The Role of the Magician

Recently, I made a Table of Practice for a new magician; this isn’t that uncommon a thing, and I do enjoy making them (and for a pretty economical price, hint hint).  For this specific Table, he requested I add the symbols of the 12 signs of the Zodiac on the outside bevel, much as I made one for my sister a ways back.  For comparison, the one for my sister turned out like this:

Table of Practice

And for the dude who recently commissioned me, the Table turned out like this (his photo):

Table of Practice with Clockwise Zodiac

The two Tables are essentially identical (the one for the recent commission has Tetragrammaton around the triangle, but that’s basically it), but the big issue here is the orientation of the Zodiac signs.  For some bizarre reason, I unthinkingly drew the signs of the Zodiac onto this recently-commissioned Table clockwise instead of counterclockwise.  The counterclockwise depiction is the most common, since it represents the view of the ecliptical Zodiac constellations from our point of view down here on Earth; so, for instance, if you look up into the night sky when Aries is at the midheaven, Pisces will be on the right of Aries and Taurus will be on the left.  I’ve made several Tables with this pattern, but this recent commission is the only one I’ve goofed on.  It’s weird, and I’m both embarrassed and confused at how this happened.  That said, for some reason it also doesn’t strike me as “wrong”, despite the weird orientation of it.

Now, I don’t want the rest of this to sound like some justification for my design mistake, but the orientation of the Zodiac here led me to some thoughts on the role of the magician or conjurer in a conjuration.  Consider that if we as humans view the Zodiac as going in a counterclockwise direction around the celestial sphere, then having them situated clockwise indicates that we’re viewing the Zodiac from the other side.  The Zodiac is part of the eighth sphere, the sphere of the fixed stars, and the only thing higher than the eighth sphere is the ninth, the sphere of the Prime Mover, also referred to as Kether or God.  By using a Table where the Zodiac is present in a clockwise pattern, we’re essentially viewing the spirits positioned within the Table from the same viewpoint that God perceives the cosmos and all within it.  And that’s where this gets interesting.

What do we, as conjurers and magicians and magi, do?  We take our divine birthright as children of the Most High and join with him in the ever-continuing act of creation of the cosmos.  We ask for the blessing of God to do what is Right and to enact our True Wills, thereby rejoining God in his infinite Grace.  We step into the role as agents of the Divine, of the Most Divine, to work with the spirits who are our relatives, who are our brothers and sisters from the same Source, and who endeavor to aid us as they aid the Divine themselves.  We, essentially, become a consciously direct extension of God and join with God.  I’m going to stop this little poetic waxing short of saying “we become God”, because we already are essentially part of the Prime Mover down in this little ass-end of the cosmos, but we come closest to it consciously when we do our Work.

There are points when working with the spirits simply does not work; as Fr. Rufus Opus has said, the general idea is “move  this or move me”, where either a thing desired is changed or made in the world or where we ourselves are changed if nothing else can be changed.  God, clearly, can change everything, since that’s pretty much his thing; nothing disobeys God, since everything is a part of God and works as part of the One, the cohesive Whole.  But, that said, by moving ourselves, we partake in that same action, and bring ourselves closer to becoming what we need to Be and do what we need to Do; in these cases, we bring ourselves closer to attaining and carrying out our True Wills.  This is also the same in all other instances when working with the spirits gets us results in the external world.

Being a magician can be a scary thing.  It puts you in control, and therefore gives you responsibility, over your life, your station in life, and what happens in your life.  These all have their own caveats and asterisks and conditions, of course, but generally speaking, being a magician raises you to the point of Divinity.  In that sense, why shouldn’t we view the cosmos as the Divine would?  Isn’t that the whole point?  Isn’t attaining Kether and bringing more Light down here the objective of working with Hermetic Qabbalah?  Isn’t purifying and rarefying ourselves the end goal of the Great Work?  Isn’t understanding things as they are without human ignorance clouding them the result of fulfilling the Oath of the Abyss?  Isn’t attaining eventual power, reunion, unity with the Divine the point of all this crap we’re doing?

Maybe drawing on the Zodiac backwards wasn’t that bad an idea from a philosophical standpoint, after all.  I certainly didn’t have it, but then, where do all Ideas come from, anyway?

