Saturday, September 29, 2012

Questions About the Future of Modern Witchcraft and Paganism

(Dance of the Dead - Modern Witchcraft and Paganism?)
One of the things that has most captured my imagination and inspiration is how both Gardner and Alex Sanders experimented and tinkered with their traditions, as if they were never really satisfied with what they had and were always on the lookout for new and interesting lore. Back in the 1960's, the practice of Witchcraft and Paganism was so new that the various leaders of these traditions engaged in a flurry of creative experimentation and investigation. Yet the focus was not so much on the religious liturgy, although that did play a part, but on the whole basis or foundation of a modern praxis of ritual magick. Lineages and initiatory affidavits were not very attractive to those “spiritual spelunkers,” but entering into the reality of Spirit and the domain of the mysteries was critically important. It was a time of discovery, experimentation and personal development. Arcane studies and antique knowledge were being rediscovered, as if they had been completely lost and not temporarily forgotten. It was a chaotic but very fruitful time for those various pagan and wiccan traditions who were the founders of the overall movement, but it promised so very much to even the most superficial faddist.

In a word, what was important to witches and pagans in the halcyon days of the 1960's was authenticity rather than legitimacy. Young people who followed their urges for this phenomenon wanted authentic experiences of what would be called natural religion and magick, and they were less interested in established organizations. These people didn’t flock to the Masons, the Theosophical Society, spiritualist churches, or other such organizations; instead they fashioned their own groups and organizations. This is also why eastern religions became so popular during that time because they offered their adherents authentic spiritual experiences in a startlingly different cultural context. To young people starved for actual experiences of the occult world and the supernatural, these new avenues represented what they called “the real deal.”

Contrast that time with today and we can see a very different world, and I would urgently state my opinion that it is an apparent time of diminishment and decline. It is also a time for a whole new focus and a division between two divergent groups. When witches or pagans of any tradition become more concerned about stridently preserving their tradition and establishing their lineage bonafides instead of continuing to experiment and develop their personal and traditional approach to pagan beliefs, ideals and occult practices, then I feel that a corner has been turned, and unfortunately, for the worse. Orthodoxy has the terrible effect of not only preserving a tradition but also making a permanent edifice out of it, where change is anathema and strict adherence is the only possible direction. While there might be a certain diversity even in established traditions, they are rigidly held as if they were unassailable holy writ. This sort of mindless dedication belies the fact that differences and variances in Pagan and Wiccan lineages were developed only a short time ago, and they emerged because someone was tinkering with the tradition that they had received.

Ossifying the founding traditions of the Gardnerian and Alexandrian craft, and their various offshoots, is a sure sign that they are in decline since no further development is either desired or even possible. The emphasis has changed from discovery to one of preserving protocols and purifying the sources of one’s liturgical praxis; in other words, focusing on legitimacy instead of authenticity. This process of sanitizing a tradition is actually quite deadly, in my opinion, since it eliminates the possibility of experiencing the mysteries of the natural world outside of the stated and sparse liturgical lore. It also cordons off these traditions in a manner so that they are immune from revision, experimentation, or even developing new lore. They focus on a kind of nebulous religious paganism instead of magical practices and its various associated lore. As the ranks of witches and pagans become ever more elderly and religiously conservative, the actual numbers of young and new adherents also diminishes as well as the vibrancy and relevancy of the tradition itself.

This is really a very sad event, considering how young the various traditions of witchcraft and paganism truly are. Sixty years is hardly enough time to formulate a comprehensive spiritual and magical tradition. It would seem to me that what is really needed is a lot more experimentation and a lot less emphasis on lineage and liturgy, since otherwise these traditions will become dormant before they can even mature. I wrote a past article on legitimacy vs. authenticity representing, as it does, the divide that faces modern paganism and witchcraft, and that the difference between the two is quite distinct. You can find that article here.

A crucial dividing point between the vibrancy of the 1960's and today is the monumental work of Ronald Hutton, entitled “Triumph of the Moon,” which changed the whole perspective of modern witchcraft and paganism. It quickly transitioned from being a form of intense social and religious rebellion allied with an antique heritage to one that is a wholly modern creation. What Hutton did was to set the historical record straight in regards to the actual history of witchcraft and paganism in Britain, but it also had the effect of turning these new creeds into a harmless and socially friendly religious sodality. So much effort has been put into reclaiming and mainstreaming the word “Witch” that it would seem much of the real power and fascination the word has in our culture, and the rather ambiguous connotations that it has in folklore, appear to be lost. I would caution that “defanging” Witchcraft and making it analogous to other mainstream faiths is certainly a way to drain it of it mystery, awe and imagination - the very things that drew me to it so many years ago.

(A similar event occurred to the Catholic church through the auspices of reform. Vatican II eliminated at a stroke the power and magic of the Catholic mass and the veneration and worship of the Saints, and so it robbed the church of everything that made it uniquely authentic. That form of antique religious magic passed on to the followers of the African and Hispanic diaspora, where the “true” magical church is still alive and thriving.)

So I have been brooding over these various opinions and issues that I have with modern witchcraft and how it is practiced today, and I have stated them in some of my previous articles for others to read and ponder as well. However, it seems that until recently, no one has really stated the obvious conclusion that all of these disturbing changes seem to imply. The really dreadful issue that everyone seems to be tip-toeing around is that modern witchcraft, in regards to established traditions, is more or less dead or dying. Perhaps the bravest writer out there who has eloquently and clearly stated this forbidden conclusion is an author named Peter Grey. He wrote an article on the Scarlet Imprint blog entitled “A Forking of Paths,” and you can find it here. Peter not only has affirmed my suspicions and opinions, but he has brought out in a very clear and unequivocal manner what I have been thinking for quite some time. He has stated that modern witchcraft has already passed a fork in the road between those who espouse a gentle and socially affable modern pagan religion with those who continue to seek authentic experiences in the domain of nature mysteries and witchcraft based magick. 

