Monday, 25 April 2011

Paracelsus' Dream

In a recent post I already mentioned I had been fortunate enough to visit Heidelberg and Speyer recently. We had decided to go there to celebrate the successful exams of my wife as well as to visit the exhibition of a rediscovered Egyptian Magical Papyrus. However, it was by pure chance we discovered that the ruins of the famous Heidelberg castle - located on a beautiful hill overlooking the small town - house the German Pharmacy Museum in a large underground floor. 

Two steps in and I was left utterly speechless and awestruck. These rooms are nothing short of being Paracelsus' dream: a complete exhibition of 17th to 19th century pharmaceutical officina, laboratory, collection and medicaments. Everything you ever wished for to prepare your magical incenses, planetary talismans, divine sacrifices and alchemical remedies - it was right in front of my eyes.

Here is a short quote from the official webpage of the museum on the exhibition:

"With the help of an exceptional collection of valuable drugs of the 17th to the 19th century you‘ll find the basis of pharmaceutical production in 28 show cases. More than 1000 exhibits of raw materials are representing the range of medical substances of this period: the “materia medica”.

There are long forgotten miracle cures like unicorn, mummy, or the universal remedy called “theriac” containing opium and more than 200 other ingredients. This imposing collection takes the visitor back to times long gone by. The room is divided into the three “kingdoms of nature” (regnae naturae) according to the historical classification: the kingdoms of minerals, of plants, and of animals."

So here we are: from a full blown alchemical laboratory you can find everything down to the famous Mumia, fake remedies such as crystalline Unicorn bones or carved Alraune puppets.

The photos below give you an impression - and hopefully bring Heidelberg up in your magical vacation plans for the years to come. If you want to see more pictures of this outstanding place just follow me to the photo section on

Here is to all the wonderful things we discover by chance.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fuck resurrection - let's love the flawed

Fuck Resurrection. No better day to clarify this than today: If I think I need anybody or anything to be resurrected to deserve my love, fuck my love. What's my love worth if I wait for the flawless to receive it? Waiting to love the flawless is not only immature but the best way to never love at all. In a world that is completely flawed sharing our love despite of all the flaws within us is the best thing we have. Loving Zombie Jesus after he returned from the grave is for lotus-eaters and sissies. It reminds me of someone waiting for someone else to prove them that magic works - before they start finding out themselves. Sometimes magic doesn't work at all, often times it is the best way to fuck things really up and very rarely it is the silver bullet to a problem that otherwise seemed unsolvable.

Let's not wait for resurrection to make the world live up to our foolish expectations. The world isn't here to do something for us, but we are here to do something for it. Every day that I've held back my love from someone, is a day lost. Every day I waited for someone to be proven wrong and thus change and get closer to the ideal that deserves my love, is another day wasted in vain. Love is the best thing I have to give. It is what heals. And if I am afraid to share it with what needs healing, it cannot do its job. Love belongs to any place where it cannot come to live on its own. Where it is sprouting already, there is no need to seed again.

Above all what we need these days is the ability to instantly reimagine, not the patience to wait for resurrection. What we need is rare quality to reinvent, to take out reality filters, to break down ideals and concepts and theories, to not cling on to traditions, but to take a new look at what could be if we only allow it to. I say reimagine, don't wait to resurrect.

Just in case you need some ritual help on breaking down existing confines, here is a nice place to go an visit... Last week my wife and I had the privilege to see Heidelberg and Speyer. In the Middle Ages Speyer used to be one of the most important Jewish centers in Europe before the Jewish community was wiped out in 1349 entirely. From these ancient days still remain the recently rediscovered remains of the synagogue as well as the fully intact ritual bath cave, Mikveh dating back to as early as 1126. 

I have been to the crumbling remains of Crowley's Abbey in Cefalu, to vibrant churches in Krakow, to temples in India and watched the pillars of ancient Persepolis in Iran on the first sunrise in the year 2000. Yet I have to say - if you want to see a living ritual place that still breathes the power and spirit of a community lost long ago, this is the place to go. 

