Friday, July 30, 2010

Some Further Thoughts - Oaths, Secrecy & Secret Chiefs

Well, now, the discussion over Nick Farrell’s blog article about the Golden Dawn oath of secrecy has gotten some interesting traction as of late. As an outsider, it mostly doesn’t concern me, since I have not taken any of the Golden Dawn oaths. I am not a party to that discussion, just an outsider who is puzzling over it because it seems so simple to me.

I have already responded to this argument that pagans and witches take their oaths pretty seriously in a previous article, even if it is to protect confidences and materials (like the Book of Shadows) that everyone pretty much knows anyway.

Some like Fr. Peregrin have opined that secrecy and oaths are archaic and could even be considered idolatrous, since they mistake the symbols and tools for the real mysteries. You can find his blog here. I am sorry, but I find that argument kind of confusing and a bit off topic. The real issue here is whether or not oaths and secrecy have any relevance. Of course, I can talk about this from a theoretical perspective, but I can’t freely violate the oaths that I took when I was initiated as a witch - it just isn’t done. Why is that so? Well, for one thing it would undo my initiatory process, invalidating what I received and what I appear to continue to receive. Who wants to screw around with progress? Peregrin makes a really good point that the mysteries are inexplicable and can’t be written down or shared with others, and I wholly agree.

This is one of the reasons why witches and many pagan are not “people of the book.” We have no sacred scriptures because the mysteries themselves provide those experiential mysteries in great abundance. What is secret is what I do in my personal magick (at least the more subjective and personal stuff, in case I feel the need to share or teach others), the personal names of the various Gods and Goddesses that I have experienced or received, the ritual lore that I use, and most importantly, the name of my Holy Guardian Angel. Does this mean that I am some kind of idolater? Well no, it really doesn’t. I am an idolater because I’m a pagan and use statues of the gods in my magickal work, and I give them offerings and worship them, but that’s another issue altogether.

Then there is the sticky issue of the secret chiefs, also known as those “remarkable men and women” who have achieved the highest level of being possible for a human. Do I believe that they are mythic and they don’t really exist? Of course not. I don’t believe in omniscient and immortal humans who live for centuries without aging and who have superhuman powers, but I do believe that a single human being can achieve complete and total enlightenment in a single life time. That’s different than believing in “ascended masters,” but I won’t argue or try to prove that such individuals don’t exist to those who believe in them. I just don’t share their beliefs, that’s all.

Could it be possible that there is a Third Order of higher adepts in the Western Mystery tradition who reside in some location of the world, most likely Europe? Why not? Some have said that there couldn’t possibly be such a group or even individuals. They even say that those who claim to have made contact with such a group and have materials for the Third Order are lying and being totally deceitful. How could that be? If someone claims that no such group or organization exists, then they should be required to prove that statement, just as those who claim that it is true.

However, due to oaths of secrecy and confidentially, providing proof that such a group exists might actually be impossible, if one actually obeys those oaths. This is definitely a Catch-22 situation. It’s like the argument about the existence of God - some will propose proof that God exists, but that proof can be just as easily turned around and shown to be negative. In the end, the only proof is a person’s good works and faith in God. The existence of God is determined by the fact that many believe in God, and they are powerfully and positively transformed by it. It can’t be proven, but then again, it can’t be disproved, either. The same paradox exists for the secret chiefs. If you have met them and know they exist, then you have been made to take oaths not to reveal their identities, which is part of the issue of keeping confidences (and a real conundrum).

What this means is that if one faction of the GD claims to have contact with the secret chiefs and has constituted the Third Order, then the only way to prove that claim one way or the other must require a person to undergo those initiations and teachings and find out for themselves. Otherwise, the arguments are all pointless. The proof of the pudding is in the eating - if you don’t eat the pudding, then you can’t know. It’s very simple logic, even for an outsider.

Finally, to claim that there are no secret chiefs or any kind of advanced adepts in the world, or at least in the Western Mystery tradition, is to say that the only valid knowledge in the world is what is in books in a library or available on the internet. If it isn’t in those various sources, then it doesn’t exist.

Think about that for a moment. It sets up a terrible boundary or limitation on spiritual, magickal and esoteric knowledge. It says, in effect, that there is nothing greater out there than what we have already achieved. Everyone, no matter their personal gifts and abilities or how long they have studied, not to mention the breakthroughs that they might have made, are at the same level. Initiations, transformations, secret oaths - it’s all just window dressing! Well, I for one would find that quite discouraging. It means that we are totally alone and there are no brothers or sisters out there who know more than we do, at least in any significant way.

Gee, if I were to believe that, then I may as well quit all of this mumble jumble occultism now while I am ahead and do something really constructive with my life, like making lots of money or discovering my happiness in the sandy beaches of Tahiti. Good thing for me that I still have hope that I will someday meet some remarkable men and women who might teach me something that I don’t already know. I eagerly look forward to that day.

If someone claims to have contacts with the secret chiefs or remarkable men and women and that they have established a Third Order of higher adepts, who am I to deny them? If I want to prove them wrong, then I would need to be initiated into that organization. Otherwise, I can just nod my head and give them the benefit of the doubt, because who knows, what if that claim is legitimate? Who wants to spoil any future opportunities to achieve total enlightenment? I, for one, don’t, so I will play by the rules and see what happens. That’s the most that any of us can really do. To do otherwise is to spoil the game for ourselves and for others as well.

Frater Barrabbas

Opera Ex Operato Indeed!

Jason Miller has written an absolutely brilliant blog article today that I just had to comment on. In fact, I believe that his article has helped me locate and determine an important piece of the puzzle that I have been thinking about and wrestling with for quite some time. I agree with most of what he has said, but have some additional caveats to propose. Basically, what he has said is striking and important. You can find it here.

Jason’s essential premise is that belief and intent are not as important as many would presume, including myself. However, they are still operational quotients in the workings of magick, which is what I assume he is communicating in his article. So, don’t discount the power of your beliefs or your intent in the magickal working, just don’t give them too much weight, either. What is important is the work itself! (That was the “Aha” moment!)

The term Opere Ex Operato is an ecclesiastic term that translates as “it works because of the working”. It arose as a church doctrine as a response to competition between priests claiming to give more effective sacraments than other priests because of their proper view and purity.

Of course the ecclesiastic term was more likely promoted so that the incompetence of some members of the clergy could be overlooked when attending a mass that was below the minimum standard of quality to be considered at all effective. But there is some truth to this statement, and it does answer some questions that I have been puzzling over.

I have been present, witnessed as well as heard of botched magickal operations and liturgical presentations that seemed to work quite well even though the celebrants were completely incompetent and the resultant working was considered terrible. However, that doesn’t mean that any operation however poorly contrived and executed will work regardless simply because it somehow resonates with some magickal or spiritual archetype, being or force. Magick can and does fail. Learning to be knowledgeable, proficient, capable and well practiced in the art of ritual magick is still an important objective for any student. Also, I have found that a more proficient magician will not only produce more elegant and esthetically pleasing ritual workings, but that they will be more likely to produce the desired result. So intent, belief, capability and understanding do play some roles in the ability of a magician to work magick and the product of her magickal workings. If this were not true, then all teachers would not be able to justify teaching others how to work magick, and perhaps even charging for it. (Hmm..)

I even recently believed that by intent alone a poorly contrived and executed ritual would be effective, but that supposition has always left me feeling like something was missing. One could intend to work magick, and then decide to drink a six pack of beer and watch TV. Would that intention count for anything - decidedly not! The world is overwrought with intentions that never amount to anything because they also require that the “intendee” gets off his backside and actually does the work. Belief in what you are doing and intention are also important, since they can be foundational to what you are doing - but the work is critically important, and without it, nothing happens.

However, the nature of the work is subtle, and does not need to conform to established praxis in order for it to be competent and successful. I create (make up) ideas and come up with new ways of doing my ritual magick all of the time, and it works quite effectively. It also works for others as well, so I would suspect that it isn’t necessary to either do something or engage with something that has a long history of being done or being engaged with.

Chaos magicians seem to prove this quite often, using anything that strikes their fancy as a system of magick, and yet, it works. One of my old teachers built an entire magickal and liturgical system out of the Superman comic mythos, and as silly as it was to watch and experience, it still worked. Perhaps we could say that Superman resonates with aspects of the godhead and the hero demigod (perhaps like Hercules or Samson, except with even greater godlike powers), but the silly quotient in what was being done had to be overcome as well. Culture is replete with all sorts of stuff that could be incorporated into one’s magick, even things that would be absurd (such as having pop icons as gods and goddesses), and yet the magick would probably still work.

Another thing that has to be understood about magick is that it is decidedly “wiggly.” That means that it doesn’t conform to logical structures and often seems to have a mind and will of its own. To make rules and suppositions about magick usually invokes the wiggly nature of magick. Therein lies the crux of being found out in some embarrassing manner that one’s rules are decidedly too rigid to actually encapsulate the whole mystery of what magick is and how it works. So we can all sit in our comfy arm chairs and discuss the nature of magick, while it’s running loose and fomenting all kinds of mischief behind our backs.

Also, one needs to qualify what is meant by belief and intent, since there could be weak and strong versions of these qualities. The weak versions would represent our whims and superficial expectations and desires (often quite changeable), and the strong versions would represent our greater expectations at a deep level of our being, and our true intent devoid of self deception and delusion. Deciding to work magick always runs into the powerfully paralyzing qualities of inertia, sloth and indecisiveness. These are forces in the personality that can and will nullify any kind of plan or operation, and they have to be dealt with through personal discipline and an act of willpower.

Thinking outside of box and accepting challenges that are not part of one’s usual equation are the elements that evolve and help us to grow. Without them, there is stagnation and ultimately, devolution. Jason is dead right about that issue! We need to be always open to many possibilities and experiment with new things and concepts, even things that might appear to go against our superficial desires and wants. Inertia and sloth, disguised as comfort and always working in the box will not help us grow and become strong, It will in fact ensure that we remain within the boundaries of the box and never succeed in achieving much of anything in life. Pushing the envelope and learning to master the self is critical to all spiritual pursuits and paths, especially in the practice of magick, where more often than not, we have no one to either guide, direct or bash us across the side of the head from time to time. Magick is definitely not something that is comfortable and predictable - so get out there and push the envelope, make something happen and by all means, do something that you have never done before.

So, a tip of the hat and “kudos” to Jason Miller for his insightful and interesting blog article. I have to admit, you made my day!