One of the most compelling things that Peter has said in his article, and that I have witnessed myself over the last couple of decades, is that “initiatory” witchcraft traditions seem to be populated with far more older established members than younger new members. I have not only seen this phenomenon in regards to covens, groups and organizations, but also at local social gatherings of various types. Our local COG organization consists of mostly middle aged adults with very few young people. There is a reason for this dearth of new and youthful members, particularly since the emphasis of these older traditions and groups is more on a stultifying legitimacy than authentic experiences. A single quote from Peter’s article more than makes the point that what we are seeing is a movement in decline as opposed to one that is growing and continuing to evolve.

Far from being healthy, the argument could be made that modern pagan witchcraft is already on the wane. The lack of fire is evident in the dearth of young people at this, and many other events. Modern pagan witchcraft seems irrelevant to the concerns of their lives, it is tangential to their struggles, which are about to become immeasurably harder.”

Another fascinating point that Peter has made is to compare the modern witchcraft traditions to another slowly disappearing esoteric tradition in American culture, the Masons. I found this statement to be quite profound and even a bit alarming.

Initiated Wicca will follow the same arc of decline that Masonry has.”

So if Peter is stating that traditional Witchcraft or Wicca is facing an immanent decline into obscurity and death, does that mean that the whole theme of earth-based spirituality, including the natural mysteries and earth-based magick, is in decline as well? I think that the answer to that question is to be found in wherever the energy and development is still occurring in the area of earth-based spirituality, and particularly, where the young people are still flocking to find authentic experiences. It is in the arena of what could be called the alternative traditional witchcraft, or those traditions that are completely outside of the Gardnerian model that became popular Wicca. These groups would include both European as well as Carribean and South American witchcraft traditions, which only recently have become accessible to outsiders.

In my own town, the cutting edge of witchcraft is to be found in the ongoing discussion meeting known as the “Old Craft Discussion Group,” or in certain experimental groups, or groups presenting a new cultural matrix altogether. What is exciting to these people is not the Gardnerian based traditions, but in forms of witchcraft that are to be found in Brazil and the Carribean, as well as in West Africa and other locations. It is in these places that witchcraft is still defined as a praxis of magic as opposed to a pagan religion, and where the term “Witchcraft” represents someone who has the power to kill as well as to cure. These groups are the ones that are being sought, and they represent the melding of the old world with the new to fashion a truly viable authentic tradition. 

The key to this revelation is that ecstasy, magic, foreboding darkness, mystery, and even a bit of awe and fear produce a more authentic experience of witchcraft than anything a traditional coven could produce today. Wherever a tradition has systematically eliminated its own magic, mysteries and the full immersion of its adherents into the numinous world of the Gods and the dead ancestors then that tradition has thoroughly and completely lost its way. This is my opinion and I am sure that some will hotly contest it; but I believe that magic and the mysteries, as well as ecstasy, are fundamentally important to a true practice of witchcraft. I make no apologies for stating this opinion.

Making an authentic experience of the mysterious and tenebrous domain of Spirit available to anyone who desires it (instead of catering to an elite or exclusive clique) will not only engage the young and the old, but will also continue the process of discovery and personal development that is so integral to a healthy religious and magical movement. While the staid traditions of Gardnerian Wicca will slowly die out and pass away into oblivion, the new impulses and cutting edge experiential practices will be taken up by others.

Certainly, as the post-industrial age becomes more apparent and starts to profoundly effect more of the population, a spiritual philosophy and magical technology based on earth centered spirituality will become much more attractive to the masses. Rigid orthodox religious practices will continue to lose popularity, and their membership will dwindle down to a fringe minority over the coming decades. Yet, the mysteries, with that hair-raising magic which so haunts us all, and the ecstatic forays into the domain of Spirit; these will remain the proclivity of a small group of people, all of whom are self-elected, self-directed and self-motivated. It is my opinion that these individuals are the true hidden children of the Goddess of Witchcraft, and the carriers of that tradition into the far future.

Frater Barrabbas

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Harvest Moon Musings

(Harvest Moon comes a week and a day after the Autumn Equinox.)

Autumn has come to the Minnesota tundra, perhaps a bit early because it got so dry up here in the late summer. Trees began to sporadically turn their leaves to autumn colors because of the lack of moisture, as if they gave up on trying to grow anymore this year. Now that the Autumn Equinox has passed, one can be certain that autumn is now officially here. Hard frosts are now occurring frequently, and the short growing season is now over. Autumn is probably one of my favorite times of the year, and represents, for me, the flowering of projects begun after the previous Winter Solstice. This year is no different for me, but it seemed like summer was all too short this time, and I had very little time to just step outside and enjoy the fruitfulness of nature.

My mundane job is still very busy, and with little chance of a letup until the end of the year. I doubt that I will have much time or freedom to escape the grind of work that has the typical feature now of flowing past the boundaries of the weekend, interfering with any plans that I might have had. I seldom seem to be able to get out of house and go into town for any kind of social activity or to see my friends. I suspect that my friends probably think that I have disappeared or perhaps grown cold with indifference - that, of course, is not true! Between my mundane job and my other few writing tasks, there is little time for doing anything else but just work. With the coming of autumn, I am finding myself growing restless, perhaps even experiencing a bit of stir-crazy need to get away from my pressing responsibilities for a little while. I guess that this intense work-a-thon should be considered, in part, a blessing. It is far better to be too engaged with work than having the insecurity of looking for a job and worrying about paying the bills.

I do have some news about the book that I wrote and is being published by Llewellyn Worldwide, “Magical Qabalah for Beginners.” I have just completed the first editing cycle and answered a number of questions posed to me from the production editor. I also had to answer some questions about capitalization, and tackle my habit of being inconsistent with that particular writing skill. There were a couple of minor issues with the diagrams, but otherwise, I got to see how the manuscript looks in regards to the type-face and layout. I am pleased with the results so far, and the book layout looks really professional. My only concern is that the size of the book and type-face of the text makes some of the paragraphs look longer than they actually are. A larger book size and a slightly smaller type-font size would probably make the paragraphs on the pages look smaller and more concise.

All in all, I have found the experience of dealing with Llewellyn to be very positive. I also managed to assemble around six book blurbs from other authors and occult leaders that will appear on the back of the book. I was pleased with their comments and very grateful for them to take the time to read over the unedited manuscript. Even though this book is one of the “for beginners” series, it has new and interesting information that even the advanced student will find useful. I wrote this book in such a manner so that I managed to cover some topics that haven’t really been covered in a basic book on the Qabalah. It is also one of the most accessible books that I have written, so I am learning to write more clearly and with far less assumptions about the knowledge and education of the reader. 

