce children. The bible talks about these beings in chapter 6, verse 1 through 4, of the book of Genesis, and the books of Enoch and Noah expand on this association. One might conclude that Enoch’s wisdom was due in part to his association with the Nephilim, not to mention the fact that he supposedly received a book from the archangel Ratziel. I will examine these relationships in greater detail at a later date, but what we have here is an association of Enoch with the archangel Ratziel, and the angelic spirits become flesh called the Nephilim. It would seem then, that the Enochian system of magick would involve the archangel Ratziel as well as the 200 angelic spirits known as the Nephilim. It could be presumed from this association that much of what passes for the Enochian system of magick may have its roots in the forbidden teachings of the Nephilim.

Ever since I first encountered the Book of Enoch and the fragments of the Book of Noah, I have been quite intrigued by the idea that fallen angels, who assumed human form, took wives and sired children, became the first teachers of writing, metallurgy, astronomy, alchemy, esoteric philosophy, the arts of war, architecture, herbalism, and the various methodologies of magick. In short, they were reputed to be the patrons of civilization, yet for this they were condemned and ultimately overthrown. It beguiles the mind to think about these spirits and to desire to invoke and contact them. However, the four archangels listed above were responsible for sealing the knowledge of these spirits away from the earth and the temptations of mankind, and also imprisoning these entities in a place where they could not be reached.

I came to the conclusion that I should contact these archangels and get their permission to regain this knowledge, to gain access to these imprisoned beings so I could acquire and build on their knowledge, thus gaining a more pure and direct source for the Enochian system of magick. I believe that Dee and Kelly unknowingly crossed this threshold centuries ago, but all the while being ignorant of the source of the wisdom they were being taught. I believe that they unwittingly made contact with the Nephilim and channeled some of their knowledge, but much more remained untapped. This, of course, is just my opinion, but in actively pursuing this train of thought, I discovered new material for the Enochian system of magick, which I am only now able to put together into an intelligible system. This system of magick seems to be more like a Semitic form of Witchcraft than a ceremonial magickal system as derived in the 16th century, even with its elaborate tables, calls and lists of spirits.

All of these speculations and creative insights are just my thoughts and opinions. I am sure that many will disagree with them. However, I am revealing these ideas and sharing them for those few who might find this perspective of great worth and seek to emulate it, thus adding to the newly derived Enochian lore as I have done.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lesser Wheel of Fortune & Practical Magick

This is an article that appeared in Rending the Veil - Yule Edition. I thought that it would be good to place the raw article here for my readers to examine, since it is a continuation of my exposition of practical magick.

We have covered the greater wheel of fortune and how it’s associated with the solar return and the point 180 degrees from the solar return, or halfway in the annual cycle. This greater wheel of fortune is very important to know if one is going to work magick to change one’s material situation.

There is also a lesser wheel of fortune that involves the moon and this lesser cycle is more characterized by the emotions than by material gain. It is an important truth that if the emotions are not aligned with one’s greater material purpose, then one’s endeavors will ultimately fail.

This lesser wheel of fortune has the same basic components as the greater wheel. The natal chart lunar position is extracted and the halfway point in this cycle is determined by plotting a position that is exactly 6 zodiacal signs ahead of the natal Moon position. For instance, my Natal Moon is in Gemini when the moon was gibbous (just before full), so the halfway point would be the Moon in Sagittarius when it is balsamic. So I can use either the lunation types of gibbous and balsamic to represent the natal return and halfway point or I can use the signs of the Moon in Gemini and Sagittarius. Either set of points have their validity.

Now for me the emotional wheel of fortune works like this. When the Moon is gibbous or in the sign of Gemini, I am typically feeling very emotionally centered, grounded and fulfilled. When the halfway point is achieved, then my emotional state is decidedly muted and turned inward. It’s a time when I am not as certain of myself and feel compelled to question my motives and the things that I usually take for granted. The natal lunar point is an emotional high point and the halfway point is one of instability, where the unconscious mind is more able to affect me and my emotional sense of self.

The key to this emotional wheel of fortune is that it’s better to perform magickal workings so that they achieve their climax up to but not far beyond the full moon. The waning moon represents particularly difficult times for me and it’s much better to use that time for reflection, divination and contemplation, allowing the unconscious mind to unload some of its internal pressures and negative or dark-self perceptions in a controlled environment. It’s also a good idea to synchronize the greater and lesser wheels of fortune so that magickal workings and mundane actions involving material advancement occur during the better half for both patterns. For me, that would be the second half of my solar year when the Moon is gibbous. I would also be advised by these cycles to avoid taking risks during that same time when the Moon is waning and nearing the new moon phase.

We can also analyze the transit aspects of the Natal Moon with the Transiting Moon and get a very clear idea of the kind of forces that are active. Like the Sun, we can examine the aspect where the Transit Moon is in conjunction with the Natal Moon and the aspect where the Transit Moon is in opposition to the Natal Moon.

Transit Moon conjunct Natal Moon: This is called the Lunar return and it occurs once every month. It represents the beginning of an emotional cycle. It’s a time of emotional sensitivity and emotional intensity. It has a magnetic effect, and tends to attract external events and people to its emanating field. Another way of examining the Lunar return is to determine the precise lunation type found in the Natal chart. This represents the lunation type that one was born under, so it becomes a powerful emotional base for the individual.

Transit Moon opposition to Natal Moon: This aspect represents deepening moods and powerful emotions. One becomes self-absorbed and loses objectivity, which tends to create emotional oppositions with others. It’s definitely not a time to be dealing with relationship issues, business partnerships or emotional issues involving family or friends. It is a good time to go deep into the self and retrieve insights and directives from the deeper self.

So you can see, there is a Greater Wheel of Fortune involving the solar return, and a Lesser Wheel of Fortune that involves the lunar return. Both cycles need to be carefully examined, and dates where both cycles are at their optimum can be chosen for the working of material based magick.

Frater Barrabbas


Hand, Robert (1976) Planets In Transit: Life Cycles for Living  Para Research Inc., Gloucester, MA

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Master Pattern of Ritual Magick

This was a chapter that was pulled and omitted from the book “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Foundation,” which I had felt should be re-edited and used for a separate article. This section was called the “Master Pattern of Ritual Magick”, which are the seven integral parts of a basic magickal working. The Master Pattern consists of a progression that begins with the self and ends with the projection of magickal power and the acquisition of insight through divination. I have written a more simplistic version of this methodology and included it in the book, “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick,” but I thought that it would be a good idea to make this more concise version available for occultists to read and consider.