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Matter of Oath Breaking

Recently, Nick Ferrell wrote a blog article where he criticized the necessity for the oath of secrecy for Golden Dawn initiates. While I am not a Golden Dawn initiate, I do have some opinions about oaths of secrecy and confidentiality. I have also incorporated a kind of oath for members of my own order, but that oath is more engaged with confidentiality and ethics than actual secrecy. Still I can understand the need for such an oath as well as its limitations. You can find Nick’s article here.

The Golden Dawn has been rife over the last century or more with various kinds of individual oath breakers. Certainly, Crowley could be considered one of the first, who published the Golden Dawn lore in his periodical “Equinox.” Then we have Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, and a host of others. I have to admit that if these individuals had not circumvented their oaths, none of their writings about the Golden Dawn would have been produced. We would have known next to nothing about this secret organization and its precious lore, and there would have been a dearth of popular occultism, paganism, wicca and magick today. Some might have been quite happy if the occult explosion of the last hundred years had not occurred, but I can tell you that I would have been quite unhappy. In fact, the thought of not being an occultist and having my mono-mania of magick to pursue is quite daunting indeed. (Ha! Maybe I need to get a life and stop being such an occult nerd.)

So I can’t either blame or condemn any of these occultists for breaking their solemn oath to the egregore of the Order of the Golden Dawn, because I and many others profited from it. However, I can look at what motivated each of these individuals and determine what the driving force was that caused them to take this step. For all of the occultists except Crowley, the reason was selfless. They were driven by the desire to enlighten and inform the public. It doesn’t matter too much that the material was given out of context, since it did indeed inform and enlighten many individuals. In fact, it is probably what saved the Order from complete extinction, so perhaps the egregore of the Order was behind these illicit transmissions.

Crowley’s reason for publishing the Golden Dawn material was undoubtedly for pure spite. He despised Mathers and the other members of the Order. He also sought to abrogate the lore for his own personal magickal order, and he published some of Mather’s manuscripts and passed them off for his own work. However, Crowley also produced his own stellar work and had many great contributions to the study and practice of magick. However, his intentions were not selfless or positive, even though the final outcome did end up being good. I suspect that Crowley got to taste the full bitterness of his betrayal of a powerful order and its egregore, if we attribute his final days to that consequence. We can also just as well believe that Crowley was just being himself to the very end, brilliant, pathological, addicted, profoundly creative, notorious and controversial.  Despite his final pitiful days, I think that Crowley would be pleased with the number of occultists today who read and study his works.

Other occultists have published Golden Dawn material - much of it has been in the public domain for quite some time, so I would assume that such material couldn’t be part of an oath of secrecy and confidentiality. So for this reason I couldn’t condemn someone like David Griffin for being an oath breaker. In fact, I am quite happy that many Golden Dawn initiates have written books for me to read and study. However, where I draw the line is the consideration of the author’s motive. Why are they writing about this material when it properly belongs to the Order of the Golden Dawn. Answering that question is very important, as I have already shown in the examples above. If the motive is a selfless desire to inform and enlighten the public, then it must be a positive development, perhaps one that the egregore has sanctioned itself in some manner. If not, then what is revealed is probably not only illicit but against the spirit of the organization.

Nick Ferrell has written a lengthy article that outlines what he thinks is invalid and wrong about the oath of secrecy in the Golden Dawn. There are things that he finds agreeable and things that he doesn’t agree with and feels should be changed. That is all well and good, and probably it would be better stated by someone who has never taken that oath than someone who has.

Say you take an oath. Later on you pick it apart to determine which sections are agreeable to you. Those you agree with, you follow, the rest you ignore. Does that make any sense at all? It seems kind of fast and loose to me. It’s almost like getting your driver’s license and then deciding which traffic laws are relevant and which ones can be broken. A lot of drivers get away with ignoring some traffic laws, like coming to complete stop at a stop sign, but sooner or later either a traffic cop or an accident will force them to change their mind.

I believe that if you make an oath, it doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, or whether you can obey some parts of it and ignore others. If you don’t respect the oath as a whole, then picking it apart will only completely undo it. In other words, if you can’t respect any part of an oath, then you have no business taking it in the first place.

Confidentiality is, preeminently, the most important part of an oath. Yet confidentiality extends beyond just the names, addresses and personal characteristics of the members of the organization. It is also includes the daily business and personal interactions of the group, the magick they are jointly working, the rituals and lore that they use, group politics and interactions - all of this is strictly confidential. If materials are not already in the common domain, then they shouldn’t be published except without proper authorization from the organizational heads.

 I wouldn’t like it if some clown in my local magickal temple decided to publish the group’s rituals and activities without telling the whole group about it and getting our consent. Maybe someone might have good reasons to publish confidential or unpublished information, but if their reasons are good and if they took an oath to retain all such information as confidential, then they need to ask permission and get approval. In our order, such approval is strictly limited to the local temple, and then it is by full consensus. These are matters of ethics, and anyone who is in a formal group should take them quite seriously.

Here is an example of the oath of ethics taken by an initiate of the first degree (Neophyte) in the Order of the Gnostic Star. I can share this information with you because it has been available on the internet for the past several years.

“I ______________, in the presence of the Lords of the Universe, who work in silence and whom none but silence can express, in this temple of the most high and holy Graal (Isis-Sophia). By the order E. S. S. G. do of my own free will solemnly promise to keep secret this order, its members, its rituals and proceedings. To undertake a benevolent revelation with all the fratres and sorores of this Order. To reveal to no one except the initiates of this order the rituals, ceremonies and documents of this order. That I shall never debase my mystical knowledge in the labor and service of negative magick at anytime nor under any temptation. If I should break this sacred vow, my soul stands before those powers conjured in this sacred place to judge my actions.”

Does taking this oath mean that the rituals and documents of the Order must remain inviolable secrets?  No, actually, it doesn’t. It means that a member of a temple of the Order must keep in confidence all that occurs within it, to protect the members and the workings that they are undergoing. The rituals are not what is kept confidential - only the ritual lore of the temple. There is an important distinction here that should be understood. I usually make certain that prospective members understand the nuances of this oath, but often, I find such an explanation to be superfluous, since it’s so obvious what is being kept confidential.

Thus I would never take an oath that I didn’t wholly believe in and follow to the end, and I would obey an oath that I took to the fullest possible definition. This is what is expected of occultists, and there is an important reason for behaving in this manner. That reason is rather mysterious at first glance, but if you think about it, it becomes more evident. If you break your oath with a spiritual or magickal organization, then you set up a powerful wave of negativity, distrust and dissonance that has a subtle but powerful over-all impact. If it is egregious and based purely upon one’s own lust for power and self aggrandizement, then it will cause a permanent disconnect from the egregore of that organization.

Once such a breakage occurs, as a kind of willful sundering, then it becomes more difficult for any other doors or future possibilities to open for that person. If they have left a bad group, then there is no blame. If not, then they are culpable. If we consider that there are possible higher levels of spiritual and magickal development that are neither in print or held by any known organization, then its possible that such lore would be in the hands of individuals who have achieved the highest level of spiritual and magickal attainment in this world. These individuals would very likely judge an oath breaker as not trustworthy for the greater lore, thus he would be overlooked even if his achievements were monumental.

As far as the Golden Dawn is concerned, a branch or a temple may be bad or corrupt, however, the egregore is still a powerful and positive vehicle in the spiritual and magick world. An oath made in that temple is to the egregore, not to the temple hierarchy. Violations of that oath will be measured against the good and the harm that such an action has caused. The intent of the violation must also be weighed, and that should indicate whether someone meant to do it for the greater good, or did it for ego or spite.

Nick has bragged that when he published an ebook version of the Book of the Tombs, a document that hadn’t ever been published before, he managed to single handedly silence a dispute between two warring factions of the Order that were fighting over the disposition of the Vault of Adepti. The vault is a chamber device that is used in the inner order to conduct intensive forms of magick and initiation, which the document outlined in detail. Supposedly, the two groups then ceased their bickering when they managed to review the original dimensions and qualifications of the vault. Of course, that’s his opinion, we can just as easily assume that they were silenced by his audacity and outraged at his illicit actions.  

I believe the real issue is Nick's cavalier attitude to the very organization that taught him magick and revealed to him the inner mysteries. What is Nick’s intention but his own self aggrandizement, which is in a word, “ego.” Nick seeks to make himself a great man at the expense of the egregore of the Order that took him into its bosom. That makes him not only an oath breaker, but a real blackguard as well. Nick seems to be ruled by his piratical rapaciousness for secret occult lore, which he turns around and publishes, all for the greater glory of himself. He seeks not to inform the general public, but instead to promote himself as an authority and a master of secrets. In declaring himself to be an oath breaker, he has shown the world that he can't be trusted, and has unwittingly slammed the door on any future transmission of even greater occult lore. Potential higher adepts would never consider him as a colleague, and who in their right mind would want to have that option negated?

I don’t feel impressed by what Nick has done, instead I feel sorry for him. Who could ever trust this man with their lore or their mysteries? However you attempt to spin this dilemma, an oath breaker is just that, an oath breaker. It’s someone who betrayed the trust that other individuals placed in them, all for the greater glory of themselves.

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Grove and Outdoor Magick

“Have seen dawn and sunset on moors and windy hills
Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain:
I have seen the lady April bringing in the daffodils,
Bringing the springing grass and the soft warm April rain.

I have heard the song of the blossoms and the old chant of the sea,
And seen strange lands from under the arched white sails of ships;
But the loveliest things of beauty God ever has showed to me
Are her voice, and her hair, and eyes, and the dear red curve of her lips.”
Beauty - John Masefield

There is nothing more beautiful, intense, real and meaningful than having an outdoor place to work magick, especially if it is consecrated and maintained over a period of time. I call such a semi-permanent place to work magick out of doors, a Grove, and I am lucky enough to own a three acre section of wooded land that has such a place within it. A grove demands a certain fundamental reality that you won’t find in an indoor temple. A magician who works in a grove is expected to be able to deal effectively with the variables of nature. Trust me when I say that there is nothing more basic or fundamental than that.

However, many witches treat an outdoor grove much as they would treat their indoor temple. This is patently wrong and misguided. Such a notion assumes that there is no difference between a grove and a temple, and to be deadly honest, they are quite different in many ways. So to help some folks to adjust their magickal workings to an outdoor environment so that they can really function within a grove setting, I decided to write an article that articulates the differences between a temple and a grove, and how those differences can make for some exceptional magickal experiences.