The book is scheduled to go to the printer on November 1, and I should probably get to see an actual printing of the book a few weeks after that. I may very well have the final printed book in my hands sometime in December. The book is scheduled to be unveiled to the public in January, so I should probably start scheduling and assembling a mini-workshop for book signings at the local book stores. I am starting to assemble material for a three day intensive workshop for a comprehensive introduction to the Qabalah. Having the book available for attendees was something that I felt would be quite important before I went ahead and put together all of the material that I would need for an intensive weekend course on the Qabalah.

Before I assemble this class and try to teach the techniques of the practical Qabalah, I would like to immerse myself in performing a complete set of path workings and intensive trance-based immersions into the structure and symbology of that system. It has been quite some time since I have done this work, and I need to re-acquaint myself with the Qabalah in a very intimate manner. I also want to work with the simple exercises that I devised for my book and fully vet them for myself. I think that it would be a requirement for me to have these exercises fully memorized and nearly automatic if I am going to teach a class and demonstrate them for a group of students. I also have learned some things about how an intensive path working can be used to investigate the Qabalistic dimensions that border the Sephiroth and Pathways. Since I am of the opinion that the angular vectors of the Pathways would represent the locus where the Enochian Aethyrs would be found, incorporating them into a more advanced kind of Enochian path working would be something interesting with which to experiment during the long cold winters.

As for my plans to work any magical ordeals during this period, that will have to be determined later this autumn. I am planning on completing the four-fold talismanic elemental planetary work that I began early this year. I had generated metallic talismans for the Sun, Moon, Saturn and Mercury for my own version of the Portae Lucis ordeal, but in August, I charged the additional planetary talismans for Venus and Jupiter. In October (specifically, October 25), I will be charging the last of the seven four-fold talismanic elementals for the planet Mars. I will then have all seven metallic talismans, one for each planet. fully charged and ready for use. I am planning on putting them into a septagramic array and see how they function together. It should be quite interesting, and I am looking forward to the experience.

I would like to fully test the ritual that I wrote to evoke and engage the spirits of the Theurgia-Goetia, and I would like to experiment with some invocations of the ha-Shem angels and the Goetic demons. I wrote rituals that can be used outside of the normal focus on the angelic ruler of the astrological decans, and I would like to fully test them, and also perform some invocations of these powerful spirits.

Winters in the tundra are quite long, and it does preclude much in the way of outdoor activity, unless of course one is into winter sports, such as snowmobiles, skiing and ice-skating. After December and the holidays, winter then becomes a long drawn out endurance contest, lasting another 14 weeks. Not only that, but the sun sets pretty early during that time, especially around the Winter solstice, when it becomes dark around 4:30 pm. There is an upside to the fact that I had to work a lot during the summer, and that is I will have quite a surplus of vacation time to take in December. I am planning on letting the year run down during the last three weeks of the year being mostly disengaged from my job.  

I am intending on being quite socially active, and as an added bonus my girlfriend will be off from school and she will have completed the last semester of actual class-work for her master’s degree. We will be able to spend some real quality time together, and that will make the oncoming winter much more bearable. I am hoping to be able to go out and eat, drink, be merry with friends, and also do some really cool magical experimentation. It will be a time of carefree joy, parties and happiness, even though the land will be dormant and likely covered with snow. As an added bonus, I will probably receive copies of my book, Magical Qabalah for Beginners, which I can sell or give away as presents to friends and those who helped me successfully complete this book project. It will be a very memorable time, at least that is my hope and anticipation for the callends time that is soon coming to us all.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thoughts About Using a Vault of the Adepti

Now that we have succinctly reviewed the definition and nature of the Golden Dawn Vault of the Adepti, and we saw how such a container device could be re-defined using prismatic energy geometry within the tradition of ritual magick, the real question is - what do you do with it? Is such an elaborate structure merely nothing more than something to awe and inspire a candidate for the Inner Order? Besides the fact that in the Golden Dawn this chamber is used to propagate the mysteries of the second order through the guise of the tomb of Christian Rosenkruetz. It could also be a place where Enochian Chess could be performed or some form of skrying magic (analogous to Enochian Vision Magick); but the uninitiated public are pretty much left to scratch their heads, saying: “So much trouble and expense just for a collection of elaborate initiation rites?”

Yet since I have managed to replicate this ornate magical container into a complex ritual geometry, I can now see many uses for this tool. I will spend a few paragraphs elaborating on this particular insight, keeping in mind that I am completely ignorant as to how the vault of the adepti is supposed to be used for magical purposes in the Golden Dawn.

How this magical container would be used in the Order of the Gnostic Star for magick and initiations is a completely different manner, and one that I do feel competent in stating here. Since the key number for this chamber device is seven, then it belongs to the provenance of the Hierophant of the second order, which is the seventh degree. While such a magical structure becomes part of the tasks and ordeal of the Hierophant, it can be used in the initiation rites for the fifth and sixth degrees, since these are to be performed by him or her for the benefit of the initiatory candidate. I would consider this use of the vault of the adepti to be optional, since it would add even more elaborate structures to an already intense initiation regimen. Still, for the Hierophant and his ordeal of mastering the Seven Planetary/Sephiroth Rays, building and using the prismatic geometry for the vault of the adepti is a critical task, or so I have come to realize.

I would name this newly discovered mystikon or chamber of the mysteries for the Hierophant and the 7th degree, the Vault of the Adepti of the Seven Rays. It’s theme would be associated with the mystical tomb of Hermes Thoth instead of Christian Rosenkruetz. In my opinion, these two personages are similar and analogous, but represent different time periods and mythic systems. I think that Hermes Thoth is more pagan and representative of the Hermetic system of magick, but that’s just my opinion. Also, these seven rays are not to be confused with the seven rays of Theosophy, since they are considered in the Order to be nothing more or less than a subset of the Ten Sephiroth. This is why I am associating them with the Sephiroth in my nomenclature to avoid any confusion. 

