Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Inner Plane Contacts and Creative Fever

This is another autobiographical piece written by me. Since I had told the story about what happened to me just before I joined the Coven from Hell, I wanted to relate what happened to me after I quit, four years later. That time period was very important for me, since it was when I had laid the foundation of the magickal system that I use today.
Sometime between 1977 and 1978, while I was engaged with the Coven from Hell, I discovered a powerful occult contact that greatly inspired all my occult abilities and insights, and fueled a creative burst in my soul that lasted for decades. I had entered the coven with some new ideas and concepts, but they weren’t worked out or vetted in any fashion. I also possessed and used a rather cumbersome and ineffective personal system of magick, which then underwent a complete transformation. Allied with an effective occult background, generously supplied to me through numerous books and the teachings of my High Priest and High Priestess, I was rapidly rewriting my personal magickal system during that four year period. The older Atlantean tropes were being dropped and replaced with a Golden Dawn and Thelemic hybrid system, and I was undergoing an intellectual metamorphosis, progressing through a magickal and spiritual evolution that was breathtakingly fast. It was as if I had been intellectually dormant for years, and then suddenly fully awakened.

As I look over my notebooks and ritual files from that period, I can see the birth of the system of magick that I use today. By the time I had reached the end of my term of membership with the Coven from Hell (1980), this new system was ready to be fully written and deployed. I consider myself quite lucky that I had continued my work and was nominally independent of Christopher Syn and his lady, Alexandria Pendragon (Bill and Sharon Schnoebelen) even before I decided to leave. My final break with that group occurred just prior to the beginning of the most creative period of my magickal career. It would seem to me today that somewhere during that time, I had achieved a truly splendid inner plane contact with some godhead, inner master or inspired genius. I only later found out who that Deity was, but for years it drove me to ecstatic heights that I hadn’t even dreamed existed. Ironically, once I was fully divorced from the Coven from Hell, that inner plane contact flowered and pushed me to new frontiers of magickal knowledge and expertise. The rapid progression was quite thoroughly documented by me, because I left behind a mass of papers, notebooks, rituals, drawings and illustrations. Many of these papers are now kept in various file folders, overflowing a large black filing cabinet. These papers represent a paper trail of the transition that I made from an imaginary occult system to one that was based on real occult principles.

So the year 1980 was very pivotal for me, since it was the dawning of the time when I would forge the magickal system that I use today. Not only that, but that magickal system also became the blue-print for the rites and ceremonies for the Order of the Gnostic Star. Unbeknownst to me, I was already starting to configure the grade system of the Order when I was still a member of the coven, choosing to use a gnostic version of the apostolic succession as its initiatory backbone instead of a Masonic one. As the year progressed, I had reached the end of my friendship with Christopher and withdrew as a member of his dwindling cult. The dark times were already starting to begin for me and for other members who had recently left, and I felt the need to escape from this group whose collective fantasy no longer held any meaning or significance for me. As I said in my long autobiographical piece about Bill Schoebelen and his Coven from Hell, I simply woke up one day highly disgruntled and decided to quit.

“How I left the group was really simple, I stopped going to their gatherings and functions, starting in June, 1980. I had to see Bill three or four times a week at work, which was unfortunate, and I began to really loath and despise this man. I also saw that my coworkers made fun of his posturing and pontificating, and I joined in with them. I had lost all respect for Bill and my adulation for him was forever destroyed. It was the end for me, but I did mange to pass out of his life in a blaze of glory. I wrote him a letter that was filled with the truth, and it was quite a bitter and harsh critique and rebuke of Bill and his ways. Because of this ‘missive’, Sharon supposedly worked some black magick on me, seeking to protect her husband from his once close friend and now mortal enemy. I imagine that she focused together all of her anger, wrath and hurt, and forged a pretty formidable death spell that she then sent against me.”

Actually, the period when I had assumed that Sharon had put a death curse on me happened later than that date (July 1980), just after the Christmas holiday of 1980. I ran into Bill at the garage where our company kept its paper delivery trucks, and he effusively wished me a merry Xmas and a happy New Year. Of course, since I despised this man, I coldly ignored him, rebuffing his attempts at breaking the ice with me. It was a snotty thing for me to do, but then again, I had taken so much of Bill’s condescension and assumed superiority that I was no longer able to tolerate any contact with him. I had left his group in June, wrote the letter to him in late July, and had to continue to see him for the next five months or more. I didn’t have the opportunity to work out my issues and perhaps forgive him for all of the hurt that I had received. I just wanted him to leave me along and let me pass out of his life, and I felt Bill wasn’t really willing to allow that to occur. So after I had given him the cold shoulder in response to his Xmas greeting, I felt that something had strategically changed between us. A darkness descended on me, and I sensed that I was being targeted with some rather nasty black magick.   

“A current member of the coven who was also a close friend of mine alerted me that Sharon had announced her intention to kill me, and I on the other end of that spell did feel a great darkness descend upon me; but it passed me by after a few months, since I laid low and did nothing to aggravate it.  But my remorse and guilt for my behavior in the group and my fall from grace had far outweighed the impact of any deadly curse, in fact it made the curse darker and more bitter still. At that point [late winter 1981] I had lost my driver’s license, lost my job (I was a driver for the morning news paper), and had to move back in with my parents. I had gotten my college degree, but there were no jobs. This was because by the autumn of 1980, there was a bad recession ruining the economic landscape, quelling the buoyant economy of the late 70's, and it only got worse in 1982. Perhaps these trials were the result of Sharon’s death curse or just my bad luck. I felt sad, full of darkness and bitter, but I didn’t die. Instead I got to deal with my darkness the old fashioned way, by [facing it and] striving through it.”

Some other important events of 1980 had the effect of rehabilitating me, and giving me a completely new perspective on my magickal career. I started hanging out with the rest of those who had either quit, like me, or got kicked out of the coven. We were the dissenting forces who warned others of the inherent trap of dealing with Bill Schnoebelen and his cult. I also began to meet other witches and occultists in town who I hadn’t even known existed. I had thought that Bill’s coven was the only one in town, and both Bill and Sharon had warned their members to avoid making contacts with other folks in the witchcraft and pagan communities. In early August, I attended my first pagan festival, which was the Pan Pagan Festival of 1980. There, I met the various movers and shakers of the pagan and witchcraft movement from all over the country. It was a very eye opening and awakening experience. I realized then how much of a fraud Bill was, and that his various posturing and pompous mater-of-fact statements about magick and witchcraft were either dead wrong or terribly inaccurate. I discovered that I had a lot of un-learning to do in addition to exploring and experiencing completely new perspectives.

Pan Pagan introduced me to wonderful people. I got know and become friends with Gwydion Penderwen, and even played my flute at his festival concert. I also befriended Lugh McGhee and many others. But two witches that I met there who were also from Milwaukee were to become the most important friends that I would meet at that time. In fact, they are still two of my best friends to this day. They were Keith and Anita, and our meeting was actually quite comical.

I chose to accompany a couple of women friends to the festival (who were also cast offs from an affiliate coven of the Coven from Hell) and camp with them, since it would be more economical to do so. However, these women had never camped before and were clueless of what was required for a weekend camping experience. I organized all of the equipment and supplies that would be needed, and stacked it all neatly next to the car, and they packed it away into the vehicle. For some reason or another, the tent posts weren’t packed, even though I had strategically placed them so they would be packed. When we got to campground, I discovered that the tent posts were missing, so I had to use nearby trees and some rope to help hold up the tent. While I was attempting to get the tent tied up, my neighbors were finding the whole mission quite entertaining. I was being laughed at, and it pissed me off. I went over to the couple who were neatly camped next to me and had an exchange of words with them, but they invited me to share their wine and smoked Gouda cheese (I was starving) and that quickly mollified me. That couple was Keith and Anita, and I found their company to be warm and enjoyable for the next couple of days. We exchanged phone numbers and other information, and they invited me to contact them when I got back home, which I did.

The rest of the festival was also quite amazing and very rewarding for me, even though Keith and Anita had to leave the festival before it ended. What I discovered there, and also later, was that my burning creativity needed some outside challenges in order to keep me balanced. I had a lot of creative and insightful ideas, but I also had a lot of misinformation and outright bullshit in my head, too. What Keith and Anita did, and why their friendship was so important, is that they made me accountable to myself and to others. If I said something to them emphatically, and it made their bullshit detectors go off, they had no problem telling me what they thought. Anita was pretty direct (being the no-nonsense person that she was), but Keith would eagerly warm up to a verbal debate by mockingly gazing at me, raising an eyebrow, and saying, “Is this true?” When he said those three words, I knew that I had just said something that was, in his opinion, patently false. Most of the time, he was right. I have found it a pleasant experience in the long years of our friendship on those few occasions when I have actually proved him wrong.

Over time, I learned to be more cautious and discriminating with my beliefs and opinions. One of the really bad habits that Bill had fostered in me (and others) was a kind of absolutism. He would say things, even things that sounded crazy, and we had to believe it was true. He had no tolerance for anyone challenging his words or authority, so he had a free pass with the group, and took advantage of it. For a while, I had also taken on the trappings of an absolutist, and Keith made certain that I learned to be accountable, since anything I said could (and sometimes, would) be challenged. My friendship with Keith and Anita was kind of tough sometimes and perhaps even a bit harsh, but I knew that they loved me, valued my friendship and even respected me. In treating me this way, they showed a kind of important tough love, and it demonstrated that they cared enough to tell me their opinion, completely unfettered. It was strong medicine, but after four years of the delusions of the Coven from Hell, I sorely needed it. My brother and some of my friends who had also quit the coven gave me their opinions about what I had experienced and what they thought of Bill and his wife, Sharon.