When witches assemble to work magick in a temple area, especially if that temple is a temporary affair that is used normally for living space, then one of the first things that they will do is to perform a rite that purifies the area and generates sacred space. Upon that sacred space they will erect a magick circle and set the four wards to the four cardinal directions. Sacred space is generated through the application of the four Elements, where earth and water are the salt and water conjoined to make the lustral water, and incense and fire are joined to make the clouds of incense smoke. Some will even pass a candle to the four directions as an emblem of fire, although that is optional. Yet such a set of actions would very likely be superfluous when defining sacred space outdoors. Why is that? What could be the difference?

The very first assumption that anyone who is a pagan or a witch would make about nature is that it is inherently sacred. So this means that even a suburban yard has a certain quality of sacredness already built into it. When a group assembles in some “secret glade” to do their magickal rites and worship the gods, then that secret glade is already sacred. If it’s already sacred, then what’s the point in aspurging, incensing, laying a magick circle, calling the quarters and setting the four wards. Most of these actions are terribly redundant and unnecessary because the area chosen for magick is already sacred space. In the end, these actions, taken out of context from a temple, only serve to help the group become aware of the sacredness of the space, and that is accomplished poorly because not one person has done anything to attune themselves to the natural sacredness of the area. They assemble in some beautiful natural space, and then ignore it’s beauty for the sake of their liturgical protocols. While they are doing these actions, they are ignoring what that sacred space has to say, almost refusing to listen to the trees and tune in to the lush growth of grasses and herbs. It almost seems like those who profess to be pagan and witches are actually quite dulled by their mundane and urban life experience, even if they live in the suburbs or the countryside. All of this is quite sad to me, since it represents the fact that some pagans are only pagan in name, that the actual mystery of nature completely escapes them.

Does anyone go to a sacred natural setting and before any ritual or liturgical work is done, ask the space for its permission and assistance? Just learning to be quiet, tuning in to nature, touching the plants and the earth itself, and then asking these simple questions would certainly make a difference.

“I am here and open to you, please attend and be open to me. What do you want to teach me today? What do you want me to do so that I may honor you and come to know the mystery of nature?”

Does anyone talk to nature anymore? Certainly, that would be sign of someone who is a pagan - talking to the trees, grasses and herbs. Learning to emulate the deep quiet of nature in one’s inner self would also allow nature to talk back, because it can certainly be loquacious in its own way. Talking to nature and listening to its subtle, deep and gentle replies is an important step to becoming a real pagan, and an important step to working magick in a grove. 

I have attended many festivals and gatherings where rituals are conducted using the same old tired ritual actions, again and again, all of which are exactly the same actions that are done in a temple. No one asks the natural setting where these rites are being performed if that is the right and proper thing to do, or what, if anything, should be done. What it does, though, is create an artificial barrier between the celebrants and the actual ground upon which they are doing their rites. The earth can’t talk to them if they are assiduously ignoring it. The lack of that fundamental connection makes what is done almost absurd, especially for those who espouse to be pagans or wiccans.

So, how do we rectify this situation and work our rites in a grove setting while establishing a powerful and harmonious link with the mysteries and powers of nature? What must we do to really become a proper worshiper of nature and an agent of earth-base spirituality, not to mention work earth based magick? What we have to do is to throw away most of our assumptions and leave the temple rites in the context of the temple. For a grove, we need to approach it in a completely unique and different way.

Here are some assumptions and what impact they have on working outdoor rites in a grove setting.

Groves are naturally sacred, there is no need to attempt to make them sacred. What is required, instead, is to open the self and re-sensitize the mind and body to what is already there. So we don’t make sacred space in a grove, we open ourselves to it and make ourselves available to it.

All of the Elements are present in nature, there is no need to summon any of them. Similarly, the Gods and Goddesses are all present, there is no need to call or summon them, either. What we do is to become deeply and profoundly aware of these qualities and open ourselves to them each, one at a time.

Give offerings, gifts and veneration to the sacred space so that it will want to open up to those who are seeking to work within it, and these offerings are always organic human made things consisting of food, drink, (vegetable) oil, tobacco and other things that have been taken from nature to nurture and feed us humans. We give these things back to the earth, to show that we aren’t selfish and that we want to feed the earth as well as ourselves.

Complicated written scripts and rituals are unnecessary in a grove. Ask the grove what kind of ritual work should be done and how it should accomplished. The grove as living sacred space not only talks, listens and informs, but it can also guide one in a more effective method of working magick. Memorize what needs to be done, and then be flexible, speak, sing and dance from the heart, and be ready to throw away your assumptions to try something completely new.

Of all the four Elements, we bring fire into the sacred grove. Fire can be a terrible force that destroys nature, so it must also be venerated, worshiped, respected and rigorously controlled. Fire is a powerful spirit, and when it breaks the boundaries that control it, it can be a terrible beast. So we should approach it with great care, respect and cautious veneration. Natural fire is the light and warmth of the Sun - wild fire is what is generated from lightening or vulcanism. Similarly, we may erect and light torches or set up lanterns to illuminate the site and add a special illuminating pattern of mystery and beauty to the sacred space of the grove.

A circle can be used to help focus the magickal work, but it is not required. A permanent grove will have a few things erected and permanently left there for periodic use. These would be a circle to mark the boundary of sacred space, an altar of some kind to show the place where the gods are assumed to be (this can also be a Stang or pole), a sacred fire pit and torches and/or markers to show the approximate four or eight directions, thus making it a compass round. A temporary grove can have an altar, fire pit and torches set up, or it can have just a fire pit for the fire. There is no real need for a circle or any other distinguishing markers, just the fire pit where the human element introduces a controlled version of the Element of Fire.

Tools that are required are few - there is little need for anything that doesn’t have a practical value. A knife is used to cut and carve, something is used to make fire, perhaps even a wand can be brought with one, but a handsome stick cut from a fallen branch would do nicely. A Stang is a wonderful tool, since it melds wood and horn into a single expression, and it is iron shod. (I will be discussing this tool in a future article, so have no fear if the concept eludes you for the moment.) Learn to use only a few tools or none, and make do with what the grove offers you as a suitable magickal tool.

A grove is a very special place that is generally larger and roomier than an indoor temple, so it benefits one to dance, leap in the air, sing, beat drums, play flutes, eat and drink, and even make love, all in the name of Sacred Nature. If a person seeks something in life that he or she does not already possess, then ask the earth if it’s possible, what must be done to make it so, and then use the power and majesty of the earth to make it so. Perhaps an unusual stone will make itself known to you, or a special herb. What is at hand is all that one needs.

So to recap - how do we work magick and worship in a grove?

  • Perform deep forms of meditation, listen and attune yourself to nature. Do this first before doing anything else. Talk to the sacred space and get a good conversation going before you do anything. Find out what the grove wants you to do, and then make a mental note to do it. Do this in complete and total darkness, if it’s night.
  • Light the torches to illuminate the sacred space - this is done for us, so we can see what we are doing.
  • Give offerings to the grove - accompanied with praise, song and veneration.
  • Light the fire - venerate, respect and attune oneself to the fire burning in the heart of the grove.
  • Acknowledge the four or eight directions - align and orient the self.
  • Seek the Gods and Goddesses of that sacred space - align and attune the self to them. Give them veneration, praise, love through song and dance. Bless food and drink, share it with them.
  • Empower oneself in the awesome majesty of the grove - raise the power in oneself through ecstatic dance, and then focus on an intention - release and send out the power. You can do this more than once, but each time, it should be done to make that “one” thing happen in your life.
  • At the end of the rite, extinguish the lights and make certain that the fire is secured or quelled completely. Attune oneself to the earth, offer a heartfelt thanksgiving, and then leave. If at all possible, sleep the night near the grove - seek for dreams and teachings from the land itself.
  • The next day, if this was a temporary site, clean it up so that it looks like no one has been there, within reason, of course. Some campgrounds require that you keep the fire pit intact. Just make certain that the fire is completely put out before leaving.

I think that if pagans and witches use these simple rules to work outdoors (unless they are already doing something like that), then they will experience magick in a grove as it should be experienced - without barriers or built in assumptions.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writers Need A Sense of Humor

Every once in a while, a writer will get a very sharp and clever review of one of their books that has a bit of great humor at their expense. I have been reviewed by some very fair reviewers, and also some reviewers have taken a hatchet job to me and my work, though luckily only by two. In either case, my experience is either admiration or outrage, and seldom is there anything in between. It’s basically the price that anyone pays for putting their words into print and selling themselves as authors and occult teachers. Not everything that I have written is perfect and defensible, which is to say there are mistakes and accidental omissions as well as regrettable typos and out of context statements. Often times some of this ends up getting through the editors and into print. I am happy to say that the worst of it never does get into print.

Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick trilogy is not my best writing work. In fact, much of it was written over 15 years ago, and it was heavily revised, edited and reworked, with new material added to the old. Admittedly, the final product is far superior to what existed before this process started, but it’s not as good as it might have been had I started over and discarded the original manuscript. Often the very first project that an author writes up for a nonfiction manuscript gets scrapped because it tends to function more as a heuristic process for the writer than producing a viable product. This is because it takes a lot of time, practice and effort to produce a finished work that stands up to intense reviewer scrutiny. It took me two decades to learn to write in such a manner so that what I express is actually intelligible to others. That learning process isn’t over yet, of course, but readers who look over my current articles are seeing the very best of what I can do as a writer, while the MARM trilogy represents something less than that.

However, the four books that I have in print are valuable to some people since they act as bridge between what a wiccan or neopagan does when they work magick, and what can be done in a slightly more advanced system. I have introduced new magickal constructs, such as the vortex, pyramid of power, western and eastern gateways, pylons, cross-roads and many others, all of which use the eleven point magickal circle structure. These constructs act as the foundation of the magickal systems of the Order of the Gnostic Star, so they are used in ever more complex systems of magickal architecture, such as Elemental magick, Talismanic Elemental magick, Invocation and Evocation, and Lesser and Greater Archeomancy. The building blocks for these systems are taught in the four books that I have already published.

That being said, I have recently discovered a review of the first volume of Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Foundation that was both fair and actually quite humorous, all at my expense, of course, but still enjoyable. It was written by Katsai on the website for Facing North, and you can find it here. However, for your amusement, I will quote the best part of the review, which expresses a very humorous jab on the writing style used in that particular volume.