Some years ago I had completed assembling all of the rites and ordeals of the Hierophant, and these were divided into two overall categories; those that are worked with the number seven (as in the Seven Rays), and those that are worked with the number eleven (as in the sacred seven matrons and four patrons). I won't go into any detail about these two ordeals at this time, but the foundation of the ordeal of the Seven Sephiroth Rays was a rite called the Ritual of the Seven Rayed Star. What I realized after discovering that I could simulate the vault of the adepti using prismatic energy geometry is that it was a better and more complete foundation than what I had previously determined. I would need to insert this new ritual (when I get around to writing it) into the regimen of rituals used for the ordeal of the Seven Sephiroth Rays. It will make that ordeal more complicated, but it will also make it far more powerful. The newly formulated Vault of the Adepti of the Seven Rays can also be performed alone and outside of the ordeal (once it’s mastered) to perform some very valuable forms of magick.

So the question is what kind of magick is this vault of the adepti to be used by the fully vetted Hierophant of the Order of the Gnostic Star? First of all, considering the number of elements packed into the ritual structure (40 x 7 = 280) and that it incorporates the Qabalah, Astrology and even a form of planetary alchemy, it represents the full spectrum of all symbols associated with the Seven Rays. It is, in fact, a kind of magical machine, which can be used to set any combination of symbols to produce some kind of magical effect. We can also consider that those symbols are also associated with numerous correspondences, including hierarchical lists of Godheads, angels, demons, earth spirits, and any number of other spiritual entities.

A magical machine exemplifies the magical concept of “Thought becomes form, and form becomes thought.” This concept is a hallmark of the Hermetic path itself (as we shall see below). The focus of a magical machine can be on the Inner Planes to acquire knowledge and insights, upon the self to effect a powerful form of self-transformation, and it can be focused on the material world to bend reality and make changes. It can be used actively to project magical power and it can be used passively, to perform divinatory operations. It is also a kind of mystical chamber where the themes of death, immutability and even regeneration are expressed.

In the case of the Golden Dawn vault of the adepti, the premier mythic personality is Christian Rosenkruetz; for modern pagans, that personality would be Hermes Thoth, Thrice Greatest. The tomb is also a place outside time and space, since within it, the body of the mythic personality is not necessarily considered dead, but only in a kind of deep sleep or stasis. Not only is the sleeping magus of great importance, but so is the knowledge contained within the vault itself. In the case of Hermes Thoth, that knowledge would be ensconced within the Emerald Tablets. The aphorism of “That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above..” encapsulates the secret knowledge of the power and majesty of the magical machine. Through an application of its powers and capabilities, anything can be accomplished.

So learning how to deploy this very important ritual system into the body of the ritual ordeals of the Order is critically important. I am glad that I discovered this new piece associated with the Hierophant degree of the Order, but it does make me wonder what other pieces are missing from that which I have already determined and written up. Looking over the list of rituals associated with the Seven Rays, I had always felt that the overall structure was quite weak and incomplete. Since I didn’t have any additional insights as to how that ordeal should be strengthened, I didn’t give it much more thought. Now, several years later, I have determined another very important piece, and it does make that ordeal much more powerful and comprehensive.

One other thing that haunts me as I go through this ordeal of discovery, seemingly a constant and never ending process, is that I originally develop a series of rituals to perform for a given ordeal or to achieve a certain end, and then some years later discover that something was missing or incomplete in that work. This doesn't happen with every ordeal that I have developed, but it has happened often enough to make me a little worried about the permanence of my work. I have often wondered why this is so, but I do realize that all creative minds execute their creations in erratic waves, and later on when they discover new ways of doing things, that knowledge is often applied to that past work. Creative work is forever ongoing and doesn’t end (hopefully) until the artist finally sheds his or her mortal coil and ceases to work from that moment onward. Others might pick up the torch and pursue it, and over time, might even add more realizations and creative inspirations to the work. This is much more possible and realistic when considering such fluid endeavors as occultism in general, and specifically in the arenas of ritual and ceremonial magick.

It is my hope that others will invest themselves with the lore of the Order and perhaps keep it moving forward even after I have passed from this world. My only hope is that the lore that I leave behind has no glaring holes left in its array of ritual workings, and that the work moving forward is the invention of new ordeals and ritual workings instead of fixing what I failed to complete.

Frater Barrabbas

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Vault of the Adepti

I think that one of the coolest things that the author of the second order of the Golden Dawn ever came up with was the vault of the adepti, which was a fabricated container of sorts filled with symbolic colors, designs, characters, sigils and furniture. This was obviously something that had the imprint of both Mathers and his wife, Moina, since it was a synthesis of art and occult symbology. If ever there was a potent justification for believing Mathers to be something of a creative genius, the vault of the adepti is one of many. Just the mere idea of sitting or standing in a large container set up within sacred space full of activated symbols and vibrating colors was quite a fabulous notion, perhaps one of the most influential in all of the second order GD lore.

Still, this was one of those fanciful devices that I never got to either see or touch, build in some manner or fully experience; but it was something that powerfully influenced my imagination even today. Even the name “vault of the adepti” sounded exotic and thrilling to me. One of my friends, who was also one of the co-founders of the Order of the Gnostic Star, used to talk about it as one of the highest attributes of the inner order of the Golden Dawn, and his spirited talk helped fuel my imagination. Yet because I never was able to find a Golden Dawn temple to join and thereby learn about this awesome and mysterious vault, it remains something of a side issue that I never really studied or mastered. To this day I am somewhat ignorant of the details of the vault regarding to how it’s supposed to be fabricated, consecrated and utilized in initiations and even in magick. It is also quite beyond my ability to even consider building such an elaborate work or magical edifice today.

A vault of the adepti is simplistically defined as a large septagonal prism shaped container ensconced within a temple room. It has seven walls (shaped into a septagon), and a floor and ceiling both with the contrasting design of a triangle within a septagram, where the ceiling is white and the floor is black. Each wall is approximately 8 feet high by 5 feet wide, and they are divided into 40 squares each, consisting of a colored symbol and a colored background set to a specific symbolic attribute and painted with flashing colors. Each of these 40 squares are associated with the symbols of the ten Sephiroth, twenty-two Pathways (12 zodiacal signs, 7 planets and 3 elements), the four Kerubim, the three Alchemical Principles and the One Eternal Spirit. All of these 40 squares are attributed to the specific planet associated with the wall, and this indicated through the incorporation of different hues of flashing colors, which produces a powerful rainbow effect as each wall contrasts with another. The door to the vault is located on the Venus wall, and once closed, the container presents a seamless depiction of the full range of planetary symbology arrayed in brilliant color.

