Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Astral Journey: Where the Mystic and Magician Meet

Despite my promise at the end of my last post to discuss the topic of Cosmic Weirdness in the context of Enochian Magic, I am putting that post off for a moment. Instead, I was asked for some advice on astral traveling and would like to share some thoughts here.

The world of the occult can be theorized as divided between the two great realms of Mysticism and Magic. Many people move between these realms, there are often very good trade relations across their borders, but they do not share the same aims or methods. I have found that most people, although they may practice both mysticism and magic, find one of the two terrains more in line with their talents and proclivities. 

Keeping in mind that this is a rough distinction which may fail on any number of specific points, mysticism can be understood to focus upon the achievement or production of experiences while magic is focused on the achievement or production of events. On a certain level this distinction can be understood in terms of the difference between a subjectively focused mysticism and an objectively focused magical practice. The mystic wants to see, feel and experience in a new, deeper, truer or wider sense. The magician may not care at all about a particular experience but cares very much about the ability to bring about certain worldly events. Various mystical practices often promise or connect to the achievement of various magical abilities, though the link between the two is often rather difficult to see or justify. Magical practices often are accompanied by mystical experiences, but need not be and often particularly practical minded magicians reject mystical excesses as wastes of energy and distractions from the magic's actual goals. In the history of "recent" or monotheistic religions there has often been a particularly stark tension between mysticism, which despite a constant heretical tendency, can often occupy an orthodox and respected position and magic which is almost always considered irreligious or heretical. Consider, the mystic wants to experience God while the magician seeks to use God's power. You can see this tension particularly starkly in the history of Kabbalah which has often enjoyed great respect within Orthodox Judaism but constantly faces the "danger" of being used to develop magical practices for the achievement of worldly ends.

General Conception of Astral Projection:

When it comes to Astral Traveling, or Astral Projection, or Traveling in the Spirit Vision or Body of Light (or any other term you prefer) mysticism and magic meet. This meeting is, as almost all such meetings are, an uneasy one. The terrain of this unease can be mapped in much contemporary distaste for the metaphysical baggage that goes along with the theory of Astral Projection. Many would prefer to dismiss it as purely subjective, and thus consign it purely to the mystical realm in the worst way. For now I will remain neutral as to the metaphysical claims which undergird the basic conception of the astral but will explore the topic a bit later. 

The basic conception of Astral Projection bridges mysticism and magic by proposing an experience in which the subjectivity of the practitioner can, through a form of meditative practice, get outside of its subjectivity and into an objective archetypal realm. This can be thought of either in terms of out of body experiences in which one can travel mentally in the objective world or in terms of theories of the Astral planes which represent deeper or higher levels of reality accessible only in the subtle astral body. The idea, then, is simple. Astral traveling represents the achievement of the objective by means of the subjective. (At the risk of losing to "to long, didn't read" crowd: For those interested in a general introduction to the methods of Astral Travel please read below. For those more interested in a discussion of the metaphysics of astral traveling please skip past the methods to the next section. Or everyone could read both.)

General Methods:

0. Banish/clear/protect your space. (The method used here will differ greatly from person to person but the main idea is twofold. First, one wants the space to be ”clean” of interfering energy. Second, one wants the space to be ”insulated” from interfering energy and, according to standard theory, for one's body to be protected when you are ”away” from it. Banishing rituals and/or magical circles are often used for this purpose. One interesting practice involves, as well, am invocation to the guardian angel of Malkuth and the earth, Sandalphon, to protect one's body. Here is an example of such an invocation drawn from the Golden Dawn's Zelator Initiation and standard ritual of evocation: 

"In the names of Sandalphon, Metatron and Nephesch Ha-Messiach, the three Kerubim ruling over Malkuth, and by the power of the choir of Angels who are set over the governance of the Kingdom, the Aschim, the holy Souls of Fire, let it be known that I have summoned the powers of Earth to my presence... The great Angel Sandalphon spake and said. I am the Reconciler for Earth, and the Celestial Soul therein. Form is invisible alike in darkness and in blinding light. I am the angel of Paphro-Asoronnophris - and I prepare the way to manifestation unto the Light."  

1. Enter a meditative state. Practitioners are likely to have their own methods for this. Relaxation techniques and the like.

