Thursday, 29 March 2012

Initiation and the Absolute

The essence of an overwhelming initiation has an elitist character and the power to distinguish the higher initiated man or woman from the ordinary uninitiated man or woman. The difference is the natural effect that magic has. For the ordinary uninitiated man, knowledge is restricted to the senses and their finite sphere of operation of accidental character that directly experiences the phenomena and then assumes the existence of the noumenon within a framework of concepts and relations of an abstract character. However, the higher initiated man or woman undergoes the antithesis of experiencing the abstract in a pragmatic way. Experiencing the sensible is merely one perception of reality that the higher initiated man possesses. Initiation corresponds, transforms, and arranges in a hierarchical fashion levels of perception of absoluteness with the experience of the phenomenal belonging to a certain degree of experience, whereas that of the Absolute is only accessible to the higher initiated man. As far as the measure of ‘absoluteness’ is concerned, Evola wrote,

One may say approximately that it is determined by the degree of ‘active identification’, namely by the degree according to which the Self is implicated and unified in its experience, and according to which its object is transparent to it in terms of a ‘meaning’. In correspondence to these degrees, the hierarchy proceeds from ‘sign’ to ‘sign’, from ‘name’ to ‘name’, until it reaches a state of perfect, superrational, intellectual vision, of full actualization or realization of the object in the Self and the Self in the object. This is a state of power and of absolute evidence… There is an ancient saying according to which one did not join the ancient Mysteries in ‘to learn’, but rather in order to achieve a sacred state through deep experience.[1]

From the perspective of the initiatic process, ‘to know’ equates with ‘being the known object’, a realisation that extends when one’s consciousness is transformed by active identification, which is not a mystical and emotive state, but an essential and supra-rational one. The transformation of one’s consciousness also parallels the acquisition of power as the consequence of active identification with a cause conferring power over that same cause. According to this active and experiential initiatic principle, knowledge and experience are the same. This process of initiation is what established the differences between human beings and reaffirming the principle of ‘each to their own’ where one’s ideals and freedom are proportional to what one is.

[1] Ea, ‘The Nature of Initiatic Knowledge’, in Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus, by Julius Evola and the Gruppo di UR, 2001, page. 27.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dualism and a Cosmic War

 William Blake, The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for the Possession of a Child, 1795.

Despite the efforts of various scholars down through the ages endeavouring to provide a tradition for dualist renditions of the universe, the particular emanations of dualist thought still remain aloof to biased revisions and broad generalisations that either celebrate or condemn. Although the term ‘dualism’ denotes the existence of the state of two parts in the form of binary opposition, the manner in which this idea finds expression differentiates itself to the extent of both embracing opposing doctrines and transcending them. The reason for this is due to the fact that dualism has a different application in philosophical, historical, and cosmological contexts.  The term ‘dualism’, as a distinct area of description for the religious tradition of Manichaeism, was introduced by Thomas Hyde in 1700 and then further introduced by Christian Wolff to define philosophical systems that relate to the mind and body as two distinct entities. However, the use of the term ‘dualism’ in philosophical discourse differs greatly from its examination within a religious context with cosmological and historical references. Although many have argued that dualism within a religious context is the rite of passage from polytheism to monotheism, or a rebellious outcry against monotheistic cosmology, studies in individual religious traditions that have and continue to express dualist tendencies demonstrate that these tendencies exist in polytheistic, monotheistic, and monistic religious traditions, either as metaphysical expressions on the margins or inherent doctrines within the core structure of the religious tradition.

The essence of religious dualism usually manifests in the cosmic battle between the forces of good and light against the minions of evil and darkness, which exists as an all-embracing conflict defining arcane mechanisms of the universe. In some traditions, such as Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, this cosmic struggle is between two distinct and coeternal principles, and the battle is everlasting, for it is the very definition of the universe itself. In more moderate dualistic traditions, such the Gnostic school of Valentinianism, the source of evil and darkness is inferior to the principle of good and light, with the former being an extension of the latter. Some dualist traditions have an eschatological dimension, where at the end of time a purification of the world will take place and all evil will be vanquished. A final difference that takes place between various dualist religious schools is the way in which creation is conceived. In cosmic dualism, such as Zoroastrianism, the created world is not conceived as evil, but instead as a creation of the good principle that has been assaulted by the forces of evil and darkness. However, in more anti-cosmic dualist systems, as presented in the mythologies of some Gnostic schools, the created world is seen as a creation of the Demiurge who opposes the good and light principle that resides within the domain of spirit.