Within the vault is a circular altar stand situated over a rectangular coffin shaped structure called the Pastos, which is large enough to allow a person to lie down comfortably within it. The Pastos has a white head and a black foot, painted with contrasting Rose/Calvary cross designs, and the center is painted with the colors of the rainbow, depicting (again) the seven planets. Outside of the vault and situated on either side of its door are the black and white temple pillars. The door opens to the western side of the outer temple and against the wall in that outer temple is the cross of obligation. A doorway that leads into the outer temple is situated between the western and northern walls (i.e., northwest corner).  

There are a lot of pictures and images of this spectacular ritual container, but it could ideally be a full sized room secretly annexed off of the main GD ceremonial temple, if one had unlimited resources. I won’t get into the specifics of this marvelous device, since anyone who is that curious can consult the volumes of the Golden Dawn lore that are published. (The specifics of the vault are supposed to be oath-bound, but that hasn’t stopped some from publishing information about it.)  

Even so, the idea of crafting a vault was really beyond my abilities, and so it remained nothing more than a fanciful notion to me. I went on with the magical work, study and practices that I had started back in the early 80's, and what I was doing, however advanced, had little in common with the notions of a concentrated magical environment like a vault. Little did I realize that there is more than one way of either constructing or generating this kind of environment, and that the more elaborate ritual structures that I had developed would in fact simulate, in another manner, the power and majesty of a vault of the adepti.

When we consider that the prismatic energy structures established in an extended version of the energy model of magick can produce simple or complex geometric structures, then when those structures become complex and highly geometric, they can have a similar magical affect as a vault of the adepti. The key, of course, is being able to derive enough of an elaborate geometric construction using prismatic energy structures to simulate the basic elements of a classical Golden Dawn vault. The whole key, of course, are the seven planetary walls each with 40 symbols arrayed on them. How would an elaborate ritual structure incorporating a prismatic energy geometry replicate the array of symbolic structures found in a vault?

I have already discussed the more advanced sacred geometry regarding prismatic energy structures incorporated in ritual magick, and it might be useful for you to re-read what I posted many months ago. You can find that article here. The kind of ritual structure that I would incorporate to establish the outer perimeter of such a magical environment would be the twelve pointed magick circle, which produces an in-circle dodecagon, and this would function as the mystikon or chamber of the mysteries. I have taken a couple of paragraphs from that article to describe in greater detail what that structure would look like and how it would function.

The twelve pointed magick circle can be used to establish an in-circle dodecagon, and the sixteen pointed magick circle could be used to establish an in-circle double octagon. To produce these structures, each of the points would have to be deliberately drawn together along the periphery of the magick circle. The only actual variances would be the vector used in joining the points together, whether clockwise or counter clockwise. In addition, whatever ritual structures were employed in the center of either a duodecagon or a double octagon would add to the over-all prismatic field, producing very elaborate structures.

A dodecagon with an internal combined structure of a pyramid, a tetrahedral gateway and a mid-point would produce a dodecahedron prismatic structure. That prismatic shape would emerge because the initial energy structure of a sphere would imprint and carry the design to both hemispheres of the magickal circle structure, even though, technically, only half of it would be visual. Such a prismatic energy shape, besides being one of the Platonic solids, would represent an elaborate and fully empowered mystikon or telesterion (chamber of the mysteries).”

An in-circle dodecagon would represent the twelve signs of the zodiac as well as establish the containment field for the chamber of mysteries, yet the overall structure would include other additional elements so that the key number of 40 would be satisfied. The twelve points would be determined by the four Watchtowers and the two in-between points on either side of the four Angles, thus leaving out the four Angles for other structures. 

The other ritual structures would be established within the dodecagon (to fill out and produce the dodecahedron prismatic structure) would incorporate the following additional ritual structures.

  • Power Pyramid - set to the four Angles and the Ultra-point, with all five points drawn together. (Set with the four Cherubim and the Eternal Spirit.)
  • Octagon - incorporating the four Watchtowers and four Angles and drawing them together to form an elemental vortex. The octagon would be anchored to the infra-point in the center of the circle. (Set with the eight Qabalistic Sephiroth - Yesod through Chokmah.)
  • Inner circle and Septagram trigon - the septagram can be set to any of the seven planets, or all seven of them simultaneously. (Set with the seven Planetary intelligences.)
  • Double Tetrahedral Gateway - an obverse gateway aligned to the East, and an inverted gateway aligned to the West, representing the double gateway of the mysteries. (Set with the Three Elements, the Three Alchemical Principles, and the Sephiroth of Kether and Malkuth.)
  • Meso-point - mid point in the center of the circle, representing the magician within the guise of the Godhead intermediary. (The magician holds the key, which consists of all of the seven Enochian planetary ensigns arrayed in an internal septagram on a central altar.)

Excluding the meso-point (the place of mystery and union for all of the previous elements), the above five integrated structures have the following numeric elements - 12, 5, 8, 7, and 8 equals 40. Each of these forty elements would be associated with an overall planetary configuration, thus making the number of elements of this ritual structure equivalent with that of the vault of the adepti. I would also assume that the effect of erecting these ritual structures would produce a field that would be analogous to that of the vault. An enterprising magician could add to the ritual structures all of the verbalized myths associated with the burial vault of Christian Rosenkruetz (or something that would be spiritually analogous), and the simulacrum of the great vault would be symbolically represented.

As you can see, there are a number of ways of doing something, and magicians don’t have to be stuck on just one way. While it is wonderful to be able to build and craft something that is based on the exact parameters of a tradition, it should not be a sticking point. As always, there are many ways to accomplish the same analogous thing using different magical models or theories. I hope that I have presented one of many variations for producing the wondrous vault of the adepti.