Analysis of the Master Pattern

I have always believed that what was needed in the teaching and mastering of ritual magick is a simple and concise method for determining what is really critical for the practice of a basic magickal working. I wanted to boil down the more elaborate and complex ritual systems that I typically use to something that nearly anyone could grasp, especially someone who is seeking to learn more complex ritual methods and integrate them into their repertoire. What I wanted was a kind of master pattern that could be used by anyone to produce an effective ritual working.

So one day while I was sitting alone in a theater, bored out of my skull, waiting for a movie to be shown, I decided to do some useful pondering. I gave myself an assignment, which was to come up with a simple list of steps used to perform a ritual working. I wanted to come up with a list containing only those steps that I felt were absolutely essential. I checked this list repeatedly in my mind and asked the same question of each item, “Do I need this step or could I chuck it?” So I omitted anything that I thought was extraneous or distracting. This is how I came up with these seven steps, which I am presenting here as my master pattern. It started out as an exercise to quell my boredom, but it really did produce something useful and important. They’re important because they can be used to build any practical ritual magickal working. These seven steps also introduce one to a modular methodology in performing rituals, since some of the steps can be re-arranged or condensed to form different kinds of ritual workings. The steps can also be repeated in a slightly different manner for a completely different working.

OK, I have now presented how and why I came to derive this so-called master pattern of ritual magick. Yet what could I have possibly put together that hasn’t been discussed to death by many other writers or teachers? Perhaps my intense ennuis made me think that I had an “eureka” sort of moment. Maybe the master pattern is just more occult hyperbole. However, since I have worked magick solidly for many years, maybe I might actually know what I am talking about. To come up with this pattern, I wiped my internal slate clean of any opinions or prejudices and asked the question to myself as if I were a new student asking an adept practitioner how to put together a ritual working. So let’s proceed to discuss this pattern and see if it actually works.

Let me begin by looking at this problem as I did in that theater many years ago. The master pattern of a ritual working begins with the very first step that I call“Self Preparation” and progresses outwardly in ever increasing waves of worldly significance. Self preparation represents all of the things that have to do with the magickal operator, from the internal mind, emotions, perceptions, to the body and its purification, as well as magickal apparel and adornment. Self preparation is the foundation for the working of any magick. If it is not properly established, then all that follows will be adversely affected. From this foundation, the magician progresses outwardly at precise intervals, thereby establishing sacred space, generating magickal power (empowerment), establishing spiritual alignment, charging the magickal link, exteriorizing the power and acquiring insights as determined by divination, both before and after the magick is performed. The last category allows the magician to become aware of the symbolic world where consciousness has its origins, and to understand the inner workings of the World of Spirit, realizing its effect on the mundane world. These seven steps can be quickly listed for a more detailed consideration later in this article.

1. Self Preparation
2. Sacred Space
3. Empowerment
4. Alignment
5. Symbolic Link
6. Exteriorization
7. Divination

As you can see by the way that this progression is arrayed, the magician begins the work inwardly passing through the microcosm of the Self, then outwardly to affect and impact the macrocosm, which is the greater spiritual and material world around one. While some may dispute the importance, precedence or the naming convention that I have determined for this pattern, most ritual magicians in the Western tradition use some variation of this method, thus proceeding from the inner mind and the body to the outer world in order to project magick into the material plane. This pattern is an expanding and evolving spiral, representing the basic qualities of any magick that would influence the material plane.

Of the seven steps, the most important one is the creation of the magickal link. The magickal link is where the magician represents the objective of the magick in some symbolic form, often using a personally derived sigil, which is drawn on a piece of parchment paper or even etched on a metal disk. A sigil is really a shorthand reduction of the objective for working magick formulated into a graphic design, where the various parts or segments are integrated into a holistic figure.

The magician can use other mechanisms for the link as well, such as a mantra repeatedly intoned, or what is called a material or gross link, which is a medicine bag, herb cache, or even a poppet (fithfath). The purpose of the symbolic link is to translate the magician’s desire into a symbolic analogue, allowing it to impact and resonate what I call the super-symbolic reality, which is the source for the impetus of all things that materialize into actions and objects. We will discuss more about this and in greater detail later on.

These seven steps represent a simplified discipline of ritual magick. They can be kept in a rudimentary form or can become quite elaborate. There is often more than one execution for each step, representing that these steps are ideally sequential categories of required ritual actions. In some cases, more than one execution will be used, such as in the category of empowerment, or others, such as the generating sacred space, which has only one ritual to use, depending on the type of space that needs to be sacralized. Applying this methodology to the practice of ritual magick allows for the deployment of a modular system of ritual magick, where independent rituals residing in these seven categories can be repeatedly reused to perform many different magickal workings. There are many possible variations within this pattern, yet the seven steps must be present in some form, in whatever order or sequence.

The master pattern is a guide to understanding what the requirements are for formulating a magickal working and how the rituals contained within it must be assembled. The linear progression of this pattern represents the type of ritual working that resonates magickal energy to a climax, thereby successfully projecting its field of magickal power into the material plane. This type of magick make exclusive use of the energy theory of magick in its most simplistic form. It is not a system of theurgy, psychodrama or initiatory transformation. It does not use or recognize spirits, other than one’s own godhead and spiritual hierarchy. It is a magickal system of acquisition that seeks to make things happen or be realized in the material plane - so it works with magickal energies or powers.

Certainly there are many other types of ritual patterns for other types of workings, all these other variations will be explained in subsequent articles and books. For now, we will focus on a simple exposition of the energy theory of magick using the master pattern.
Self Preparation

Because the success of a ritual is contingent upon the perceptions and sensitivity of the practitioner, the primary focus of all magickal training begins with mind control. Without the ability to concentrate, meditate or deliberately assume various altered states of consciousness, all efforts to perform ritual magick are doomed to failure. The discipline of magick begins with self-mastery, and this entails developing the abilities of self-control, self-awareness and self-direction. The petty ego is tempered with a realization of the spiritual nature of one's being and the daily attempts to bring this realization to bear upon the magician’s mind and body.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Bodily purification (self-love): magickal baths, yogic stretching exercises, massage, anointing with oil, self fascination trance (using a mirror), and self generated enthusiasm.

