Saturday, 26 November 2011

Saturnian vs. Venusian Magic

Looking back into 2011 there is a single unexpected realization that stands out for me. It is the stark contrast in most basic approaches to magic between German and British magic over the last century at least. 
Having been brought up in the tradition of German magic it took me more than a decade to realize this simple fact: Where much of British magic revolves around a central pole of workings on the inner realms and bringing through of inner contacts we almost find a complete absence of this concept in the German language tradition.
Let me illustrate this point more clearly: within the works of Dion Fortune, W.G. Gray, Gareth Knight, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and certainly Josephine McCarthy we find a concentration on inner works that is nowhere to be encountered in German magic during the last 100 years. What represents at least one of the core elements in one culture's magical tradition is completely absent in the other. Where in British magic the actual physical ritual only seems to be an expression of inner magic which requires manifestation on the outer realms - it is the most basic physical building block in the world where I come from. 
Mistaking the physical ritual for the actual work you set out to do as a magician is no small mistake to make. And clearly German magicians didn't get caught in this trap entirely. Just like in the British magic literature from 1900 until today we also find in German books long and elaborated explanations of the physical, astral and mental realms (or whichever names the author chose to give them) and how the work of the mage can take effect on and influence all three levels.
However, traveling and working on the inner realms in the language of the inner realms is nothing I ever came across in German magic. Even Pathworking never really made it into the educational books of the tradition I come from. Instead building up your tratak skills, bending candle flames by willpower, torturing your eyes until you see a glimmering hint of an aura and spending countless hours painting pentagrams into the dark of a room with the brush of your index finger are the bricks and mortar laid by a solid German Zelator instead...   
Where is the magic - in controlling the solid
or evoking the subtle?
While all the latter exercises are great - and very common Golden Dawn related - training for an aspiring magician they run an essential risk if learned in isolation. And that is to mistake the tracks you are hunting for the actual animal. 

The risk is to become so self-obsessed with the actual training, with the skills you gain, the mental power they yield and the (self-)control you continuously expand that you start to mistake these powers for the goal of magic itself. The risk is to become so self-absorbed with these early yet important stages of magic that you never move on. Because at some point all the hours you sat quietly in your asana, all the magical techniques you taught yourself, all the mechanisms of astral control you perfected, they turn into metal plates on the armor you created for yourself - which now keep from interacting with the living. 
"The magician uses his faith like the surgeon his scalpel." Many German fellow magicians will have grown up with this (in)famous axiom just like yours truly. Positioning total conscious control as the ultimate goal of the magical process seemed like the only possible road ahead... However, this short saying speaks volumes about the technical approach German magic takes on working with spiritual beings still today. The inner or spiritual realm has been degraded to a hidden bypass for affecting changes on the material realm. It has lost any value or interest in itself, becoming nothing but a medium to change matter in accordance with one's will. 
To me - having been brought up in this tradition magically - there is no difference to the way the scientists treat a monkey in a box, molecules in matter or brain waves of a patient from the way such Saturnian mages treat beings on the inner realms. They thrive of and are driven by a scientific and highly analytical desire for knowledge and control over power. The danger, however, is that this type of magic easily turns into the equivalent of genetic engineering: Both spirits and matter lose their souls, their dignitiy as living beings and the basic right to self-determine their course of actions and way of lives. As magicians of this type we will constantly expand our knowledge and power, and yet always remain utterly isolated. (And no wonder we will need some proper sex magick in the higher degrees to come back to life...)
But let's return to the initial question. Why is it that the magic that emerged from the German circles of Mussallam, Quintscher, Bardon, Gregorius, Spie├čberger, Duval and ultimately Frater U.D. almost completely lost its inner sight and contact? Why exactly is it that the extensive corpus of German language magic - unpublished even in German still in large parts - is of such an extraordinary technical or Saturnian approach to ritual magic? 
Well, let's use our thinking like a scalpel - or sawed off shotgun to be more honest - and throw out a few hypothesis: 
  • It's not only since Goethe that the story of Faust represents the archetype of any magician in German collective consciousness. The uncompromising, relentless strive for knowledge and insight stands as the central motive of the father figure of many German magicians who followed Faust.
  • 1928 Eugen Grosche (Gregor A. Gregorius) founded the most influential German speaking magical lodge to this date, Fraternitas Saturnis. Still going mostly unrecognized and overshadowed by the O.T.O in English speaking countries this lodge became the home and breeding ground for most of the German magical literature to be published in the decades to come. As the name of the lodge indicates its members are united by a strictly Saturnian approach to magic (even though the planet Saturn finds its own interpretation and occult analysis in their works).
  • Since the early late 19th century we can see an unbroken chain of important women in English magic. However, here is a distinct and embarrassing absence of woman in the German language magical tradition. In the entire era before the 1970s there is not a single native woman to be found who would have left a mark on magic in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
  • From a spiritual point of view the Second World War left Germany as destroyed and concaved on the inner realms as its bombed cities on the surface. Not only was the German Jewish tradition completely irrecoverably and utterly destroyed but so were most of the occult currents that had flown openly in the short period from the late 19th century to the 1930s. It's not unlikely that many inner contacts retreated from the land after this devastating experience. 
Clearly there are many more elements that could be called out here. Just think of the general reputation of Germans as engineers. Maybe we just carried on with what we knew best when entering the inner realms? 
May this as it be; it is the last of the bullet point above that gives me the creeps... Just think of the photos from the bombed cities in Dresden, Munich, Berlin, etc. What if on a spiritual level the rebuilding has never been completed - and all the darkness of these years is still stuck within the land? How much further healing work will it take to restore this country back to the beauty it deserves? 
Well, I always like to close on a positive note. So maybe a first small step away from an entirely Saturnian approach to magic could look like this? Each time we engage in magic we have a choice. We can continue to take a Saturnian approach - just like we might be used to as German magicians. Or we can do something new and chose its opposite; for lack of a better word let's call it Venusian
As so often in life it's the bridge between these two poles that will allow new and living forces to come through...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Simplify your Magic - or how to make dreams come true (part 2)