Frater Barrabbas

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Magical Objectives

Since I have already covered why I work magic, even going back to the earliest days of my youthful practice, I should discuss what objectives I have adopted when I work magic. What am I trying to do, and what, therefore, do I get out of magic? These are the questions that I would like to answer.

Obviously, I must be getting something out of the many years of magical experimentation that I have performed, or otherwise I would have found a different hobby or preoccupation many years ago. I work magical ritual workings and something happens, which leads me to experiment even further. For me, magick is not a pastime or a mere hobby, it is a way of life. As a practitioner of ritual magick, much of who I am and how I think and behave has been powerfully shaped by over three decades of constant and continuous effort. I may have other interests and activities, but I am always engaged on some level with my occult studies and practices.

So that being said, what are my objectives in regards to my magical work? Similar to my motivations and justifications for working magick, which have changed over the years, my objectives have changed as well. I can say for a fact that when I first began to really become effective at ritual magick, I applied what I knew to changing my material state. I never believed that magick alone would change my life, but instead, I always made certain that magick was always accompanied with lots of mundane steps.

If I could say anything about that early period, it was that being self aware of my inner psyche and my outer circumstances in life was always just as important as making certain that I followed my ritual workings with strategic efforts in the material world. I discovered this link early in my work, since without it, what I did would often fail. Some of the things that I most desperately sought through magick were either occurring all around me (and I was blind to them) or were completely blocked by my own internal issues. If I was not acting through a sense of personal clarity and a full awareness concerning my internal issues, no amount of magical workings would ever result in success. So it would seem, that for me, knowing my own internal issues and understanding my motivations was an important ingredient for magical success. I discovered that only intensive sessions of divination and the application of forms of transformative magic could satisfy this basic need for clarity and self-insight.

Early in my life, my objectives were simply what most people seek through extraordinary means. Money, love and personal power were the first things that I sought, and later on, I began to seek other things as my material needs became fulfilled. After many years of practice, I found that spiritual and psychic growth, gnosis and wisdom became my prized objectives. As time went on, I also began to think more in terms of building a satisfying career than successfully acquiring the monetary quick fix. I thereby shifted my magical perspective to long term achievements and goals, and these were met by a certain amount of success.

As I have stated previously, in terms of money and career, I have been quite fortunate. My choices and my ability to be flexible enough to reinvent myself every five years has helped me to avoid career path dead-ends and punitive layoffs. I have been lucky enough to earn a sizable income, but it was a long and arduous process and there was no quick path to riches. However, I tackled that personal ordeal of mastering my career path with a great deal of relish and happiness. My attitude mostly remained positive, yet grounded in reality, still, it was open to possibilities and always flexible. So in the area of money and career I was successful, since each stage of that path was anticipated, focused upon and strengthened with my own personal magick.

I can also say that working hundreds of hours of ritual over the decades has also caused me to psychically grow as well. Considering the nature of much of my magical work, especially later, it was more like a powerful form of internal analysis and psychological transformation. One of my friends once compared this kind of magick with undergoing thousands of hours of psychological counseling or psychoanalysis in a much condensed time period. What this did to me was essentially change the man that I am today. I not only had to face my many issues, flaws and inconsistencies, but the magick amplified them to the point where I couldn’t avoid them even if I had wanted to.

Magick presented me with my image reflected most darkly, and I saw my own personal internal devil staring back. Yet instead of rejecting or recoiling from that image, I had to learn integrate it into myself. Despite my self-loathing, I had to understand fully who and what I am, and to embrace and love that fractured and imperfect being because it was an integral part of me. I can say that self-love, and not narcism, is the key to resolving internal psychic issues and integrating the self into a being of unity and wholeness. I have at various moments achieved this near perfect state, but I have never been able to maintain it for more than just a few hours of bliss. Maybe someday I will figure out how that might be accomplished permanently.

However, in the area of love and relationships, I was an abject failure for many years. This was one of those internal issues that bedeviled and also blinded me. The core issue that bedeviled me was the unrequited love for a woman who would never return that love. I sought to resolve this problem by working a number of various kinds of love spells. These were not performed on any individual as much as they were performed on myself and my circumstance, but they didn’t appear to gain for me the kind of relationship that I was seeking.

When I have examined my magical diaries from that period, I realized that the magic had actually been working quite well. I was presented with a lot of different opportunities for realizing love. Yet I was unable to capitalize on any of them simply because I was not aware of what was going on, both internally and externally. I was blind and also captivated by my own internalized feminine idol, so much so that I was unable to really connect with a real woman in a mature relationship. It wasn’t until I was able to identify those issues and resolve them that I was able to have a normal and fulfilling relationship. This process took over thirty years to complete, but at least I was finally able to move forward. I have brought this up to demonstrate that even magic can’t resolve one’s internal issues unless they become fully realized first. The aphorism of “Know Thyself” is critically important in the successful workings of ritual magick.

Now in the autumn years of my life I have managed to completely fulfill myself of all of the basic material aspirations, or at least to the point of living a comfortable life. Really, that is all I have desired to accomplish on the material plane, but that is not the limit of my ambitions. While I might not be interested in focusing most of my efforts in becoming rich, I do have the powerful desire to become wise and fully knowledgeable of all of the occult truths. My magical focus has also shifted in this direction, and much of what I work as a discipline of ritual magick is confined to the areas of what I call theurgic ordeals. This is because I believe that powerful transformative ordeals are what can lead one to the ultimate levels of spiritual and magickal achievement, which is perfect enlightenment and union with the One.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, September 7, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Holidays

(And other banalities..)

Despite the humorous depiction on the picture above, I didn’t spend my summer holidays in some satanic grotto worshiping the Devil. I thought that I would throw a bone to Ramsey Dukes for having read through his book “What I Did In My Holidays - Essays on black magic, Satanism, devil worship, and other niceties.” Unlike his book “Secrets of the Black Sex Magicians Exposed,” this one was a bit long winded and not as amusing, but it did have its humorous and brilliant moments.

It is now September and the leaves are already starting to change. The drought that devastated the rest of the country finally came to central Minnesota, and we have had to water the garden daily in order to keep it alive. The rest of nature has decided to shut down somewhat early because of the lack of water, so that is why some of the leaves are already dying and falling to the ground. It is still warm outside during the day, but cooler in the night, and the sunlight is starting to slant decidedly to the south, as it does during this time of year, being a few weeks before the Autumn Equinox.

