I’ve found that over the past few years I’ve become less polarised. I don’t really see myself as an “ex-Whatever”. That was a part of my path, but I do see myself as “beyond” this. It is like I’ve grown out of than that belief, however it is still a belief (or set of beliefs) I understand, and reside in my past. Someone once wrote that “once you learn something, you cannot unlearn it”. While I don’t ‘unlearn’ stuff, I learn more and the past becomes the foundation from which I can grow and evolve, perhaps like Nietzsche’s comments that a tree stretching up to heaven must have roots reaching down to hell. “Hell” for me is our own unconscious in turmoil. Having the resolve to explore it in whatever way is necessary takes committment and courage.
Magick With Tears
I don’t believe someone can progress very far in their own spiritual evolution without spilling a few pints of tears! To be complete, I believe we need to cultivate our soft and intimate side, perhaps even moreso than the hard and unyielding side. Even the “mythology” of warriors has the romantic notions of a fearsome man who can rip his enemy limb from limb one moment, and the next comfort a small child who has lost their mother, or make passionate love to his partner.
Magick & Psychotherapy
Israel Regardie was the first, and only (that I’m aware of), modern occultist to propose all aspiring magicians need to take a course of therapy as part of their journey. Of course, modern therapies (particularly those with Transpersonal elements) have things in common with Shamanism. And any modern therapy that gets the client to use their imagination (for visualisation, etc) is in a sense working with internal magick. Magick often tends to unbalance people, or perhaps it just attracts those who are unbalanced or on their way to crisis. I know it certainly helped tip me over the edge and come face to face with the Abyss …
Most of the important and essential concepts and ideas can be kept very simple and jargon free. It works just as well. It can take a little more to explain in simple language, and perhaps because of this the ‘need’ arose for psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists to create jargon and labels.
In some countries psychiatrists and psychologists are not required to go through therapy themselves. A psychiatrist I once spoke to told me that overseas where he trained he had to do several months of therapy. While such a short period of therapy many not be sufficient for a deep experiential understanding, it at least gave him an insight into his own inner workings.
The problem that can arise when the therapist has not undertaken the work themselves is an “us versus them” mentality where the professional person believes they are ‘perfect’ and the client is ‘broken’. It seems clear to me that doctors and nurses often seem to be very dysfunctional people. It is difficult to be empathetic when you see yourself as whole (and perhaps the rescuer) and the other person as the victim. It sets up a dangerous polarity, as a rescuer needs a victim to maintain their own self-identity and potentially has an unconscious or hidden agenda of keeping people in the victim space. Someone who has “been there” on the other hand is often better equipt to act as a guide rather than rescuer. The “this is how I became self-empowered” approach rather than “what you need to do is…”
Picking a modality of therapy gives you a framework. I don’t believe it is essential to stick to what you first learn, but it is essential to pick something and get a frame of reference! It is like finding the high-ground to get an overview of the landscape if you’re lost. It also makes learning another system easier, as you can compare the two systems, and peg out the similarities and differences. I tend to “think” using various concepts including Jungian Psychology, Western Kabbalah, and Psychosynthesis. All are similar, and all have differences. The Tree of Life (particularly the Supernals, and the Middle Pillar) provide some good conceptual frameworks to compare and relate to other things.
Union with Godhead
Perhaps rather than “union” it is a recognition that we are already part of God/Absolute. From The Gospel of Thomas and some Kabbalistic material the concept is clear that “The Kingdom of God is already here.” Some Kabbalistic material suggests that the “Messiah” of Christianity is an externalised myth of the “Messiah” energy which we can connect with, similar to the concepts of Higher Self or Holy Guardian Angel.
The Gospel of Thomas makes reference to the Kingdom of God being within, and outside of you, which echoes the standard hermetic axiom of “As above, so below”. The Kabbalistic material provides references to the “Pardes (Paradise) Mediation” which allows anyone “knowing the secret meditation” to enter Paradise / Garden of Eden / The Kingdom of God.
