Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Will, Wisdom and the Word: Occult Thought in Modern Times

Will, Wisdom and the Word

Dilige et quod vis fac

Along with wisdom and the word, an operator’s Will is an integral aspect of the magical equation. Occultists are guided early in their initiations to understand this thrice-fold aspect of the esoteric paradigm. In the Will, initiates acquaint themselves with the architectural framework of intention. It is a skeleton and foundation for what is desired. It is also a mediator with the divine. Schopenhauer considered it the life-force of an individual. He wrote that “it is manifest in every blindly working force of nature; it is also manifest in the considered deeds of man.”[1] An ‘As Above So Below’ concept, the Will as individual energy is also part of the larger whole. It nourishes and is nourished by the universe that surrounds it.

The Will also encapsulates unitive experience. It is representative of completion-when the universe works in tandem with the Will.  It is a liberation from bondage and a negation of duality. It is one, among all possible concepts, that does not derive from the observation of phenomenon, not from visual knowledge, but comes from inside, emerges from the immediate consciousness of each of us: not as a form, not even in terms of the subject-object relationship, but as that which he himself is; for here the knower and the known are the same.[2]

This idea of union is a classic example of religious paradox. In particular, the idea of light in darkness and darkness in light. When consciousness becomes unitive or objectless, we are left with a consciousness not of anything. It is a pure or “cosmic-consciousness”. There is nothing empirical in this state of mind. It is both something and nothing. Sometimes it is described as there and not-there. Philosopher s such as Merleau-Ponty have remarked that this state of being is experienced not from the depths of nothingness but from the midst of itself.

Religions have many names and describe cosmic-consciousness in a myriad of ways. Christians identify it with God. The bible calls it a “desert” or “wilderness”. Dionysius the Areopagite suggested that it is a dazzling obscurity which outshines all brilliance with the intensity of its darkness. Buddhism recognizes this paradox by labeling it the void. In fact, the Tibetan Book Of The Dead speaks of “the clear light of the void.” It is the darkness of god. It is called darkness because all physical distinctions disappear and object-subject duality simply dissolves. Therefore, we can’t really say that ‘there is a light in the darkness’. The light is the darkness and the darkness is the light.

Darkness is also representative of the supernatural world. Like the maw of the earth monster or the belly of the whale, darkness is a symbol of the other world, whether the world of death or of the fetal state.[3] In darkness our Will is able to shine. As it traverses the  boundaries of the profane, it is dissolved into a unitive state and placed on a trajectory of intention. Being both here and there, knower and known, light and dark, the Will manifests our “inner fire” into form.

For many occultists, the Will is best understood in terms of the Greek word Thelema. Thelema is an ideology developed by the magician Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century. Adherents live by the maxim “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.” A message dictated to Crowley by an extraterrestrial intelligence in 1904, the ‘Book of the Law’ is the major text that Thelemites refer to. The idea is to follow and live by one’s “true will” in order to find peace and happiness in this life. Part of this true will involves making contact with one’s own Holy Guardian Angel via ritual magic and utilizing this connection to live a better life. The true will is likened to somebody’s calling. It is the raison d’ĂȘtre of existence. In addition, our true will is analogous to the divine will of the universe. By attaining our true will, we also touch the godhead and experience union with the divine.

Magicians have long held that the word is a way to activate supernatural currents. From time immemorial, words have been thought to hold occult virtues. It’s not hard to discern why. The written and spoken word are a direct way to propitiate the gods. They are a way of interaction. The nature of magic demands strict adherence to the original form of the magical name or word because it’s potency lies hidden within its syllables, within its very consonants and vowels.[4] In the shape and form of letters are mysteries of our esoteric past. Many schools of the occult teach extensively the correspondences that letters hold with the creative process. Judaic mysticism holds that the letters of the Torah are literally supernatural essences. They are the sigils of God imbued with mystical prowess. In fact, German Kabbalists of the 13th century practiced the art of arranging and rearranging Hebrew letters as to discover their maximum potential.