2. Formulation of the Body of Light. Frequently astral traveling has not been conceived as simply seperating the soul or mind from the body. Rather, consciousness is passed into a new ”subtle” or energetic body or, alternatively, an intermediate energy body (not as fundamental as the soul/mind or as dense and material as the everyday body) is separated of from the body. It is this stage which, generally, distinguishes astral travel from meditation or dreaming. From within one passes without. This is often the stage where methods distinctly differ and yet are particularly needed, especially for beginners. The Golden Dawn often used the method of carefully and fully visualizing a new body facing you. They would include ceremonial robes, magical weapons, marks of rank and degree within their order, in the visualization. This served to arm and empower the body of light with the necessary occult and spiritual authority to be protected and successful on the astral plane. Other methods include shifting the focus from one's physical body to the spiritual or energetic body. One's focus should be placed on the energy that constitutes and fills one, perhaps by picturing and feeling one's aura. Here is how Crowley describes this step in Liber O:

"2. Let him imagine his own figure (preferably robed in the proper magical garments and armed with the proper magical weapons) as enveloping his physical body, or standing near to and in front of him."

3. Transfer of Consciousness/Separation from the Body: This is the defining moment of Astral Traveling as traditionally conceived, the moment when mystical practice transforms into magical action through a stepping out of oneself into the new form. This is, generally, the hardest part of the process and may take extensive practice and time. Often people struggle with it for a a while and then, suddenly, find it very easy from then on. If one has crafted a Body of Light outside of oneself, one shifts one's consciousness so that one is seeing out of new eyes etc. If one has connected to the Body of Light within or around oneself, one stands up leaving the body behind. Here is how Crowley describes this stage, again from Liber O

"3. Let him then transfer the seat of his consciousness to that imagined figure; so that it may seem to him that he is seeing with its eyes, and hearing with its ears.

This will usually be the great difficulty of the operation."

As the difficulty of the process suggests, achieving the successful transfer of consciousness for even a brief time is an admirable achievement in and of itself.

4. Travel/Explore/Investigate. Once one has entered the body of light, or separated it from their mundane body, they generally use it to travel either about the mundane world in an invisible astral form or on the "deeper"/"higher" astral plane. As Crowley describes this:

"4. Let him then cause that imagined figure to rise in the air to a great height above the earth.
5. Let him then stop and look about him. (It is sometimes difficult to open the eyes.)
6. Probably he will see figures approaching him, or become conscious of a landscape."

In regards to traveling the mundane world, Crowley performed several experiments where he would meet with people in their mundane waking state at various points of the globe while he was in astral form. He would then try to communicate with them or accurately observe their setting and actions. (One interesting outcome of these experiments was the realization that meetings between the astral and the mundane can occur irrespective of time. Having arranged to meet a specific person at a specific time, Crowley in his Astral form and his partner each described a successful meeting including specific details of setting and physical events, only to later discover that they had had matching experiences at different times due to a mistake.) 

Another use of the astral is as a way to perform rituals that one doesn't want, for various reasons, to perform in the physical world. This is what occurs in the use of Benjamin Rowe's (aka Norton II) Enochian Temple method of Enochian Magic in which the magician builds up an involved and detailed astral temple out of the Enochian Watchtowers and then occupies that temple in an astral body in order to perform specific ceremonial workings. Crowley, similarly, performed an involved ritual of evocation of his Holy Guardian Angel while traveling on horseback across China by performing the ritual each day entirely in the astral. 

One of the most traditional uses of astral traveling in Western occultism is also one of its lesser known aspects to the general public. Starting with the Golden Dawn, astral traveling was used to explore and discover the meaning and properties of unknown symbols, names etc. This method was, similarly, used to test students in their accurate use of astral traveling by providing them with an unknown symbol the meaning and characteristics of which they then had to successfully discern by means of astral traveling. In order to perform these tasks one usually either vibrated (i.e. spoke with intention and energy) the name to be explored or strongly visualized the image to be investigated. Then, once its energy was felt to be present one "entered" the object of study. This could be done very literally, by imagining something like a door in the symbol through which one passed in the astral or by simply moving "into" the energy until it solidified into a distinct landscape to be explored. Usually an entity would meet one and represent/explain the nature of the object of investigation.

