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

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