June 2003 Fra IO, Chief Adept OSOGD
We have inherited from the classical order a document with this same name. In it the aspirant is told how impure their soul is and how it needs to suffer to attain, how it cannot rely on itself for guidance, and the like.
We set aside this dualistic inheritance seeking instead to represent the path of attainment on which our order is built, and which was composed in the Fourth Century of the Common Era by Iamblichus. With a clear view of the path before you it is hoped that your progress through the Order will be hastened.
There are three major phases to the Path:
- The Augoeides Soma must be awakened. This is the work of the First Order.
- Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel must be initiated and cultivated, and the full flowering of adeptship, the work of the Second Order.
- By the guidance of your Angel, you may enter the Company of Heaven, which is the Third Order.
As you progress along the path the work becomes progressively more personal and so can only be spoken to here in general outlines. The early work, which is the special provenance of the Golden Dawn, can be discussed in detail and with respect to the practices of our Order.
First, a word about purification: The western concept of purification comes from two sources: one is the Hebrew concept of Holiness and the other is from the Augustinian and Calvinist doctrine of the inherent depravity of humans due to the Fall.
The Hebrews felt that the Holy was something unbearable. The more Holy something was, the harder it is for a human to be in its presence. Thus, the presence of “god,” i.e., YHVH, was the most unsupportable presence a human could experience. Ritual purity, as expressed in the Torah, was a way of preparing the human to be able to be in YHVH’s presence. The more pure you were the closer you could get to “god.”
Calvin, and Augustine of Hippo before him, focused on the other side of the relationship examining why the human is not so constituted to bear the divine presence. They concluded that due to the Fall, humans and all of nature are inherently and irredeemably polluted and perverted. Only the vicarious atonement of Christ could change this in their view. We, as Pagans, renounce the “Fall” as both false and dangerous. Humans can manufacture enough evil on our own through ignorance and a lack of will to do our best. Also, Pagan find the holiest to be the most intimate, rather than the most alien. Naturally, these views affect our understanding of purification.
Purification is often seen or experienced as retribution or atonement for sins. Even medical purification necessary for health is seen as the removal of toxins and viewed as unpleasant. Some of the metaphors we use in our Order for purification are the refinement of ore, the polishing of a mirror, or the tuning of a musical instrument. In the first, through a process analogous to heat, the “mass” of the soul is rendered volatile and all that is not part of the soul rises to the surface to be “scraped off.” The image of the mirror involves polishing away the imperfections that prevent a clear perception of our true selves. In the musical form there is a “re-tuning” so that the soul plays the right pitch. The task of purification therefore becomes one of generating the right “heat,” or finding the right polishing compound, or determining what pitch to tune the instrument to.
It is fair to ask wherefore we need this purification. The ancient Greeks said that as we came into our bodies, descending from heaven, we were either damaged in transit or that we came with certain lessons to be learned. They also became much distracted with notions of ritual purity, part and wholeness, mortality and immortality, and other concerns appropriate to their day but irrelevant in ours. Theodicy, the theological study of the origins of evil and suffering, is the stumbling block of most religions. Living as we do in the third age of religious development on this world, the time in which we get to learn from other religions, we can appropriate a more sophisticated approach to evil from the Buddhists.
From the Buddhadharma we learn that the reason we do not experience this realm in all of its beauty and glory is due to our ignorance. We do not recognize that we are composing this experience of life as much as we do. We do not recognize that what we are experiencing is a direct reflection of our own soul. Instead, we get frustrated, much like a fly bumping up against the glass of a wide-open window. We can’t even see the way out. This frustration builds up in us as an emotional tone that colors our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This “tone” and all of its cousins are called kleshas, translated as “emotional obscurations.” Now, emotionally obscured, we act towards others in ways that are harmful. This generates karma, which are actions and the results of actions, and which have a momentum that further adds to our obscuration, thus ignorance, and which further impels us to harmful acts. This cycle is called in Sanskrit “samsara” but the Tibetans use the term “kor-wa,” meaning “running in circles,” a most apt description.
What is purified are our karmas, which through magick we can affect directly without having to “repay” the damages we have caused, and our kleshas, which through the “re-tuning” of the soul transform from obscurations into powers. From this true wisdom arises dispelling the darkness of our former ignorance.
Self-sacrifice is a concept in the Golden Dawn of which much is made, but is it really of any use? It is often associated with humility and dedication, generally seen as virtues; but surely self-sacrifice is not the only route to them.
Self-sacrifice is the act of diminishing one’s self for the sake of another or others. One can do this by giving of one’s time, effort, resources, attention, experience and in many other ways. While often considered noble in our culture, is this practice appropriate to spiritual development?