Some other events that happened to me that year and the next were softened by the strong friendship and powerful allies that I had acquired. I wasn’t alone with my thoughts, and that helped me out a great deal. Still, my luck and fortunes continued to tank all during this period. I had to move back in with my parents in the Autumn of 1980, and had to deal with the humiliation of not being able to find a job after I had graduated from college. There were two back-to-back recessions, in 1980, and 1982, and both of these events conspired to make my start in life very difficult indeed. In the winter of 1981, I lost my drivers license for sixty days and had to quit my job driving a delivery truck for the Milwaukee Sentinel. At least I no longer had to deal with Bill and his nonsense, but I also was stuck at home most of the time and was fairly broke. My parents went on a long vacation that winter and left me in care of the house, so I had a lot of time alone to work on my occult studies and even practice some magick in a temporary temple setup in my parent’s den. After sixty days, I quickly got my license back, but I was a very cautious driver from that point on. I also had to settle for a job as a janitor, since there were few jobs available at that time. I worked as a janitor from that time to the winter of 1983.

During this time, the various dissidents from the old coven came together to form a new coven, which we called Satyria. This was an old teaching coven that I had previously run when I was an active member of the coven (1976 - 1977), but Bill and Sharon made me close it down (so it wouldn’t compete with what they were doing). We managed to initiate some new people and completed the training and initiations of some of the older members, but I think that we were all burned out on attempting to do things as a coven, and after a year or so, the coven formally disbanded, but we would continue to socialize and meet with each other until many of us moved to other parts of the country. I guess you could say that we were all haunted by the Coven from Hell, and couldn’t get over its negative shadow and dark influences. We had some fun times together, but then we would end up talking about our past experiences, and then the enjoyment would be tempered by guilt, outrage and a mutual dislike of Bill and even Sharon.

Things were not particularly happy for me at this time, and I felt the guilt and ill will associated with my four intense years in the Coven from Hell. I decided that I had to do something to completely break all spiritual and magickal ties with Bill and Sharon. I was replacing my old system of magick and witchcraft with a new system, and I had abandoned everything that my former teachers had given or taught me, except of course, what I had learned on my own. In the late spring of 1981, I stayed over at friend’s house and performed a triple invocation of Lucifer, Shaitan and Awaiz, combining them into a three part Godhead that I called PAN. The purpose of this rite was to completely break my connection with the egregore of the Coven from Hell and to remove any nefarious influences or negative magick off of me. To ensure that I would be completely and wholly immersed in the magick, I also took five hits of LSD in the form of windowpane. Needless to say, I was powerfully in the grips of that drug trip for hours, and in fact, it lasted the whole night and into the morning. I worked these very dark rites and completed them just before the sun came up. I got to witness the brilliant winter morning and the sun shining upon me in all its glory. I was like a new dawn for me, and in fact, it was. I recall actually being able to function and perform all of the invocation rituals during that ordeal, but I would certainly not ever do such a thing again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to any else. In fact, I believe that was my last trip using such harsh hallucinogens, and from then on, I would only use natural and organic drugs, and then, very rarely.

That powerful ritual working really helped me break the evil spell that the Coven of Hell had cast over me and my spiritual path. Yet the damage had already been done, and it would take me another couple of years to completely overcome all that had occurred. The magickal working had the power to break the illusion that I was surrounded by darkness, and it also completely nullified the curse that Sharon had placed on me. To this day I wonder about the impact of that working and what it might have done to Bill and Sharon, since any kind of spell reversal will have some kind of blow-back effect on the sender and their associated clients. It was in 1984 that Bill and Sharon converted to fundamentalist Christianity, and prior to that they had broken away from witchcraft, magick and the occult, perhaps as early as 1982. It would seem that maybe my act of reversing the spell had the effect of frightening and forcing Bill and Sharon from their occult connections and pushing them into the arms of conservative Christianity. I will never know the real truth, but it does seem like an interesting coincidence.

I wrote to all of the friends that I had made at the Pan Pagan festival, and visited those who lived close to me. I traveled to Madison to visit with Lugh, and I would hang out with Keith and Anita. I even went down to Chicago to visit my friend Mike and to meet with his coven, the Temple of the Sacred Stones. I even performed a Luciferin Mass for the coven members, although I am certain that they found it quite strange. One of the high points of that visit was going to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and seeing the intact collection of Gardner’s Witches Museum. That was before the collection was broken up and distributed to other RBION musuems. 

All during the time from 1981 through 1983, I was attempting to figure out a career path for myself as well as developing a completely new system of magick. I wrote up a series of four Mass rites for the four sacramental systems of Thelema, Thanatos, Agape and Eros, and produced a system of invocation and evocation nearly from scratch. During this time, I wrote probably around 30 rituals and a couple of massive ordeals (Ordeal XV and the Tessarenoi - Four Temples) - my creativity was boundless. 
I spent many hours developing this new system of magick, and used the temple space of friends to experiment with it, since I no longer had an operating temple. Many of my most fundamental works were written in the period of 1981 through 1983, and I also envisioned the Order of the Gnostic Star at that time, although it was only in an embryonic phase. I was on a very high plane with all of these creative ideas passing into my mind, yet all during this time, I didn’t know who was behind these inspirations. All I knew was that the actual lore worked, that it had a context (which I would later verify through research), and it was consistent. I was building a comprehensive system of magick and testing it as I went along. Everything pointed to the fact that I was receiving a level of magickal and occult knowledge that was beyond anything that I had previously received, and the source was veiled and invisible to me.

This was happening to me despite the dark times, my despair at ever getting ahead in life and becoming independent of my parents. It was a time when I really needed my friends and their companionship, and I was seeking to emerge from the negative influences of the Coven from Hell. It was in a word, the worst of times and the best of times for me. Since that time, I have had profound periods of creativity and insight, but that time was so terribly important to the foundation of my whole life - who I was and what I was to become - that it sticks out in my mind as no other period of my life so far. However, the most important decision that I was to make concerned my ability to make a living and chose a long term career.

I come to the conclusion that I would not be able to break into a professional career unless I got some kind of associate’s degree to go along with my BA in English (Linguistics). After searching around and trying out some classes, I decided to pursue an associate degree in Computer Science. I took some courses at the local technical college, and found that I seemed to have an ability at programming. In the autumn of 1982, I enrolled at Control Data Institute, which was an computer aided education facility owned and funded by Control Data Corporation (now defunct). CDI used a computer system called Plato to interactively train students in computer programming and computer electronics. I managed to complete the course work in four months, which was something of a record.

During all that year, in order to make money, I had continued to work as a janitor for a cleaning company and spent four hours in the evening (and some weekends) helping to clean the offices and bathrooms of some local small factories. During the day, I was at CDI, and commuted by bus to and from Milwaukee instead of using my car. Whether it was occultism, or a career, I was doing everything that I could to advance myself, and felt that even my humble job as a janitor was preparation for much better work in the future. My attitude was very positive, and it showed in my work and in my studies. I was going to dig my way out of the hole that I found myself in, and I applied hard, constructive and practical work to that end. It finally paid off for me, but not until the winter of 1983.

In the early winter of 1983, my parents went on another of their long vacations to the tropics. I, of course, stayed home and house-sat for them. I also converted the family room into a temporary temple and proceeded to experiment with some of the new rituals that I had developed. I also requested and received from my friend, Halina, a Bishop’s consecration, witnessed by my friend Cathy. Halina had received her consecration from Bill, who of course had been consecrated by Michael Bertiaux, so I had now gotten what I had originally wanted from Bill. I also was able to receive my consecration from someone that I had deeply respected and even venerated, so that was definitely a plus as far as I was concerned. I continued to honor my initiatory linkage to Halina for over a couple of decades after that time, even though we both moved in entirely different occult directions.

The lore that I had received not only covered the four Elemental degrees, but also covered the degrees of five through seven. I didn’t have all of the pieces, but I had most of them, either fully developed or in notes, and these I would use to develop the lore of the Order of the Gnostic Star. Even though the magickal lore that I had developed was highly personalized, the patterns and structures could easily be adapted and successfully used by others - as I found out a few years later. Still, getting the Bishop consecration, along with my priesthood ordination, was the final key that I needed to completely break out of my magickal and economic rut. I was about to undertake quite an amazing adventure, forcing me to leave my home state and begin a period of relocation that would continue on until 2005.

In the winter of 1983, I was able to use the graduate resources of CDI to get a job as an computer operator at a company that processed and stored insurance company data for the national association of state insurance commissioners. That operator job became a programming job in just a day or two, and when the company was relocated to Kansas City, I opted to be relocated along with it. That was the beginning of my computer career, and by June 1983, I had relocated to live in a new town, and I was now completely independent. I had a nice two bedroom apartment, and that meant that I finally had my own temple. I had broken free from the trap that I had unwittingly created for myself, and I was now on my way to fulling my destiny. It was a joyous time for me, but not one that was without a sense of loss and sacrifice. I had to leave my important and close friends, and even a woman that I passionately loved, behind in Wisconsin so that I could follow my destiny. It was an ironic trade off, but one that I stoically took upon myself.