It should be clear, then, in what ways astral traveling can be used for the gathering of information and understanding. However, as I have been stressing it is primarily an application of mystical means towards magical ends. This becomes clear when one considers the point of the exploration of the astral plane beyond simple goals of achieving knowledge. Astral traveling can, in this regard, be considered a third means of magical practice besides the primary methods of invocation and evocation. One goes to the energy one wishes to direct and use in its "natural habitat" and there directs it towards the manifestation of worldly events or the empowering of oneself.  

5. Testing. I would like to stress this stage because it is one that is wildly neglected in most "New Age" and often even Theosophical discussions of astral traveling. Taking the experiences literally, one would not simply wander up to folks on the street and believe whatever they had to say or promise. This is even more the case with astral traveling where the danger of deception is higher do to the possibility of self-deception and parasitic entities. As Crowley states: "Let him speak to such figures, and insist upon being answered, using the proper pentagrams and signs, as previously taught." The reference here to the "proper pentagrams and signs" is to the use of invoking and banishing signs intended to make certain energies stronger or weaker. If one intended to talk with an angel aligned with the energy of Jupiter, an invoking hexagram of Jupiter should make it stronger and the image/communication clearer while a banishing hexagram of Jupiter should dismiss, destroy or weaken it. Crowley describes this method well:

"9. Let him beware of the thousand subtle attacks and deceptions that he will experience, carefully testing the truth of all with whom he speaks.
Thus a hostile being may appear clothed with glory; the appropriate pentagram will in such a case cause him to shrivel or decay.
10. Practice will make the student infinitely wary in these matters."

Furthermore, the various signs one acquires during either the Golden Dawn or various Crowleyan systems of initiation are used to express the authority of the magician and so to constrain and humble the entities with which one meets. Obviously there is a vast array of systems that can be used here, including anything that can express or contain occult force, but the main idea is not to take anything at face value and not to place one's trust in the entities one meets without first testing their reality, accuracy and honesty. One should feel free to use any system of testing one is familiar and comfortable with, but the key is to apply some form of authority to the entity that will force it to appear in an honest and safe manner or demonstrate its dishonesty. It is worth stressing here the difference between magic and "spiritualism". The magician must not be passive and never simply receives. The magician must command, even in seeking insight or knowledge, if just in order to protect her or him self. 

5. Return and Reunite. As with meditation in general, if one has performed the above methods properly one should end them with as much intent and control as one began them. Wiling oneself back to the location of one's body is usually successful. Crowley, with a dash more dramatics, offers the suggestion of creating a flaming chariot and ordering it to return one to earth: 

"11. It is usually quite easy to return to the body, but should any difficulty arise, practice (again) will make the imagination fertile. For example, one may create in thought a chariot of fire with white horses, and command the charioteer to drive earthwards."

He adds a warning that one should not go too far or weary oneself out. As with meditation, ending with loss of consciousness or falling asleep is not generally a sign of success but a sign of lack of control:

"It might be dangerous to go too far, or to stay too long; for fatigue must be avoided.
The danger spoken of is that of fainting, or of obsession, or of loss of memory or other mental faculty."

Once back in the presence of one's body, one should take the time to visual integrate back into oneself. Take your time returning. Feel your body joining with your essence, etc. Attempt to completely integrate as much as possible:

"12. Finally, let the student cause his imagined body in which he supposes himself to have been travelling to coincide with the physical, tightening his muscles, drawing in his breath, and putting his forefinger to his lips. Then let him "awake" by a well-defined act of will, and soberly and accurately record his experiences."

I would add that it is often important to eat and drink something immediately following astral travel. One may not feel hungry or thirst, but this is precisely part of the concern. In many forms of shamanic traveling of this sort, the process of eating and drinking following the journey is considered an essential part of anchoring and re-grounding the soul within the body. As is often standard, ending with a banishing ritual once one has awoken in one's own body is always a good idea, as might be a performance of some grounding visualization like the Middle Pillar Ritual. 

Thoughts about Metaphysics and Eidetic Magic: 

I have, thus far, provided a rather neutral presentation of the very basic theory and practice of Astral Travel. But surely I can't let it go at that! Allow me to say a word or two about its metaphysics.

Clearly Astral Traveling is traditionally committed to extensive metaphysical claims. There is something which we are other than the body. This thing has a being of its own and can be freed from the body while the body remains alive. And so on. 