3) Clear out your altar. 

In magic every piece of natural substance is a vessel of spiritual force. In a world that delivers almost any spiritual artefact, substance or rare ingredient right in front of our doorsteps 24/7 our altars and homes can easily turn into Egyptian tombs filled with all sorts of dwellings of power... 

The difference though is that in Ancient Egypt every vessel was there for a reason, assigned to a specific deity, clearly confined in its dwelling and arranged in harmony with the objects around it. If you are skilled enough to achieve such a supreme level of inner consistency and spiritual harmony on your altar please disregard this tip. All others might want to consider to clear out their altars and homes of open and unguarded spirit vessels. Because if you don’t confine and assign them to specific beings they are an open invitation to whatever astral worms happen to crawl by looking for a place to feed of... 

Suggestion: In order to simplify your magic every object on your altar needs to be an expression of clear and present intend. Check your own skill level and determine how many vessels of present living force you can hold in your mind at the same time? Then get rid of all others. Bin them or wrap them in pure silk and store them away until it’s time for them to be filled and harvested.  

4) Allow time to work for you. 

In magic time can be perceived as a force that constantly creates patterns. These patterns can either be left to organize themselves or they can be leveraged as boundaries to our magical work. Time patterns are essentially cyclical. They tend to be organized around a central pole or theme. The season of the year revolve around the sun, the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon revolve around the earth and even a song revolves around a central theme... 

We can use these patterns of time to our advantage in magic. Our ancestors can teach us a lot about them... The first step, however, is to find out around which pole the patterns of your magical life revolve right now? 

Consciously leveraging cyclical patterns of time on your journey can be hugely beneficial: Significant power will flow from attuning your body and mind to a specific rhythm of actions. Perform a small devotional rite, a gesture or exercise each morning at the same time, then close the circle by repeating it at night. When successful, expand the rhythm to embrace a whole week. Open the week with one exercise and close it again seven days later. Then go on to embrace a month, a season and finally a year or whole period of your life.

Suggestion: In order to simplify your magic start working actively with the patterns of time. Establishing a central theme or pole around which a period of time can revolve around will allow nature to actively support your workings. Living in tune with the tides of time is both an act of passive devotion as well as of active engagement. Thus attuning your magic to a rhythm of cyclical works can become a significant catalyst to your work. 

5) Train your patience.

In magic we all remain students for a lifetime. That's why there is absolutely no need to rush through things. Remember the length of your journey as well as the fact that you encounter many experiences and rites only once on your path. 

How often is it that only looking backwards we realize how significant certain moments in the past were for who we became since then? Taking the time to be present and to allow the moment to last until it is truly over seems to have become a rare skill among adepts - myself included. Still, there is an intimate relationship between us and every moment of magic we experience. Someone once said to me: Maybe we are afraid to stay in the present moment because it would be both risky and erotic? If we only allowed it to it would capture all our senses like a lover and start engaging with us like a living being... 

One way of developing this crucial skill can be to keep a list of all the wonderful ideas, sparks and innovations about your magic to come. Yet not to allow them to distract yourself from the work you are already involved in. Some might capture such a list at the end of their magical diaries. Others might write each idea down, then put it in an envelope and send it to themselves in order to be stored away until the time is right.

Suggestion: in order to simplify your magic allow yourself to be patient with the work you are carrying out. In magic just in life things will go downhill once we try to speed up the harvest. Just look at all the chemical fertilizers that pollute our land... Considering the length of your lives journey the moments where it takes true powerful magic to be performed will be special and rare. Seed these moments with patience and care. Then wait for them to unfold and help the seedlings to turn into trees.


Well, I thought about one more thing for this post. Yet, rather than another way to simplify magic it seems to be more of an underlying principle that holds true for all 5 steps above?

If I had to give it a name I'd call it: Safe energy. Avoid standbys. Actually it is just the same principle we are already being told over and over again by the green eco-movement: When leaving the house ensure the heater is off, the radio is out, the lights are switched off and - most important of all - all electronic devices with a standby button are fully unplugged. 