In the years that followed, I continued to receive all sorts of inspirations and new lore, but it wasn’t until around 2002 that I discovered who was behind the inspirations, insights and wise guidance. It was Hermes Thoth Trismagistus, but it also included a few other deities and demigods (that must remain unnamed) all of whom had been very much invisible and moving in the background throughout my formative period. These invisible and inner plane contacts were crucial to my development, and I suppose that they remained invisible to me for such a long time so I wouldn’t be able to interfere with them. I was puzzled by that kind of unknowable connection, but I am mentioning it in this article so that others might realize something within themselves, and learn to trust their own process. I trusted it with all my heart and soul, and it served me brilliantly even unto this day.

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Function of a Magick Temple and Initiated Peers

I decided to include this article from a section in the Order of the Gnostic Star documentation entitled “ESSG Purpose and Path,” which helps initiates to understand how to function as a magician and about the degree based ordeals. We have already covered that material, but I thought that it would be appropriate for my readers to know how magicians should behave and work in groups with their peers. I am a strong believer in the rule that magicians should have a peer group and should work in groups, even ones that are loosely organized.

In my humble opinion, it’s not appropriate for magicians to work their magick in isolation, and such insular habits are highly discouraged by me, particularly for those who are still undergoing the trials of the four Elements (Degrees 1 - 4). There are some very important reasons why this is an issue in the practice of ritual magick, and we should discuss it here so members of the Order of the Gnostic Star (and others) will know why it’s important for them to practice and associate with like minded individuals.

Magicians maintain their psychological balance and determine their progress through an important mechanism called peer review. Magicians should keep journals and note down the date, planetary hour (if appropriate), astrological transits, the events of the ritual working, and the results. Divination that was prepared to determine the nature of the problem and shape the working should be included as well as divination used to examine the outcome of the magick worked. All of this goes into the journal and it’s the most important record for magicians to keep, since it exists as a form of incontestable evidence that one has performed the required work. Magicians may perform the working alone, for certainly the rituals of the Order were written in such a fashion that they tend to be worked by individuals; but they can be easily modified to accommodate a group of workers as well.

The easiest way for a group of magicians to perform a working is to split up the ritual tasks among them. A group performing a working must also write up a journal entry for that working, so someone must gather together the impressions of each individual who participated and also write a generalized narrative of what transpired during the performance of the working. An official temple working should have an official journal entry written up by the Auctor and kept with the temple records. An Auctor is the temple scrier, divinator and journal keeper in the Order, but I am certain that there is typically a similar role for an individual in other magickal organizations.

Ritual magick is a very subjective phenomenon, yet it can cause all sorts of internal changes, associations, interpretations and even psychological and spiritual crises in the magician’s psyche. Phenomena produced by the manifestation of magick can have all sorts of incredible effects on a practicing magician. Such occurrences, like the experience of visions, communication with various spiritual entities, immersion within inner plane domains, and the emotional impact of magickal powers and their realization are part of the phenomena of magickal manifestation. These phenomena should be recorded as best as one can, and then at a convenient time, shared with others who are also practicing magick.

What I have found is that what might seem to be a singular and unusual experience for one is actually something common to that particular kind of ritual working or to the initiate at a certain level of development. This realization can help the magician to process the experience, to properly objectify it so that it becomes a feature of one’s spiritual and magickal evolution instead of being indicative of some kind of anomaly or special sign exclusive to the magician.

Magicians objectify their magickal experiences through peer group review. This process is unfortunately often overlooked by those practicing ritual or ceremonial magick, but it’s extremely important. If a magician has had some very disturbing experiences associated with a particular ritual working, then the peer group can help him or her judge whether the experience was typical, that is, common to all, or whether it represents an internal issue that the magician must master. Mastery of psychological issues is also something that a peer group can help a magician to acquire, since they will ensure that judgments about the situation are kept within the boundaries of rational understanding and objective examination.

Sharing magickal experiences with a peer group may subject the magician to a rather embarrassing scrutiny, but if everyone participates and shares their experiences equally, then no one will be put in the position of being critically judged and not being able to return the favor. If one is judged by one’s peers, and then in turn becomes the judge of those same peer members, then there will be a higher degree of compassion used in that judgement. It would seem that the Golden Rule applies to peer group judgment, but it’s also important to apply truth to apparent illusions.

So, it’s important for magicians to have their magickal workings examined by those who might be more experienced than they, thereby assisting them in perfecting their art. In fact not only do magicians in the Order share their magickal experiences with other members of the temple, but they may also have a mentor relationship with at least one of them, as required for the initiations of third degree and higher. This mechanism of sharing experiences and performing workings together fosters a fairly tight knit organization, and the temple of the Order often represents the place where deep lasting friendships and intense social engagements between members occurs, binding them together far beyond the life span of the temple itself.

Since everyone is considered an equal and integral part of the temple, and no one, even if they are of an advanced degree, is more important or has more power or authority in the group than anyone else, the group respects the experiences and opinions of each individual equally. This is the nature of a Star Group, and one that is integral to the structure of all temples of the Order.

As stated above, sponsorship in the Order is required for the third degree and beyond. The initiations for third and fourth degree are performed in a private ceremony between the mentor and the student. Fifth degree requires not only a mentor, but one who has been elevated to the 7th degree and functions as the magickal hierophant or bishop for the inner order, which the candidate has become an accepted member thereof.

In a temple where there is no established inner order, then the candidate must seek out a temple where such an inner order is active to receive his or her elevation to the Pontifex (5th) degree. Once any member of a temple has achieved membership in the inner order, then they can become the nucleus for an inner order forming in that local temple. Temples in the Order are fully autonomous, but initiations and training beyond the second degree are performed in a student mentor relationship, and this has the effect of enforcing a certain degree of intimate sharing and objectivity between the teacher and student, sometimes a mentor relationship can even cross temple boundaries. Once a member of a temple becomes a 7th Degree Hierophant, then all inner order initiations may be performed by the local temple without needing any assistance from another body. That temple will also form an inner order of members who have been elevated to at least the fifth degree, and they will practice their magick and perform temple celebrations in addition to the those performed by the outer order.

It is important for the outer order to be kept active in a temple that has an inner order to ensure that new members or initiates who are still experiencing the ordeals of the four Elements can participate in the temple rites and workings. Since each temple functions as a Star Group, then all members, whether of the outer or inner order have a right to equal participation in the affairs of the group.

It’s possible that a temple may eventually be populated only with adepts, and such a mature organization may not want to perform both inner and outer order rites, and train and initiate new members, so they may close the temple to all future possible membership and instead focus on performing the ordeals and workings of a higher order of magickal accomplishment. Such a mature organization has its benefits, since the magick performed by a group is only as great as the weakest or least experienced initiate. However, the effect of hubris and arrogance can also haunt such a group who has lost touch with new and fresh perspectives brought in by new members. Teachers always learn something new from their students regardless of whether or not they are or are adepts, if the teaching is done in an open and sincere manner.

Initiates are responsible for their own progress, growth, and for their personal spiritual development. Teachers and mentors can only do so much with students, especially if they won’t perform the basic required work for a degree. Neophytes (1st degree) and Acolytes (2nd degree) are trained by the whole temple organization, and beginning classes are organized and conducted by the more experienced members for all who wish to attend. During that period of training, the student establishes relationships with the members of the group and as they grow and progress in their studies, they will chose one of the more experienced members as their personal trainer and mentor.

Their mentor will then assist them to prepare for the third degree and ensure that they have done the work necessary to be recognized by the group and awarded that degree. But it must be stated that initiates should always do more than what is merely required for an elevation, so as to maximize their occult training and perfect their skill as a magician. The more that students put into their training, then the better the outcome will be. It should be noted that a firm and strong foundation in the basic occult and magickal skills makes for a better and more well rounded magician. Also, a weak foundation will cause a magician student to founder or catastrophically fail when he or she attempts more complicated and powerful magickal workings. Additionally, a student magician is advised to have at least a basic spiritual practice steeped in an earth-based spirituality or an esoteric spiritual perspective of one of the mainstream faiths, since this is the preferred spiritual foundation in the Order.

Initiates always decide when they are ready for an elevation, but it’s the mentor and the members of the temple functioning as their peer group who makes the judgement as to the worthiness of that elevation. The mentor and senior members of a temple are responsible for who they elevate, and will reap the results of poor training and the mental instability of a newly elevated member if that person was not prepared for what they received. This is why the peer group is so important for the developing and training of a magician, since they are the final arbiters of whether one has accomplished the accepted results of a particular set of workings, or is experiencing the regressive effects of an internal psychological crisis.