I have developed above the distinction between the Mystic and Magician, but there is a third figure to add to this motley group. While the Mystic seeks experience (which, in almost all cases of high mystical experience is incapable of capture in words and so defies theory, dogma and understanding) and the Magician seeks results (worldly events which she can bring about through the use of occult power) the Theologian seeks understanding. The theologian wants to know. Is there a soul? Is there life after death? Are their angels or spirits or gods or demons? If there are, what are they like and what are they made out of? In other words, the theologian wants to know why the Magician can do what she can do and why the Mystic experiences what she experiences. 

The distinction between these three figures is, of course, oversimplified and not meant to match in reality the full meanings of the terms and their history. However, I do think this way of dividing things captures accurately various tendencies within the world of the occult in general.

Chaos Magick grew out of the magicians general focus on results, a tendency best exemplified by Aleister Crowley who frequently dismissed metaphysical questions as both unanswerable and unimportant (see, for example, his disinterest in questions about the actual nature of demons). The magician, understood in this way, only cares that astral traveling can do something but isn't particularly caught up in the question of how or why it does so. One can astrally travel without believing in the soul, astral body, or astral plane in any traditional sense. 

Several years ago I was involved with a group of people on MySpace (yes, Myspace) trying out various ways of re-imagining the occult realm. Amongst them were Su Leybourn, Pantos and many others (apologies to those from whom I no doubt benefited greatly but am neglecting here, please should you read this drop me a message or add your two cents in the comments). One main topic of conversation was a new way to think about the occult as Eidetic Magic (a term I believe coined by Su Leybourn, but my memory or knowledge could be faulty on this point). In line with standard Chaos Magic practice, Eidetic Magic would avoid metaphysical speculations and instead focus simply on the key processes involved in magic that has generally be considered astral. 

The term Eidetic was derived from contemporary psychological usage where it signifies mental images of extraordinary vividness, for example in the case of Eidetic Memory (so called photographic memory). So, Eidetic Magic proposed that we look at key elements of the process of astral magic. To offer an example of my own, in the outline I offered above the focus might first be on the process of creating a vivid image of the body of light and might ask about the purpose of so vivid an image. Setting aside questions of metaphysics, we might note that the process of creating a vivid self image to later occupy is itself a part of the meditative process. The concentration it requires, indeed the level to which we must engross ourselves in the process, is a preparation for the involved imagery we will later encounter (or perhaps form) later during the actual traveling part of the process. Similarly, Eidetics would seek to focus upon the importance of the full sensory vividness of the experience assuming (perhaps merely as a hypothesis) that the greater the level of vividness (up, perhaps, to a point of diminishing returns) the greater the effectiveness of the magical work performed (because, again by hypothesis, either that the greater investment of conscious attention invests more energy into the work or the greater preoccupation of the conscious mind frees up more subconscious energy or psychological commitment to the intended aim- of course the hypotheses here could be multiplied nearly indefinitely and the point is to avoid them). 

Of course the key aspect of astral traveling as experienced is that, much like in dreams, the environment and experience is not encountered as-if created by the experiencer. It feels real and, to a greater or lesser extent, external and free of subjective imposition. A parallel to this experience can be uncovered in eidetic visualization meditative practice in general. As one becomes engrossed in fully and completely creating for oneself an experience within ones own mind, without any pretense of "leaving" the mind or body, one reaches a point when the environment/experience comes together faster and smoother until eventually it feels as if it is fully forming itself like a "real" external environment. This flow state, then, is the goal whether it is achieved through eidetic visualization overtly or "astral" methods. 

I must admit that my own attitude towards the Eidetic proposal was slightly more skeptical than most of the other participants. I was of the attitude that the very use of contemporary psychological models itself smuggled extensive metaphysical assumptions into the arrangement, including especially the subject/object distinction which has incessantly come up throughout this post. If traditional astral traveling attempts to blur the lines between the inner and outer, Eidetic Magic claimed to ignore any commitments as to the possibility of this but, at the same time, seemed to assume that the "astral" events were essentially "inner", subjective and psychological in nature. Of course the investigation of the flow-state offer intriguing unorthodox spins on the psychological. Perhaps "astral travel" or Eidetic Investigation involved engagement with the sub- or unconscious in a powerful and profitable way, thus explaining the freedom from conscious creation of the imagery once one was really into the vision. Perhaps, even more interestingly, it opened up access to a collective unconscious ala Jung's psychology. But, I felt, while intriguing these remain fundamentally subjectivist and psychologistic conceptions I tend to find limiting.