‘The narrative style seemed more a presentation of “this is what I do” than anything else. Which, admittedly, is reasonable. When asking someone to be utterly original and not take anything presented to them as rote, one shouldn’t then proceed to tell them how to think. I did find myself reminded of a quote from the film A Mighty Wind, however. “Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.” Some of Barrabbas’ statements come across pretty much like that.’

I suspect that if Katsai had read the first book, “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick”, she might have gotten more out of the first volume of MARM than what she apparently did. This is one of the problems with producing a trilogy and having it come out one book at a time with many months in between. I can’t fault anyone for being turned off by reading a series out of sequence or not engaging a book with the requisite background knowledge. I would expect someone picking up a book on advanced Calculus to have a hard time learning the concepts if they never made it through algebra or trigonometry, not to mention basic derivatives and integrals.

Yet I must admit that Katsai’s comment was quite clever and hilarious, so I give her a lot of credit for having slogged through my book without having read DGRM first. Anyway, this goes to show that I do have a sense of humor and I can laugh at my own pompousness and self-absorbed occult nerdiness. I believe that all authors should have such a sense of humor about themselves and their work. It’s probably not a good sign if you can’t enjoy a good piece of humor aimed at your own work.

(Laughing all the way to the higher planes - the author.)

Frater Barrabbas

Mid Year and Things are Beginning to Stir

This article is about the continuing saga of the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal and its overall effects on me as I progress through that spiritual and magickal process. As time passes on, I am more certain than ever that what I did last year was probably the most important magickal working that I have ever done. Yet still more has yet to manifest - of this I am certain.

The date July 5th passed without much fanfare, although I had felt that passage as an internal shift in my own spiritual process. Why is that date important to me? It’s the six month point in my personal cycle of the Greater Wheel of Fortune. For me, the second half of the year (starting on July 5) is where most of the action occurs. The first six months is where my life process undergoes a high degree of reflection, internal soul searching, the genesis of new prospects and possibilities, and the sorting out of expired opportunities, fruitless pursuits and dead-end pathways. So one would expect that during the six months since January, I would have begun to determine my spiritual path in a much more clarified manner due to the Abramelin working that was established in December. That assumption has been shown to be startlingly correct.

Many things have occurred over the last seven months since I completed the first phase of the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal, which was the larger part of that working. There are still a few other rituals that need to be done in order for the entire process to be completed. However, much has transpired during that interval, including potential prospects that may allow me to complete my spiritual and magickal journey and achieve a state of complete enlightenment. I feel quite buoyant and highly optimistic about the future now that events have overtaken me and are pointing the way forward in completely new directions.

It has been quite evident to me that even with all of the inspired information and insights that I have gained, not to mention breakthroughs for someone who is following this path while not being a member of any formal organization, whether of the OTO, the Golden Dawn or any other magickal order or lodge, that I will soon achieve the very limit of what I can accomplish on my own. While not belonging to an organization has freed me to investigate and experiment in any manner that I feel inspired to pursue, it has also isolated me and kept me from obtaining any kind of valuable peer review, not to mention important teachings necessary to obtain the highest levels that can be achieved. In word, within a few years, I would probably run out of new ideas and find myself at a dead-end unless something happens to change my current spiritual and magickal equation.

That something has happened to me recently, opening up a whole new vista of possibilities. In fact a series of events have happened to me over the past few months that may change the entire course of my studies and my magickal practice. It may sound rather dramatic, and it is, but the changes are subtle. They still will require me to take the initiative, so I will be making some important and profound decisions and transitions in the near future.

Would these changes have occurred if I hadn’t written up and performed my Abramelin Lunar Ordeal? Maybe, or maybe not. My intuition tells me that much of what has happened to me is due to what I did back in November and December of last year. All of the massive potential that I am now poised to realize was made possible by that work. It tested and challenged me in ways that I couldn’t begin to discuss or make any rational sense out of to outsiders. It also made me worthy of what I may yet receive, and for this I am both grateful and humbly receptive to all that will befall me. Life seems to be almost charmed, since every endeavor that happens to me lately seems to further my spiritual and magickal quest. Even the nearly moribund Order has shown signs of being regenerated, since a few individuals have been reaching out to me so that they might be able to receive and work with the magickal system that has so empowered and impacted me over the years. A new temple is being chartered and starting up in southeastern Massachusetts, and the old original temple in Kansas City is being reconstituted with some old members and some new.

Perhaps the most profound thing that has happened to me lately has the potential to lead me to the uncharted areas that are not documented in any books and are even beyond the scope of my internal spiritual contacts. I can’t talk directly about this potential, or even to name any names as of yet, since I am still examining what it all means, and I am obligated to protect the identities of those who might give me future direction. Suffice it to say that I have a group of individuals who are working within what might be called the Third Order, or those initiatory grades that are above the Greater Abyss on the Tree of Life. If everything turns out as I am assuming it will, then the pathways that are far beyond the level of adept that I currently possess will be revealed to me, both through my efforts and through teachings that would otherwise not be available to me.

Does this sound suitably vague, mysterious and compelling? I regret that I can’t at this time be more forthcoming with what I have discovered, the individuals who I have recently met and the potential that they may graciously offer me. However, I will certainly at some point in time be completely forthcoming in order to help propagate this arising organization and the nearly peerless high adepts who run it. I look forward to all of this becoming revealed, not only for myself, but for those who might also greatly profit from learning about the final steps to complete and total spiritual mastery. I will have to distill this knowledge and these practices through my own spiritual and magickal processes. Only then will I be able to make this knowledge available to others through my personal teachings and initiations - the only way to acquire and obtain this greater wisdom. Yet even as I would travel on that lofty path, I would always acknowledge the sources of that wisdom I have gained, and lionize the individuals who made it all possible.

The Full Moon arrives this Sunday, bringing with it the greater power of the ascending cycle of my personal Greater Wheel of Fortune. I felt the shift and the building of powers during the last full moon, so this time I will experience an even greater profound awakening and the beginning of a yet greater revelation. I will certainly report anything that happens which is not too personal (therefore obscure) and yet relevant to this continuing, ongoing and waxing process.   

For now, though, I am deeply grateful to the blessed HGA who has made these awesome connections possible and who has been the greatest spiritual and magickal advocate that I have ever experienced. May we all be blessed with the greater knowledge and wisdom of the Western Mystery Tradition in the present and the future.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rite of the Assumption of Godhead

As previously promised, I have produced an article that explains the basic structures for Godhead assumption as used in the Order of the Gnostic Star. Since Godhead assumption is one of my most important rituals, and is considered one of the core disciplines in the Order, I thought that it would be a good idea to present it here in an article for discussion and consideration.

Keep in mind as you look over this ritual, that this is just one of many methods that can be used for accomplishing this task. This specific rite is learned and mastered until it becomes automatic, absorbed into the magician’s basic regimen that she uses to adjust her mind and align with her spiritual self, which the Godhead actually symbolizes for her. For this reason, choosing a specific Godhead becomes a very important part of a beginning magician’s quest.

The Order distributes this rite in the form of a simple outline that contains no details or characterizations, since it’s up to the magician to build a specific rite that targets a well defined and established imago of the magician’s personal deity. This task is mastered early on in the training of a magician in the Order, usually in the first or at the very latest, the beginning of the second degree. By the third degree, this rite must be wholly subsumed into the mind of the magician so that it is automatic whenever magick is to be performed. 


Assumption of the Godform is used by the magician to assume a powerful and spiritual alignment. In addition to the Godform, the magician must also have developed a magickal persona that accompanies that aspect of deity. The relationship between this aspect of deity and the persona that a magician adopts must be well established and developed so that they seem like a logical pairing of two simultaneous dimensions, the human and the divine. In fact the magickal persona becomes the vehicle that the Godhead is actively engaged in, so the adoption of one will naturally lead to the assumption of the other.

A magickal persona is defined as an archetypal mythic self linked to some aspect of the deity and when expressed within an altered state of consciousness during a godform assumption, it becomes a metaphoric “mantle” of protection and an instrument of empowerment. Because the mundane personality can be easily absorbed by the potent impact of spiritual intelegences, a magickal persona and godform pair greatly reinforces the magician’s personality and gives it an analogous symbolic spiritual potency. Adoption of the magickal persona and the assumption of the godform are used when performing virtually any kind of magickal working, although in the beginning, the neophyte starts out by writing a formal ritual and building these personifications up until they seem to have a life of their own. The rite of Godhead Assumption is performed as part of a regular magickal practice. Eventually, it is practiced and performed so many times that it becomes second nature.

To me, personally, a magickal persona adoption and a godhead assumption are so automatic that merely going through the preparation stages before performing a magickal working will cause them to automatically engage. I only need to meditate and sense them, and the transition is almost instantaneous.

Great care must be exercised when choosing a godform to assume. While one's fantasy and imagination are important factors in transforming the self, detailed research is required in order to understand the symbolic meaning and associated mythic material behind the chosen godform.

Before writing and then performing this ritual, a list of character traits, descriptive images, metaphors and associated symbolic regalia should also be compiled and analyzed for appropriateness. It is necessary for the magician to not only identify with the godform, but to feel actual reverence, love, devotion and respect for it. Thus the aspect of deity chosen should have qualities that are emotional, inspirational and even ecstatic. If these are not a natural part of the chosen deity, then they can be added to its qualities, even if they have to be invented. The imago of the deity that the magician is forging can and should be a unique tailored expression of the magician’s magickal aspirations and beliefs. There is no need to be too wedded to tradition or to be limited by insufficient information, since this is the magician’s personally defined representation of the godhead, she may use any creative additions or inspired adoptions as deemed necessary by the artful assembly of the final product, a personal religious icon that is meaningful and significant.

(We have already discussed the requirements for aligning oneself to one’s personal godhead in the previous article, so we don’t need to discuss it here. Suffice it to say that the magician spends a great deal of time and care developing his personal divine cult, and building the shrine, rites, practices and  myths in manner that supports the magician’s specialized needs.)