You are taken down into the underground bath house on long stone stairs. At their end is a room with a small alcove to your left and a double-arch window in front of you allowing your view to enter the central chamber where daylight from above reaches down to the natural water-basin fed by groundwater. To your right opens another rolling staircase leading down to and disappearing in the natural stone water pond that fills the entire ground of the central chamber. 

It was here that people went to regain the freedom to reimagine their lives and themselves. They walked down into this dark cold underground water and immersed themselves in it completely. They held their breath, allowed the coldness to pierce through their body, through their minds and to pervade them. What a strange feeling this must have been: to be in a stone cave in the middle of your ancient city, submersed in the cold dark water and allowing its love to take over every cell in your body. A cold dark water love, leaving nothing behind but stillness. When they reemerged, light coming down from above, reaching out to the stone stairs, finding their way back up, leaving wet stains on the stone they were ready for a new day. Certainly reimagined, maybe resurrected.

The difference between the two is: while I might need to wait for resurrection, I can reimagine anytime. Everything deserves my love. I might need a bath in a cold dark Mikveh to be ready for it... But what's holding me back is myself, nothing else. It's certainly not the flaws of the world around me. If it was for that, I'd have never experienced a moment of love myself. We all deserve being loved, being drowned in the cold dark water of acceptance. And reemerge, all memories gone, a new day. 

Let's love the living, let's love the flawed.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Language of Wisdom - or when did we lose our hearts?

I am currently reading Josephine McCarthy's wonderful book Magical Knowledge, Vol.II. It is such a seminal work. It allows me to take a completely new perspective on the ground rules of magic... Once I am more grounded in her work and exercises I will share a longer review. Yet, there is one particular thought that came back again and again while reading the first half of the book. So I started to compare with the armada of 'training' books on magic I had read before. And wondered why this thought had never come up before? Here is what I found...

Jeeez - when did I lose my heart?
Looking at most modern training books on magic and curricula of the schools of magic it is striking how little time we spend understanding the language of our hearts. There once was a time when the heart was considered the source of life and a well of wisdom. Yet for some reasons these days are long ago now.... Today we can observe a striking neglect of the matters of the heart in most magical education and training courses. It almost seems we deliberately started to avoid our hearts in the equation of (magical) skill building? Maybe we fear involving our hearts will necessarily lead to a watered down New Age cult? Or a "love and light and peace" philosophy that doesn't pay due respect to the nightside of life? Whatever the reasons are, it's a matter of fact: Our hearts turned from wells of wisdom into minefields, avoided by the battling troops for efficiency and efficacy of magical growth. 

So how did we get here?

To me there is a rather clear point in time when this change was initiated: Understanding and educating our hearts crumbled as a central pillar of magical growth when its name was replaced by its alter ego, the subconscious. Let me explain this idea: Two developments overlapped towards the end of the 20th century. The industrialization had created a new and rather mechanical understanding of the occult. Telepathy was compared to radio waves and mental powers were explained by magnetism. Many occult thought leaders shifted from a spirit model to a rather mechanical model of energy and magnetism. We can find this shift as early as with Eliphas Levi who mentioned in his "Doctrine of Transcendental Magic" that everything is made of matter, every thought and every subtle force. Things are simply differentiated by the subtleness of substance, yet they all respect the same mechanical laws of gravity, attraction and rejection:

"Spiritual and corporeal are simply terms which express
the degrees of tenuity or density in substance."
(Levi, p.42)

Only a few decades later the field of modern psychology emerged and offered a new language that started to erase the knowledge of power and wisdom of our hearts: What had been called our mind became our consciousness, and our heart and inner demons were merged behind the veil of subconscious. Between the bi-polar forces of consciousness and subconscious a complex dynamic was introduced, which turned out to be so obscure that it took a whole field of study and research to explore it - and more than a lifetime for an individual to understand it. The entrance to the simple well of wisdom in our hearts had been thoroughly sealed.