Assuming the Magickal persona: the image of one’s self as a magician, the magical persona, the magician's mask, the magical double or godhead eidolon. This minor assumption is usually accomplished through the donning magickal apparel and adorning the self with jewelry, makeup, wearing a mask, etc.

Meditation: assumption of altered states of consciousness, concentration, mental direction and internal awareness. Includes the methodologies of asana, prana-yama, mantra, mandala yoga, as well as concentration and contemplation. The magician uses the regiment of a daily meditation session to build and maintain a high degree of mental control, and performs a special meditation session prior to working magick. Specific exercises include centering, ascending and descending the chakras (planes), grounding, and opening and closing the self.

Trance: self hypnosis in preparation for deep meditation, skrying or astral projection (if required).

Sacred Space

The next sphere that the magician must act upon is the place in which the ritual is to be conducted. This place may be inside a room or outdoors; however, the magician performs certain ritual actions to ensure that this space is perceived as sacred. The magician defines the sphere of ritual operations so that all actions within it become symbolic and spiritually significant. The abstract plane of symbols is superimposed upon a prepared environment so that it is transformed by association into a spiritual domain, where the symbols and correspondences of magick become an experiential reality. Thus there is a need for tools, furnishings, structures and symbolic landmarks to assist the continual occurrence of esthetic stimulation and the effective communication of the process of ritual performance.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Temple Consecration Ritual: The magician uses the sacraments of lustral water, incense, and candlelight to purify the magickal space of the temple. The magician also deploys a defined magick circle and activated circle points (Watchtowers and Angles) to energize and empower the temple, which are joined together to form geometric prismatic energy structures.

Grove Consecration Ritual: The magician uses the sacraments of wine, oil, milk, rose water and incense to make offerings to the sacred space of the outdoor grove. The magician also acknowledges the ritual structures of the circle, the four Wards, the circle Pentagram, and the internal gateway, which is used to open the natural world to the empowered and sacred World of the Spirit.

Magickal Topology: The magician uses the myths and legends of sacred places, power zones and symbolic associative realities to either harness their powers or to enter into the field of their sacred and empowering environment.

Magickal Implements: The magician uses ritual tools, furnishings, landmarks, metaphysical instruments, symbolic constructs and Yantras (magickal illustrations and designs) to manipulate magickal powers and set the basic magickal field of force within one’s environment.


The most mentioned but least understood concept in magick is magickal power. I should briefly define this concept within a narrow framework so that misconceptions may be eliminated. The operational definition of magickal power is anything that profoundly alters one's mental state or perception within an occult or spiritual context. Power is a metaphor representing a magickal effect. A magickal experience is therefore said to be powerful when it has a high degree of significance and meaningfulness to the magician.

In addition, I would further define magickal power as a form of deliberate self-induced ecstasy. From a symbolic perspective, ecstasy within a magickal context is the experience that occurs when one undergoes the union of opposites, whether enacted within the self (symbolically) or without (physically). This kind of magical power produces a catharsis or spiritual transformation, but in lesser degrees, confers exalted states of consciousness. One could say that every successful magical working should transform the operator to some degree if it is to be considered efficacious. There is a basic relationship stated in this process, that the greater the over-all effect, the more intense the transformation and the greater the purported magickal power. Methods of generating power vary; however, they always involve the joining of symbolic opposites in whatever form they are presented.

Magickal power is the expression and intensification (resonance) of movement, and is qualified by the Four Elements (invoking pentagram), vectoring (deosil, widdershins) and gender (masculine, feminine, neutral).

The following techniques are included under this category:

Symbolic Expression and Movement: Movement is the most basic representation of magickal power. Ritual movement is expressed through circumambulation, whirling in place, simple dance choreography, the assumption of mudras or symbolic  gestures, and the drawing of symbolic geometric forms (Pentagrams, Crosses, Spirals, etc.), all of which represent the symbolic joining of the archetypal female and masculine components. Resonance or intensification is used to increase the experience of power.

Great Rite: The physical joining of the symbolic male and female is accomplished either through the actual sex act or symbolized through physical surrogates (wand and cup, salt and water, wine and bread, the four Elements as sacraments, etc.). One can also use forms of masturbation (rites of solitude).

Masculine Power:  These are ritual techniques such as the cone of power, the Pyramid of Power, the Stang, and the poteau-mitan or magickal pylon (all phallic images). The resonance of the  ejaculative or climactic ritual structure is representative of this pattern, and the product is a bolt of energy that is later released upon the target.

Feminine Power:  The ritual techniques of the vortex, which is a container or envelope of power, and the Threshold Gateway trigon, which is a passageway to another dimension, all represent yonic images, and therefore symbolize the feminine power. Simple and complex vortex structures use four and eight-position ritual patterns, producing the resonance of absorption or the causal-wave energy field when their circle positions are joined in fusion.


Alignment is an important step or category in the system of magick that I personally work, yet others might consider this a digression. Typically, alignment represents the magician’s relationship to the Deity in some personalized form. The importance of spiritual alignment is that it introduces into the ritual a sacred presence - a guiding and empowering spiritual being directly connected to the magician. It’s my opinion that the spiritual component of a ritual is a necessity, for without it the ritual becomes merely a selfish exercise in self mastery and personal empowerment.

Magickal power is defined within the context of the domain of Spirit, and it can’t exist without some aspect of the Deity being engaged, whether or not one is actively conscious of this fact. The authority and power of some God/dess or defined spiritual being is usually incorporated into most magical workings, even simple ones that are merely seeking to make some material objective realized.

In the practice of ritual magick (as I define it), the magician must not only define the image and characteristics of the Deity, but must also actively summon and identify with it. It is best if the magician personifies the Deity, giving it a human countenance and a personality to assist in the process of identification and union. In my humble opinion, there is no greater arrogance or foolishness than to practice magick without some kind of representation of the Deity. My reasons for stating this is that without such a supernatural connection, the magician has no extra-dimensional supernatural guidance, assistance and is therefore, spiritually accountable to no one.