Ritual Pattern and Commentary

This is the basic ritual pattern that is used in the Order. It is presented here as an outline instead of an actual ritual. It’s expected that the magician will take this pattern and produce a completed ritual. Before actually beginning this rite, it’s assumed that the magician has performed the appropriate ablutions (magickal bath) and that the temple is clean and in proper order, with an incense offering burning to purify the atmosphere. Whatever robes or other vestments that the magician is to wear are clean and freshly laundered. The time allotted for this working should be completely clear of any distractions or intrusions, and the magician should put all mundane thoughts or considerations far from her mind. It is also advised that this working be performed in sacred space, which either requires a circle consecration rite, or at the very least, the perception of sacred space within the temple or shrine area. (This can be aided by burning incense and aspurging the floor with lustral water.)

Preliminary Meditation:

The celebrant meditates and begins to internally summon the Godform. Feelings of devotion, worship and love are projected into it. It may also be deemed good to have already erected a shrine for this deity, giving it appropriate offerings, praise and adoration. The more that the magician puts into these preliminary stages, the more potent will be the act of godhead assumption. Meditation should establish a base-line state of consciousness, where the spiritual dimension is more readily apparent. This would include a basic asana, breath-control, other forms of prana-yama (as appropriate), mantra and yantra yoga. Once this altered state of consciousness is fully realized, the magician will then contemplate on the qualities and characteristics of the targeted deity, seeking to fully realize that entity and even to visualize it in detail. As a part of this process, the magician also adopts his magickal persona, doing this first and then focusing on the appearance of the imago.

Centering the Self:

Celebrant stands in the center of the magick circle and performs a centering exercise - energizing the chakric body points from foot to crown in an ascending projection. While this is done, the breath is drawn up into the body, held and then exhaled gently through pursed lips while the magician holds her arms above her head, allowing the fingers of her hands to shake and vibrate.

Primary Invocation:

Celebrant intones the Primary Invocation which consists of words that establish the image or imago of the deity, describing in great detail its appearance and characteristics. This can be memorized or read, but eventually it should become automatic. As this is done, the magician should actually sense the godhead entity materializing before him. In addition, he positions his arms to form right angles, with the elbows against the sides of his body, and the arms straight out with the palms of the hands facing up. This is the symbolic “receiving” pose, which indicates that the celebrant is ready to receive the spirit of the godhead.

Second Centering:

Celebrant performs the centering exercise again, except this time,  the direction of the centering is descending, from the crown down to the feet. This action draws the imago that was created by the invocation down into the self.

Mantle of Glory:

Celebrant performs any variation of the Qabbalistic Cross, aligning the chakras so that a cross is formed upon the body. There is no need to actually use any of the attributes of the Qabbalistic Cross, just crossing of the body and visualizing these four points of light joining to form a cross is sufficient. At this point the imago that was drawn into the self is now powerfully fortified and sealed.

Secondary Invocation:

Celebrant begins to summon the deity into manifestation within herself. This is done by the following symbolic actions.

A second invocation or summoning is intoned by the magician. Unlike the first invocation, this one summons, begs, entreats and implores the deity to descend into the magician’s body. Once this is done to the magician’s satisfaction, the next step is taken to dramatically cause the godhead to manifest within the magician. 

A gate trigon (triangle) is drawn upon the body, using the points of the crown of the head and the left and right breast of the torso as representing the triangle. A triangle is used because it establishes a gateway (with the heart as its center) where the deity will enter into the body of the magician, passing through from its celestial domains into the heart and soul of the celebrant.

There can also be gender based variations on this trigon. Instead of using the head as the focal point, the triangle can be inverted and focus on the yoni or phallus instead. In some cases using the left and right shoulders can be more polarizing and empowering than using opposing points on the chest. This would make the solar plexus the gateway instead of the heart.

Projection of Deified Self:

Celebrant performs the centering exercise for a third and final time, and like the first centering, the direction of the flow is from the feet to the head and beyond, done with a flourishing and ascending projection. During this action, the magician internally summons the deity, repeating its name over and over as this exercise is done with deliberate slowness and with the greatest intensity, so that it reaches a climax at the end and its potency is felt throughout one’s being. With the arms fully raised and the eyes to the heavens, the magician wills himself to be the godhead, internally repeating the mantra - “I am so-and-so, the deity..” in such a manner that it becomes momentarily full realized.

Communion with Divinity:

At this point the Godform is fully assumed by the celebrant, and she may exult in the feelings of personal empowerment, alignment and spiritual ascendency. She may sit down to momentarily stabilize this moment in her mind (especially if this is the first time) or she may perform various tasks in the guise of the Deity. She may bless and imbue the essence of the Godhead in various objects such as food or drink, oils, lotions, or power objects. Also, the celebrant can focus the divine power of the godhead for a healing or the blessings of individuals, whether present or not. One should focus on the Godhead and note any messages, images or portends that are given from it. These should be written down in a journal immediately after the working is complete.

If an evocation is to be performed, lustral water and a power crystal should be blessed for use by the celebrant in the guise of the deity in case the ritual should for any reason need to be aborted. The water may then be aspurged throughout the temple and the crystal used to send a powerful force into the gate, thus closing and sealing it.

Final Gesture:

After the Godform has been assumed and fully experienced, it’s important to meditate upon the imago of that deity and to send feelings of thanksgiving and also a loving farewell. As a token of respect and devotion, some kind of offering should always be left behind for the deity, perhaps even placed in front of it’s statue or image. (The offering is given and never retrieved for any other purpose, since it is an offering that is given exclusively to the deity.)

It’s also important for the celebrant to perform some simple actions to ground himself and ensure that all of the energies and influences that he has acquired are properly centered in himself (and not actively causing any further unasked or unsought divine manifestations). The magick circle may be sealed and then broken. The celebrant should probably eat and drink something mundane and unconsecrated to aid in the return to the material world. 

The Temple should be incensed again and if required, a single lamp is allowed to continue burning as a kind of vigil light, showing that the spirit of the godhead is still present and available in some form, so that it is easily accessed whenever needed. The Celebrant may also choose at this time to read hymns or holy tracts dedicated to the deity, as well as contemplate on it, as a final gesture of faith and devotion.

So that’s the ritual for godhead assumption. As you can see, it’s pretty simple and there’s not a lot of detail to it. Once it’s developed as part of the magician’s regimen, it easily becomes an automatic part of the magician’s repertoire of directly assumed magickal states of consciousness.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Further Considerations on Godhead Assumption

I have been in communication with a number of individuals who have presented to me their various opinions about my previous article on this subject. I believe that I have presented the truth about these practices, since many have agreed with what I have said. Others in the ceremonial magickal discipline have been surprised, perhaps even shocked, to learn that there are some folks who engage in mediumistic godhead assumptions for their coven-stead congregants, while acting in a leadership role within that group. While these exclamations of surprise only show the differences between a religious and magickal perspective on these practices, those who find it an incorrect application of magickal practice have some basis of truth for their opinions. However, there is a place for this kind of practice in modern pagan organizations, but only as long as certain strictures are followed.

An open ended godhead assumption done in a coven setting as a means to obtain communion, healing, blessings and prophecy from the gods is probably not only hazardous to the coven members, but also to the coven leaders as well. This methodology not only goes against many basic teachings in the arena of ritual and ceremonial magick, but it’s not supported by pagan practices in the greater community. Whether one examines practices in antiquity or even in present day heathen rites, such a practice is not found. For a spiritual leader in a small group to also assume a nameless godhead (as The Goddess or The God) in an open ended assumption rite is not only quite wrong, but it also is very likely a source of corruption and the very opposite of a proper godhead alignment. After reflecting on what I have written previously and what others have shared with me, I find the whole proposition somewhat disturbing. I think that this paradigm should be changed, and I have some compelling reasons why it should be changed.

If we consider that adherents to witchcraft (and I consider myself one of them) represent a third wave in religious theology and practices, then the use of any kind of religious intermediary must be considered an unusual and temporary measure, since the most important driving force of that spiritual movement is the unfettered and direct contact with the various Gods and Goddesses in all of their various forms.

Christianity is a religion of intermediaries (priests, pastors, church leaders), where the form of worship is lead by one individual for the benefit of the whole congregation. Protestantism may have broken this down somewhat, allowing for individuals to seek communion with their god on their own terms, but church organizations still thrive. In the Catholic Church, a celebrant priest assumes the role of the resurrected Jesus Christ and channels the unique power of transubstantiation so that the congregation may acquire through communion, intimate union with that sublime being.

However, witchcraft and paganism, especially as they are defined in the post modern world, do not require any kind of intermediary. In fact they are quite adamant in declaring that all adherents have direct access to the gods without exception. Witchcraft and paganism, as they are practiced in the western world today, are religions of liberty, equality and complete freedom from spiritual tyranny of any kind. If we can accept this as being true, then the assumption of the godhead for the benefit of others must be a highly controlled and moderated process, or else it becomes a counter force in the wiccan and neopagan movement; a kind of pernicious repatriation into forms of worship found specifically in Christianity, but without the powerful limiting structures of religious doctrine and dogma. It is, in a word, an invitation to a kind of spiritual slavery.

What this means is that the role of a High Priest or High Priestess amongst an initiated body is redundant, particularly in the area of being the representation of the Goddess or the God. Initiates can and should have direct access to the gods, and their training should specifically guide them in achieving that end. I know that this concept is troubling, since it may go against how some covens practice their faith. Yet those covens that have earned longevity have indeed learned this lesson, and ceased to perform this kind of rite in exclusion to other more open and pluralistic rites and ceremonies. Talk to anyone who has been in a coven that has lasted for a couple of decades and you will find that everyone in that group has become co-equal and shares equally in the roles of liturgical leadership.

An acting surrogate for the power and majesty of the gods must, by definition, be a very temporary situation, and one that follows the basic rules and restrictions that I laid down in my previous article. Yet it is important for all wiccans and pagans to be able to approach the gods and obtain a proper alignment on their own, without interference or imposition.  Thus they should be able to obtain their own empowerment, prophecies, prognostications, blessings and healing. They can and should ask others to help when needed and even to worship together in groups, but never to abrogate their right to having direct access to the gods.

Ritual and ceremonial magicians perform the rite of godhead assumption in their personal workings, practicing it until it becomes almost as automatic as assuming their magickal and spiritual persona. In fact the godhead assumption and the assumption of the magickal persona are strongly related, since the persona is a kind of avatar for that targeted deity. In the art of ritual magick, the magician will assemble all of the rites and regalia to erect and establish a personal religious cult of the chosen deity (or deities), and seek to become the priest-magician and avatar of that deity, performing all of the acts required to make it an indelible fact. When experienced magicians come together to work magick, they perform the godhead assumption silently and internally, to represent the joining of the various facets of the collective deity together in a powerful and holy union. This is why, in such a “star” group, the egregore of the temple is so incredibly powerful, since it is the fused representation of each magician’s internally assumed godhead. Also, in most cases, the godhead assumption is not the same as what is used in a mediumistic trance, since the magician must be capable of fully functioning, performing rituals and ceremonies once the initial assumption is complete.