Looking back this shift in language and perspective seems so obvious yet so daunting that it is hard to understand why it wasn't realized more clearly?

Imagine sitting at a dinner table. The third course is just being served... suddenly there is a new guest at your dinner table. He calls himself subconscious. Without a word of apologies he takes the seat of your heart - and acts as if he had been part of the family all along, taking all things for granted. Strangely enough, since he arrived all the candle flames died and someone turned on the electric lights. The whole atmosphere changed. Yet nobody says a word and you all continue eating... With the advent of your new guest things became rational and straight forward. The heart has left the table and with it seemingly all emotions have left the room: Where your heart speaks of love and affection, of desire and pain, the subconscious displays rational graphs of mathematical equations. Here you are, trading emotive authenticity for rational explanations. Trading the authentic reality of emotions you can actually experience yourself for an abstract reality that is inaccessible to your bodily senses. In a single moment your emotions turned into ghosts, they became expressions of subconscious mechanisms that could all be perfectly explained and engineered - if only the light of consciousness shone bright enough on them... 

To put it simply: it is your heart that breaks and your subconscious that acts irrational. The former can get hurt, the later needs engineering; the former uses the language of beings, the later the language of machines. What a simple trick to put your heart under the domain of your mind. What a simple move to relocate and lock down the well of wisdom from your heart behind the veil of subconsciousness.

So what do we do next? 

Here is a thought: What happened if you squeezed in another chair, made some space and invited the heart back to the table while keeping the subconscious there as well? I know, looking back at the last 100 years it's fair to assume that this will make for a lot of trouble at your table. I guess these two don't get along very well? Imagine a view on reality that accepted emotions as authentic and unique expressions of our hearts, while similarily accepting the subconscious as the secret board room of our minds and hearts? Speaking in the language of beings and machines at once doesn't make for good dinner conversations... 

So let's try a trick: Whoever sits at your table, how ever many chairs you bring in, whatever light you use, candles or light bulbs, there is one thing that always remains the same. And that's you. You are sitting at this table, watching lights change, watching beings being replaced by machines and machines sitting next to beings. Meanwhile you have a sip of wine, sit back and listen and watch. And what you discover watching the craziness of this dinner is this: There are different guests at your table, different voices, different seats being taken. They all speak to you at different times and you chat along. And some conversations are more meaningful than others. It's not about your guests, but more about yourself. Sometimes you feel connected: You feel a bond, you are involved as a whole human being, you have a vested interest, you are emotional and rational and irrational all in one conversation. And sometimes you do not connect. Sometimes the conversation remains artificial. You keep on talking for a while until the words fade out organically... 

For me this fade out, this disconnect happens when someone addresses me in the language of machines. If I am addressed in a language that isn't accessible to my personal experience as a human being, to the subjective reality of my little mind - I instantly lose interest. If conversations at my dinner table turn theoretical and abstract, that's when I turn back to my glass of wine and flip my 'bullshit switch' on. I disengage.

What is the language that keeps you engaged? How do you need to be addressed to be truly involved in a conversation? How does one need to talk to you to affect you, to pierce through your mind and heart, your consciousness and subconsciousness at all once, to create a moment of true presence? That's when the well of wisdom opens and a current starts flowing freely. May it be initiated by your heart, your subconscious, your inner demons or a just another guest without a name yet...

Some of us might need to be addressed in the language of beings. Others prefer to speak in the language of machines. Others again will find languages I haven't discovered yet, they will put new chairs at the table and welcome more guests. Reality is what we make of it: We can chose to speak in the language of beings, of machines, of spirits, of energy or information. They are all of equal value. What determines their subjective value is how well they allow us to have a meaningful conversation.