This brings us to the rather thorny topic of judging the difference between behavior that is the result of a transcendental experience or the result of regressive psychological issues and complexes. Determining the difference between regressive tendencies and behaviors and true transcendental experiences can be quite subjective, and often requires the objective perspective of others and a period of time within which to judge. The greatest flaw of the supposed New Age is that many have celebrated behavior that is regressive and immature, confusing it with transcendental experiences. Books have been written about “releasing the inner child”, and allowing any kind of immature behavior as a critical part of becoming unfettered. This supposedly releases a person’s ego boundaries so that they might experience the transcendental dimensions of the higher spiritual domains. While it may be true that too much self-control can be a great inhibiting factor in the governance of one’s spiritual and magickal path, it is a greater truth that a lack of self-discipline and self-discrimination will do even more harm to an individual in their unfolding.

We need to be able to differentiate between transpersonal and transcendental psychic processes with what is actually pre-personal and regressive processes. How do we make that judgment? The following tips can certainly help a group or an individual in determining the difference between regressive and transcendental experiences, but every judgment is unique and therefore, exceptional.

1. The individual is not under the influence of any kind of substance, either alcohol or mind altering drugs. There is a place for the use of substances, if that is something that one has chosen to do. However, experiences undergone while using mind altering substances must be carefully examined and scrutinized with a greater regard for relevance and appropriateness than what would normally be used if no substances were being used. Generally, substances are used in the context of a vision-quest type of rite, and there is always a control, or someone present, who is completely sober, to aid the participant. For all other workings, it should be said that being sober and in control of one’s wits is critically important if anything of a lasting and profound impact is to be realized.

2. The individual is not deeply or emotionally traumatized and is in complete control of their faculties. If someone loses complete control of themselves and has had some kind of paroxysm, then what occurs during that interlude must be considered highly suspect. Typically, transcendental experiences occur even while one is fully awake and exercising a great deal of self-control. Thus, a person is affected by this experience, but not debilitated by it.

3. The individual does not usually exhibit regressive behavior patterns - i.e., pre-personal or obvious childish behavior. These can manifest as temper tantrums, fits, yelling or screaming episodes, etc. A person who is obviously and typically exhibiting childish behavior can’t be trusted to suddenly have a truly transcendental experience, since such occurrences are usually experienced by individuals who are mature and self-aware. If someone who is normally immature has a profound experience that causes them to start acting in a mature manner, then at that point in their development, they may be able to be taken seriously if they have a profound spiritual experience. In other words, a faked transcendental experience can garner a person a great deal of attention, at least for a short period of time. Beware of individuals who grandstand or need excessive amounts of attention. They are usually not the ones who are experiencing something truly profound.

4. The experience seems completely other than a manifestation of the petty egoic self or what typically occurs when one is in a borderline conscious state. Transcendental experiences occur when one is wide awake and in complete control of one’s faculties. Transcendental experiences are usually pretty difficult to fake, since they must also be accompanied by a greater degree of self-insight and obvious personal growth. A single transcendental experience can profoundly change someone, and that change is typically permanent. However, a real transcendental experience is just the beginning of a long process of spiritual and psychic evolution.

5. The experience has transcendental qualities or spiritual manifestations that impart a state of wonder and awe instead of fear or paranoia. Transcendental states are non-dual, non-temporal, holistic and revelatory. The experience seems to teach something deep and powerful about the self and one's world. Also, if there is more than one person witnessing the occurrence of this transcendental experience, it is typically so contagious that others will simultaneously experience it directly for themselves. If others are not sensing anything while someone is supposedly undergoing a transcendental experience, unless those others are non-initiates or somehow completely insensitive to occult phenomena, then the experience must also be suspect.

6. Once the experience has passed, does the participant feel emotions of completeness, fullness, happiness, bliss; or do they feel drained, diminished, shattered or incomplete? The former are indicative of transcendental states, the latter, of regressive states. Being immersed in the spiritual domain causes one to experience the self in a holistic manner, which should make one feel more fulfilled and complete. Such an experience should make a person feel awake as if for the first time and it should prove to be deeply insightful, as if all questions could be answered and everything made possible. A person who has undergone such an experience feels optimistic, elevated and as if he or she were walking on air. A regressive experience is where the self is shattered or truncated, or where a personality fragment is able to fully monopolize all self expression. Such a regressive experience can’t make the participant feel anything other than a profound diminishment and a deep inferiority to others. It can even manifest as a sense of personal loathsomeness once the euphoria and the intense “high” passes away. It’s a good idea to watch someone in order to see how they respond hours or days after their supposed transcendental experience.

7. The experience is in itself inexplicable, i.e., it seems that it can't be readily discussed or examined and made sensible. The person who has had such an experience also seems to be unperturbed with their inability to explain it all. We should always beware of someone who is able to provide a lot of detail and explanation for their supposed transcendental experiences. They are probably making it all up for their own prestige and personal benefit unless they are very experienced or have past training as a psychologist. It’s also a good idea to observe someone days or even months after their experience, to see if it has made any difference in their behavior or changes in the way that they conduct their personal life. Magick has a way of greatly amplifying one’s ability to fantasize, but fantasies can’t help one to become more aware or enlightened, and they soon fade away when contrasted to the difficulties of a mundane existence lived in a state of perpetual neglect and denial.
If the tests above indicate that the experience was transcendental, then it could be said to be a manifestation of the spiritual domain, in whole or part. The question about whether such things experienced are real or unreal is probably not even relevant. They are real, but not in an ordinary way. Spiritual reality seems as if it were a separate reality, paradoxical and often allegorical. However, regressive behavior is not a replacement for transcendental experiences. The individual and the group are both responsible for being able to differentiate between the two, since they will be the judge and arbiters of whether someone has had a valid transcendental experience, and whether they are ready for elevation to higher degrees. A group’s responsibility for truth and rational sincerity should never be taken lightly, for each person depends on the candid objectivity and scrutiny of his or her spiritual and magickal associates.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Boundary of Limitations - Times of Transition

This is another autobiographical piece, so you have been warned!

I can easily divide the history of my magickal and spiritual life into almost separate and distinct epochs. Each of these epochs begins with a major breakthrough, followed by a  subsequent period of rapid development and growth, and then there’s a period, sometimes long or short, where I reach a plateau. The plateau period is where nothing much new is discovered and my development tapers off to a kind of stasis. It represents a time where I have gone as far as I can with the knowledge that I have acquired, and that to go any further will require yet another breakthrough. Those times where not much is happening have been sources of frustration and even deep and personal angst for me, since I can sense that there are changing times just around the corner, I just don’t know when or how. I call these points of change “nexus points,” and often, divination will not help me to see around that corner. Instead, what I see are multiple choices and branching pathways, where each choice will have a powerful impact on what happens next and the direction that I would go.

Liminal events are painful and difficult for me because I have always been a person who has anticipated the future too much, and I have not appreciated those times where there was too little action. They were those mysterious points in life where one should engage in reflection and introspection, and until I matured, I had little time for them. I guess you could say that I have been in too much of a damn hurry to get to the next chapter in my life without fully appreciating and understanding the current chapter. Of course, passing the point in life of middle age has profoundly changed that bad habit, but when I was young, it was a powerful dynamic constantly operating in my life. Since physical decline and death are very much the next major events in my future life, I am not in any hurry to encounter and experience them. In fact, I find myself wanting to slow down the process of time so I can fully taste and realize the goodness and preciousness of life. I am not in a hurry to die just yet!

One of the must difficult and excruciating liminal periods that I had to undergo was the time just before I joined and became an initiated member of the Coven from Hell. We are talking about the year 1975, and the liminal period lasted almost the whole year. I had just completed some pretty amazing adventures, having traveled to Colorado, lived briefly in the Rockies, and then ended up in southern California. From there, I traveled to Oregon, living in the Mt. Hood National Forest Reserve until I was forced to return home in the autumn. I had left my parent’s home in the early summer, full of hope and promise, and returned in the autumn, fairly defeated by circumstances. You can find that entire time encapsulated in a previously written article here, which contains many tales of wisdom and folly, with an emphasis on folly.

My life as a great magician, witch and occultist, destined for truly amazing things fell completely flat. My super-sized ego imploded, and I was left to pick up the pieces - it took me an entire year to recover. So 1975 was a time of attempting to determine my life’s path and figure out what I should do with myself, since fortune and fate had not granted me the great legacy and masterful role in the world that I had imagined was going to be bestowed upon me. I had come back down to earth, and it wasn’t a soft landing, either. Having lost the faith of my father by getting kicked out of the Navy, I felt myself set adrift. As a twenty year old man without any prospects, I needed to figure out what to do with myself very quickly, because I was soon approaching the age where I would have to fend for myself. So I had started to go back to school, and found that I was actually smart enough to get some decent grades. This was a fairly encouraging sign to me.

That year, my father got a major promotion from his company, which required that he move to the Milwaukee area from his home in Racine. My brother and sister had both moved out of the house a couple of years previously, so I was the only adult child left. Since I was available and without prospects, I helped my parents move from the house that I had grown up in to a house newly built in Hartland, Wisconsin. This new house was located in a recently built subdivision, all pristine and newly constructed, and located in what was becoming a bedroom community for the Milwaukee metro area. Even so, I was far from my friends in Racine and living in the countryside of Waukeshau county. The town of Hartland was quite small, and the local youth had no interest in my occult proclivities. I was ripped away from whatever few friends and community that I had left, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I had been given my grandparent’s old ‘62 Chevy Impala, I think that I would have fared very poorly. As it was, I had to look for another school, and decided to try my luck at the local university in Milwaukee. All of these changes were happening to me, but little was really changing inside of me.