Will and Grace

Doing this conjuration cycle of mine keeps me busy, but it also keeps me constantly refreshed with the forces I interact with constantly.  While the major focus of the cycle is to keep me progressing through the spheres of the planets, which is one of my major focuses these days, I don’t often talk about the elements anymore like how I did in the past.  It’s not because I’m not working with them anymore, because I surely am, and it’s not because I’ve mastered them, because I surely haven’t.  But…well, they’re elements.  They’re the basic building blocks of our sphere down here, the things I was first introduced to in magic.  Simply put, they’re elementary.  As a result, my conjurations and chats with the four archangelic kings of the elements have gotten shorter and shorter; there’s less and less to talk about, since these forces are pretty reliably integrated into my own sphere, as far as I can tell.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from them still, though.

Recently, I was talking with the angel Michael of Fire.  Taking a look at my own sphere, it was heartily and healthily ablaze with Fire, that wonderful hot and dry element that creates light and inspires one to go higher.  My own self within my sphere, though, was much darker and moister, but even within that there was still a small flame glowing brightly on its own.  I realized that this was suboptimal—what goes on within my own self should be reflected in my entire sphere, and an imbalance of without versus within indicates a lack of connection—so Michael and I worked together to forge a link between the Fire outside myself and the Fire within myself.  It was just the beginning, and much more will likely need doing, but this was still an improvement over before, when there was little Fire to speak of in my sphere at all, much less my own self within my sphere.

Michael and I discussed what we did, both elementally and symbolically (really the same thing here).  That tiny flame represents the beginning of my gnosis, my self-knowledge, the knowledge and awareness of my Will, the flame that really powers me and drives me to go on.  It’s small, but it’s beginning to grow; so long as I “keep myself hot”, quoth Michael, I’ll continue to keep that flame alive and burning more and more.  It’s going to be a long process, but the fact that I’ve gotten to this point after only this long is impressive to me.  Coming to know our Will, the thing we really need to do according to our set, setting, context, and destiny, is kinda big in a lot of occult systems nowadays, probably like how it’s always been.  And according to the progress reports and checkups I’m getting from the forces I work with, I’m on the right track.

Sure, I’m no master of fire, no more than I’ve completed the Great Work itself.  But I’ve certainly gotten the force of Fire, the force of my own Will, integrated into my own sphere, and starting to learn and know more about it.  By this process, I’ve been able to work with my Will more and more, which is a result of doing my Will, my True Will, as I should be.  By carrying out our True Wills, we follow a path that’s effectively been laid out for us, whether by accident or design; this path can be arduous at times, painful at others, and easy at yet others, but it’s this path that allows us to grow, grow stronger, grow up, and grow into ourselves.  By this process, things tend to go more and more our way, as if the path becomes straighter or more known no matter how crooked or errant it may get.

When we follow and carry out our True Wills, things generally go easier for us, since they’re increasingly tied into the things we’re doing.  We encounter fewer and fewer difficulties, since we’re effectively carrying out our roles to play in the cosmos, and “if God is for us, who can be against us”?  Sure, we might still attract haters (who will, after all, continue to hate on ‘choo), but when we work our Will on the cosmos, people who would interfere with us are either brought over to our side and begin helping us instead, or are drowned out, burned up, or otherwise silenced and made powerless to counteract or contradict us.  Plus, the more we work our True Will, the more we begin to find and associate with those who are also carrying out their Will, and since they’re doing what they must for the cosmos, it’ll naturally fall in line and correlate with what we must do for the cosmos, as two players on opposite sides of an orchestra play harmoniously in the whole.

It’s only when someone else messes up their part and trashes their Will so badly that it ends up careening into yours that can cause problems, like a planet that suddenly shifts out of orbit and collides into other planets, or a player in an orchestra that decides to start playing a march when everyone else is playing a waltz just to confuse others.  Sometimes this is out of earnest confusion and spiritual flailing, sometimes this is out of deliberate spite and (mis- or ab-)use of their power and Will.  This can certainly cause issues, and can even put a cold damper or shut down the flame of one who’s actually working their Will as they should.  All it needs is a bit of correction on both our part and the parts of others to get everything singing harmoniously again, and then we’ll all be aweseome again as we should.

In a way, the idea of True Will is starting to sound a lot like Grace to me: just as Grace is not a reward, neither is True Will, but they’re both the state and result of being doing the highest Good, of becoming properly Godly, and coming to truly know yourself, your origins, and your duty.