Deity gives ethical guidance to the magician and intercedes when adversity emerges or the magick goes terribly awry. A magickal initiate is protected by the Godhead and kept from being harmed through the power of an active spiritual alignment. The agnostic or atheistic magician has no such protection or governor for one’s actions, so he or she eventually realizes terrible ethical failures and is seductively drawn into the corrupting descent of self into mono-mania.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Assumption of the Deity: The magician assumes the identity and image of the Deity, transforming the self so that it becomes conscious of the divinity within. The ritual of the Drawing Down the Moon and Drawing Down the Sun are variations of this technique. (These variations are both used in the Assumption of the Grail Spirit ritual.) Highest forms are the Bornless One invocation rite.

Communion:  The symbolic union of Deity and humanity though the agency of symbolic surrogates (the archetypal male and female of the Great Rite) represents the creation of the actual physical substances of sacramentation. The communion rite of sacrifice is enacted either symbolically or physically, with the blood (wine) and the flesh (bread) being consumed by the practitioners. This rite, still used as a part of the Mass liturgy for some denominations of Christianity, is performed specifically for the magickal empowerment of the individual.

Invocation:  The Deity is summoned, enticed or even implored to appear for the sake of the magician. Invocation performed in this manner is defined as the calling or summoning of the Deity within one's self through guided meditations and visualizations, or through heartfelt attracting, drawing down and the opening of one's self (heart) for union. This type of invocation is not to be confused with the process of invoking or evoking a spirit into manifestation (theurgy or goetia), since it relies exclusively on devotion and the adoration of the Godhead. (Forms of demonalotry would be excluded, of course.)

Devotion: Prayers, public offerings (sacrifices), orisons, dances, spiritual service, celebrations, sacralization of place and time. Celebration of the Solar and Lunar Mysteries. These are done to intensify the connection between the magician and the personal Godhead.

Symbolic Link (Empowering the Intention)

As stated previously, the most important component in a magical operation is the fashioning of the magickal link. Aleister Crowley was the first writer to discuss this concept (see the book Magick, ch. XIV), yet a ritual cannot succeed without its presence. The magickal link functions as the symbolic representative of the intention for which the ritual is being performed. The symbolic intention is capable of easily accessing the abstract world of ideas when it is empowered. This magickal world is the macrocosmic dimension that must be penetrated by the magician in order for it to impact the narrow field of individual consciousness. If the ritual objective is not properly translated into a symbolic format, then the magickal process will end without generating any further meaning or significance beyond the narcissistic and temporary exaltation of the self. Without the active operation of a magickal link, a ritual ceases to be magickal and becomes instead a form of ceremonial celebration. An analysis of the constituents of this magickal link will help to define it.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Sigil Magick:  The various methods of establishing a symbolic link consisting of either words or pictures representing one's purpose or desire is the technique of  sigil magick. The sigil is a condensed symbol or picture of the original desire and imbued with all the emotional  intensity and significance that is associated with that desire. The sigil is charged and then projected through ritual exteriorization into the archetypal plane where it becomes part of the domain of ideas beyond conscious control.

Ritual Formulas:  The points of a ritual structure (watchtowers, angles, etc.), when imbued with numerological and word associations, is brought together through a unified expression that consists of a formula word or phrase produced by the joining of these word or number associations. This form of word-number association is the basis for the Qabbalistic systems of Notariqon (acronym manipulation), Gematria (numerology), and Temurah (reduction of names into sigils). One early example of this methodology is found in  the Analysis of the Key-word (LUX-INRI) in the rituals of the Golden Dawn. (See the Ritual of the Rose Cross, in Israel Regardies' book, The Golden Dawn, volume 4.)

Organic (Gross) Link:  The use of physical objects such as a fith-fath (a poppet or voodoo-doll), a picture, photograph, herb-cachet, organic substances such as herbal or mineral philters, clothes or possessions belonging to the target, fresh blood, semen, menstruum, saliva, urine, excrement, hair, nail parings, etc., are examples of the organic magickal link. The use of a physical object allows for a potent associative link that easily penetrates into the magician's unconscious mind.

Note: In the magickal workings that I perform, I make use of sigils and ritual formulas, but typically avoid using a gross link. This is just my preference.


The technique that causes the power in a magical ritual to be outwardly expressed, making it a real phenomenon to the magician, is known as exteriorization. This technique is the easiest to understand and is never omitted from a ritual working. When the target or objective of a ritual lies beyond the boundaries of the self, then some form of exteriorization is required.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Trance of Willing:  The magician uses the processes of trance and visualization to impress upon the symbolic plane the desired outcome. The visualization must be reduced to a condensed format (the magickal link) and allowed to seep into one's unconsciousness through the deepening of the trance state.

Climactic Expression:  The magician uses movement to reach a crescendo of effect and then immediately ceases that movement. This is also called the whiplash effect. Some variations include the sword dance (as famously illustrated in Crowley's book Moon Child), a chanting-round and ecstatic dance culminating in ecstatic release.

Pranayama Release:  The magician uses a breathing technique known as the Lotus 7-breath, inhaling a potent perfume (essence of lotus) at least seven times, then combining hyperventilation with a breath bandha (holding in the breath) and a final dramatic and explosive exhalation.


The magician uses the prior six categories to formulate a ritual working that projects the powers of the phenomena of magick.  This category assists one in understanding the effects and implications of that ritual working. The dual processes of magick ritual and divination assist the magician in following the proper and most efficient path to personal growth and ultimate enlightenment. The process of insight reveals the symbolic domain of the macrocosmic world that assists the magician to focus the purpose and objective of his/her magickal workings. While there are many methods of divination, the following list should assist the magician in understanding the area of specialty for each.

The following techniques are included under this category:

Astrology:  Knowledge of the timing of celestial events.

Tarot/I-Ching:  Knowledge of the symbolic plane as it applies to the choices influencing the individual. Cards are shuffled and drawn randomly, coins are tossed randomly.

Runes/Geomancy: Knowledge of the variable patterns of existence. Includes other techniques, such as palmistry, bone throwing, tea leaf analysis, bird  flying formations, etc.

Pendulum/Dowsing Rod: Knowledge of the magickal effects of  chaos or chance. Includes all moving-pointer type techniques, such as the Ouija board, dice throwing or coin tossing, the Magick 8-ball, etc.

Skrying/Astral Projection: Knowledge through visualized clairvoyance. These divination techniques incorporate the methods of the mediation of the symbolic and physical planes of being. Ancient forms of the above were fire gazing and water gazing.