In relation to the diverse types of dualism that can be found in polytheistic, monotheistic and monistic religious traditions, Stoyanov writes,
In certain religious traditions diverse types of dualism could coalesce and appear in torturous combinations with monotheistic and polytheistic conceptions. What is more, within the framework of the development of some religious traditions, there can be detected a transition from dualist tendencies or notions of duality to the dualism of the irreconcilable cosmic opposites or a reversal of this process – a neutralization of the dualist elements implicit or developed in earlier stages of religion.[1]

[1] Yuri Stoyanov, The Other God – Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy, 2000, page. 5.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Mithraic Spell

"First origin of my origin, ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ, first beginning of my beginning, ΠΠΠ ΣΣΣ ΦΡΕ, spirit of spirit, the first of the spirit in me, ΜΜΜ, fire given by god to my mixture of the mixtures in me, the first of the fire in me, ΗΥ ΗΙΑ ΕΗ, water of water, the first of the water in me, ΩΩΩ ΑΑΑ ΕΕΕ, earthy material, the first of the earthy material in me, ΥΗ ΥΩΗ, my complete body, I..., whose mother is…, which was formed by a noble arm and an incorruptible right hand in a world without light and yet radiant, without soul and yet alive with soul, ΥΗΙ ΑΥΙ ΕΥΩΙΕ: now if it be your will, ΜΕΤΕΡΤΑ ΦΩΘ ΙΕΡΕΖΑΘ, give me over to immortal birth and, following that, to my underlying nature, so that, after the present need which is pressing me exceedingly, I may gaze upon the immortal beginning with the immortal spirit, ΑΝΧΡΕΦΡΕΝΕΣΟΥΦΙΡΙΓΧ, with the immortal water, ΕΡΟΝΟΥΙ ΠΑΡΑΚΟΥΝΗΘ, with the most steadfast air, ΕΙΟΑΗ ΨΕΝΑΒΘΩ; that I may be born again in thought, ΚΡΑΟΧΡΑΞ Ρ ΟΙΜ ΕΝΑΡΧΟΜΑΙ, and the sacred spirit may breathe in me, ΝΕΧΘΕΝ ΑΡΟΤΟΥ ΝΕΧΘΙΝ ΑΡΠΙ ΗΘ; so that I may wonder at the sacred fire, ΚΥΦΕ; that I may gaze upon the unfathomable, awesome water of the dawn, ΝΥΩ ΘΕΣΩ ΕΧΟ ΟΥΧΙΕΧΩΑ,and the vivifying and encircling aither may hear me, ΑΡΝΟΜΗΘΦ; for today I am about to behold, with immortal eyes – I, born mortal from mortal womb, but transformed by tremendous power and an incorruptible right hand and with immortal spirit, the immortal Aion and master of the fiery diadems – I, sanctified through holy consecrations – while there subsists within me, holy, for a short time, my human soul-might, which I will again receive after the present bitter and relentless necessity which is pressing down on me – I…, whose mother is…, according to the immutable decree of god, ΕΥΗ ΥΙΑ ΕΗΙ ΑΩ ΕΙΑΥ ΙΥΑ ΙΕΩ. Since it is impossible for me, born mortal, to rise with the golden brightness of the immortal brilliance, ΩΗΥ ΑΕΩ ΗΥΑ ΕΩΗ ΥΑΕ ΩΙΑΕ, stand O perishable nature of mortals, and at once receive me safe and sound after the inexorable and pressing need. For I am the son ΨΥΧΩΝ ΔΕΜΟΥ ΠΡΟΧΩ ΠΡΩΑ, I am ΜΑΧΑΡΦ Ν ΜΟΥ ΠΡΩΨΥΧΩΝ ΠΡΩΕ."[1]

[1] PGM IV. 490-535.

To the Moon

Selene driving Pegasi-chariot, Athenian red-figure kylix, fifth century B.C.E.

The Fumigation from Aromatics.

“Hear, Goddess queen, diffusing silver light, bull-horn'd and wand'ring thro' the gloom of Night.
With stars surrounded, and with circuit wide Night's torch extending, thro' the heav'ns you ride:
Female and Male with borrow'd rays you shine, and now full-orb'd, now tending to decline.
Mother of ages, fruit-producing Moon [Mene], whose amber orb makes Night's reflected noon:
Lover of horses, splendid, queen of Night, all-seeing pow'r bedeck'd with starry light.
Lover of vigilance, the foe of strife, in peace rejoicing, and a prudent life:
Fair lamp of Night, its ornament and friend, who giv'st to Nature's works their destin'd end.
Queen of the stars, all-wife Diana hail! Deck'd with a graceful robe and shining veil;
Come, blessed Goddess, prudent, starry, bright, come moony-lamp with chaste and splendid light,
Shine on these sacred rites with prosp'rous rays, and pleas'd accept thy suppliant's mystic praise.”[1]

[1] Translated by Thomas Taylor, 1792.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Down There

Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony,  1495-1515.