One of the premises of this line of belief is that there were 2 creations (as accounted for in Genesis). One lead to the “fall” of man. The other is still perfect and exists in the present time, simply we are unaware of it. This is perhaps an “astral” or “acausal” blueprint for a ‘perfect’ world, one which provides the basis for our world, but for whatever reason it is necessary for us to experience imperfection also, before we return to “Paradise”.
most Occult groups seek to bring about some form of “enlightened” World, some kind of Utopia or Paradise on Earth.
I don’t believe goals are wrong per se, especially if we are flexible enough to change if we realise that we can do better (learn more perhaps) in other directions. Consider the analogy of climbing one hill, and seeing more on the horizon. It could be said that even the choice to see the journey as all important is a goal of sorts, just one which seeks to discover what is there to be discovered on that journey. There will always be short-term “goals” such as putting one foot in front of the other and keeping going, when the going has become tough. Even viewing life as a journey of learning has an implied goal of their being something that can be learned or gained through the experiences. The cyclic nature of things, like the ouroborus serpent, helps symbolise these concepts. It is the end merging into a new beginning. A goal of sorts is reached, and makes way for something new; the birth, life, death, rebirth concept.
There are always deeper levels (or higher hills) to go to. I guess the short term goal is to get to a comfortable point where you feel some kind of self-empowerment. Like the “Fool” card in the tarot, “infancy” is both the beginning and end of the journey. Every so often I suddenly feel disempowered, small, and naive, and realise how little I really know, and begin once again to explore old issues from new perspectives. I can say one thing – hindsight really is 20/20 vision. After all these years I can often reflect on stuff in my teenage years and begin to understand how things were and why.
The problem with “magickal thinking” is that for people having a difficult time with reality it provides a great means of escape. One of the most important lessons I learned from a former mentor was essentially how he was able to hold back his own progress yet believe he was deeply involved in alchemical/magickal work. And it is easy to be ‘guilty’ of that…
I don’t believe it is necessary for therapy to have any associations with “magick” at all. As long as it seeks to empower the individual through some kind of self-knowledge then it is serving the purpose as a catalyst for growth. The etymology of “magick” actually goes back to a root word “magh-” meaning “To be able” or “have power”. So there is plenty of scope for interpretations of magick as a self-empowering tool for the magician to “know himself” through interaction with the environment – using his/her Will. The Gospel of Thomas has various sayings talking about those who do not know themselves being in poverty, and those who are rich are those who know themselves.
Don’t misunderstand the term “trance”. In common usage people think of it as someone in a severely altered state. It is not. In fact you’ve probably been in a trance to concentrate on reading this. People move in and out of trance-states all the time. If you are amongst a group of people at a lecture or meeting you may notice their eyes glaze over a little as they listen. This is enough to suspect they are in a very light hypnoidal trance state (like hypnosis). This is the sort of state people are in watching Television (which can essentially talk right into their subconscious – hence violent movies desensitise people to violent behaviour). Likewise, unscrupulous NLP practitioners will utilise this kind of state in marketting, seduction, etc.
Dennis Wier has a simple but effective approach to trance states, such as becoming aware of repetitive thoughts, feelings, emotions. Awareness is really the first stage to being able to change something. Any time someone sits down and repeats words to themselves (“I’m useless”, “This is hopeless”, “I can’t do it”) it can be presumed they are in a type of trance, and the words become a mantra by which they reinforce a belief. The key is to find the trances, then work on broadening the “options” as all trance is about changing (generally limiting) awareness.
When using trance related “tools” in therapy it isn’t necessarily desirable to become “unconscious”. I would even suggest that free-association requires a certain type of light trance for you to be able to freely associate. Willed-daydreaming aka Creative Visualisation (and 101 other names) is also a light trance-state where you can remain conscious (even eyes open). This can actually be highly desirable, as it allows the conscious and subconscious minds some scope in the work.
What we need to be doing
I currently don’t believe it’s very important what we do at all. As long as we do something, and learn from it. Simple as that. This isn’t license to “be bad”, rather it is in light of trying to understand and find meaning in our own life; to find our life’s path. I don’t think any preconceived notion of “how to get there” really works. What works is what works for the individual. It is about the lessons we can learn from the experiences and interactions we have. I do feel it is important that we choose our options though – “free choice” within the limitations of ‘destiny’ – the concept of Wyrd that can be changed to a greater or lesser degree).