During the pleasant but brief interlude of summer I was (and still am) engaged with a very complex and difficult rehosting project with my job. It is eating up a lot of my time, including weekends, so I didn’t get much opportunity to spend time outside doing fun things. Instead, I got to view the wonderful summer through my home office window while slaving away at my corporate laptop. I had hoped that this project would be over by now, but it is still at a most critical point, and has been for the last month. I suspect that a bit of chaos and irony are playing havoc with the well defined project plan, especially regarding the red tape in getting strategic individuals to sign important inter-corporate agreements before certain steps can be completed. If I didn’t have a good sense of humor, I would have chewed off my arm in frustration months ago.

Summers in the U.S. are determined by the boundaries of two holidays - Memorial Day (last Monday of May), and Labor Day (first Monday in September). Summer is defined, especially up here in the tundra, as consisting of 90 days, which is all too short a time. If you have a busy business schedule, then summer passes hardly with any notice, much to one’s later regret. My girl friend was focused on her classes in graduate school until the semester ended after the first week of August.And I was busy with my project at work during that interlude.

Our first summer venture was hosting my father’s annual visit. He usually stays for a week or a bit more and gets to mooch off of his son during that time. I guess its a form of retaliation for the years that I mooched off of him. Every year for last four years he has stayed a week first with my older brother, and then takes the bus from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, where I pick him and bring him to my home. My father is very ex-military and must have his three meals at the proper time every day. He spends most of his time reading, relaxing and taking short walks armed with his cane. At a spry 86 years old, he is mentally pretty sharp and is still fairly mobile with a cane. I made sure that he had plenty of reading material and also the use of our television. All in all, he had a pretty good time and was well fed and looked after.

I also managed to generate two more of my four-fold talismanic elementals, one for Venus and another for Jupiter. I had to perform the first rite during my father’s visit, which meant that I had to perform the ritual in the temple in an unobtrusive manner, preferably while he was in bed. The guest bedroom was situated exactly above the temple, therefore, I had to be quiet and discreet so as not to awaken him. My father is something of a strident atheist and he finds all things religious or of an occult nature to be ridiculous superstitions.

I can well imagine that if he had been awakened and had come downstairs, he would have seen me fully robed and performing weird gestures and intoning mumble jumble amidst the clouds of incense and oil lamp light. This was the same man who took all of my occult paraphernalia when I was a teenager and put it into the garbage, including my cherished tarot deck. Luckily, I rescued all of it without his knowledge. So I really wanted to avoid any such encounter, and it did make the performance more difficult. However, considering that my father has become quite deaf and can’t hear very well without his hearing aid, I probably had little to fear from being interrupted. Still, I took every precaution to ensure that I was undisturbed. It even made the ritual working kind of like doing something wicked, perverse or forbidden (instead of completely ridiculous). 

I completed the working without incident and set up the metallic talisman for a three day incubation without any indication that my father noticed what was going on. He passed through his week-long visit and then I took him to airport for his return flight to Phoenix. I was glad that he visited, but I was even more glad that he had finally left. My father has mellowed over time, but he is still pretty cranky and sometimes he is hard to deal with even after all these years.

The very next week, I performed the four-fold talismanic elemental for Jupiter without any problem or incident, but the energy that I unleashed was truly excellent. I set up the talisman for a three day incubation period the day just before leaving for our summer long-weekend holiday. That being completed, I will now have six four-fold elemental talismans for the planets Sun, Moon, Saturn, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. All I will need to do to complete this set of talismans is to generate a four-fold talismanic elemental for Mars, and that is scheduled for the evening of October 25. After the required incubation period, I then will have all seven four-fold elemental planetary talismans. I am planning on using them together in a variation of the Order ritual the Septagramic Vortex Gate.

My lady and I had decided that after my father’s obligatory summer visit during the third week of that month, we would plan a long weekend get-away to see friends and family in Milwaukee. Our sojourn lasted for a scant four nights, and then we had to return home after traveling by car for over six hours one way. It was all too short and too brief, since once Labor Day had passed, we were both hard at it again. Actually, I had to put in around five hours on Monday morning, so I didn’t even get to have much fun during what was supposed to be a national holiday. We did have a great time with our friends in Milwaukee, but all too soon we had to go back home.

I saw my niece’s newborn baby boy, and that was nice. I am now a great uncle, and the mother and child are doing well. I did his natal chart and I found that it indicates he will be quite an amazing artist, metaphysician and musician - he might even become something of an occult prodigy. It’s a pity that I won’t live to see much of his life and in that way determine how I well I have analyzed his chart. The natal chart that I did for my niece years ago had been spot on, and she pretty much turned out how I had imagined that she would. I also got another lesson in the lengthy preparations and stages required for cooking the perfect Ratatouille, which involved me skinning and de-seeding heirloom tomatoes for the crushed tomato base.I even got to crush the tomato pulp with my fingers.

On the last full day we went to the Bristol Renaissance festival and got soundly soaked from a vestige of Hurricane Isaac. Despite the rain, we had a pretty good time, but we were glad that we had decided to skip dressing up in costumes. On our way back to our friends’ home we saw something not often seen - a real urban staple. Since I live in the country, I don't get to see this sight much at all.

While we were waiting in the car for the light to turn green, a homeless man standing at the corner of the Masonic lodge on Prospect (and who had his back to us) was fiddling with the front of his pants. I wondered aloud if he was possibly urinating on the wall. At that very moment, he dropped his drawers, squatted down and exposed his bare butt to all the world behind him. He then proceeded to sit down on a raised brick dias where a manhole cover blocked access to the sewer tunnels below. I don’t what he thought he was doing, or maybe he was so drugged or drunk that he thought that he was in a bathroom or something and was just doing his bit of nature’s calling, but just then the light turned green and we sped off. I guess you could say that we saw the “blue” moon a bit early that evening. 