So I guess the language of wisdom is a subjective experience. It is what happens when we truly engage. It doesn't have any letters, grammar or spelling. It cannot be taught or searched for, it can only be encountered. It is what happens in the space between. In between I and Thou. In between you and me.

We just finished desert. I am relaxed and tired from the long meal. I can see the candles have been lit again. Opposite me my heart is chatting to my subconscious. I don't hear what they are saying. There is a veil of sweetness and peacefulness on my mind. What a wonderful night. Something good is going on. I don't need to be in control. I am just another guest at this table...

...someone has put on music. I take a sip of wine, I sit back and listen.
There has been but one true love
In my baby's arms, in my baby's arms
And I got the hands to hold onto them
I get sick of just about everyone
And I hide in my baby's arms
'Cause except for her, you know, as I've implied
I will never ever ever be alone
'Cause it's all in my baby's hands
Shiny, shiny secret stones
In my baby's hands
I get sick of just about everyone 
And I hide in my baby's arms
Shrink myself just like a tom thumb
And I hide in my baby's hands
'Cause except for her
There just ain't nothing to latch onto
There has been but one true love
In my baby's arms

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Hagith Speaks - on Love and Sickness

Hey, this is a tough topic. If you need some company while reading, maybe try this.

This week magick taught me something essential on afflictions and sickness. Actually this is something I would have never understood without the interference of the Olympic Spirit of Hagith. I guess you know these moments when your consciousness takes a leap of faith and takes a perspective that was completely unknown to you before? Let me share how Hagith created such a moment for me last Sunday...

During the Arbatel ritual of Hagith she had asked for a sacrifice in form of bringing down her powers and binding them into earth. I had followed this wish on the subsequent day and started to understand how our HGA can help draw down planetary forces. For some reason I felt compelled to repeat this process more than once. I wanted to learn more about this technique and also to show appropriate devotion to Hagith, as she had shard so many valuable insights with me during the ritual. So last Sunday I went back into my temple, calmed my mind with my standard meditation, went into union with my HGA and allowed his body to cover the ground around me like a large blanket of light. Then - jut like before - I called down the forces of Hagith by singing her psalm 22:14: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the middle of my bowels."

Immediately on intoning the psalm my heart opened like a gate, my voice broke and tears rushed into my eyes. I was overwhelmed by the intesity of the emotions and continued to sing her psalm, concentrating not to break into tears for reasons I didn't know and didn't dare to control...

When Hagith's forces had established a stable connection with the body of my angel, I felt her white light rushing down through the skies, entering the surface of the body of my angel and disappear into the soil of earth. I felt the circle of light around me expanding and starting to include meadows and houses and neighbors and animals and people and plants surrounding me... - Then, while still singing to Hagith a deep understanding of the nature of sickness dawned on me. To be honest, I have no idea where this came from. My best guess is that during this moment I was caught in a healing process that was much larger than myself - the lights of Hagith streaming down into a sore earth, a planet that desperately needs more TLC than we are willing to return.

Here is what Hagith said: The key to overcome illnesses is not to want it to go away. The key to healing is to accept sickness. Maybe I am stating the obvious for more experienced healers, but this is some mind-bending truth for my little brain! Here is how she continued: When a sickness enters my body it is looking for shelter. It is looking for a place to rest, to be what it is and to transform slowly into something it needs to become. Our body and our minds are the places for this transformation to take place, our bodies are the athanors in which the alchemy of affliction is accomplishing its great work.

Fermentation - the fifth operation in the Great Work
comes to my mind. Physiologically it is the rousing
of living energy in the body to heal and vivify.
Up to this day I had always believed the key to healing is to foster the process of healing with all means and resources available. That healing occurs when we can actively hinder the forces of illness to spread and expand. Now, I still know very little about healing, but Hagith clearly disagreed with this. The comparison she gave me was that of an animal shelter: If you are a keeper of an animal shelter it is your job to open the gates for animals that are all in a horrible shape. They look ugly, they are ugly, they are close to dying and stink and disgust all your senses. But they are what they are - and what they need most at this point in their miserable lives is a place to be loved.

