Friday, January 27, 2012

Various Assorted Thoughts and Considerations About Ritual Magick - Part 1

This is part one of a two part series consisting of various assorted thoughts about recent blogsphere topics.
It’s nearing the end of the month, and there are a number of small topics and comments that I would like to present to my reading public. I have truly enjoyed all of the comments and responses that I got for my article on non-duality, and I have a few comments of my own to add and also clarify what I said previously. Additionally, I have recently got a copy of Mr. E. A. Koetting’s more recent book “Ipsissimus” where he discusses the concepts and ideas of enlightenment ala the Left Hand Path. As I read deeper into his material, I will, at some point, deliver an opinion on his work. Despite the fact that I don’t actually consider myself an adherent of the LHP philosophy, I am also not disposed completely to the Right Hand Path either. I would also like to put forward my opinions about the issues of the reality of spirits, the verification of evocation, and literary piracy v.s. online freedom (the SOPA/PIPA controversy). There are a lot topics here to briefly discuss, and they are mostly unrelated, hence the title “Various Assorted.”

Multiple Paths to Enlightenment

In October of last year, I posted an article entitled “Path to Enlightenment Through Magick,” where I explained my perspective on achieving enlightenment through the artifice of performing theurgistic magickal rituals, which I call ordeals. You can find that article here, in case you want to review it. I have forged a path, although it is not thoroughly tested (I am not yet “enlightened”), which would take me to a place that is decidedly between the objectives of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path, making me a proponent of neither. I should quote this passage, taken from another blog article here, which pretty much sums up how I seek to achieve my objective by following neither ethical orientation.

This is particularly true because I consider myself neither a follower of the left hand or the right hand path, being a denizen of that shadowy grey area that is more a practical reality than an alliance to some path or persuasion. I aspire in my magickal workings to integrate the HGA or Bornless One into my own self, and thus elevate myself to the level of a godhead, however thinly or briefly. This is certainly a lefthand path perspective. However, I also give veneration, offerings and worship to my ancestors and my gods, thus making me a follower of the right hand path.”

First off, I would like to state that following a particular dualistic path (RHP or LHP) is probably overly simplistic. Practical approaches to the practice of ritual magick and its ultimate goal of union with the One would require any magician to forge a path that is unique and specific to his or her life path, keeping in mind the inherited legacy and the various virtues and flaws that each individual possesses. What this means is that a theoretical discussion based on ideals typically breaks down to practical necessity, and that there are as many different paths to that ultimate goal of spiritual unity as there are individuals who might seek it. Unlike mysticism, or mystical traditions and paths, the path of the traditional magician likely doesn’t exist. There are certainly traditions that form the foundation of any practitioner in regards to their inherent practice, but ultimately, every magician worth his or her salt will leave that tradition behind in order to create something specific and unique to themselves. So while there are specific and set mystical traditions, there appear to be no set magickal traditions in regards to higher level pathways and practices. This also means that the division of RHP and LHP becomes meaningless after a certain point in a magician’s development.

As I have stated in my recent article on monism, it is through our own internal godhead that we are able to perceive the active role of Spirit in the world, and it is when we become truly aware of our own godhead, and fully activate it, that we gain an intimate connection to that overarching Deity which acts as the ultimate source of all things. (We will talk a bit more about this issue later in this article.) Therefore, as far as functioning as a ritual magician and performing theurgistic ordeals, the primary purpose and task is to awaken the godhead within one. Once that awakening and merging of consciousness occurs, then we can proceed with the combined mystical and magickal tasks of completing that union with the One.

I think that the division of paths, and the ideation of RHP or LHP are useful discussion tools when one is below the level of achieving full union with the inner godhead. At that point and beyond, such distinctions are probably useless.

(A tip of the hat to my reader and commentator, Nik64, who gave me the inspiration and idea to write up this point.)

Further Thoughts About Non-duality, Magick, and the Qabbalah

One of my readers (Josh) had some real issues with what I had recently written about non-dual perspectives (i.e., monism) in regards to magick and a pagan based religious idealism, stating that monism was somehow restricted to a single viewpoint and that it excludes all other perspectives, which he called “pluralism.” I don’t really know where he got this idea from, since I couldn’t find in my article where I stated that my perspective and view was singularly correct, and that all others were somehow false. Here’s a small segment of what Josh said in the comments section of my article.

The problem with monism (one view and one view only) is that those coming from a monistic viewpoint always try to demonize other views as dualism or dualistic, even when there is a multiplicity (more than two) views.”

I really think that Josh was thinking about his objections to “monotheism” rather than “monism,” and they are actually quite different. Stating that a certain deity is the one and only godhead (and all others are false) can create a closed system that eliminates the consideration of other factors, or other godheads and their spiritual creeds. Monotheism can produce exclusionary spiritual systems that negate pluralism. Adopting a mystical perspective seems to eliminate the possibility of believing in the exclusive truth of one’s religion, and it also separates or makes a distinction between individuals who espouse a faith based perspective or experience Spirit directly from those who are merely believers. Through the artifice of stating that both the internal and individual godhead and the ultimate unified source are co-equal and the same is to enshrine both a unitary perspective as well as a pluralistic perspective. Many variations of monotheism as they are practiced in the West exclude the possibility that the individual is also a distinct godhead in their own right, since such a perspective (“All art God) would violate the integrity of a strict monotheistic creed. Throughout the ages, there have been more than a few mystics who have been murdered or taken to task by narrow minded sectarians of their own creed, and that would include Jesus of Nazareth himself.