Like more orthodox religious ritual, ceremonial magicians place importance on correct intonation and pronunciation. It’s not unheard of to witness an entire magical rite sung or chanted. The Calls of the Angels are usually sung during invocation. It is thought that singing will more successfully establish a favorable communication with the supernatural. Pronunciation is also important because each divine letter is made up of phonemes that are the very essence of god. Slightly discrepant changes in sound can be what marks the successful occult operation. Some esoteric schools utilize linguistic study as to focus the mind. The Hindu AUM is a practiced meditative technique as well as preparatory focal point of the magical procedure. It is an exhalation into silence.

The word is also a powerfully personal communicator. As any writer will attest, creation with words is a remarkably individual task. This form of conjuration is mercurial. When Man puts pen to page, He is as Thoth scribing the arts of magic. The writer puts form to potential. These utterances create worlds. Within the recesses of ‘self-expression’ and the individual mind is a universe outside of time. The creation becomes autonomous from its progenitor simultaneously as the shapes are given meaning and uttered into existence.  
Once uttered, letters can have a profound number of correspondences of meaning. This is especially true in matters of the esoteric. For example, in Joseph Ashkenazi’s Commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, we witness how the letter ‘Beth’ as uttered by the Metatron delves into depths where tentacled  phantasms lay in cavernous corners of the abyss. This letter usually signifies “House” and is the physical body of the divine. But in the words of the Metatron to the Holy Qarah:

“He has appointed the letter Bet over life and bound a crown to it and formed [the planet] be it; Sabbatai in the world, and Sunday in the year[ie. In the dimension of time], and the right eye in the person, namely that He elevated the letter Bet so that it is the head on the power of the Keter Eliyon. And he put in it the power of Hokhmah and formed in it the planet Sabbatai, which is beneath the [divine name], ‘ABGYTTz’, and the letter gave wisdom to Sabbatai…And because it is appointed over the weight, it designates darkness and over everything that is black and over the black bile [named melancholy]…and the planet Sabbatai is appointed over them. See and understand that this is the secret of ‘Meshiyah’ YHWH. See and understand that the planet Sabbatai has the crown of Binah, and higher than this is Hokhma. (As Quoted by  R. Abraham Peretz)

Within this commentary is the secret formula for invoking Sathariel. Sathariel is one of the impure husks or shells on the back side of the Judaic Tree of Life. These broken vessels were created when Adam transgressed God in the Garden of Eden. Called the Kelippot, each husk is an emanation of evil and holds a correspondence with the divine Sephiroth of the Tree. Sathariel is the impure correlative of Binah and is characterized as ‘concealment of god’. The operator who wishes to invoke Sathariel must have a conceptual understanding of the entity before attempting an experiential contact. The sorcerer draws forth the spirit of impurity and mixes the clean and unclean together.[5]

Sathariel, the Kelippot of Binah was ‘formed [the planet] be it; Sabbatai in the world. To this planet was assigned the dross or waste of the broken vessel. It designates darkness and everything that is black and over the black bile [named melancholy. When a magician experiences the Sabbatai, they embody the upside down union that is symbolized by the Hanged Man. An inversion or backward reflection of the Holy Tree, this reversal is why St. Peter chose to be crucified upside down in the early years of the Christian religion. The mystery extends with the phrase, Meshiyah YHWY or ‘anointing of the King’. It was requisite for the King to be anointed for him to fulfill the royal role. This is why there is a direct correlation between ‘upside-down’ union and kingly leadership. Sabbatai is appointed over the King who is bestowed the crown of Binah. So as the operator moves through the rite, a mindfulness of crossing over and backward is required to have an audience with Sathariel. Also, the operator must embody the values of anointed kingship. These attributes will prove to be beneficial when Sathariel is invoked within the magic circle.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of Ashkenazi’s Commentary involves Sabbatai itself. As Moshe Idel remarked, “what is significant in this text is the recurrence of the name of the planet Sabbatai, which corresponds to the Latin deity and planet Saturn.”[6] Sathariel- the husk of Binah embodies the restriction, self-unknowing or concealment of the planet Saturn. Its materiality and bile functions as a tester to perfect one’s character through Ordeals. The Latin Saturnus must also be taken into consideration when performing this interaction. A god of wealth, regeneration and time, Saturn must be used as a focal point during the conjuration. I might add that Saturn’s association with time might be the most important aspect of the deity to consider due to the fact that Ashkenazi’s Commentary specifically mentions the ‘dimension of time’ in the text. The festival of Saturnalia should also be kept in mind because this event was characterized by a reversion of social norms. These reversals are identical in principle to the backward paths explored during a Sathariel conjuration.