My two good and close friends, Cathy and Mark, who had become so important in my life when I had ended my friendship with Bob, decided to live together. They rented a large flat that had been converted from an old farm house in the countryside just outside of Racine, and it was there that we all decided to dedicate one of their rooms for the purpose of working magick. We decorated the room with a lot of the equipment and materials that I had acquired from my years of working ritual magick and witchcraft, and in that wonderful place far from the eyes of any parental figures, we were able to work magick undisturbed. At that time, I had assembled everything that I had discovered or invented in regards to working forms of simple magick, and wrote it up in a blank book, full of illustrations and even a few photographs. I believe that Cathy and Mark got their own copies as well. Oddly enough, I still have that book, which at the time, I had called my Book of Shadows, although it was really the prototype of a simple grimoire for ritual magick. This book represented everything that I knew at the time about magick and the occult, which was not very much. I realized that I had achieved everything that I could with what I had in terms of books and life experience, and that additional books didn’t seem to add anything further. I was, in a word, stagnating.

We practiced magick together that summer and our friendship seemed to really forge strong bonds between us, at least for a short time. I was the odd man out, since I had not been able to find any young woman who wanted to engage with me in these workings, try as I did to find such a one. I discovered that my close friendship to Cathy was becoming more than just a platonic interest, and I guess you could say that I was starting to fancy her. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since she was attractive, and my brain at the time was rather testosterone soaked. Mark seemed oblivious, or at least too faithful of a friend, to notice. It got more uncomfortable for me after short time, and I began to see them less, especially after I moved away. I didn’t want to betray my friendship with Mark over my carnal interests in Cathy, and besides, I thought that it had more to do with my inability to find a girlfriend for myself. So I would occasionally come to visit, and then we would work magick together. I might stay a couple of days, then get restless and perturbed, and leave. Traveling seemed to sooth my inner beast, and I engaged in a lot of traveling around. I had found a job as a security guard, and it paid enough to keep me in pocket money and gas for my car, so I was pretty much free to come and go, and I did just that. As the summer progressed, I became more and more restless - things weren’t happening or changing fast enough for me. I was a tough person to be around, so I didn’t hang around very long with anyone. 

As the year progressed, I could sense that events were coming to an important threshold. In the autumn, I started school as a college freshman, was working nights as a security guard on weekends, so there was less time for me to travel to Racine. I lost touch with Mark and Cathy for a while, since they had moved further away to nicer house in the countryside between Kenosha and Racine. I was too busy and too self-absorbed to care about my receding friendship with them, and I was meeting a lot of new people to occupy my time. Even though I experiencing a lot of new things, still, my knowledge and ability to work magick remained grounded in what I knew.

Even the level of energy that I had previously experienced in my magick seemed to drop to levels where I was hardly stimulated any more. I often meditated and prayed to the Goddess to help me find a way out of this terrible slump, but it seemed that my prayers were unheard. I felt no contact with the Goddess at that time, or any kind of contact with any spiritual entity. It was as if the well of occult possibilities and inspiration had dried up, and nothing I did was either satisfactory or inspiring. What made this period of stasis bearable was the fact that I was in a completely new environment meeting new people and learning new things in college. Yet I remained very restless and disconnected from everything, much to the annoyance of those who had to deal with me.

Mark and Cathy were moving on with their lives as well. They had some new friends, who at least were more mature and sane than I was at the time. I can remember accompanying them to see a couple of their new friends, a slightly older married couple. That evening I recalled smoking some really powerful weed and then being turned on to the music of Aphrodite’s Child. I listened to the second track of their album, “666” and I was completely blown away by it. It was the tune, “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” and even though I was not a Christian, I was able to immediately relate to the music, sensing that it was an omen that something revelatory was going to happen to me very soon. I can imagine that my self-absorbed fascination with that tune, and my obvious and unusual occult discussions about it were not well received by my hosts.

Later, I got an earful from Cathy and Mark about how inappropriately I was behaving. I paid them no attention, as the tune from that album was echoing inside my head for days. I soon had to go and immediately buy a copy of that album! It was one of those comical and desperate scenes, where I jumped out of my car at a stop light in the middle of traffic, turned over the driving to a girl friend (named Mary-Jo) who was sitting in the passenger seat, and ran into the store to make the purchase just before it closed. Poor Mary-Jo had to quickly take over driving the car when the light turned green and go around the block a couple of times before I got out of the store with my acquisition. That was the kind of frenetic maniac that I could be if obsessed with something or someone. I was kind of scary in a chaotic and mostly harmless, stupid fashion. 

My dreams at this time were very vivid, and I could sense that something momentous was coming, but still, all during the autumn months, nothing happened. I was also discovering that my choice of being an engineering major was quite unsatisfactory. I had an insatiable hunger for knowledge like I had never had before, so I ended up spending hours in the vast university library, reading over books and materials that had nothing to do with my actual assignments and studies. I must have read over a hundred books at that time, and re-read books I already had read. Some of my reading passions were books written by Joseph Campbell, especially the book “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” From it I began to deduce that the cycle of initiation was analogous to the 22 Tarot Trumps. At this time, my magick was strongly influenced by pop psychology, anthropology and paranormal studies, basic Qabbalah, basic witchcraft, the writings of Carlos Casteneda, and a book written by John Allegro, entitled “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.” I also had my own personal and supposed Atlantean system of magick, which I had created completely out of my own febrile imagination. It was quite an interesting mixture of bits and pieces.

As an ardent seeker for any occult possibility, I found myself attracted to a poster advertising that someone was putting together a local “nest” for the Church of All Worlds. I went to meet the couple who were putting this group together, and I ended up hanging out with them on occasions for a month or two. It was through them that I managed to find and track down an Alexandrian coven. The leader of that proto-nest (whose name was Larry) sought to modify my behavior and even change my image, taking me to task for habitually wearing a white t-shirt under my sports shirt, and basically dressing up in an overly nerdy fashion. After purchasing some new clothes, I started to look more interesting, hip and cool. Still, I soon got tired of the Church of All Worlds nest, since it seemed that the leader had formed this group just so he could smoke a lot of dope and have sex with young college girls. His wife was obviously into it for the same reason. I quickly realized that what they were doing just wasn’t what I was looking for, so I continued my search. I am sure that my sudden departure was quite annoying to them both, but then I was looking for people who really wanted to work magick and witchcraft, and had little time for anything or anyone else.

Near the end of my first term, I finally made contact with the only Alexandrian coven in the town of Milwaukee. I had met the high priest and high priestess previously in around November, and began a brief period of getting to know them. When I met them at an open Solstice party, I asked if I could seek initiation and training from them, and perhaps join their coven. I was told that the elder coven was closed, but they had recently opened a training coven which might suit my interests. I felt really connected to them, and got to visit them on my birthday in early January. I brought some of my magickal equipment and ritual papers and sought to convince them (if they had any doubts) that I already knew a lot about magick and witchcraft, and that I would be a good student and member of their group.

By this time I had begun to derive the ritual construct of the vortex (as the companion structure to the cone of power) and a few other formulations that mirrored some of what Christopher and Alexandria were already doing. I told them about my ideas, and they immediately understood what I was talking about. I think that they needed little convincing, since they had already felt quite good about me and saw a great deal of merit in what I had already accomplished. They invited me to attend a full moon Esbat in January (likely the 17th or 18th). I had a truly fantastic time at that gathering, and experienced a truly awesome emotional impact from the magickal power raised and the presence of deity. The intensity of what I experienced was greater than what I had ever felt before.

Afterwards, the coven voted unanimously to let me be initiated into the group, and my initiation was quickly scheduled for the next Sabbat, which was Imbolc or Candlemas (a traditional time for initiations). My initiation was beyond anything that I had ever experienced before, and I had finally found a group of people who would be my peers as well as mentors and teachers. In a very short period of time, many of the pieces of my own occult puzzle seemed to just slip into place. At long last, I realized that I had crossed the threshold into the next phase of occult ascendency. I thought that I would be able to realize all of the mysteries and become a true master myself in the not so distant future. I also wasn’t too selfish about what I had discovered either, since I readily recruited my two old friends, Cathy and Mark, to join this group.

Little did I know that I had just unwittingly joined what would become for me, the Coven from Hell. My High Priest was Bill Schnoebelen, who called himself Christopher Syn, and his wife Sharon, who called herself Alexandria Pendragon, was my High Priestess. It turned out to be the greatest occult adventure that I ever had, at least for a year or two, and during that time I had achieved all three of the degrees in my tradition. Yet after that golden time, things started to become really strange and unpleasant, and then later, I was exposed to true evil. I did manage to escape that group with my integrity and creativity intact, but I was tainted with a guilty conscience and the knowledge that I had behaved badly with those who had trusted and believed in me.

All of this is another story, and one that I have already told in great detail. However, I will always remember that summer when I worked magick with my two good friends and pined for better days. What a fool I was, but at least I was only burdened with the foolishness of youth.

Since those times, I have never experienced a prolonged period of stasis or a stagnant plateau in my development. At some point after I left the Coven from Hell, I managed to make some important inner plane connections, and these have served me very well ever since. I feel lucky that my spiritual and magickal life during all of the intervening years has not been either staid, boring or unchallenging. But when I do feel restless or too eager for results, I just remember that other time many years ago, when my desires for power and spiritual glory led me to a four year stint in the underworld of lost initiatory souls - the Coven from Hell. Such a trip down memory lane is very sobering and a good object lesson to ponder.