Lao Tzu says it quite well when he writes in the very first chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestation. These two spring from a common source, but differ in name.”

According to Lao Tzu, the mystery or paradox is the One that is actually None, and the pluralistic perspective sees the Spirit alive and thriving in all things. I believe that the same ability to embrace the One and the Many exists in all forms of mysticism, and is important in regards to ritual magick, too. So I don’t think that there is an absolutist perspective in monism, but there certainly can be an absolutist perspective in monotheism and extreme sectarianism.

I also stated that my personal perspective was based on the pagan theology that I originally accepted as a part of being a practicing witch. As a traditional Alexandrian witch, I believed in the existence of a Goddess and a God, and that when joined together, they became a kind of union that has no name or characteristic. Traditional witchcraft (ala BTW) embraces a kind of “dual-theology,” and that only some of its adherents (such as myself) will hold that there is something that transcends them both. Not everyone in my tradition believes that the Goddess and the God are forever joined into a fusion that is greater than the sum of their parts. Yet once I grew beyond the boundaries that were defined by Alexandrian witchcraft, I also discovered the reality and necessity of individual and distinct pagan Deities, since there seemed to be many qualities to the overall aspect of deity in my experience, and these many qualities could be easily realized through a form of pagan polytheism.

What I found after many years of practicing witchcraft and paganism is that the concept of a dual-theology is just one way to perceive the concept of polytheism. There is also a true polytheism that sees many different gods and goddesses as distinct personalities, and there is the concept that all of these deities coalesce into a single unity, which I call the One. All of these perspectives are true and correct, but also limited and only conditionally true. Deity is, by nature, paradoxical, so any one single definition, model, description or perspective limits something that is unlimited, indefinite and infinite. Therefore, I would think that by making this statement I am embracing both a monism and a pluralism simultaneously. How I can do that (and get away with it) is to state that what is being described can’t be described. As Lao Tzu says in the first chapter:

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.” 

Curiously, this whole issue of monism, monotheism, plurality, polytheism and the individuation of the Godhead has been getting a fair amount of buzz in various blogs, most specifically in the collected web journals that make up Patheos. Gus diZerega, who is the author of “Pagans and Christians,” brought up some very interesting points about how monotheism has some problems when characterizing their Godhead as being completely separate and distinct from everything, as a Deity that is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent, while still being capable of being loving, directly experienced and intimate. These opposing perspectives are merely labeled as part of the paradox of a deity that is both immanent and transcendent, but there are some real problems to this perspective that labeling it all as a paradox does nothing to resolve. You can find his article here.

Anyway, I think that I have more succinctly stated my beliefs and perspectives on this topic, and so I can rest my case and move on to other topics. The only reason why I have been working on this topic and its related perspectives in regards to the practice or ritual magick is that when I have experienced the highest states of consciousness that I am able, the resultant state is unity. At that veritable peak of my magickal experiences, I am able to sense how everything is connected together, and that within that union I have found the ecstatic bliss of the One. I believe that it’s pretty hard to dismiss what I have experienced, and correspondingly, it’s pretty hard to adequately explain it using words or mental models.

Finally, I would like to announce that I will be attending a weekend intensive at the local Twin Cities store, the Eye of Horus, with John Michael Greer. He will be conducting a three day series of classes on pagan ceremonial magick. I will be very interested in learning to hear what John thinks about this topic, since he has recourse to much of this material written in its source languages, a skill to which I am quite deficient. These classes will be taking place on Friday, January 27, through Sunday, January 29. I will write up a critique of this class and let you know what I think of it. I am certain that it will be interesting and rewarding. I have been corresponding with John for a few months now, and I have found his letters to be refreshing, interesting, compelling and sometimes, quite humorous. He is another one of those remarkable men and women, and I encourage everyone to seek out these kinds of people and learn everything that can be learned from them. It is an excellent methodology for self-enrichment, and ultimately, if you have rubbed elbows with enough remarkable men and women, you may become one yourself. 

(To be continued..)

Frater Barrabbas


  1. Thank you for your explanatory notes on subjects of interest addressed here, Frater Barrabbas. I really do appreciate what you do here, trying to give an unbiased opinion of reconciliatory nature to such "inflammable" subjects as LHP/RHP perspectives, monism/pluralism,non-duality etc. I realize that although they are subjects of philosophical/metaphysical nature, I believe that aspirants/followers of various magical disciplines may have through systematic contact with rituals and their corrsponding altered states, some empirical points to contribute to better explanation and interpretation of their nature. I have been following your blog articles for quite some time and, although I read each one with great interest, I admit that I don’t understand them all. Especially when you mention about your workings with the different ordeals etc, I realize that I have quite a few “gaps” to complete. However, I believe that by starting studying your books and work some of these out to gather some personal experience, it won’t take long before I start "getting the big picture". Your helping way of getting occassionally down to beginners level is commendable, and I find it as a rare opportunity to grasp towards my own understanding and advancement (maybe when the student is ready, the teacher appears?) . I would love to see more articles like this one from time to time, together with the “advanced” unique reports of your personal workings. Thank you for your consideration to all levels.

  2. Thanks for your kind words, @Nik64, you are an inspiration for me as well.

    I will try to write more articles about the basic techniques and methodologies for those who are still seeking to assemble their own system of magick.

    However, the key to the more advanced rituals and ordeals are to be found in the rituals themselves. You, and all other readers, have the option of becoming affiliate members of the Order of the Gnostic Star, which would give you access to those very rituals.

    Send me an email to find out more, when and if you decide to investigate this possibility.