Conclusion and Recap

So we have now covered all seven steps of the master pattern. I would expect that the astute student would want to know how to put it all together. While I have no problem sharing the structure of the pattern of this simple ritual working, the actual rituals and how they are used are covered in the second book of the Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick series, which is called the Grimoire. Here is the pattern of a simple magickal working.  There are seven phases because the empowerment step is split into two distinct rituals.

1. Self preparation - magickal bath, purification, meditation and contemplation - this would include crafting a sigil for the work
2. Temple consecration
3. Empowerment phase 1 - erect a Vortex (qualify power with widdershins vector and feminine gender)
4. Alignment - Godhead assumption
5. Empowerment phase 2 - erect a Pyramid of Power (qualify power with Element, deosil vector and masculine gender)
6. Charge sigil and use to imprint power field
7. Exteriorize power field - spiral circumambulation and induced ecstasy

In addition, one would perform divination both prior to the working, to define and objective in a greater refinement, and then afterward, to determine the overall outcome.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Magickal Teachers - Paying for Occult Instruction

There have been some recent blog articles on whether an occult teacher and magician should be “kept” by his or her community so that he or she may focus exclusively on the mastery of magick and its dissemination to the masses. One individual has mentioned that he would like to actually become wealthy or comfortably well off while practicing magick full time. Since I have a full time gig that I love and enjoy, which I might add, financially rewards me handsomely, I guess I am little startled by anyone wanting to somehow live off of students or consulting clients. For me, this is not really something that I am seeking, but I do know others who not only have started up a business that instructs and consults others in occult matters, but also allows them to do it as their only means of support. My Tantra teachers are a case in point, and I have nothing but honor and appreciation for the work that they are doing.

However, one thing that I have learned over the years is that spiritual seekers generally don’t have a lot of disposable income, so teaching and writing books becomes, for the most part, a money losing proposition. It quickly becomes paramount that in order to live off one’s vocation as an occultist and spiritual teacher, one needs to gather together a large group in order to sustain a viable and consistent income. What this also means is that the larger the group of adherents one gathers, the less each individual receives of any kind of extensive attention or personal coaching. So there is a balance to be considered between large groups or small groups, lots of personal attention or just rudimentary encounters.

Spiritual and occult empires tend to be money making machines that ultimately cheat individuals out of getting what they think they need from a teacher or guru. Large organizations are not able to tend to the intimate needs of spiritual seekers, so the question becomes what kind of impact is the teacher interested in providing one’s community at large? Obviously, if the teacher is seeking to become wealthy teaching the occult, then he or she will seek to build an empire, and will become yet another large organization that absorbs people’s money without seeming to give them what they really are looking for.

Perhaps the most important consideration that an erstwhile occult and magickal teacher can determine is to define what is meant by being materially wealthy or well off. Is it a requirement for working magick, and how much is enough? I have found that even new age adherents find this a very sticky issue to ponder - some have no qualms of seeking as much material wealth as they can, others are much more humble or ethical.

When working some very powerful invocations many years ago, one of my personal aspects of Godhead told me that my material circumstances were of no concern as long as I was able to do the spiritual and magickal work that was expected of me. This, of course, not only concerned my material situation, but also whether or not I had a relationship, friends to associate with or was enjoying my life. These considerations were my own and had no bearing on the work, as long as they didn’t interfere with it. What I deduced from this surprising statement was that for me, material solvency and personal happiness were my own responsibility. I had to find a balance between doing the work and seeking to materially advance myself. In finding that balance, I discovered that what I require to live on was much more rudimentary than I might have realized if I were not continually seduced by the power of materialism and the need to acquire goods and amass wealth. The secret to a successful occult career is to know the value of what one has and to know when enough is enough. Sometimes this lesson is cruelly and tragically dispensed by events, both foreseen and accidental.

I decided long ago that I was not interested in putting together a large occult organization because I find that I relish extensive individual contacts and also seek to guard my privacy. Since my background is witchcraft, there are strong taboos against charging fellow initiates for instruction and guidance, so I have walked a careful line between dealing with the public at large and teaching those who have received initiation from my hand. Once someone is an initiate in my tradition of witchcraft or magick, they are no longer amongst those that I can or would charge for instruction or guidance. We are supposed to offer our services free of charge to our brothers and sisters, and I would agree with this approach, since it instills a higher degree of ethics and eliminates the possibility of initiates exploiting each other. This is true amongst fellow initiates, but does not apply to those who are not initiated, the outsiders or cowains. It is also true that products such as occult supplies, books or other crafted items can and should be charged for by initiates to other initiates, since there is no such thing as a free lunch even amongst spiritual brothers and sisters.

One of the things that I dread the most would be a situation where I would become a parasite to a group of unwitting seekers. You could imagine it as a kind of giant tick, siphoning off the life force of other living beings and spreading corruption and disease in the process. Such a concept is quite revolting to me, so I would steadfastly avoid putting myself in that kind of situation. Since I am a human being with virtues and failings who is really no better or worse than anyone else and not some kind of omniscient ascended master, it would be profoundly dishonest for me to pass myself off as such, and expect others to take care of my needs or to cater to my ego centered gratifications.

There is a mythic quality to the great spiritual teacher and I have found that the best teacher for me has been the occasional guide, gifted lecturer or insightful friend. In all of the years that I have practiced ritual magick and investigated various occult organizations, I never once found someone that I would consider a master or one in which I would invest my entire spiritual search. For me, such an individual probably doesn’t exist. I have not yet been contacted by any secret chiefs, masters or secret immortal organizations, and I greatly doubt that any such individuals or groups exist in the real world. Such lessons as I have learned have been best apprehended by my own work and effort, even when given advice or guidance by others. Often these insights or advice have been freely given, or perhaps I attended some lecture or workshop and paid a small fee. I tend to avoid those who charge exorbitant fees for their knowledge unless I am absolutely certain that what they offer is critical, unique and important to me. Needless to say, I have very seldom applied for any expensive teachings and I don’t think that I have missed out on any opportunity for real personal growth. 