Standby clearly is one of the most stupid ideas ever invented in technology - looking simple and clean on the surface yet swallowing huge amount of resources in the background. However, just as we often fail to recognize this when dealing with technical devices we often miss that the same principle doesn't get any better if we apply it to our everyday lives...

Once we have set a magical act into motion it deserves to be finished. At all costs. Every circle opened deserves to be closed. If we think we can put this process on standby we might be surprised to find that in magic things tend to take on a life of its own if left to themselves... In which case the line of a circle might become the beginning of a maze - or even worse - the strap around your neck.

May the serpent always bite its tail.  

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Simplify your Magic - or how to make dreams come true (part 1)

For a start let's consider this: each new thing we chose to buy is a new friend we invite to live with us. A new friend who moves in with us and for whom we should care. Each thing we acquire has a right to lead a life of its own. It will dwell with us in our house and be around us for years - wether its a pair of shoes, new cutlery, a DVD or a book. Each choice comes with a commitment: to take ownership, to be present and to provide support. 

I guess in the long run consumption can turn out to be much more work than we think? If we don't watch it closely at some point it will lead to a house full of friends... and with almost no space left for ourselves. 

Earlier this year I shared a post about Less Creation, more Integration. The last months came with some very interesting and pretty painful lessons. Yet they taught me how to  simplify my magic.

Here is the basic choice: if you dream small you will be okay with doing a lot of small things at the same time. Small things have the tendency to be okay with other small things around them. It might get a bit messy in your living room or life at some point. But then small things are quick to clean up or to throw away, to finish off or to start afresh... 

If, however, you tend to dream big you will either a) have a lot of big dreams at the same time and achieve none or b) painfully learn how to focus your energy, attention and creativity. 

This as well as the following posts in this small series is written for all magicians who fall under the latter category. Or to be more precise, for all the ones who think they fall under the latter, but on close observation aren't really quite there yet... like yours truly. 

The beauty as well as the challenge with big dreams is that it takes a lot of work to turn them into reality. Nothing more but also nothing less: solid, pure, raw, hard work. Everything is possible if we can concentrate our energy long enough. Actually, this is how we get the most from the energy that will be given to us over a life-time: purely by focussing it, by simplifying everything else around it and by keeping it concentrated on the next adjacent big goal on our life's journey. For as long as it takes.

At the end of the day we have all the freedom we can imagine. Everything is and can be possible. As long as we can concentrate our energy, attention and creativity long enough. And keep it focussed until our dream or magic is fulfilled.

Here are a few things that can take some of the pain out of this learning process. Consider it a 'blister pad' on your life's journey towards your own pure, raw and beautiful form of magic. It could be much more than that - but the reality is we only turn so much into action of what we read on blogs in a day... Either way, some big magical dreams might come true from it eventually. Chances are high they won't without...


1) Focus your devotion. 

In magic the power source of all our actions is limited: it is the determined intend with which we untertake our rites. In a world where everything promises instant access and gratification the word commitment sounds old-fashioned and is something we easily get unused to...  So let me take the opposite view: If you approach your magical life like a series of one night stands how much commitment will that evoke in the the spirits you work with? 

Even if for a short period of our lives only - a series of months, a series of weeks - every magical rite deserves to be fueled by our complete devotion at that particular point in time. Just like a woman can only be pregnant with one father’s child at any point in time. When we set out to work with the land, the ancestors, a certain rank of spirits they all equally deserve our full devotion. Our intent is the womb and our body is the athanor through which our magical offsprings are born. It's our choice that decides how 'intact' they will enter this world. 

Suggestion: In order to simplify your magic focussing your devotion can be a great first step. If your heart’s intend was a compass where does its needle point towards - and how stable will it be once you set in motion to get there?

2)  Plan with the end in mind. 

In magic a lot has been said and written about our True Will. The compass needle of our heart’s intend is just another word for it. If you are advanced enough on your journey, if your inner listening skills have developed sufficiently this point to simplify your magic will be of little use to you. For all others like me it is crucial. 

Despite all the talking about our True Will little has been written on how to actually discover it - practically and hands-on I mean. For me I discovered it on my journey almost by accident and - like with a broken radio - still lose the signal ever so often. The voice I hear is crackling and fades in and out all the times, different speakers overlap... But at least I know where to find the radio and am learning how to tune it. Finding it, however, was a pure by-product of the rites I undertook. 

So until you have found and learned to listen to it you need something else that helps you identify the right course of action... Why? Because to start with we all need to cut a path through the fickle voices of our everyday desires, our ego-wishes, our dreams of power and public prominence and the barricades and barriers put up by our own guardians of the  threshold. The blade that cuts through all of this is called determination

I guess that's the paradox every learner has to experience themselves: until you find that place where your heart speaks in truth you cannot trust your inner voices. So to escape the maze of inner voices you will need to set a clear path - and then simply follow it. 

Suggestion: In order to simplify your magic planning with the end in mind is hugely helpful. Once you have set your course be determined to work through all steps necessary, one by one, come what might to get to your goal. Just like in life in magic you are entitled to nothing until you have earned it.

:: to be continued ::