Whether one is a witch, pagan or a practicing ritual magician, the outstanding question is how does one obtain access to a chosen deity or deities? This may be a topic that is not talked about extensively in wiccan and pagan communities, but, in my opinion, it should be the most important topic. As members of the third religious wave, we are responsible for our own spiritual alignment and should know the rites and liturgies that allow us to keep this alignment active and empowered. However, just learning to function in a coven or grove in the classical traditions of wicca and paganism may not be enough to master these most important practices. So for this reason, I have decided to write an exposition on these practices, especially in regards to functioning as an autonomous and self-directed ritual magician.

First of all, we need to define what is meant by a spiritual alignment. In the domain of ritual magick, a spiritual alignment consists of the practices and exercises that foster a strong bond between a practitioner and her targeted deity or deities. When a ritual magician can feel the presence of deity active in her ordinary world as well as in the temple practicing magick, then she has established a strong alignment or bond with that deity. Therefore, alignment with the Godhead consists of the following general practices, including basic lifestyle habits, goals and affirmations.

  • Devotions and spiritual service (meditative contemplation)
  • Oblations, offerings and sacrifices
  • Invocations, orisons and paeans
  • Communion (sacred food and drink - sacramentation)
  • Godhead assumption (can include sacred sexuality)

As stated previously, the ritual magician performs all of these operations as a religious specialist, assuming a role or a magickal persona, and adopting a personal religious cult. This will require a space in one’s abode where a shrine can be erected, a place where the god centered liturgies can be performed as well as sessions for meditation, contemplation and devotion.

Shrines can be  part of one’s magickal temple or they can be in a small room removed from one’s usual habitation. I have known a couple of people to equip a large closet as their shrine, and others have placed it in a nook or a small room. One person had their shrine in the their bedroom, for obvious reasons. Whatever works for the magician and allows for a modicum of movement and prolonged occupation is more than adequate.  The shrine should have an altar or altars, statues, pictures, cult objects and relics, tapestries, incense burners, candles or lamps, sacred jewelry, vestments - the list is endless.

A shrine can be simple or quite elaborate, but it does require a few things: some kind of utensils or bowls for offerings, burning incense, colored cloth and perhaps even the walls painted, banners, and either a statue or a picture (or both) of the gods that are targeted by the magician as representing his own special personal cult. Cult objects, which would be symbols representing the deity in an abstract form, and other regalia can add to the over-all effect. Special meditation pillows or cushions are helpful to aid long periods of sitting in meditation or contemplation. Another important item is some kind of yantra or symbolic diagram that has specific meaning and significance to the magician. This will be focused on and stared at during the exercise of mandala or yantra yoga.

We can now examine each of the points of the practice of alignment.

Devotions and spiritual service - simply put, these are things that one does to connect to the deity. Devotions are simple services where one retires to the shrine and performs a series of deep meditation sessions, covering the areas of asana, prana-yama, mantra and yantra yogas. In addition, one should contemplate on the inspiring virtues of one’s godhead, engaging the mind in all of the qualities that are good, empowering, fulfilling and liberating. The magician should approach the godhead with love, adoration, inspiration and even self induced ecstasy. The meditation services should be periodic, regular (hopefully daily) and intense. The magician puts all of her passions and spiritual aspirations into this practice, deliberately increasing the intensity over time. Spiritual service includes doing things for others, unasked and unsought. This can be in the range of giving money to charities to helping out friends, relatives, or even strangers. The magician can also develop spiritual affirmations that fit the qualities of the godhead, and by repetition, they are subsumed deeply into the mind, where they act as a transforming power.

Oblations, offerings and sacrifices - these are things that we give to the godhead in exchange for blessings, grace and empowerment. That which we offer becomes property of the godhead, and it is thus sacralized. Water, perfume, incense, oil, salt, wine, food, candles or lamp light, as well as all of the regalia required to keep the shrine active. Once something is given to the godhead, it can never be retrieved. The more dear the offering is for the magician, the more auspicious and empowering the accepted gift is to the godhead. Offerings should be performed periodically, and also when something specific is needed.

Invocations, orisons and paeans - these are the words of love, praise, and adoration that are used to build a powerful bridge between the magician and the godhead. They may be researched and written down, or they may just emerge from the heart and soul. They may contain strange and exotic words of power, and they may seek to summon the godhead to appear and reveal itself to the devotee - but such words are always couched in love and complete surrender to the deity - at least for that moment. In the case of the private religious cult of the magician, often the godhead built up in the shrine can be the divine image of the magician himself, functioning as a kind of imago of the higher self, which in sense, it is.

Communion - these are the things that we share with the godhead, usually food and drink. While offerings are exclusively given to the godhead, communion is where the godhead imbues the food and drink with its essence, and the partaking of these sacraments forges a powerful magickal bond between the magician and the godhead. Communion rites can be simple or elaborate, such as the ritual of the Mass and Benediction. In the Order, these rites serve a dual purpose of producing an empowering alignment to the godhead as well as charging the temple environs for magickal workings. Sacraments can be extended to include any substance that can be consumed or applied to the skin. They can even be used as magickal objects. The Order uses sacraments to assist in the materialization of invoked spirits.

Godhead assumption - this is the specific rite or practice where the magician assumes and completely identifies with the godhead, so that she is acting through that deity in order to perform various rites, whether strictly magickal or liturgical. I will go over one version of this rite in a future article so that it can completely understood and integrated into everyone’s personal magickal workings. Godhead assumption requires a certain degree of trance work, particularly in the beginning, later it can become almost automatic. Perhaps the greatest of all of the godhead assumption rites are variations of the Bornless One invocation rite.

All of the above five methodologies are practiced together in a unified and integrated manner, so that it becomes the magician’s personal religious cult. This cult would have a liturgical calendar consisting of special feasts, celebrations, times of atonement or jubilation, all of which would be based on the Lunar and Solar cycles. There would be regular offerings, prayers, devotions and times for deep contemplative meditation. In addition, the magician would steadfastly work to forge a powerful imago for the godhead, using all of the statues, pictures, cult objects, colored cloths, incenses and various sacraments to aid in this project, so that the godhead would become something completely tangible and active in the day to day life of the magician. The liturgical calendar would merge seamlessly into the active workings and practices of ritual magick, which would include personal ordeals, extensive divination and oracular activities, and transformative initiations and profound spiritual revelations and encounters. The magician would function as high priest and chief celebrant, devotee, congregant and even avatar, all in one functioning role. When in the throes of complete assumption, the magician would even dare to consider herself, albeit temporarily, a living extension of the godhead.

Of course, the final and most important consideration is the choice of the specific deity or deities that will become the magician’s focus within her private religious cult. Choosing a deity that would favor individual magickal and liturgical work, as well as foster and imbue a high degree of passion, inspiration and aspiration is very important. A ritual magician will undergo a long period of development and acquire many spiritual experiences, all of which will indicate the nature of the godhead that is driving and inspiring her. A deepening search will almost always reveal the nature of this deity and its many diverse forms. It may even reveal a complete pantheon or an unrelated group of gods and goddesses particular to the aspirations and spiritual perspective of the magician. However, the most important of all of the practices outlined in this article is the assumption of the godhead in it’s complete and total formulation, however that is defined in rituals and practices. This is because the ultimate purpose of all ritual magick, in my opinion, is complete at-one-ment with the godhead.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Channeling Deity vs. Regressive Trance

This article was incorporated as an edited version in the book “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Grimoire,” but I have often thought that it would be important to present as a stand alone article with more of its original material. Godhead assumption is a very controversial practice amongst witches and neopagans, and unfortunately in some cases, it can also lead to exploitation and emotional abuse. This is not to say that every priest or priestess is guilty of that kind of excess, far from it! It does occur infrequently, but also consistently. Some have had these kinds of terrible experiences, but there is a methodology that, if followed, would preclude them from ever happening. This is the major premise of my article - that there is a way to promote sane occultism while channeling the deity.

In the early 20th century, the notorious arch-magician Aleister Crowley advocated a system of magick where the magician, through deep trance, identified and became the personification of her personal magickal Deity. This was not really a new concept, since there were plenty of religious cults and earth-based spiritual traditions that used this approach to create an immanent experience of the Deity. However, it was a new concept in the tradition of European ceremonial magick, and it radically changed how that system of magick was practiced. We can trace a fracture in the tradition of ceremonial magick to the writings and practices of Aleister Crowley, where ceremonial magick continued on well into the next century, but was gradually overtaken and even replaced by a new methodology.

This new methodology required that the magician not only invoke a chosen magickal Deity, but also completely identify with it, so that the magician acted as a personification of that Godhead while practicing magick. Gone from the preparation stage of magickal practices were the extreme strictures of piety and self abasement as well as fasting, ritual flagellation (either real or metaphorical), confession, contrition and all forms of atonement. Instead, the magician created a personal cult of the Godhead, serving as avatar, chief liturgical official, ardent devotee and congregant all in one. The magician used this assumption of the Godhead as the pivotal point to work magick and placed all of the moral justifications for that work, not to mention the authorities and powers of the chosen Deity, directly into the performed rituals or ceremonies.

How this is done is that a magician creates an imago of the detailed image of the Godhead and proceeds to serve and align with it in a consecrated temple or grove, thereby assuming its personality. This technique powerfully advanced the practice of ceremonial magick, using what would be considered an archaic mechanism for the experiencing of Deity. These practices are neither new or revolutionary, since they have their roots in forms of Shamanism and other ancient types of earth-based spirituality. Godhead assumption is the technique of assuming a high trance state and then merging one’s personal Deity into one’s conscious being, and this is done as a prelude to all works of magick.

This new discipline of magick found its way into all of the various new religions that were inspired from Aleister Crowley’s writings and practices, most notably the religions of Thelema, Neopaganism and Wicca, or Modern Witchcraft. However, one aspect of this new methodology that was clearly authored by Crowley was the rigorousness of the devotions and preparations, the profundity of the assumption and even the testing of the results by those who participated. Since Crowley found any primitive form of channeling or mediumistic practices to be highly offensive, the rigorousness of the preparation and the obligatory testing of the results were extremely important. The reason for all of this was to make certain that the resultant channeling of the Godhead was genuine and unadulterated by the medium’s personality, bias or pathos.