Spiritual egalitarianism and the establishment of Star Groups, where each member is a valued and equal representative of the group as a whole, is something that I have a vested interest in pursuing and promoting. It’s part of the by-laws of the Order of the Gnostic Star, so it’s obviously something that I must incorporate into my workings when engaging and involving other people. This means that the property of the group is to be shared equally amongst all of the members of the group. It also means that no one either charges or expects any kind of exchange for the gift of guidance or knowledge. Members are treated equally and with respect regardless of their previous experience or level of development, and teachers are nothing more than temporary facilitators who freely give their wisdom and insights for the good of the group. This would apply to both the supplying of temple space, equipment, supplies, books and other materials for the achievement of any group working. The group may extract dues from members, or it may rely on members freely offering goods or services, but the expenses met are considered donations whatever their source, and are the concern of the whole group and not just one or a few individuals. Egalitarianism is something that is difficult to learn and sometimes even harder to maintain, but it is essential if a group is to function as an integrated collective of equal individuals.

Another consideration is mentorship. In order to truly teach someone how to work magick, it requires taking them into a magick temple or grove and sharing the experience of working magick. This process of sharing must be done a number of times for each of the many different magickal workings. This is done in order for the complex system of magick used by the Order to be properly inculcated so that students are able to perform it without any help or guidance. We are talking about quite an investment of time and effort on the part of the teacher as well as the student. In the system of magick that I work, once an individual is initiated, they can no longer be expected to pay for their instruction, and mentoring becomes a very personal and intimate exchange. If experiences are shared, then certainly some of the expense of the workings can also be shared. But I would find it quite unethical to charge such an associate for my time or effort.

Correspondingly, a mentor can only do so much, it’s really up the student to master the work and become proficient in magick. So it’s expected that students will not only engage in shared workings, but will also perform their own and keep a consistent effort going during the training period. Mentorship should also be a temporary situation, having an allotted set of tasks, a finite period and duration. This keeps the relationship from becoming an open ended state of dominance by the mentor over the student. It should be expected that the student, whether less knowledgeable or capable, will either fulfill their objectives or not, and either way, they are respected and valued by the teacher. This also means that the period of personal teaching must end at some agreed upon point, where the teacher and student become independent of each other. This allows the student to either move on or to retain their association with the teacher, but now as an equal and respected contributor.

As you can see, spiritual egalitarianism and mentorship can only be sustained by small groups, allowing for the greatest amount of personal and intimate exchange between members. For this reason, the by-laws of the Order state that temple groups should have no more than a dozen members, since a larger group would not only have logistical issues for meeting and performing rituals, but that individual exchanges would become too limited and brief. It requires a mentor to properly train and teach another individual how to work very complex ritual workings, so a small group can facilitate mentors and simultaneously practice group rituals for the advancement of all members.

So when these considerations are examined and adopted, as I have, one might ask, what area is left for the teacher to teach and be paid or supported for his or her efforts? The answer is the general public - those who have not yet decided to pursue a specific path of magick and become an initiate. In fact the teacher and writer becomes a kind of gateway threshold that separates the serious and dedicated student from the superficial seeker. Often it takes time to make such a decision, where a student needs to have a fair amount of exposure to books, lectures, workshops, personal experimentation and meeting individuals representing groups before deciding to become an initiate. The teacher who facilitates these materials and gatherings for the general public has every right to charge for them whatever amount they think is appropriate and acceptable. The public will decide over time if such expenses are reasonable or egregious, voting with their feet if they find a teacher to be charging too much for what he or she is offering.

A final note: this is a very complex issue that has many deep layers to consider and think about. As a member of an existing organization that has rules, and also because I was initiated and trained as a witch with certain guidelines and expectations, I am not as free as others to charge for my services. But I believe that I am giving as much as anyone else to those who are interested in the occult practices of ritual magick. When someone decides to become an initiate and seeks me to be their mentor and initiator, then the rules must change to support spiritual egalitarianism and personal freedom.

Frater Barrabbas

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jesus Christ - Myth, Legend or Historical Person

First of all, I want to affirm that I am not a Christian, but I do respect Christianity as a world religion that has overall made a good and positive impact on the world. I can also say that organizations, institutions and individuals espousing this religion have also done terrible deeds and committed egregious crimes over the centuries. I feel more sympathetic to those who practice a form of esoteric Christianity than those who promote a form of literalism, fundamentalism and aggressive proselytizing. There are elements of Christianity that have greatly benefited the world and other elements that we could have done without. I am not the kind of pagan who believes that the world would have been better off without the advent and rise of Christianity, but I do believe that much was lost when the old pagan world began its slow and torturous march to total conversion. So, these are my sentiments about Christianity. I was raised in a nominal Christian family, although my father was an avowed agnostic and my mother’s involvement in attending church was more about singing in the choir than being a pious adherent. I was pretty much left to my own designs in regards to religious matters, since no one enforced any kind of religious doctrine or dogma on me. I was able to discover witchcraft and paganism almost in a kind of natural manner, without much in the way of books or people to talk to about it.

That being said, I broke off any kind of formal relationship with Christianity when I was teenager, but I have had to study many details of history, theology and philosophy that have caused me to re-examine Christianity and to know both the Bible and other tenets more intimately than I might have imagined years ago. I learned my Latin, Greek and Hebrew in college because I wanted to read the old grimoires and master the Qabbalah in its original tongue, but I also was exposed to a lot of interesting material on the history of those times, as well as theological considerations and actual textual critiques of the sacred writings. So I have unwittingly become more of an expert in Christianity than I would have deemed either necessary or even desirable years ago when I began my pagan path. What this means is that I am still looking at and examining various theories and perspectives from a historical as well as a theological and philosophical point of view. I have done this not only try to determine what paganism was like in late antiquity, but also how Christianity evolved into a world religion from an obscure Judean cult.

One of the most interesting and compelling theories that has been in and out of popular consensus (but seldom with religious scholars and historians) is the notion that somehow the erstwhile and unwitting founder of Christianity, namely Jesus of Nazareth, never really existed, that he was (and is) a completely mythical character who acquired a historical and legendary fame over time. Several authors have written about this theory, some claiming it to be valid, others debunking it. Religious scholars and historians have not accepted this theory as a compelling argument because most of the theories have been proposed by individuals who are not part of that academic clique. These theories have also been proposed with weak arguments and poor scholarship that has easily been deflected by the vested leaders of religious and historical studies. You can examine a rather biased report on these theories here.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of these arguments is this major stumbling block - if Jesus of Nazareth was a mythic character invented by Jewish messianic adherents, then where did the various sources of the stories that produced the narrative of his life come from? The theorists have pointed to the pagan world, with its various heros, mystery cults and demigods as the source. But of course, for messianic Jews living in the first century, such sources would have been both inimical and foreign to them. Perhaps only Paul was exposed enough to the pagan world and its mysteries (Tarsus was home to several mystery cults) to be able to use ideas from some of them to round out his teachings and make them more presentable to pagan gentiles. A recent book by Hiyam Maccoby, entitled “The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity” deals with this topic quite thoroughly. You can find it here.