Saving a life can be clearly considered a good, but if it costs a life to do that it is a zero-sum game. Heroic martyrdom is all very glorious, but does it help the martyred soul? It can be argued that dying in pain, anger or violence has a tremendously bad impact on the after death experience and on the next incarnation. Being able to expend one’s self in a calm and centered manner would be the ideal, but it is often hard to achieve. Witness the self-immolation of monks during the Vietnam War. Not all died with serenity. When the focus is on resources, the zero-sum problem becomes more pronounced. In a closed system, any redistribution of resources amounts to a mere reconfiguration of the situation. Worse still, the glory granted to the benefactor may stimulate greater attachment by that donor, degrading their spiritual state. If one were to form a calculus of this problem, this damage would have to be also factored in.
The problem with self-sacrifice is thus three-fold: it 1) diminishes the practitioner (often the depth of the benefactor’s self-inflicted harm is the measure of the act’s goodness), 2) when all of the benefits are weighed against the costs, the result is often a zero-sum for the whole system, and 3) the actual spiritual result of the act of self-sacrifice may be centripetal, giving rise to greater attachment and narcissism.
These suboptimal results require us to re-examine the value of self-sacrifice. After much contemplation and study, I discovered that the Buddhists had done a great deal of work on this question. They had asked themselves, if suffering is what we are trying to eliminate, how does adding to my own suffering benefit other beings? They noted that if you are harming yourself, your ability to do further good for others is diminished to the measure of that harm. Further, if one is dedicating one’s actions to the benefit of all beings, the one doing the act is of the class of “all beings” and should also benefit from the act.
In the practice of the Buddhadharma, this thought becomes a positive force. It was noted that the very thought of spiritual advancement was selfish: working to be liberated from suffering and to attain to enlightenment is the most self-centered thought possible as that benefit would only impact that self and have no benefit to others. In fact, complete parinirvana would remove the successful practitioner from ever being able to help anyone again. As this contradicts the compassionate nature of the Buddhadharma, they realized they had a problem to solve with two halves. The first is that the practitioner should also receive the benefit of the action. The second is even more of an impediment: the act of aspiring to spiritual advancement for one’s sole benefit prevented the attainment of the highest states of enlightenment due to the centripetal influence previously noted. However, by setting the attitude of striving to attain, not merely for one’s own benefit, but for the benefit of all, not excluding the self, and dedicating any attainment achieved likewise to the benefit of all, it would actually enhance the practice and enable the most supreme achievements.
This attitude is called Bodhichitta, the Wisdom-attitude as it can be translated. Existence has a general thrust in it towards ever greater yet non-climaxing harmony and intensity of feeling experienced as happiness or evolution. By making one’s work be about adding to that thrust, the cosmos responds by adding to that thrust. The result for the practitioner is greater achievement; the result for those around them is a person whose spiritual attainment includes aiding those around the practitioner.
As magick-users we manipulate karma directly and so have the greatest ability to generate karma. Unless our actions are dedicated to the benefit of all beings, the result of our actions will tend to be centripetal, leading down into narcissism and arrogance and our eventual destruction, But, with that dedication, the cosmos supports our works, adds to our strength, and fulfills us by enabling us to participate in cosmogenisis.
Thus, self-sacrifice is not particularly useful, but magick without boddhichitta is death.
The rites of the First Order are designed to introduce your mind and your soul to the symbols and powers that our system of magick uses to develop the soul and magickal skills. These are the classical symbols of the elements, planets, and zodiac, along with the Qabalah and the Tarot. These are our culture’s way of expressing the fundamental forms that structure and govern existence. As such they are already “built into” your soul. The rites awaken them and associate them with a set of symbols that permit their conscious application.
While this is happening to you, you also have work to do. Besides memorizing “certain rudiments of magickal knowledge” each of the grades has certain exercises and meditations to be practiced as you advance. The purpose of these practices is to develop your soul and produce the Augoeides Soma. The Augoeides Soma is the vehicle with which you will do magick. The Greek words mean “Shining Ideal Body,” sometimes called the “Body of Light.” It arises spontaneously when the soul has made itself into a reflection of the Cosmos by awakening to the divine forms that structure and govern it.
There are several steps clearly marked along this stage of the Path. First, the soul is purified by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBR) or its kin. Next, the soul is empowered using first the Middle Pillar (MP), and then with other methods for developing “control of the aura’”and “placing the Tree of Life in the aura.” These two steps prepare the soul by clearing away many subtle obscurations with the LBR, and making the soul vibrant and sensitive with the MP, etc.
Once the soul is prepared it is time to awaken the Forms. In each grade you will meditate on the nature of the element associated with the grade and make a Tattwa diagram for it. The purpose of this is to familiarize you with the qualities of the elements and their Zodiacal manifestations. In the Portal grade you will begin the invocatory process that will awaken the forms within you.