Crowley, and the tradition of Thelema that he developed, went to great lengths to promote the immersion of the individual within the imago of the Deity, and they touted this method as the new central tenet to the practice of ritual magick. Other succeeding traditions incorporated this central tenet as well, but the corresponding rigors of assumption and the testing of the outcome were less emphasized, until they disappeared altogether.

Even amongst the more supposedly archaic earth-based spiritual traditions, assumption of the Godhead is a rigorous process that is experienced by lay persons and clergy under controlled and monitored circumstances. Aberrations and excesses are strictly dealt with, and the gods and goddesses are too well known and identified to be either faked or regressively emulated. Problems such as these are easily dealt with in these older traditions, but not so in the new earth-based spiritual systems of Neopaganism and Wicca.

In these traditions, sadly, the central tenet of Godhead assumption is exclusively lionized, but all of the rigorous preparations, testing and examining of the manifestation of Deity are omitted. How this methodology is often practiced is that the subject assumes a trance state that is regressive and hypnotic as opposed to transcendental and deeply immersed in the domain of Spirit. Once within this tainted state, the subject proceeds to channel a Deity that is infused with the fragments of the medium’s mind. These fragments manifest in a chaotic or barely coherent manner, since they are no longer pulled together into some semblance of order by the conscious ego. The resultant manifestation of Deity is merely an hypnotic extension of the medium’s own personality, fragmented and disjointed and infused with a regressive psychic energy. When such a Priest/ess is channeling the Deity, there is no rigorous period of preparation and no test for the outcome. The occurrence is accepted as is, and in fact, it is considered disingenuous or even sacrilegious to scrutinize either the manifestation or its medium.

The lack of established standards allows for all sorts of excesses, from outright fraud to manifestations of regressive personas that spout irrelevant profundities. It can even demonstrate the most horrid paroxysms bordering on the epileptic. While this might be acceptable to tribal shamans and other native practitioners (typically done for show), it is not the desired mechanism for either a modern witch or a neopagan. Also, the modern practitioner does not have the deep internal connections nor the ability to transcend the petty ego that the Shaman obtains through his many near-death transitions and personal transformations. The modern practitioner, is, well, modern, and easily succumbs to the mediocrity of a bourgeois existence.

This is not to say that all individuals who channel Deity within Wicca or Neopaganism are aberrant, but without the preparations and testing, who can really judge what they are experiencing? This is a major issue within these new religions, but one that can be prevented with careful practices and safeguards. However, without these preparations and evaluations, many can be led astray or even experience the danger of spiritual hazards. This danger is present to both the adherents of the coven or grove and the clergy who are in charge. While I can’t speak to what goes on in most Neopagan organizations, I can speak with experience in the area of B.T.W. (British Traditional Witchcraft). I also believe that anyone who practices a form of Godhead assumption within their magickal tradition is liable to this kind of risk. They should use every precaution against the performance of an ill prepared and unmonitored assumption.

In most forms of modern witchcraft that meld magick and earth-based spirituality, there is usually a greater emphasis on spirituality, but the means to that spirituality is a praxis that is somewhat magically based. This is the magickal act of Godhead assumption. In many cases, the manifestation of Deity does not go very deep. This is because Witchcraft as a religion is so very new. It has not begun to really plumb the depths of the inner deep structures, and it has not developed a methodology of enlightenment and at-one-ment with the Deity. In fact the concept of Deity is still being developed and evolving, and perhaps in a few decades or a century, it will have the depth and the methodology to deal with the basic theological questions of life, death, humanity and the nature of deity. Certainly, as one of the new religions, Wicca has the potential to unlock mysteries and answer questions that have not been satisfied since late antiquity.

Since the coven structure in the B.T.W. branch of Witchcraft is a place where one begins the training and the progression from dedicant to first degree and beyond, it is presided over by senior individuals who have taken the role of the High Priestess and High Priest. For the benefit of the other less experienced members, they channel the Goddess and the God and lead the others in the practice of folk magick and folk religion. They are the trainers and mentors, performing the tasks of clergy until the members become themselves experienced enough to be elevated to the clergy and hive off to form their own covens. In such a process, the coven is almost always a training ground for potential future clergy, and in some branches it is not a requirement for anyone to be elevated beyond the first degree. In many branches of the BTW, elevation does not occur unless the individual seeks it and desires to lead their own group, otherwise the coven can be perpetually in a state of being led by the same High Priestess and High Priest.

When a woman or a man finds themselves in the role of a spiritual leader in a small intimate group of adults, such as a Wiccan coven, and the rest of the members are not as experienced or knowledgeable, then this condition can lead to a situation where there are no checks or balances against potential tyrannical leadership and personal exploitation. Since the coven members are being served by the High Priestess and High Priest, there is a tendency to accept the group practices and experiences without question as a form of orthodoxy in order to maintain the status quo. This tendency gives license to all sorts of peculiar beliefs and practices, even ones that are very unethical or illegal, and it can set up some strange pseudo family dynamics, which can become quite unhealthy.

Dominance and submission, exploitation and victimization, such relationships are demeaning and degrading. They can be blatantly practiced for all to see or masqueraded behind the uncontrolled excesses of the assumed Deity. When they are masqueraded by an assumption of the Godhead, then the members of the group are put in the terrible situation of either accepting what is occurring without question, or by questioning it, finding themselves in the spiritual dilemma of becoming a skeptic or even an agnostic rejectionist of their own religion.

When a person experiences the incursion or brief union with the Deity that occurs during the Drawing Down of the Moon, Sun or Horn God (i.e., Godhead Assumption), and if they assume a regressive hypnotic trance instead of a profoundly humbling and transcendent deep-trance, then instead of channeling Deity in an unbiased manner, they instead greatly inflate their petty ego or the illusory sense of self. This is because instead of having that profound sense of greater other enveloping one that goes with a good Godhead assumption, the medium experiences a personal attachment and over-identification and extension of their mundane self with the imago of the Deity. It makes one feel that instead of merely experiencing the human dimension of the Godhead within oneself (a dimension that we all share equally), a person believes that they are actually the physical incarnation of that Godhead. This causes one to either temporarily or even permanently exhibit a Godhead intoxication, in other words, they experience a regressive God complex instead of experiencing the transcendental transformation of the Deity.

Godhead intoxication has been jokingly called the High Priestess or High Priest syndrome amongst craft folk, but it’s no joke. In this state of illusory self-importance the medium of the Godhead acts as the worst sort of autocrat. Such a state allows for the mistreatment of lesser initiates, inflexibility, exploitation and other forms of abuse. Such a state acts on the personality like a drug addiction, and the High Priestess or High Priest thus afflicted will hungrily seek its continuance and amplification, which requires a continuing availability of blind and willing seekers. It’s like a kind of vampirism, where the bad coven leader leaches off of the members like some bloated tick.

When a leader or leaders in a group succumb to this kind of fall, it creates the classic experience of the “coven from hell.” This is why learning to understand the self and deity and to know the proper way to assume the godhead is important in the practice of Witchcraft and other forms of Neopagan ritual magick. Certainly a test and an evaluation of the Godhead assumption would curb the excesses of this phenomenon, as would a proper period of preparation and devotion to that Deity.

One way out of this problem is to encourage everyone in the group to achieve higher degrees, whether or not they intend to become clergy and run their own covens. Another way is to rotate responsibilities, so that as members become initiated and elevated, they assume more responsibilities in the coven, and eventually, the High Priestess and the High Priest become less important roles as the coven group begins to formulate together a higher and more evolved magickal and spiritual methodology.

Such a group then makes the next evolutionary transition and becomes a non-hierarchical “star” group, where each individual is an equal and important facet, and no one facet is more important than another. Such a group is ruled by consensus. Then their purpose for practicing together is to assist each other in achieving a greater and fuller union with the Deity, through magick, initiatory transformation and through spiritual service. The ultimate goal of magick is perfect union with the Godhead, and this non-dual state requires a complete redefinition of the self and its components.

So, as I see it, the problems of the “coven from hell” is that they as a group never achieved their true potential because those who were in charge did not allow for growth and the transition of authority and roles from the clergy (High Priestess and High Priest) to the members. I think that such a transition is necessary if the coven is to become a magickal star group. But very few B.T.W. witch covens practice their craft and spirituality in this manner. So often, like a family, members have to leave to continue their growth and the leave-taking is often not very welcome or happy events as they should be. This is why some individuals who started out their magickal path in covens prefer to work alone or in very informal groups, since they have no need to be confined again in the formal setting of a traditional coven. They may also have experienced autocratic leaders and saw their group become corrupted and perhaps even fall apart. Autonomy is a very important stage in the development of an initiate, and unfortunately, it is also a quality most absent from many Wiccan covens and Neopagan groves.

As you can see from what I have written above, ego is not the problem, but ego-inflation is, and a good peer review and the usual checks and balances will ensure that ego-inflation is discovered and remedied. However, if the leader or leaders of a grove or coven do not tolerate any kind of critique or checks on their authority and power, then members should vote with their feet and leave that group as soon as possible. Even a so-called benign dictatorship can quickly turn into the terrible abuse of power and authority, and in the intimate settings of a coven or grove, the end result can be devastating. What I am stating here is the worst possible outcome, and I am not in any way judging all Wiccan and Neopagan groups as having these issues with their appointed leaders.

However, without the proper preparations, testing and evaluation of the Godhead assumption, all leaders are susceptible to the temptation of empowering themselves at the expense of the group, and going awry in the channeling of Deity. Let us then examine what I think constitutes the proper preparations for Godhead assumption, the methods for testing the occurrence of Deity acting through the medium, and the techniques for evaluating the magickal event itself.

A really proficient High Priestess, High Priest or Grove Leader should allow for a critical examination of Godhead channeling and be able to withstand this scrutiny without any fear or apprehension. Not every Godhead assumption is going to be given the highest marks, and even the most advanced priest/ess will occasionally miss his/her mark, and produce a less than stellar assumption experience. Also, the members of the coven or grove should be given the tools and the authority to perform these tests and evaluations. Students should be trained not only in the discipline of the proper preparation for Godhead assumption, but also in the techniques for evaluating such an event.