However, the cult of Christianity was already fully formed by the time Paul became a member. That Paul appeared to create the Christian religion from both pagan and Jewish sources is still a contested theory, but one that seems to be gaining in strength and plausibility. This is because before Paul aggressively proselytized Christianity amongst pagan gentiles, the cult of Christianity was wholly a marginal Jewish offshoot. Jewish Christians from Judea were completely Jewish, and practiced all of the rituals, attended the synagogue, piously obeyed the laws and studied the Torah just like other Jews of that time. Such a group of conservative and religious individuals would have objected to any foreign influences or pagan incursions into their faith, and justifiably so. There were reports of tensions between Paul and the other apostles living in Judea based on whether Christianity should embrace or exclude many Jewish laws and practices. Obviously, Paul chose to part with many Jewish practices that would have been inconvenient and offensively foreign to pagans living in the Roman world. In doing so, he created a new religion, but not without a great deal of friction with the original apostles.

The Jewish revolt that occurred in the late 60's soon orchestrated a Roman response that caused the complete destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the diaspora of Jews throughout the Roman world. This, of course, ended the dispute between the Judean faction of Christianity and the faction led by Paul. It was also the birth of a new religion that was only remotely related to Judaism. They shared the same sacred texts, but interpreted them in very different ways.

Yet the question still remains, how did the Jewish messianic cult of Christianity begin and where did it get the story of its founder, Jesus of Nazareth? Because this question was not adequately answered by those who espoused that Jesus was not a real historical person, the theory seemed to be doomed to being picked apart by scholars and historians. While I may have found the argument compelling, I had dismissed it as not being very probable. Then, I very recently discovered three articles on the web written by an obscure individual whose name is R. G. Price. This individual is not a biblical scholar or a historian, he is, in fact the writer of articles about politics and economics. For some reason, he took it upon himself (back in 2007) to write three associated articles that have, at least for me, solved much of the puzzle.

Mr. Price has written, and I believe has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the first gospel, which was supposedly written by someone named Mark in the early 70's CE, was a fictional allegory filled with literary allusions taken from biblical sources in the old Testament, and filled in with sources from the epistles of Paul. He has shown that most of these literary allusions are taken almost word for word from their biblical sources. According to Price, the source for the Jesus narrative has its roots in the old testament, and that prior to the writing of this gospel, Christianity held a concept of the messiah that was immaterial, cosmic and godlike, unlike the typical Jewish idea of the messiah being a king, war leader and successful deliverer. When one carefully examines the historically validated epistles of Paul, this immaterial “Christ Jesus” seems to be the central tenet of Paul’s theology. He never mentions that Jesus was a historical person or that there will be a second coming, so the crucifixion becomes an allegory and a mystic symbol instead of a historical occurrence.

Price has concluded that the cult of Jesus Christ in Jewish circles evolved in the following manner.

I think that an apocalyptic Christ cult or movement developed among some Jewish subgroup and that at some point someone named James became the head of this group in Jerusalem. This group was primarily a Jewish group at this point. James, John, and Peter were all prominent Jewish members of this group. The primary belief held by this group, and what set it apart, was the belief in a heavenly messiah, in contradiction to the more traditional belief in an earthly messiah, or king.

The more traditional belief, though still not universal among Jews, was that a person known as the messiah would come along and unite and strengthen the Jews and be their god's representative on earth, and that this king would usher in a time of universal peace and justice and perfection, either by leading the Jews to military victory over everyone else in the world or by simply being accepted as the ruler of everyone else in the world, or some variation of this. The important part is that this would be a human being and that perfection would be reached on earth.

In contrast to this the apocalyptic and messianic movement that is associated with Jesus believed that the earth and the entire material world was hopelessly corrupt and that the material world must be destroyed in order to make way for a new paradise. They believed in a heavenly messiah, who would come to destroy the world in order to re-create a new perfect spiritual world.

Somewhere along the line this cult began spreading out and being adopted by non-Jews as well. The extent to which this happened before Paul is impossible to know. At any rate, Paul came along at some point and began vigorously evangelizing to non-Jews and developing his own theology, much of which denounced or did away with traditional Jewish practices (this was also part of a larger movement among Jews who were integrating into non-Jewish cultures).

This created conflict within the movement between a Jewish oriented group led by James, and a "Gentile" oriented group led by Paul.

The core of the early followers, however, were followers of the Jewish oriented group led by James. Peter seems not to have been a leader of any group, but rather more of a public relations figure. Peter seems to have been a high level person who interacted with others, such as Paul, more than James because James was the head of the group. The result being that Paul had more contact and interaction with Peter, even though Peter was not as high-level of a figure as James.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, however, this group was decimated and the Pauline group had grown larger outside the boundaries of the narrowly defined and geographically constricted Jewish oriented group.

Someone who was a follower of the Pauline sect, probably a Jew living in Rome, but its impossible to say, then wrote what we now call "The Gospel of Mark" during or after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The story was itself a parable and an allegory about the folly of the Jamesean/Peterine branch of the group and about the Judean Jews who contributed to the conflict with Rome. The writer of the Gospel of Mark, whether a Jew or not (probably a Jew), held a universalistic view that integrated the "Gentiles", just as Paul did. The writer of this story cast Peter as the main apostle because Peter figures more prominently in Paul's letters.

Of course, what happened next is that the Gospel of Mark, rather than being appreciated in its context as a fictional allegory, was taken literally, and quickly became the narrative of a historical leader instead of an allegorical and mythical personage. By the beginning of the second century CE, any knowledge of the mythical quality of Jesus was completely lost and other gospels had already been written to attempt to alter and amend the narrative that had begun with the Gospel of Mark. By that time, the church fathers held the belief that the first (and one of the best) gospels of that time was the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Mark was relegated to a lesser degree of precedence and importance than the other three. It was not until centuries later that biblical scholars came to agree that Mark was indeed the first and original gospel, the others used it as their source and expanded on it. Obviously, if the Gospel of Mark was a fictional allegory, then the fact that the three other gospels were based on it would be quite a source of irony.