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thoughts About the Second Order and Adepthood

I have been carefully studying a recent transmission from the spokesperson for the secret chiefs of the HOGD faction of the Golden Dawn, translated and edited by David Griffin for the benefit of everyone. This transmission is entitled “Traditional Initiatic Meaning of the Three Grades of the R.R. et A.C.,” and was written by Lux Et Tenebris. You can find the article here. I managed to copy the text into a word-processing file so I could print it out and truly study it. I don’t often bother doing that with the blogs that I read, but this one merited a more careful study. What was being transmitted was truly remarkable, and it was obviously far beyond anything else that I have read on the same subject. The only problem that I had with this writing is that is was prompted by the never ending conflict in the GD community, and the need to distinguish a true revelation from one that is contrived or “reconstructed.” The constant conflict is a sad reminder about how polarized and fragmented the GD community is in these dark Typhonian times.

Most of the Golden Dawn organizations seem quite unable to write about anything substantive when it comes to the degrees beyond Adeptus Minor. I would suppose that it might have something to do with the fact that the Golden Dawn material which is in the public domain only goes that far, and the various degrees and lore beyond that point have been, at least up until to now, merely suppositional. Some might say that the higher degrees of the second order (5th, 6th and 7th) are too secret and mysterious to talk about, or that those who could talk about them are oath bound and constrained to be silent. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some in the Golden Dawn community from writing and talking about nearly everything in a public forum, so I suspect that it mostly has to do with the fact that the higher degrees are essentially undiscovered country for most GD organizations.

Yet in this specially transmitted document are the definitions of the initiatic degrees of the vaunted second order of the Ruby Rose and Golden Cross, written by someone who is the gate-keeper for the third order. You should expect that such a revelation would be quite remarkable if it were indeed a communication from the secret chiefs. Such a communique would have to walk a very fine line between being revelatory, and revealing confidential and oath bound information. I have carefully read over this transmission and I have found it to be profoundly revealing and truly amazing. Here was the blue-print to the second order of adepts written out for all to read and ponder, and little or nothing was remarked on it in the blog-sphere by other GD organizations.

I have shared this transmitted document with my peers, and they all agree that it is remarkable and quite amazing. I have seen nothing like it in the various Golden Dawn material that I have in my possession or have ever read about. It is deep, profound, and also, quite insightful. I found myself saying, “Of course, it was all so obvious!” at various points while I was reading it. If anything could convince me that the various claims made by David Griffin of being in contact with secret chiefs were true, this brief transmission should prove it beyond dispute. So I was that impressed by what I read, yet I saw immediately that there were some distinct differences between the second order as defined by Frater Lux Et Tenebris, and the way that the second order is defined in the Order of the Gnostic Star. They are analogous, but also different.

The second order initiations and ordeals of the Order of the Gnostic Star were developed by me over a long period of time - in fact over thirty years. I had an initial vision and plan that I was following, but I also discovered that it could be determined by the Sephiroth and Pathways of Tiphareth, Geburah and Chesed. There would also be a crossing of the lesser abyss that separates the lower sephiroth from the higher, but that would also be covered by the various ordeals associated with first four elemental degrees. There is indeed a theme of death and resurrection involved in the transition from 4th through 5th degree, and it reaches a climax in 5th degree. But beyond that point, the other themes associated with the second and inner order of the Gnostic Star are quite different.

Once the soul is challenged and mortality truly realized in an integral manner, then life itself becomes sacred, reaching its summit when an initiate undergoes the rites of the Sanctum Regnum and masters the Seven Rays of the Hierophant. If fifth degree is that of the sacred magician-priest, then the sixth degree is the sacred kingship (or queenship) and the seventh, that of the master of the initiatic temple as hierophant or magician-bishop. Each of these three adept degrees requires a mastery of a whole new level of being, and are quite distinct from each other. 
The three degrees of the adept in the Order of the Gnostic Star represent the resolution of three very important aspects of life itself, these are self-mastery, mastery of one’s world, and mastery of the double gateway of the spiritual source. Let me briefly discuss each of these initiatory grades and their associated ordeals, although I will not be able to reveal the actual details, such as the ritual workings and how they might be deployed. That information is, of course, still confidential and keyed to obligatory oaths.

As I said, these three degrees are based on the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, as are all the degrees of the Order. The Tree of Life is the map for achieving the ultimate states of illumination and spiritual mastery. Magickal ordeals that can encapsulate the Sephiroth and associated Pathways will likely emulate the actual internal processes that powerfully transform and spiritually evolve a person, from individual consciousness to cosmic consciousness and at-one-ment with the Godhead. 
The essential theme for the second order for the E.S.S.G. is that of the Tetra-sacramentary and the Stellar Rites of Gnosis. The four sacramental systems are associated with the four essential gnostic systems of initiation and magickal transformation. These systems are called Thelema, Agape, Thanatos and Eros, and they represent the transformative powers of the True-Will, Love, Death and Desire, which join together to formulate what is known as the Star of Individuation, or Astris. The Star symbolizes what is known as the Stellar Gnosis, or where the individual reaches a maximum state of spiritual autonomy and self-determination, and only then is brought into union with the presiding and internal Godhead. In this manner, the Atman is awakened and made ready for the next series of ordeals, which are begun with the abysmal crossing.

If we look at the Sephiroth of these three degrees, we can determine the logic and wisdom of the initiatory ordeals and understand the ascension of the adept into the high adept.

Tiphareth - This is the fifth degree, known as the Adeptus Minor in the GD, and it represents the process whereby the initiate has overcome the obstacles of the four elements, and now is able to constitute the quintessence, which is pure Spirit. The initiation ordeal is where the candidate undergoes the spiritual knighthood of Sol Invictus and the Osirian mystery of Death and Resurrection. There is also an ordination and elevation to the sublime station of magician-priest, and there is the first attempt at the Bornless One Invocation Rite. The candidate also begins the long process of performing the first in a series of the Transdimensional Gate Vortex workings, where he or she enters into the domain of one of the eighteen triangular shapes found in the lattice structure of the Tree of Life. (Still, the key to this degree is the complete mastery of the self.)

Geburah - The sixth degree, known as the Adeptus Major in the GD, is where the initiate must master the very processes of life itself and the world that he or she lives in. This is a process of distillation, purification and the elimination of the irrelevant. The initiation ordeal is that of the Sacred King or Queen, and the establishment of the Sanctum Regnum. The ordeal is where the initiate has successfully constituted the four complete temples of Thelema, Agape, Thanatos and Eros, including their avatars, sacramental relics and spiritual hierarchies. Mastery of the Tetra-sacramentary is absolutely necessary before this ordeal can be considered fully accomplished. Often, it is also important for the initiate to complete all of life’s tasks in regards to establishing a material basis for life, building a home, bonding with a mate, raising a family and becoming an important functionary in one’s community. Some of these accomplishments are more important than others, and they are relative to the life path of the initiate.

Chesed - The seventh degree, known as the Adeptus Exemptus in the GD, is where the initiate must take the manifested Tetra-sacramentary and forge it into the fifth sacrament, which is the Star, or Stellar Gnosis. From this fusion emerges the true mystical and spiritual power of the Seven Rays and the underlying pattern Undecigram. The sacred pattern of the eleven consists of the seven spiritual virtues of the Goddess merged with the four powers of the God. I can only give these hints to you without much details, thereby showing that these mysteries are fully developed in the lore of the Order. 
At this stage, the initiate also performs the Abramelin Lunar Ordeal and fully manifests and merges with his or her higher self, in preparation for the ultimate abysmal crossing. The initiate of the seventh degree is also consecrated as a magician-bishop (hierophant) and learns to master the seven rays system, which is based on the planetary attributes (and deeper correspondences) of the seven Sephiroth of the Qabbalah. A successful resolution of these tasks and ordeals will help the initiate acquire the mastery of the double gateway of the Absolute Source (as the Supernal Triad).

What I have communicated here may seem somewhat opaque or full of symbolic jargon, but they can represent actual accomplishments in the material world, analogous to the highest achievements of a truly gifted mastery of life. The three degrees can be thought of then as representing the ordeals and achievements of self, community and one’s ultimate legacy, but within a completely occult context. To become an adept is to become spiritually wise. Looking at these achievements in this simplified manner should make them appear to be quite transparent, despite the magickal context of the Order and its symbology. An adept level of initiation is then a mastery of one’s life; and what lies beyond the life cycle of a mortal human being consists of the mysteries of the higher adept and the Supernal Triad of the Tree of Life.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spiritual Transformation & Cultural Confusion

I was recently watching a British TV show that was produced several years ago, called “Hex,” about an insular young woman who lives at a boarding school and has problems fitting in with her peers. The reason, of course, turns out to be because she is actually a hereditary witch who is beginning to realize her powers while being haunted by her family’s distant past as wealthy slave traders. 
Throw a bit of voodoo, a spirit bottle, supernatural happenings, and the menacing presence of a fallen angel named Azazael (supposedly one of the Nephilim), spice it up with youthful sexuality, sexual tensions, implied lesbianism, an incredible location (Englefield House), snappy occult graphics, and supposedly you will have a compelling TV drama, right? Wrong! Maybe this show intrigued an unsophisticated audience for a little while, but since it only lasted two short seasons, it was flawed with all sorts of implausibilities and a truly bad plot and story line. Beyond the first episode, I found the whole series to be contrived and unbelievable. The writers attempted to produce a haunting TV series full of youthful angst, dark desires for empowerment, revenge, regret and lost innocence; but instead it was boring and pretentious.