In an attempt to push beyond these limits I proposed that the term Eidetic could be understood in a more historically accurate and, I at least feel, deeper sense. When Plato proposed (or didn't propose depending on your reading of Plato) his Theory of the Forms the term for "form" was Eidos from which we get Eidetic. Eidos, however, is also the source of our term Idea (and thus Platonic Ideas, rather than Forms, are often discussed). For the Theory of the Forms (whether or not Plato actually held any such theory) as it has been discussed throughout the history of Western Philosophy, a things Form or Eidos is the actual eternal and unchanging reality or essence from which that thing derives its existence and nature. A thing is beautiful to the extent that it embodies, resembles, partakes in or expresses the eternal and real Form (Eidos) of Beauty. In this sense the most real things are the Forms, everything else is passing and illusory. 

This idea of Eidos was taken up in the early twentieth century by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl who is one of the founding fathers of the philosophy of Phenomenology. He proposed that we could isolate, through various mental methods, the Eidos or essence of things. The way this was done was through Eidetic Variation. Setting aside the actual aspects of any given thing, one pictured it and then proceeded to vary imaginatively its characteristics. When one uncovered the limits of this variation (for example, the point at which certain characteristics could not be varied and the thing remain the thing it is) one had begun to uncover the actual Eidos or essence of the thing in question. A simple example is that color can not be imagined without shape and vice versa. So, it is essential to shape to be colored and color to be shaped. However, everyday objects are similarly open to Eidetic exploration. 

The very fact that these essential characteristics could be uncovered in the mind itself demonstrated to Husserl that the fundamental nature of things derives from the mind (I recognize this is a more than slightly controversial claim about Husserl, but this is hardly the place for a lengthy interpretive diatribe). However, the mind that engages in a full Eidetic variation must, itself, have been subjected to Eidetic Reduction and variation to avoid any particular characteristics of that mind or its history tainting the investigation for Eidetic investigation to be successful. The point is that it is not your mind, or my mind, that constitutes the nature of things and thus can uncover them for itself. It is, rather, Transcendental Consciousness or Ego which is universally shared by all actual and potential consciousness/ego. So, Eidetic Variation is the investigation of Transcendental Consciousness or the consciousness of the universe (a turn of phrase Husserl, admittedly, would hate). The key here is that Eidetic Magic when understood along Husserlian lines could be understood to actually overcome the subject/object inner/outer dichotomies and could be taken (hypothetically) to be the investigation of truly concrete and universal realities or forces holding for all. 

(As a momentary side note, let me caution occultist readers from losing interest in all this obscure talk of German philosophy. I would note, for example, that Husserl's phenomenology was fundamentally influential on people such as Carlos Castaneda whose own metaphysics of reality as consciousness can be seen to be deeply indebted to it. Similarly, Michael Bertiaux uses Husserl and his conceptions of Transcendental Ego extensively in the Voudon Gnostic Workbook.) 

This understanding of Eidetic-Astral Exploration offers another promising purpose for its use. It could be the investigation of the nature of consciousness in general and, granting previous hypotheses, the investigation of the mind of God and its particular instantiations in us if we so wish to consider it. I wont say I am committed to this view, I find more and more as time passes that I am committed to less and less, but I will say it is a rather interesting proposal from which to consider some of these topics and  both the nature of the experiences they give rise to and the results they can bring about. In this regard, at the time of the discussions of Eidetic Magic I proposed an Eidetic Ritual that, I believe, can both serve to really push the skills of the astral/eidetic traveler to the absolutely limit and test what (if any) the limits of our mind/soul/consciousness/ego are (if there are, indeed, any). It can be, in turn, an exceptionally powerful tool for self-discovery and initiation. I include it here as an example with minor modifications from its original form:

The Ordeals of the Cytherean Celebrant:

A Ritual of Invocation
Through Three Ordeals
Concerning the Love of the Gods

Part I: The Method

“38. Concerning minor methods adjuvant in the ceremonies. III. Rehearsal. It may assist if the traditional history of the particular Deity be rehearsed before him; perhaps this is best done in dramatic form. This method is the main one recommended in the Exercitios Espirituales of St. Ignatius, whose work may be taken as model. Let the Philosophus work out the legend of his own particular Deity, and apportioning days to events, live that life in imagination, exercising the five senses in turn, as occasion arises.” (Crowley Liber Astarte Vel Berylli Sub Figura CLXXV)