There is a natural progression to this process and a generic strategy. The progression starts with the sub-lunar domain, also called the elemental realm. After this is integrated, you will progress to the celestial region which is the planetary realm. While this would be technically sufficient, our order also has the full range of Qabalistic and Tarot symbols to integrate.
The strategy is traditionally called “Solve et Coagula.” In it you will take each part of the set that forms the domain you are working and, by “inflaming yourself with prayer,” fully awaken that one part of the whole in you. Having done so, you then turn to the next part of the whole and do the same again. Once you have done each of the parts of the whole set, then your invocations will turn towards integrating the parts into the whole. The result of this will be a new unity of the parts producing a New Thing, unpredictable from your experiences of each of the separate parts.
One image the Order gives us is that of the Magickal Mirror or Sphere of Sensation. This is envisioned as a sphere surrounding our bodies just beyond our fingertips. Its inner surface is mirrored and everything we see is just a reflection of what we are putting out in the mirror. In this refinement process, it is as though you divide the Sphere into four segments. With the invocations, it is as though you take down each of the segments, one at a time and polish it so that it becomes able to hold an accurate reflection of your light. Once all four pieces are polished and back in place, the New Thing arises.
Practically, taking the elemental realm as an example, the Lord of the Portal uses some mode of the Greater Pentagram rite and first invokes all of the elements at once. Once the mage is competent in the form and power of the balanced invocation of the elements, one element is chosen and all of the force and attention of the invocation is put into that one element. This is done until the power and nature of the element is fully awakened in the mage. Often there will be difficulties and ordeals as the obscurations and karmas of the mage are cleared, but there comes a time when there is nothing but the mage and the element together in all of their glory. This is the time for moving on to the next element. Once all four of the elements have been similarly invoked, the mage returns to the balanced form of the ritual. Here, by bringing the four together, the Quintessence will arise, and the Cross becomes the Pentagram.
The elements are our way of integrating the sub-Lunar domain. When the Quintessence arises, we can “stand on” the foundation of the elements, figured as the Cross, to enter into the celestial realm. At this stage the lowest harmonic of our souls has a good degree of integration with the Cosmos, not perfect yet, but enough so for the Holy Guardian Angel to begin being heard clearly. In fact the Angel has always been trying to speak to us, but because we were so out of tune with the Cosmos, the communication was garbled or simply missed amidst the noise. The Angel is the specific and dedicated channel of communication between you and the Cosmos and the whole of its being is given to educate you into being a perfect microcosm. Naturally the first thing it wishes to teach you is how it hear it better. By fully integrating the elements we meet the Angel halfway.
Our order has numerous techniques for aspiring to Knowledge and Conversation. All of them seek to cultivate the presence of the Quintessence or awaken the inner Sun. This inner Sun is the image of the mage in union with the Angel. This is the work and mark of Adeptship and the Second Order. As such it is beyond the scope of this elementary writing.
Once a member of our Order enters the Portal, there are no intellectual tests to try them. Only practice will suffice and so the right kind of practice is essential. What makes it right must also be explained so that the aspirant will understand the purpose of this significant labor.
First, do the LBR(P) or one of its kin three times per day for 30 days (one month). Besides teaching many of the fundamental techniques of our Order, the purpose of this practice is to purify the Soul. Shadows and dross litter our psyches, and to be fully functional we need to completely inhabit the space of our being. As any one with long hair knows the pleasure of combing or brushing it out, this purification smoothes and straightens out the tangles. It also exposes to light those shadow complexes that lurk within us and begins the process of clearing them out. Unless this is done, those same complexes will be empowered and activated by the next practice. Much as a light projected through a dirty lens will show a distorted image, the Middle Pillar will activate the distortions of our psyches and strengthen their manifestation in the world. The LBR can polish this lens so that the signal we send out into the world is clear and the response of the world will be equally clear. Thus it is necessary to do this practice intensively at the beginning to achieve this vital effect.
Second, do the Middle Pillar (MP) or one of its kin at least once daily for 30 days (one month). Having cleared the psyche of the worst of the dross through the LBR, we can then begin to charge it. Concentration on the bodily energy centers with sound and visualizations and the circulation of the “energy” produced is profoundly healing and stabilizing for both body and mind. This is useful but only a side effect. The real value of this exercise and that of the previous one is to strengthen the soul and make it more flexible and sensitive. You will feel enlivened and the world richer because the soul, that part of you that is doing the feeling, will be able to feel the world, including yourself, more intensely. You will be able to receive the spirit of the world and each of its parts with greater subtlety, and so its vivifying influence on you will be stronger. One way to imagine these two exercises is that the LBR cleans out the soul of that which is not it, then the MP kneads the soul into a malleable form which is necessary for the invocations which follow to have their fullest impact.