After reading all three documents, I was amazed at how many of the questions and inconsistencies found in the Jesus narrative were answered and made plain to me. I feel that Price’s theory is quite compelling and perhaps even correct. The few historical mentions that do exist about Jesus have also been adequately explained and shown to be later inclusions, particularly the two mentions made by Flavius Josephus in his contemporaneous writings. Once these few historical references have been dealt with and shown to be spurious, then there is no historical or corroborative evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth whatsoever.

You can find these web based documents here, so read them and make your own judgment.

One last point that I would like to make. If indeed Price is correct and there was no historical Jesus who was the founder of the Christian religion, what impact does that have on the faithful followers today. I believe that unless one is a literalist and fundamentalist, it has no impact whatsoever. All religions evolve and their original creed is usually quite different from what eventually becomes adopted as a mass religion. This was especially true of Christianity because it was so protean and had little basis in the material world. The fact that there was no historical Jesus allowed for a wide range of beliefs, legends, practices and organizations to develop. The ultimate Roman Catholic hegemony eliminated all competitive ideologies until the reformation, so all of these diverse variations of belief and practice were expunged from the Roman, and later, European world. There is a wealth and a diversity of belief and practice today in the Christian world, and the fact that the crucified founder (who was supposedly a pious Jewish reformer) was actually invented out of whole cloth should be neither discrediting nor troubling to the millions of faithful believers.

If Jesus had existed, was a mortal man and an historical individual, then it’s doubtful that he would have sanctioned what ultimately became the Christian religion. From my perspective, Christianity is just as mythic and allegorical as my own beliefs and practices - there is no difference between Jesus, Dionysus, or Krishna. These are, of course, my opinions and nothing more. I am certain that many will dispute and dismiss them as heretical, unsound and consisting of poor scholarship, but I do expect that someday Price’s theories will get a proper hearing, and then, who knows what will happen.

Frater Barrabbas   

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Further Remarks on the Question of a Core Discipline

As a writer, it is my responsibility to ensure that I am correctly apprehended and understood, even though verbal and written communication is an inexact science at best. What this means is that no matter what I say either in words or in print, my point may be interpreted in a manner that I didn’t intend. This can happen particularly if I am making a point in a passionate and emotional manner, where sometimes the passion and the emotion can actually skew what I am trying to communicate. If I make a bunch of points, and then at the end my speech or article, I emphatically say or write something in an emotionally powerful manner that could be interpreted in a completely different manner by my listeners or readers, then the entire message of the speech or article could be dramatically altered. Instead of thinking about and weighing all of the points made, one could easily dwell on that one statement instead.

We have all experienced being misinterpreted or misunderstood when we talk, even with those who know us well, so as a writer it’s not too surprising if something we write is misunderstood by those who know us only by reputation or occasional articles. Apparently this is what happened when I wrote my previous article on the nature of core disciplines. I was powerfully effected by a sentence that I had read in Jason Miller’s article “No Replacement for Meditation”, almost nearly at the end of his article. He had made a series of points that I found I agreed with and then he wrote the sentence, "I am quite serious when I state in my books that I would give up every scrap of arcana, every spell, every ritual, every energetic manipulation and astral venture for the practice of meditation." Well, this statement of his stuck in my mind and I felt that I had to disagree with it quite strongly, even though it was neither the message of his article or even the intent. It was just an emotional statement, but it made me think very deeply for hours about what the nature my core discipline was and how I would write a similar but different statement.

Jason is an accomplished magician and one that I both respect and admire. He is neither saying in his article that meditation is his core discipline nor that he would prefer to do meditation rather than anything else. He was making a point about how important meditation was to the practice of magick. However, his impassioned statement had quite an effect on my thinking, so I wrote a response that outlined what I think is my core discipline in the practice of magick. I unfortunately used Jason as a kind of “straw man” in my discussion, which may have given individuals the idea that Jason espouses meditation as his core discipline. That was not really my intent. Mr. Miller has written me and told me quite clearly that this was not the case, so I am writing this clarification. The article that I wrote is useful and highlights an important point, but it is a hypothetical point, since no one would ever reduce their magickal practice down to just one thing.

Having made this statement, however, it must also be said that magicians who perform meditation as their core discipline are neither incorrect or in error. It is, in fact, just another valid approach to working magick - one of many. I have met some individuals whose core discipline in their magickal practice is meditation, and they are just as accomplished and adept as I supposedly am. But a core discipline represents a magician’s direction and emphasis, nothing more. Since the source of my knowledge and practice of ritual magick comes from a deep involvement in witchcraft, then those practices have powerfully effected the way that I work magick. The core discipline in witchcraft (of the variety that I have practiced) is the assumption of the godhead, performed at esbats or sabbats. Other magicians who began their studies in the Golden Dawn, the O,T,O,, the A.A., Theosophy, Neopaganism or even Christianity, would no doubt have a different core discipline than mine. The main point is that they all work, and one is not greater than another. Yet they all lead to the same thing - union with the godhead, and then the subsequent actions of the manifest destiny of the will of that godhead.

One comment that was made about my previous article is that the quest for the union with the Deity is a goal and not a discipline. I would have to reply that it is both, since even obtaining union with the Godhead would not cause the practices of alignment, devotion and assumption to cease, they would still be practiced, and therefore, would represent a core discipline. A similar thing could be said if someone’s core discipline were meditation. Would one cease meditating if samadhi were obtained? Of course not - yogis who have obtained high levels of consciousness as part of their normal waking state continue all of their spiritual exercises and practices, as if samadhi had not yet occurred. This would also be true of one whose core discipline was Godhead assumption. Also, obtaining godhead union is not an end to the process of spiritual and magickal achievement. As I have stated previously, it is just the beginning of a whole new spiritual cycle.

So, I believe that I have set the matter straight about my previous article. The basic premise and the various discussion points are all valid and, I believe, important. It may even help others to determine what their core discipline is, helping them to focus their efforts and refine their discipline. If I have helped even a few to gain this new perspective, then my previous article has successfully accomplished its objective.

Frater Barrabbas