As for Ramsey Dukes’ book “What I Did In My Holidays,” I found his theories about demons and devil worship to be interesting. I suspect that Mr. Dukes doesn’t believe that there is an existential reality associated with demons. He sees them as existing within us individually, and also within our culture as negative elements given power and precedence through a process of individual or social ostracizing. If you fear something or some group and attach to it a great deal of negative emotional value, then that demonized thing gains a power and an ability to manipulate events even as the group or organization that targeted it has a powerful tool to manipulate others. Since I have performed a number of the of spirit summoning rites to contact these various entities, I can say that my experience has shown me that spirits do have an existential reality, but that they also resonate psychic qualities within us. I think that Ramsey Dukes is working with just half of the equation, in my opinion, and that there is another half that is equally important.

Ramsey begins his definition by stating that some natural quality or function is deliberately repressed, cast out or exiled. It becomes something that is valued as being “bad.” By being suppressed, it does indeed embody the value that it has been given, and being cut off from the parent culture, it reverts to its natural state, being therefore, rather feral. It isn’t bad in an absolute sense, but only bad in a cultural context, having lost its place within the cultural norm, or what we would value as "good."

That is how a cultural devil is created, and the religious and political devils are the worst of the lot. By being demonized and vilified, they can become dangerous, even dominating the very social institution that has targeted them. Anyway, I found this all to be quite logical, and even somewhat useful if not just a bit of common sense. Since Mr. Dukes only discusses one side of the demonic equation, and also that these spirits have a history and a matrix of tradition that has to be dealt with, I found that his often humorous tongue and cheek narratives might be more confusing to the beginner than the experienced magician. Even so, I would still recommend this book simply because it is thought provoking, amusing and examines a thrilling subject matter from a completely different angle.

So, that’s my summer holiday experience, and I can say that this year it was really disappointing. There was just too much work and not enough play. Hopefully, things will be different next year. I will now have to endure another six months of cold and dismal weather to get at the other side of the seasons and have another shot at living a more frivolous and happy summer’s life. I hope that I will be successful next time.

Frater Barrabbas 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why Do I Practice Magick?

In a recent commentary on my article on contemplating being a professional pagan magus, Jason Miller said that such a path is a special calling, and that in his case, he didn’t choose this path for the sole purpose of making money at it. While I applaud what Jason has said, I do know that there are other folks out there who are sorcerers for hire purely for the sake of making money. Some of these practitioners might be frauds, but most of them ardently believe in what they are doing.

This leads me to one of the biggest questions that you can and probably should ask yourself, and that is “why do I practice magick?” That could be a loaded question, but most of the time magical practitioners will respond by saying that it is a special calling. They say this probably because being a magician has its burdens and difficulties as well as its own rewards. There is such as a thing as the “magician’s compensation,” but it typically varies from one practitioner to the next and it always involves elements that are neither sought nor desired.

Still, to probe deeper is to ask this very same question about the very beginnings of one’s path. Why I practice magick today won’t be answered in the same way that I might have answered it years ago, or even when I was first starting out. Because I started my path as a pimply faced teenaged romantic and something of an occult nerd, I unfortunately remember all too well why I began my path. I have written a bit about those times, but I can tell you for a fact that my motives were anything but altruistic. I did choose to be magician because I had a talent and an affinity for psychic phenomena, arcane lore and the mystique of ancient teachings, but it was other areas of my life that I wanted to apply magical power.

What truly motivated me (as I look back on my early years) was a lust for personal power and a greedy overarching angst for great riches, and to miraculously achieve a personal material elevation far above my allotted station in life. I wanted to have the power to seduce those beautiful teenage girls that I could only fanticize about, wreak havoc on the established pecking order in my high school and acquire a kind of romantic prestige for personal power and money. I wanted more than anything for magick to be the answer for my pressing need to find a suitable career for myself. I wanted to gain money and influence, all without having to work for them. I was such an indolent youth back then.

If you take my early ambitions and desires for magick and look at what I desired as a kind of compensation for personal inadequacies, you would produce the profile of a weak, unpopular, socially inept, physically clumsy and unappealing, awkward teenager. I was haunted by my dreams and nearly lived entirely in a dream world. For a person with a Capricorn Sun, there seemed little about me that was pragmatic or practical. How I saw myself as a magician was in every way the complete opposite to what I was really like. It took me several years to work out the terrible gulf between my fantasy self and the world I dwelled in, and the realities of a hard and tough no-nonsense world.

Through my passage during those years I experienced quite a bit of disillusionment and disappointment, but I survived, adjusted and then learned to thrive. I left behind my adolescent dreams of magical power, wealth and influence and learned that magick was quite different and much more complex and subtle than I had ever originally thought. I had to unlearn what my fantasy life had taught me and then learn how magick really could be useful. As Clint Eastwood said through the character of “Dirty Harry,” “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I had to learn my limitations and know what was possible and what was pure fantasy. I also had to determine that sometimes the magick made amazing things happen, but that you couldn’t bank on it if you were a pragmatic individual, as I had become.

So, why did I get into magick? Was it a special calling? At least I can say that as a young man I could talk to spirits and hear their answers, and I could enter into dream-like worlds to visit them in my spirit body. I quickly learned to see auras (and then I had a hard time shutting that ability down), and I often had a powerful sense of the future. Most often my dreams were either portends or represented important communications to me from the spirit world. I think that one could easily say that my talents and abilities led me to follow the path of the ritual magician, and I have felt that everything that happened to me throughout those times pushed me in this direction.

Yet my ambition and reasons for seeking the power and knowledge of magick was neither moral nor idealized. It was just the attempt of a rather pathetic teenaged boy to outshine all of the others. In the end, I guess you could say that the process of magick played a dark trick on me, for by luring me into its domain with the promises of money, power and young women, I found myself completely enthralled by the real truth of magick.

The truth that I learned so many years ago is that magick was full of mystery, unknown possibilities, arcane truths, optimistic hope and the incredible visions produced by personal transformation. Magick helped me to mature and grow without the baggage of despair or personal defeat. The truth that I know now is far beyond the fantasies of an emotionally crippled youth, and it has transformed me from that awkward stumbling non-entity into the man that I am today. I am neither a man of power nor am I wealthy beyond my dreams - I am instead happy, contented, wise and full of life, even as I approach the autumn of my years.

Frater Barrabbas