Watching just four episodes made me regret selecting it from Netflix and wasting my money. It seemed so promising, yet it was such a disappointment to me. Now I consider myself, as an experienced occultist, a pretty sophisticated audience. If I watch an occult flick and I like it, then it might appeal to more general audiences, or at least, it will seem plausible and even sophisticated. It’s just a fictional piece, after all, but despite that, it should seem real and compelling, unless the writers are attempting to make it into a dark comedy.

Unfortunately, the writers of this melodrama were attempting to produce something that was realistic, but they failed utterly after the first episode. The graphics were slick and interesting, the music trendy and edgy (by the group “Garbage”), and the special effects were so-so, but still the story just really sucked! I also thought that the writers didn’t do much research into the topics that were working with. The ghosts seemed not very ghostly (especially Cassie’s dead friend, Thelma), the fallen angel didn’t look like a fallen angel. After all, the Nephilim are not actually considered demons, so they wouldn’t appear as such (horns and wings), if they could appear to humans at all without a very serious evocation being performed.

I think the other reason that this series failed (and why many others bomb as well) is that the writers for this program have never undergone any kind of spiritual transformation, or for that matter, any kind of transcendental or supernatural experience. They have no clue what it’s about, so they fail to communicate that to their audience. I have also found this to be true of a lot of other supernatural flicks; they are just unbelievable, and so they aren’t even mildly entertaining.

The main character of this series is an introverted but dishy young woman named Cassandra “Cassie” Hughes. She discovers an iron spirit bottle hidden behind the wooden floor molding in a deserted store room that used to be the slave quarters of an 18th century country estate. Of course, she cuts her finger on the bottle’s iron stand and a drop of her blood drips into it, which one would assume creates some kind of empowering bond with the magick hidden in that bottle. The iron spirit bottle has vevers engraved on it (of course) and there are the themes of forbidden voodoo rites being reawakened after a two century hiatus. That awakening gives Cassie strange new powers and abilities, which appear to mildly frighten as well as intrigue her.

Now all that seems to be somewhat plausible, and particularly since the original mistress of the estate had a slave lover and appeared to be engaged with the religious practices of her husband’s slaves. (I will not comment on some of the historical absurdities associated with the plot, since it would be much more interesting if it took place in New Orleans instead of the English countryside.) Yet it would seem that Cassie has unwittingly connected with past magickal practices and rites, and her blood offering has reawakened those powers, which she now is beginning to possess. After the first episode, you get the impression that you can buy the story, since it seems somewhat plausible. Cassie is starting to undergo some interesting changes, and this is at least attractive enough to watch it develop in the next episode.

In the very next episode, Cassie discovers that behind the voodoo rites and magick of the old estate, there is a spirit who appears to have been behind everything that went on. The original mistress of the estate had slowly gone insane, her young daughter was found dead and hanging by the neck from a large oak tree, and orchestrating it all from behind the scenes was the fallen angel, Azazael.

OK, we went from African religious and magickal practices in the mid 18th century in Britain, then suddenly we are shown the source of all of these rites and supernatural powers in the appearance of one of the angelic spirits of the Nephilim. Even that trope, as jarring and out of context it is, could be accepted as part of the story if weren’t for one simple thing. As Cassie discovers some of these underlying clues, begins to exercise her newly gained supernatural powers, and then is forced to witness the death and supposed sacrifice of her only friend and roommate, she seems to hardly change at all. She has moments of mild terror, confusion, regret and revulsion, but overall, she is pretty much unaffected by what is happening to her. In fact she seems lost inside of herself, staring vacuously at the lovely countryside, to the accompaniment of subtle mysterious piano music and actionless scenes that seem to add little to the plot. She goes through the motions of experiencing things that would normally, completely and profoundly change anyone to the very core of their being in such a bland, banal and mundane manner that I felt like throwing an empty soda can at the TV screen.

The problem with that TV show isn’t the actress (Christina Cole) playing Cassie or the supporting cast, the location, sets, or even the production crew. What’s wrong with this show is the crappy script and pathetic plot! The writers of this series just don’t understand any of the actual ramifications of what is happening to their heroine and main character, so they can’t communicate what’s really going on inside of her head. The director is also clueless, since he doesn’t inspire the actress playing Cassie to act like a female version of Jack Nicholson playing the character Jack Torrance in “The Shining.” Even something a bit like that kind of outward change would have been more believable than bland, blonde, boring, and inhibited Cassie Hughes. At least Stanley Kubrick understood what it meant when a character goes through a radical change.

What this means to me, and here we will get to the crux of this article, is that much of the public and even the creative film making community have forgotten the real elements of a powerful and internal transformation. This is also an important concept for pagans, witches and occultists in general to understand. So what is a transformation? How do you know if you have undergone one?

If I have to describe it to someone, then it’s likely that they probably have never been impacted in such a manner. Then again, such a thing might happen to someone and not be recognized as a transformation, but it would never be unremarked or forgotten!

Here are some points that I think would indicate that someone has undergone a real transformation. This list isn’t complete or inexhaustive, but it should give you an idea of what a transformation really is like. Transformation is, in a word, a powerful and permanent change accompanied with a lot of emotional trauma! There are also positive transformations, and negative, or regressive, transformations. Cassie would have been undergoing a negative transformation, if the main theme of the show was her unredeemable fall from grace.

1. Changes are felt on all levels, they are disruptive, wholly compelling and seem to challenge the very fabric of one’s identity or what one might consider to be “real.” They are, in word, earth shaking.

2.  Borders between reality and fantasy become transparent, allowing for waking dreams, visions, or even hallucinations. One seems to be able to see into and experience the unseen (spirit) world without any assistance or outside help. One hears, senses and sees things that other people cannot sense, see or hear.

3. Usually triggered by a life threatening challenge, disease, death of a loved one, or extreme trauma caused by some kind of personal catastrophe, whether inner or outer. It often requires the person undergoing it to assume a complete change in values, attitudes and beliefs.

4. Even a positive transcendental transformation can completely disrupt a person’s life, changing everything, from friends, relationships, job, vocation or life path to even how one dresses and looks. A negative or regressive transformation does the same, but the changes that it produces are decidedly maladaptive.

5. A regressive transformation is the beginning and onset of a complete psychological collapse, yet a positive transformation can appear to be as difficult and catastrophic, but the one undergoing it seems to be buoyant and in some kind of control.

6. A negative transformation is where a nominally good person becomes decidedly evil, and a positive transformation is where a supposedly neutral person becomes a great force for good. In both cases, the person undergoing it seems to be struggling with archetypal forces of darkness and light, but the outcomes are starkly opposite. The changes witnessed in the transformed person by outsiders in either case are dramatic and obvious.

7. A negative transformation can only occur after a long period of suffering and internal fighting, and then at some point, the person undergoing it seems to just surrender, adopting all of the forms of what was afflicting him or her. A positive transformation requires a form of surrendering at some point, too, but it’s more like surrendering to a spiritual lover.

8. Negative transformations are now perceived as nervous breakdowns instead of being possessed by an evil spirit; but positive transformations are still perceived as being possessed or completely intoxicated by a Deity, and are an indication of spiritual ascendency and extreme piety.

9. Enlightenment usually requires a number of strategic transformations occurring over a long period of time; but madness only requires one massive change that triggers the fall, and even if they recover, it seems to haunt the person who underwent it for a lifetime.

These points above are, of course, just my opinion about the differences between a positive and a regressive or negative transformation. I am certain that there are a lot of different opinions on this topic. However, I think that we can all agree that the TV show “Hex” certainly could have used some of these points when they were building up their plot. I know that I will certainly keep them in mind when I get around to writing my own fictional stories.

Frater Barrabbas

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breaking Rules - My Zodiacal Magick

As you may know from my previous blog articles, I was too dim to figure out how to work planetary magick in the traditional Golden Dawn manner, so I had to invent something completely different to accomplish that end. Since I had departed quite a bit from the tradition, that left me with a conundrum to figure out - namely, how to work magick using zodiacal elements.

Let’s briefly review how I work planetary magick. It’s really simple, and it’s based on using a septagram trigon. I constructed a rectangular piece of plywood into a talismanic device with a septagram painted on it, and after charging and consecrating it, I would employ it to draw the invoking angles for a specific planet. The septagram talisman is placed in the center of the circle after an inner circle is erected in the magickal circle proper. The actual details of how this is worked can be found in my previous article, which is located here. Using this device, I had the option of using an outer invoking vortex to assist me in invoking just a planetary intelligence, or I could generate an outer element vortex, which would assist me in generating and invoking a talismanic elemental. I could also summon one of the Enochian seniors as well as employ the use of one of the Lunar Mansions.