Part II: The Story

The Odyssey (Book 8 264-366)

"Then the bard struck the chords that began his sweet song, and told of the love of Ares and Aphrodite of the lovely crown, how they lay together in secret in Hephaestus’ house, and how Ares gave her a host of gifts while dishonoring the Lord Hephaestus’ bed. But Helios, the sun god, who had spied them sleeping together, came to tell him. When Hephaestus had heard the sour tale, he went to his smithy his heart set on evil, and set up his huge anvil on its block, and forged a net of chains, firm and unbreakable. And when, furious with Ares, he had made the snare, he went to his room and marriage bed, and fastened the netting to its posts, and hung its links above from the roof beams, fine as a spider’s web, and so cunningly made it was invisible even to the blessed gods.
When he had spread his net over the bed, he pretended to leave for Lemnos, that well-ordered citadel, dearest of all the islands, to his eyes. Nor was Ares of the Golden Reins blind to the master-craftsman Hephaestus’ going, but went straight to his house, hot for the love of Cytherea of the lovely crown. She had scarcely left her father’s presence, that of mighty Cronos’ son, and seated herself on arriving, when Ares entered and took her hand and spoke to her: ‘Sweetheart, come, let us to bed, and take delight in mutual love. Hephaestus has left, for Lemnos no doubt, to visit the barbarously spoken Sintians.’
As he spoke it seemed a pleasant thing to her to lie with him. So they went to the bed and lay down. Then clever Hephaestus’ cunning net fell all around them, and they were unable to move or raise themselves. They soon realized there was no escape. Now the great lame god approached, for Helios had kept watch and carried the word, and Hephaestus returned before ever reaching Lemnos. He came home, troubled in mind, and as he stood in the gateway a terrible anger seized him. And he cried out fiercely to all the gods:
‘Father Zeus, and all you other blessed and immortal gods, come, see something laughable, and intolerable, how Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, scorning me for my lameness, makes love with hateful Ares because he is straight-limbed and handsome while I was born crooked. My parents alone are to blame for that: I wish they had never made me! Look how these two usurp my bed and sleep together, while I am filled with pain to see it. Yet they won’t want to lie like this much longer, I think: no, not for an instant, however much they are in love. They’ll soon lose their urge for bed, the net and its links will hold them instead till her father repays me all the gifts I gave him while wooing this shameless hussy, a beautiful daughter indeed but faithless.’
At this the gods came crowding the bronze threshold: Poseidon, Earth-Bearer, Hermes the messenger, and Lord Apollo who strikes from afar. The goddesses stayed at home from modesty, but those deathless ones, givers of good, stood in the entrance, and when they saw clever Hephaestus’ snare, unquenchable laughter flowed from the blessed gods. One would glance at his neighbor and say: ‘Ill deeds don’t prosper. The slow catch the swift, as Hephaestus here, slow as he is, has netted Ares the swiftest of all the Olympian gods. He has trapped him by cunning, though lame. Ares must pay the fine for adultery.’
Such were the comments, then Lord Apollo, son of Zeus, said to Hermes: ‘Guide and Giver of Good Things, Hermes, Zeus’ son, would you not care to lie in bed beside golden Aphrodite, even though you were snared by unbreakable chains?’
The Messenger-God, Slayer of Argus, replied: ‘Lord Apollo, Far-Shooter, three times as many inescapable links could hold me, and you gods could be watching, and yes, all the goddesses too, if only I might sleep with golden Aphrodite.’
At this, laughter rose from the group of immortal gods. But Poseidon was unsmiling, and kept begging Hephaestus, the master craftsman, to set Ares free, speaking with winged words: ‘Set him free, and I promise what you ask, that he’ll pay what’s owed in the presence of the deathless gods.’
The illustrious lame god replied: ‘Poseidon, Earth-Bearer, don’t ask this of me. It’s a sad mistake for sure, to stand surety for a sad rogue.  Will I bind you with chains, in the presence of the deathless gods, if Ares shrugs off both chains and debt, and escapes?’
 But Poseidon, said again: ‘If Ares shrugs off the debt and escapes, Hephaestus, I will pay it myself.’
To this, the illustrious lame god replied: ‘Well, I can’t refuse you, it wouldn’t be right.’ And he loosed the net, and the two of them, free of the chains, leaped up in a trice and fled. Ares headed for Thrace, but laughter-loving Aphrodite to Paphos in Cyprus, where she has a sanctuary and fragrant altar. There the Graces bathed her, and anointed her with such heavenly oil as gleams on the limbs of the gods who live forever. And they dressed her in beautiful clothes, marvelous to behold."