Third, having prepared the soul thus, we begin the first of the series of structured invocations. We begin with the Elements because the set of the Elements is small, being four, because their natures are immediate to the beginner, and because the Elements form the foundation from which the other sets of invocations can be reached. The Four Elements also constitute the first “whole system” to be analyzed and reconstructed. Whole systems have the special power of mirroring any other whole system. Since the actual object of our interest is the World, by dividing the World into the four elements, the whole of the world is represented in those four parts. The task is to find these parts in our selves and in our world and refine our awareness of them, then reassemble them and create our first mirror of the world. The method is to first perform a balanced invocation of all four elements using a form like the Greater Pentagram Ritual. Once this is fully memorized and working smoothly, one element is chosen and all of the parts of the ritual specific to the other Elements are replaced with that of the one chosen. This invocation is done at least twice in a day—better if more—at the beginning and end of the day, for an extended period of time. One week is the absolute minimum, one month is typical, and a year is not unheard of. The process subjectively starts out mild but becomes turbulent, but if the aspirant perseveres, the invocation and the life surrounding it will become harmonious. This is a mark of success. After all four Elements have been assayed then the balanced invocation is returned to for a similar time period. It is during this time that the true goal of the process arises. Out of the Four comes the emergent property of the Quintessence the state in which the parts integrate into a whole system and begin to mirror the world at that level of resolution.
The fourth step involves a choice. The aspirant may be so impelled by their Angel that they must begin the process of entering into Knowledge and Conversation with their Holy Guardian Angel at this point. Liber Samech is of use here. Based on the four elements with which the aspirant is now familiar, this ancient text is also the preliminary invocation of the Goetic system. Aleister Crowley redacted it into its current form and rendered it quite suitable to this lofty task. The Mystery of this process is so important and profound that it will require discussion at another time, yet it should be remembered that this, by whatever name called or mode experienced, is the entire goal of the First Order and defining mark of Adeptship.
Another possibility, if the aspirant it so driven, is to engage the Planetary Cycle. The methods for this are so various and so dependent on the ingenuity of the aspirant that they will not be fully catalogued here. Yet, to give an indication of the range of this practice, a few proven ones will be. On the morning of the day of the planet let the mage place the metal of the planet in contact with the skin, wear the color of the planet and address an invocation to the planet either where it is in the heavens or in another symbolically suitable direction. Use the Hexagram and Glyph of the planet. Use the great word ARARITA and any and all godnames associated with the planet. Continue with an orison to the planet asking for knowledge of its spirit and experience of its nature throughout the day. Attend to this throughout the day. At the end of the day repeat this form, and if necessary, banish the conjured spirit. Repeat on the next day for the planet of that day. Continue this round through the week and through the weeks that follow until all of the planets have become intimately tinctured throughout the psyche. The result of this is a fully articulated soul imbued with the fundamental powers appropriate to humanity. This is the core methodology of the magi and its benefits are innumerable, but only come to full flower with the awakening to the Angel. With this all of the world’s mythologies are unsealed to the mage and the wisdom therein as an open book.
A third possibility remains: the Solar Path. Before, during or after the Planetary Cycle, but ever in reference to it, the mage may aspire to the Angel through devotion and invocation of the Sun. While properly of the Planetary Cycle and amenable to its means, this path uses the centrality and illuminative nature of the Sun to approach the Angel. This cult is vast and ancient and only to be touched upon here. Suffice it to say that it uses the power of devotion and strength of passive love to win to the highest attainments. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks sought the Angel in this mode.
The Fifth practice is also vari-formed. Once Knowledge and Conversation has been achieved, with the guidance of the Angel, the mage proceeds to invoke each of the great whole sets until each is established in the soul. The Sepheroth, the Tarot, the Zodiac are some of the most obvious choices. This is properly the work of the Adeptus Major who seeks to prosecute all the branches of magick and acquire every necessary and desired skill. This specific approach continues to use the advantages of the whole system method and results in progressively deeper union with the world or Cosmosis.
To walk this path requires real effort. The best advice is old and traditional: Invoke Often and Inflame thyself with Prayer. Little else will succeed. In the front matter to the Falcon Press edition of the Complete System of the Golden Dawn, Israel Regardie makes the following comment and quote. Take this to heart and remember, “There is success” (AL3.69).
PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION
Israel Regardie wrote: “Over the years I have been asked over and over again what are the most important qualities that a student should possess in approaching the Great Work. Other than normal intelligence and emotional stability, I find two other qualities which are essential for success. They are best summed up in the following quotation.
“Press on: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
—Calvin Coolidge, 1872