A truly dark undercurrent penetrating Western religious imagination, from the era before Christ up until this very day and age, has been the nightmarish fantasy of sexual license and the perversion of sacred ritual. The effects of the anguish by the presence of such a nightmare can be seen in merciless attacks on the Gnostics, the massacre of the Cathars, and the persecution of the Templars, yet never fully manifesting until the conjuration of the unholy principles and aesthetics of the Black Mass inverting the Holy Eucharistic through sin, violence, and ungodly sexuality.

By the nineteenth century, images and tales of Black Masses had possessed European literary and popular imagination, with the most choreographed and perpetuating literary rendition of the Black Mass being that of Joris-Karl Huysmans presented in his classic decadent novel Là Bas. According to Urban,

Increasingly interested in the occult arts, witchcraft, and Satanism, Huysmans allegedly sought out a series of guides to lead him to the Black Mass. There is a great deal of controversy as to whether Huysmans ever did in fact witness a Black Mass or whether he simply fabricated the event and embellished the already long history of Western fantasies of satanic ritual.[1]

According, Huysmans’ personal account is that he did witness the Black Mass, where he had encountered Abbé Van Haecke, whom he believed was the “greatest Satanist of all times, the Gilles de Rais of the nineteenth century.”[2] Huysmans also made the acquaintance another controversial character who openly confessed to blasphemy and illicit sex through his Society of the Reparation of Souls, the defrocked priest Abbé Boullan. In his book, the Temple of Satan, Stanislas de Guaita described him as a “pontiff of infamy, a base idol of the mystical Sodom, a magician of the worst type, a wretched criminal, an evil sorcerer, and the founder of an infamous sect.”[3] In 1889, Huysmans heard about Boullan and sought him out in order to learn more in regards to the occult. Boullan denied that he was a Satanist, but did confess that he was a master of incubi and succubi. Both Boullan and van Haecke appear fictionalised in his book, with the former being the learned priest, Dr Johannes, whilst the latter appearing as the sinister and defrocked priest, Canon Docre, who is the one who officiates over the Black Mass. The main character, who is Huysmans alter ego, Durtal, seeks out a performance of the Black Mass during his research about the life of Gilles de Rais. Despite his account of the Black Mass being an imaginary weaving of blasphemy, ungodly sexuality, and infernal cravings, it remains one of the most widely read accounts of the Black Mass.

The Black Mass takes place in the remains of an Ursuline convent, where a grotesque and naked image of Christ laughing sinisterly has replaced the crucifix, and the choir boy is a demonic faery. Canon Docre decries Jesus as a hoax and a liar, whilst praising Satan as, “King of the Disinherited, Son who art to overthrow the inexorable father… Master of slanders, Dispenser of the benefits of crime, Administrator of sumptuous sins and great vices, Satan, thee we adore, reasonable God, just God!”[4] The Black Mass escalates into a spiritually violent and bizarre chaos of blasphemy and disgust, as the prostitutes and degenerate old women, who act as the congregation, writhe in infernal ecstasy on the floor as Canon Docre chews up and spits out the host to desecrate it. In Huysmans’ words,

In a solemn but jerky voice he said “Hoc est enim corpus meum,” then instead of kneeling… before the precious Body, he faced the congregation and appeared tumified, dripping with sweat… raising the chausible, displayed his naked belly. Docre made a few passes and the host sailed, tainted and soiled, over the steps… A whirlwind of hysteria shook the room… Women rushed upon the Eucharist and, grovelling in front of the altar, clawed from the bread humid particles and divine ordure… Docre… frothing with rage, was chewing up sacramental wafers, taking them out of his mouth… and distributing them to the women, who ground them underfoot, howling, or fell over each other struggling to get hold of them and violate them. The place was simply a madhouse, a monstrous pandemonium of prostitutes and maniacs.[5]

So distraught and disturbed by his experience, or personal vision into this dark world sinful delusions and infernal howlings, Huysmans became convinced of the ontological existence of evil and eventually returned seeking salvation within the Church. As he put it, “the devil drew me toward God.”[6]