In my opinion, the most important technique that a group or even an individual should adopt for Godhead assumption is to have a defined aspect of Deity to emulate. What this means is that the medium must develop a concept of Deity that has a name, characteristics, virtues, powers and other qualities that can be identified by others. The imago of the Deity should be something that is built up and known to all. So when the medium prepares for a Godhead assumption, she is targeting a specific known entity. Working with a known entity avoids the situation of an open ended Godhead assumption with no real target, just a nebulous Deity at Large. Open ended Godhead assumptions are quite harmful, easily allowing the personality of the medium to become the operational vehicle of the assumed Deity. Also, an open ended assumption does not lend itself to being tested, since no else will have a clue as to whom they are addressing. Open ended assumptions invite abuses, are difficult if not impossible to verify or control, and too easily allow for the inflation of the medium’s ego, since it may be just a fragment of the medium’s personality and not a bonafide manifestation of the Deity.

Best Practices for Godhead Assumption

The coven or grove works from an established imago of Deity, they also act as the moderators or controllers for its manifestation. Considering the fact that a medium is not always in complete control of her faculties when channeling a Deity, then it is the responsibility for the group to manage, control and organize the event for the medium. It is also not a good idea to mix the role of group leader and medium unless it is unavoidable. If the leader is to perform the Godhead assumption, then others in the group must assume command and control of the ritual working, since the one who is the medium can’t be expected to perform that role and also run the group. The preparations for a proper Godhead assumption preclude the capability of the medium also managing the ritual working at the same time. If such a thing is common in a group and its activities, then either the trance state achieved by the group leader is insufficient (or regressive) to channel the Deity at the optimal level, or there is a certain degree of fraud or self delusion being perpetrated. When we look at the preparation steps that are necessary for assumption, this will become very apparent.

The preparatory steps performed for a Godhead assumption consist of the following operations.

  • The group must set the controls for the working, and these consist of determining the Deity’s name and creating the imago. This target Deity and its imago should be a recognizable entity that is familiar to all of the participants, not just to the medium or the hierarchy of the group.
  • The ritual working in which the assumption is to be performed should have a specific set goal or purpose, and the group should determine this goal without the knowledge of the medium, to add a test or challenge to the manifestation of the Deity.
  • The group should also have shared the knowledge and techniques of judging the manifestation of Deity so that everyone knows what they need to be looking for when it occurs.

With these controls in place, the elected medium goes to a private place alone and begins the preparations for the assumption of the Godhead. These preparations consist of an extended meditation session that may last for up to an hour’s time, where the medium immerses herself in contemplated devotions to the Deity, perhaps even quietly performing a pre-invocation. The medium focuses on the imago of the Deity and seeks to become completely and deeply connected to that entity, feeling it around and even within her. It would also be helpful if the medium would have practiced this meditation session on other occasions before the working, becoming very familiar with the Deity, performing rites of devotion, communion, invocation and even partial assumptions as well. (A good reference article for obtaining and acquiring the correct mind set for a profound Godhead assumption can be found in Crowley’s “Liber Astarte vel Berylii”, which can be found here.)

Once the preliminary meditation session is completed, the medium, now deeply immersed in the spirit of the Deity, rejoins the group, who have already consecrated the temple or grove. The medium does not need to perform any ritual or liturgical activities that would distract her from the main operation, which is the Godhead assumption. If this is not possible (the participants are too inexperienced), then the medium should perform the ritual activities of the working with a minimal focus on her part so as not to break the focus on the Deity. However, it is better if the medium is relieved of all tasks associated with ritual performance.

In the situation where the magician is performing this rite alone as part of a Godhead assumption to perform ritual magick, then that assumption is not the true goal of the operation and it can be performed as an ancillary rite with only a minimal manifestation of the Deity required. The difference is that a group working whose objective is to manifest the Deity through a medium surrogate has to ensure that the level of manifestation is high in order to validate what occurs during that operation.

The crucial part of the Godhead assumption is the testing that is performed after the Deity apparently manifests. Participants may question the Deity in several manners, but there are basically three questions that should be asked. If the manifested Deity does not respond adequately to these three questions and the entity does not seem to be responding in a manner congruent with the imago, then the participants should perform a license to depart and end the Godhead assumption rite, whether the medium is willing or not. This test is used to protect the group and the medium against unwanted manifestations and makes certain that only the intended targeted Deity manifests. The three questions are:

1. “Who are you?” - The Deity must identify itself. This makes certain that the assumption is not open ended, and that the intended target has at least been nominally realized.

2. “Teach us about your yourself (What are your qualities?).” - The Deity must have recognizable qualities that conform to the imago.

3. “What do you wish to impart to us tonight?” - The Deity must have a limited objective, this also precludes an open ended assumption. In many cases, the objective or purpose are decided beforehand by the group without the knowledge of the medium, adding a level of omniscience to the test. If the Deity exactly states the objective, then the participants can be certain that the level of manifestation  is high.

If the Deity responds appropriately to these three questions, then the participants can proceed with their work, which is the administrating of blessings, divine insight or prophecy, and the communion meal of food and drink. Other types of workings can also be deployed, such as seeking greater knowledge on a topic particular to the Deity or reinforcing a specific kind of working, such as a healing, special divination, rectifying injustice, or other kinds of divinely sanctioned favors.

When the work is completed, then the license to depart is given. The Deity is called by name, thanked for its help and assistance, and gently but firmly urged to depart, returning to its eternal source and place of origin. The medium is then assisted to ground out all of the affects of the assumption and given something mundane to eat and drink. Rubbing the extremities helps, and so does walking around and getting reconnected with reality. The higher the manifestation of Deity, the more time and effort it takes to return to normal. Yet the medium does return to normal. In some rare instances, a medium who fails to return to normal consciousness should be judged as having failed the test for a proper assumption, since neither obsession or possession are part of that process.

After the working is over and the medium has returned to normal consciousness, the group should briefly meet to discuss the assumption rite, give their perceptions about the experience, hear the perceptions and opinions of the medium and then grade the experience. The simplest way to grade the assumption is to use a numeric range from 1 to 10, where 10 is the ultimate experience, and 1 is a barely perceptible manifestation. I will give examples of each numeric level to assist in determining the quality of the manifestation of the Deity.

Level 1. The medium is barely able to perceive or project the manifestation of the Deity. There is no presence of other, and no other type of phenomena is observed. The medium will pass the first question, but do poorly on the second and not be able to pass the third question at all. The medium might have problems maintaining the proper trance state, may go in and out of trance, or may show signs of a regressive trance, such as having fits, rolling the eyes, showing the whites of the eyes, drooling saliva, convulsing, etc. These might be sort of impressive in a disgusting kind of way, but they show a lack of focus, centering and an inability to gain the proper transcendental state. The medium also seems to enter into trance too quickly and easily, and then drops out of it without the need for grounding. Also, what is communicated by the Deity is obviously based on opinions and knowledge that the medium already has, and is not represented by any kind of omniscience.

Level 2. The medium maintains the trance state throughout the manifestation of the Deity, and gets two out of three questions correct. There is a little sense of the other in the manifestation, but otherwise it is pretty normal and not very exceptional. What is communicated is also pretty mundane, but the medium maintains control and establishes an adequate connection to the Deity.

Level 3. The medium not only maintains the trance state but shows a great deal of self control. Additionally, a  sense of the other is starting to be perceived by the participants. There may also be the beginning affects of psychic phenomena sensed by the participants, but the medium still gets only two out of three questions correct. This is the usual level experienced in a Godhead assumption rite, using a medium of adequate training and experience.

Level 4. The medium starts to exude a stronger sense of the other, and the Deity seems to be more present than the personality of the medium. More phenomena is experienced peripherally to the assumption rite, but it is still subtle. There seems to be something or someone barely perceptible that is present besides the medium and the participants, although it may not be perceived as coming directly from the medium.

Level 5. The participants begin to strongly sense the presence of the Deity, even though the personality of the medium has not altogether disappeared. Phenomena is more observable, and is now obviously emanating from the medium. The entity, although present, still does not get all three questions correct. However, the insights presented by the Deity and the blessings bestowed are very thoughtful and relevant.

Level 6 through Level 8. Variations of the intensity of the presence of the Deity vs. the observable personality of the medium, which begins to recede until it does not appear to either interpret or flavor the manifestation of the Deity. At level 7, all three questions are answered correctly, and at level 8, there seems to be an obvious numinousness emanating from the medium. All works performed by the Deity at this level seem to be charmed, empowered, and profoundly significant.

Level 9. The personality and even the facial or bodily characteristics of the medium disappear and are replaced with those of the imago of the Deity. There are obvious occurrences of psychic phenomena, disembodied voices, celestial music or tones heard, unaccountable feelings of joy, bliss and happiness. The personality exhibited by the medium is completely immersed in the imago of the Deity, and nothing of the medium’s own personality seems to be active. Blessings and prophetic insights that are dispensed by the Deity at this level are deeply meaningful, profound, and far reaching.

Level 10. The medium can speak without moving her lips - a voice seems to emanate from the mouth, which may or may not even be open. The medium has completely transformed, however briefly, into the imago of the Deity, and any physical contact with it seems to convey a sense of profound inspiration and even rapture. Any working or application of the Deity’s powers at this level produces results that are inexplicable and wholly outside of the realm of possibility (miracles).     

As you can see, the average level of the manifestation of a Godhead assumption is a 3, so that means that the higher levels are more extraordinary and unusual. A level 9 or 10 manifestation is probably beyond the realm of possibility for most mediums, and a level 7 would be so significant as to be sensational to those who experienced it. So with that in mind, as long as the assumption does not exhibit signs of being at a level 1 regressive trance, then the participants and the medium can judge their encounter with the manifestation of Deity with a certain degree of cautious certainty. The higher the level, then the greater the significance and impact of the experience.

When the medium and the participants have discussed, evaluated and judged the manifestation of the Deity, they should journal the results, making certain that they take the average of all opinions to arrive at a numeric level that represents the consensus of the group. It will noted that the journal will show over time that the mediumistic skills of the members of the group will grow and the significance of the insights and blessings will also become greater, providing yet another source for occult lore and the accumulation of spiritual wisdom. By using the methods of rigorous preparation, testing and evaluating the results, the group will avoid the excesses and hazards of performing open ended assumptions, maintaining a level of objectivity so important in the practice of sane occultism. Such a regimen will also avoid the pitfalls of ego inflation and the abuses of power that it promotes

Frater Barrabbas