So using the septagram (instead of the superior hexagram) allowed me to build a magickal repertoire that allowed me to work magick using the seven planets. However, I faced a more difficult task when I attempted to address the problem of working zodiacal magick. Since I had gone so far off of the beaten track, I would have to invent something completely new (or adapt something that was already being used) in order to continue to build my magickal system. I wanted to continue to use some kind of device, but I didn’t want to have to use a trigon with a duodecagram painted on it. I just wanted to come with a simple solution, and use what was already being used, although I would have to use it in a manner that might break the rules.

In addition to failing to figure out how to work with the superior hexagram ritual for doing planetary magick, I also couldn’t figure out how or even why to use the lesser hexagram ritual, but I was intrigued by the three devices that employed double triangles that were offset from each other. The fourth triangle device of this set was just a hexagram, but the other three were offset with parallel bases, touching apexes and where one triangle was penetrating the base of the other with its point. These three triangle devices were very interesting to me, and possibly useful if I wanted to use them in a manner quite different than what they were used for in the lesser hexagram ritual. Anyway, let’s put these three devices aside for a moment and look at what specifically defines an astrological sign.

If I consult the matrix of symbolic elements that define an astrological sign, I will come up with three essential qualities. These qualities consist of the base element, the quadrant house or modality, and the ruling planet. The base element consists of one of the four elements, and that can be easily expressed by the device of the invoking pentagram. The quadrant house or modality are expressed as groupings of three, such as angular, succedent and cadent for the quadrant houses, and cardinal, fixed and mutable for the modality. The ruling planet would be defined by an invoking septagram; but a corresponding device used to define the quadrant house or modality would be the three devices of the lesser hexagram. Applying these triplicities to the three devices of the lesser hexagram that don’t form a true hexagram would seem to solve the problem of how to define through a matrix the nature and quality of a sign. Keep in mind that I associate signs with the houses, which is a modern astrological adaptation. So now that we have the three devices, how would they be deployed together to formulate and generate an astrological sign.

For instance: Capricorn would have a base element of Earth, a modality of cardinal (or angular/ascendent), and a ruling planet of Saturn. To invoke Capricorn, you would need to generate the earth element, modality of cardinal and summon the ruling planet of Saturn. This logic would be applied to all twelve of the zodiacal signs.

Now we need to consider what would be required to actually formulate a ritual structure to invoke a zodiacal sign. Since the base element and the lesser hexagram structure should be joined into a single expression, I discovered that a pylon ritual device would work quite well. I would set an invoking pentagram for a specific element to the base of the pylon, and the corresponding lesser hexagram device at the apex. These two points would be drawn together into an elongated invoking spiral, thus creating the ritual device of the pylon. If four of these pylons are set to the four watchtowers and drawn together to form a magick square within a circle, then the outer energy vortex field required for the astrological sign would be established. I would then erect another vortex using the rose ankh device, and set it to the four angles and the ultra-point, drawing them together and fashioning an invoking vortex. Then I could draw a center circle, place within it the septagram talisman device, charge it, and then proceed to invoke the ruling planet. Once these elements are generated and established in the empowered magick circle, I could summon the archangel of the astrological sign.

Being able to establish the astrological matrix of a specific sign is important if other aspects of the zodiac are going to be incorporated into the magickal working. These other aspects would be the astrological decans and their associated spiritual correspondences, and the astrological quinarians, which would allow for the invocation of the 72 ha-Shem angels or the Goetic Demons. As you can see, this combination of elements makes for nice and efficient magickal system, and causes planetary magick and zodiacal magick to be tightly related.

Of course, I was not able to come up with these ideas right away, and in fact, I had to think about it and experiment for awhile before I was able to determine the final form. However, what I did discover is that the system of magick that I had invented seemed to be quite capable of being modified and extended to perform any number of different kinds of operations. I did indeed break some rules, but that only applies to traditional Golden Dawn magick, and I had passed out of that tradition rather early in my attempt to forge a system of magick that was useful and relevant to a witch who was practicing ritual magick.

Frater Barrabbas

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Joy of Sects and Living In Peace

Is there a rise in religious intolerance in the U.S. today? Anyone who is paying attention to the news about some of the candidates for president in the Republican party are aware that at least two of the candidates are avowed supporters of Christian Dominionism. There also appears to be some fear in the pagan community that these presidential contenders, if elected to office, would seek to make their religious beliefs the law of the land, transforming the nation into a theocracy.

While it is true that there seems to be more polarization in our society on both sides of the religious divide, I don’t believe that it portends a new age of persecution and religious bigotry. Christian Dominionism, like its close cousin, Dispensationism, represent only a small minority of the overall Christian population. If we consider that there are a lot of Catholics and mainstream Protestants who would neither pledge allegiance to a Dominionist based Christian theocracy nor allow it to even manifest, not to mention all the Mormons, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics and other various sects, then I think we can safely say that such an attempt would fail. Our country is just too diverse and has too many different religious organizations and sects to be accommodated by any kind of government other than one that is secular.

I have been a pagan and a witch since the 1970's, and I have seen the rise and fall of popular socio-religious conservatism at least three or four times so far. During each period of its ascendency, the pagan community starts talking about political oppression and the immanent signs of the creation of a theocratic state, but such talk is always a form of fear mongering and paranoia. In the early 1980's, when Ronald Regan became president, there was a fear of a religious take over of the nation. I remember reading a famous book at that time entitled the “Handmaid’s Tale,” written by Margaret Atwood, and I was quite shook up by the dystopian vision that she so artfully created. However, the 1980's passed, and things seemed to get a bit more open and liberal, and the fear of a theocracy abated.

There had been some rumblings of that kind of social conservatism during Richard Nixon’s presidency, as a kind of backlash to the so-called excesses of the progressive and counter cultural movements of the sixties as well. Then there was eight years of George W. Bush’s administration, when pagan communities began to truly fear some kind of political suppression. Now we see it again with candidates who are publically espousing the most radical of Protestant religious beliefs, and the rumblings have started anew.

Each of these periods of fear and paranoia in the pagan communities have come and gone, and in the end, the level of overall social acceptance of paganism and witchcraft has steadily grown. There were problems associated with movements and individuals in positions of power causing problems, both locally and even on the federal level, but the overall separation of church and state has continued to endure despite any of these superficial challenges.

In order for the U.S. to become a theocratic state, the national constitution would have to be completely rewritten and ratified, and we would have to see the executive, legislative and even the legal systems in tight collusion with each other. Nor could such a transformation occur without the cooperation and use of both the military and the police at all levels. While all of this would be happening, what do you think all of those people who were not steadfast adherents to the one single and narrow religious creed would do? At some point, they would revolt, and the attempted suppression would be very destructive and deadly. Somehow, I doubt that such a series of events could ever happen without the loose collective of the people of the nation throwing a monkey wrench into the whole works.

We are a fractious people who are nearly ungovernable, wanting from our politicians an almost impossible mix of less government with less taxes, but without any kind of diminution of the kind of the benefits and assistance that the government is so good at dispensing. If we have problems agreeing with even the most simple and basic concepts of how our nation should be governed, how would we ever see eye to eye about adopting some kind of religious theocracy? We are also a nation that is dominated by the mega-rich and powerful multi-national corporations, and I believe that they would be against anything that would hurt their bottom line. So the fear of the nation becoming a fundamentalist theocracy is just as much of a paranoia fed nightmare as the fear of the nation becoming a communist socialistic dictatorship. It just aint gonna happen!

The bottom line is that many of us have different beliefs and religious practices, and since we live in a secular society, we may as well seek to acquire tolerance and patience with our neighbors who don’t believe or practice their faith as we do. Perhaps the most important thing that pagans and witches can do (along with all of the other esoteric and earth-based spiritual folk) is to consistently and regularly vote. We should also do everything that we can to make certain that those who do not share our religious beliefs and sentiments have nothing to fear from us. It is the curse of the “other” that you don’t know that is the foundation for fear and paranoia. The more people know about paganism and witchcraft in a general manner, the less they will fear us, and the more accepted we will become. 
We need to always tell the truth to the lies, misconceptions and urban myths that others might believe about us, and having a good sense of humor is always very helpful, too. I suspect that similar to the overall general social acceptance of gays and lesbians being allowed to marry just like everyone else, so, too, will the public find less to be afraid of in the pagan and witchcraft communities over time. We need to be patient, tolerant and also, diligent.

I have seen the period of fear and paranoia come and go in the pagan and witchcraft community, and I suspect that this period will also fade in the near future. In fact, the current general intolerance found in the political right-wing today might actually signify the beginning of the end for such themes in our political landscape. It might also allow for a new resurgence of progressivism in our political discourse, which considering the present state of our economy and our government’s inability to act, might be an important course correction for our nation. Who knows what the future will bring, but I have found that an endemic pessimism doesn’t help anyone.

Maybe someday we will all be able to practice our religions in peace, openness and tolerance. That is my dream, and I hope, it’s everyone’s dream. There might be a few folks in our country who wish that the nation was a theocracy where everyone believed in the same religious tenets, but they are a distinct minority and their dream is futile and unrealistic. I think that my dream is much more likely to be realized, since it is based on the principles that founded our country in the first place. My dream is based on the natural state of human religious diversity, its freedom from government interference, its celebration and empowerment, and the sheer joy of sects.

Frater Barrabbas