[1] Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, page 197.
[2] Robert Baldick, The Life of J.-K. Huysmans, 1955, pages 149-150.
[3] Robert Baldick, Down There (Là Bas): A Study in Satanism, 1958, page vii.
[4] Joris-Karl Huysmans, Down There (Là Bas): A Study in Satanism, 1958, pages 268-269.
[5] Joris-Karl Huysmans, Down There (Là Bas): A Study in Satanism, 1958, page 272.
[6] Robert Baldick, Down There (Là Bas): A Study in Satanism, 1958, page 27.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Minoan Gestures

The Bronze Age civilisation that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the twenty-seventh century B.C.E to the fifteenth century B.C.E., also referred to as the Minoan Civilisation, created artistic expressions whose characteristics were the love of life and nature, and an art strongly imbued with charm and elegance. There objects of art were miniatures and frescoes, worked with care and love. They had a special inclination towards the picturesque and to painting where motion is its ruling characteristic, the figures move with lovely grace, the decorative designs whirl and turn, and even architectural composition is allied to the incessant movement becoming multiform and complex. It is so naturalistic, although ruled by Minoan conventions. The secret life of nature is outspread in artisan’s creation, which blesses it with a special charm and grace. A hymn to Physis, for she is to be heard everywhere, a hymn of joy and life.

 These creations remain aloof to single human achievement, for Minoan art, the birth of the Dionysian, ignored the terrifying distance between us and the transcendent which may tempt us to seek refuge in abstraction and to create a form for the significant remote space and time. It equally ignores the futility of single human actions, bound by time and space. They did not give substance to the realm of the dead through the abstract of the world of the living, nor did they immortalise proud deeds or state a humble claim for divine attention in the temples of their gods. Here I see and acceptance of the grace of life, Zoê, in a world unknown to us now, for it means movement and the beauty of movement are woven in the intricate web of living forms of the scenes of nature. And the secret of this relationship with the divine in this sacred art lies purely in the gesture.

William James and the Mystical Experience

William James, 1942-1910.

With the emergence of modernity, the hermeneutic and liturgical dimensions of mystical thought and practice were gradually neglected in favour of an appreciation of a generic experiential value of the category of mysticism. An example of this shift is evident in the works of the pioneering philosopher and psychologist, William James, and his book The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, which was first published in 1902. James’s scholarly interest provided a framework for the study of mysticism and religious experience through the emerging discipline of psychology, yet he did not adopt the reductionist approach. For James, organised religion was secondary in importance in relation to private individual religious experiences, which reflected the process of secularisation prevalent with the rise of modernity and affected the transference of significance of religion being to public affair to that of a more private one.

The study of mysticism in the works of James has often been conceived as a study of the attainment of altered states of consciousness, which are inaccessible to the rational mind yet have exceptional meaning and impact upon the individual. In James’ words, “Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special types of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.”[1] According to James, mystical experiences exhibit four characteristics, through which he was interested providing a theoretical framework for exploring the rich diversity of mystical texts and traditions throughout the world. The first characteristic is ‘ineffability’, which refers to the indescribable nature of the mystical experience. The second, the ‘noetic quality’, is the impact that the acquisition of the some mystical insight has. The third quality refers to ‘transiency’, indicated that the experiential state of mystical insight is limited in duration. The final characteristic is the ‘passivity’ of mystical experiences, where the powerful sense of the unity of all things experienced through a mystical insight renders the subject incapable to act, as they are ‘given’ instead of being an expression of an active imagination.

[1] James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, 1977, page 374.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I know thee, Thoth

“Thee I invoke alone, thou who alone in all the world imposes order upon gods and men, who dost transform thyself in holy forms, making to be from things that are not, and from the things that are making the not to be.
O holy Thoth, the true sight of whose face none of the gods endures!
Make me to be every creature’s name – wolf, dog, lion, fire, tree, vulture, wall, water, or what thou will’st, for thou art able so to do.
Even as Horus, if e’er he called on thee, O greatest of all gods, in every trial, in every space, ’gainst gods, men, and daimones, and things that live in water and on Earth – had grace and riches with gods, and men, and every living thing beneath the Earth; so let me, too, who call on thee! So give me grace, form, beauty!
For I know thy name that shineth forth in Heaven; I know thy forms as well. I know thy names in the Egyptian tongue, and thy true name as it is written on the holy tablet in the holy place, where thou dost have thy birth.
I know thee, Thoth, for I am thou, and thou art I!”