As stated earlier, words are an integral aspect of the liminal experience. just as Beth uttered in a Commentary can give rise to an interaction with the bile oozing melancholy of Sathariel, the power of the word both conceptualizes and provides an experiential aspect of the occult operation. It’s no surprise that ‘Abracadabra’ is supposedly an Aramaic phrase meaning, “I will create as I speak.” Along with Wisdom and the Will, the power of the Word is an avenue for entering a transitionary state.

Wisdom comes in many forms and through a number of ways. We often see wisdom in our elders and in generations long past. As an archetype, the recluse is always imbued with wisdom. We think of the Old Man alone in the womb cave meditating sixteen hours a day in order to reach enlightenment. Wisdom beckons us to explore our inner vision; to shed our dross shroud and become something anew. We think of the hermit wise one as a scarab- somebody who is self-conceived. The scarab beetle was long worshipped in ancient Egypt as a symbol of transformation and renewal. It is a very alchemic thought process. This creature lays its eggs and rolls dung around them to form balls. These balls hold the potentialities for life and as the beetle rolled them across the desert ground, they were equated with the Sun rolling across the sky. When the egg changed into larval form, the transformation was characterized as the god Khepera who is unknown and who more hidden than the other gods.[7]Like Khepera, the wise man is the scarab beetle that takes form and is a restorer of existence. Just as our wise man experiences a birthing due to inner transformation, the little scarab beetle tirelessly ensures that the sun will be re-created anew every night.  This is the wisdom of the magical operator. It is the wisdom of Khepera; the wisdom of the occultist.

There is also wisdom in the invisible work done between magicians and their conjured entities. As every occultist will attest, magic required work to maintain relations with the Other side. In fact, occultism itself is the opposite of negligence. A practicing occultist takes the care and gives the attention required to maintain spirit rapport. They work at it. The wise magician shows at least a prudent enough responsibility to be in contact with the entities he conjures. It might be something as simple as prayer or being in a mindful state. 
Whatever the case, there is wisdom in recognizing the invisible forces that drive both the operator and the deity. These forces might include the ambitions and fears of the operator. It might be their intuition or even madness. But in every case, the conjurer learns what he is made of from what he created. He is given the insights of his many mediations and the action they so deciduously engage. Human toil becomes the spark of wisdom in any occult exchange. As Mick Taussig has affirmed, the more you reveal the mechanisms necessary to invite the gods to the ceremony during an initiation, the more certain the divinities will be present.[8] It is in the work behind the scenes, in those seeds planted, that we cultivate the wisdom of interacting with the unseen.

[1] Schopenhauer. Die welt als Wille und Vorstellung, II 21; Samtliche Werke, Vol. 2. pp. 152-153
[2] Ibid
[3] Mircea Eliade. Birth and Rebirth. Harper and Brothers. New York. 1958. pp. 16
[4] Joshua Trachtenberg. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. Atheneum Press. 1987. pp. 81
[5] Gershom Scholem. Kabbalah. Meridian Publishing. New York. 1974. pp. 184
[6] Moshe Idel. Messianic Mystics. Yale University Press. New Haven. 1998. pp. 193
[7] Sir A.E. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. 2 volumes. Dover Publications. New York. 1969. 2:15
[8] Michael Taussig. Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative. Stanford University Press. 1999. 

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