Part III: The Plan

The actual plan for the ritual is simplistic but wildly difficult (potentially impossible), and leaves much up to the winds of fate, as it were. Ideally this sort of thing should weave itself out, having very much a life of its own as things progress, thus this outline has not been overly formalized. In a sense I have “kept it simple stupid” despite the fact that this opposes the vary marrow of my being and despite the fact that the central idea around which the entire structure rotates is a delightfully baroque. You will see what I mean. (An aside: The idea, while it may or may not be possible to execute, never the less pushes the limits of what we think concerning Eidetic Identity. What role does “consciousness” play in the eidetic experience? To what extent might “consciousness” itself be an eidetic entity and not an underlying necessary essential structure of the eidetic continuum? I think you begin to see one general issue of interest here.)  

Phase 1: The Museum of Masks

Let the celebrant enter meditation and, once there, create in detail a temple dedicated to the arts of creation furnished with several mirrors. Let the celebrant use the mirrors to create three separate faces: Aphrodite Beautiful Goddess of Love, Ares The Terrible God of War, and Hephaestus the Deformed and Skilled Lord of Craftsmen and Master of Techne. Let this temple become a Museum of Masks where one can take on for a time the identity of another and let the celebrant take on each mask separately but at the same time. This is the most difficult ordeal of the ritual, its achievement and maintenance throughout what is to follow forms the entire essence of the working. To repeat; let the celebrant take on the masks of the three divinities separately but at the same time so that the celebrant takes on the identity, and consciousness, of the three gods at the same moment. (The natural result of attempting this will be to immediately switch to the third person view of the three gods, as if one were a spectator. This is failure. Should it occur begin again. The other natural result is to dwell primarily in one head, while having momentary glimpses into the content of the others, or to flash from one mind to another as if an actor running from one role to another when the scene demands it. This too is failure, but not so absolute a failure as the first. From this stage one can work to the desired state of equal trinity consciousness, the state of being all three gods equally at the same moment. A few other things to note and be wary of: the gods should not in any way know what the others are thinking, this is not a simplistic group consciousness, not one mind puppeting three bodies but rather three distinct divine consciousnesses which one has taken on in the same moment. There seems no necessary reason why we should not be able to achieve this.) Having completed this basic task the first ordeal is passed.

Phase II: The Feast of Eros

The celebrant, now three and divine, will proceed to a temple dedicated to the rites of Love while maintaining the state achieved in the temple of making. Once in the Temple of Love the three gods will play out the love of Aphrodite and Hephaestus with Ares looking on, and then the love of Aphrodite and Ares with Hephaestus looking on. (The challenge and goal here is to feel the fullness of the experience from each perspective at the same time, physical as well as emotional. How far can one take it? The various pleasures, Ares’ thwarted lust while looking on, Hephaestus’ rage when he is a witness and perhaps his sense of insecurity when he is a participant, the various complex angles of Aphrodite’s perspective and experiences. Etc. You can see the complexity here, and the fuller and more complex the experience the better.) This ordeal will continue into whatever form it naturally takes until it has played itself out.

Phase III: The Battle of the Gods

The celebrant, still three and divine, will proceed as such to a temple dedicated to the rites of War having still maintained throughout that unique state which was first achieved in the temple of Making. Once in the Temple of War the matter will be settled, though none can say precisely how. This ordeal is the pinnacle of ritual and also the most open ended element the working. One assumes that Ares and Hephaestus will battle for Aphrodite’s love, but surely she will not calmly look on. Who can say really where Aphrodite stands in the matter, or who of the three would decide such a battle. Only the celebrant, as each and separate, will experience the unique position and power of each divinity and eventually, somehow, an end to the situation. Note too that, beyond the deciding of the war and love between the three, from this battle as well the celebrant must find some way back to the original unity and identity from whence the celebrant came. Be this not possible, should the matter remain unsettled, then the ordeals shall end with a broken mind.         


1 comment:

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