During the rite Hagith had taught me that love is a tool that opens and that life is the seed that follows. It seems she wants me to understand that this even applies to sickness? She wants me to love my sickness and to use my body as an animal shelter - just in case there is a near-dead creature in front of my gates. If I accept this - as this is just the understanding of sickness from a single Olympic Spirit's point of view - the goal of my body isn't any longer to be a fortress of health and beauty. But it is to be an alchemical athanor that allows transformation of matter and states. Some of these transformations are beautiful and some of them are incredibly painful and invidious. I guess nobody ever promised loving would be easy? It might even mean giving up my body to a force that needs sheltering and a place to recover.

What I learned during this rite of sacrifice is exactly this: There is no space which we should call our own except for the spark of light that we are. We share our minds, we share our bodies, we share our consciousness with all the forces around us. Often this sharing doesn't require us at all to be active. Loving doesn't need us to be in control. We simply need to rest, to accept what needs happening and to continue to believe in the power of the vessel that we are... If a larvae covers itself in the ground, if a grub climbs on a bush and solidifies on a branch, the only thing it needs is a place to be safe. A place that allows for magic to unfold. When I am sick I am exactly this - the soil that shelters a larvae, the branch that shelters a grub. The animal shelter that just took in a new guest...

I guess at the very end our role in healing is quite simple: We need to be present and let love run through us like a river. We need to endure the state of being sick, of being incomplete, of being part of a change that happens on us. At some point the work will be done. A process concludes, a butterfly appears, an old shape crumbles. It didn't take a moment of worries, of sorrow, of being at our wits ends for this magic to happen. How it happened or what the result of this process will be, we don't need to know. Luckily our body is just the athanor and not the alchemist.

Now, here is one more point: What about all of us with terminal illnesses, with severe disabilities and animals to shelter that are more than we think we can take? Maybe the above is disrespectful to all the pains we are being forced through? Maybe there is a point where some animals need killing as they will infect others? Maybe there is a point where the animal shelter needs a pause and needs to recover from overuse?  Of course my answer is that I don't know. I only know what Hagith told me: Each sickness needs a place for healing. A place where it can rest, stretch out for a while and is allowed to be what it is: a symbol of change. Only then can healing occur. 

After the healing took place the sickness might still be with us. Some animals never leave the shelter and all severe illnesses change the people they encounter. So I guess the goal of a healing process is not always for the illness to disappear. But for the change it came to start to take place and transform. It is not us who define the outcome of an encounter with sickness. We are the soil and the branch the grub clings on to - we are not the butterfly that emerges. We are a place of events, we are a space for encounters and sometimes for transformations.

Maybe this is what made me cry while singing to Hagith? What a bitter truth to accept - that we do not own our bodies. The best we can do is to love the strangers who drop by to visit and allow them to become friends... I always thought loving is much more easy than this. True love seems to want me to let go of everything - my own body included. What a bitter truth, what a wonderful thing to strive for.  

Well, here am I stuttering around, when we have the beautiful Damien Jurado who seems to find all the words just so easily. Over to someone who knows how love and sickness intertwine...

I wish that I could float
Float up from the ground
I will never know
What that's like

You have a way about you
I wish that I had
Thought it was impossible
To live and love like you

Funny how we all can change
If we just try to
Thought it was impossible
To live and love like you

One day you will be taller
Taller than the sky
Until that day you will be

Here with us below
Magic will do what magic does
Living in your eyes
Do you think someday soon
You will have the time?

I could use another hand
To help pull me through
Someday these hospital stays
Get the best of me

Trying to fix my mind
Still trying to fix my mind
Trying to work it out
I'm still trying to fix my mind

Still trying to fix my mind
I'm still trying to fix my mind