Grace is not a reward, Sin is not a punishment

As part of a crafting project, and to help kick my lazy ass back into gear with conjurations that I’ve neglected for so long, I’m currently on day two of…a lot in which I’m conjuring a different angel of a different force each day (seven days for the seven planets, four days for the four elements, one day for my natal genius, etc.).  Quite literally, I’m conjuring all the angels that I know of; the last time I did this was back when I had consecrated my planetary talismans for the first time, which got crazy and exhausting but ultimately worth it.  I started yesterday, which was a fantastic day to catch up on meditation and rituals generally, and began with Raphael of Mercury yesterday and continued with Tzadqiel of Jupiter today.  So, I got dressed up in a nice suit, got a fancy drink and cedar incense, set up the conjuration altar, and called down the angel of Jupiter to chat.

It was my plan to go through the seven Gate Rituals that Frater RO devised: a basic Trithemian-style conjuration for a specific planet plus a scry/meditation on that planet’s forces, so as to be initiated deeper into the forces and mystery of that heavenly sphere and better integrate one with those forces.  The Gate of Mercury ritual yesterday went fantastically, and I got to see a nifty astral “port town in an archipelago of port towns”, gained access to a part of the astral that I really want to go to, and had a nice café-style chat with Raphael and Hermes.  Mercury, after all, is a sphere I’m more than comfortable in, and absolutely love the place.  On the other hand, Jupiter has never been a place or planet I’m all too comfortable with, despite the seemingly-endless praises RO and Jason Miller et al. sing.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic place of fabulous feels, but I do feel out-of-place or awkward when interfacing with those energies.  Call me crazy, but it’s just not a sphere I prefer compared to others.  As a result, Tzadqiel didn’t let me pass through the Gate this time, but did take me on a walk around the sphere and taught me a few things.

The big thing about Jupiter, as RO will tell you, is grace.  Grace is a gift freely given, a combination of love, forgiveness, and aid, and (if you’ll pardon the pun) the crux of the Christian religion: you don’t need to work for grace, since it’s already given to you.  No matter how badly you fuck up, no matter how recalcitrant you are, you will always have grace available to you.  Basically, consider the parable of the prodigal son; no matter how far the son wandered off or messed up, his father was always ready and eager to welcome him back and give him the best of everything.  That’s grace: it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re loved and cherished and the cosmos will try to make things as awesome as it can for you.

That said, the prodigal son had to actually stop doing bad stuff and return to his father in order to make use of his father’s grace.  He already basically had it, but he couldn’t make use of it without actually doing stuff to make use of it.  He didn’t earn his father’s love, but he had to be there to experience it.  He wasn’t punished by anything or anyone, except himself; it was his own mistakes that caused his own pain.  That pain, in a Hermetic view, is sin.  If it weren’t for RO’s recent post on sin (go read it), I probably wouldn’t have caught onto this idea as soon as I had, but basically:

People don’t understand that “sin keeps you away from god” is the total punishment itself. Being away from God sucks. You can only know that if you’ve been around him though, and it doesn’t make as much sense to folks who haven’t felt the presence of god personally loving them up as it tumbles around you, in you, through you to bounce laughing out your vocal chords.

Sin isn’t a punishment doled out, just like how grace isn’t a reward given for something.  They’re not quite two sides of the same coin, but it’s close.  This was the primary realization I had while talking with the angel of grace, Tzadqiel of Jupiter, tonight: grace is always present and always given in infinite quantities, but the ability to reap the rewards of it is determined only by my own action and responsibility.  Taking up my responsibility, doing the right thing, and being in the presence of the Divine is the reward and yields other rewards; this is the way to enjoy and “make use of” grace.  Being away from the Divine, focusing on the low, neglecting my responsibilities, and the like is my punishment for not taking up the gift that was given to me.  Like the prodigal son, one has to be in the presence of grace in order to enjoy it; away from it, one will suffer.

For someone who’s raised in the modern world and isn’t in touch with deep Christian ethos and mythos, this point is entirely lost.  It’s generally assumed that sin is the state of punishment from an action that results in divine wrath inflicted on someone, which is what it seems to be on the surface and what it definitely seems to be in Judaism (to me, at least).  Grace, on the other hand, is kinda more understood, but is still seen as being a reward for something worked for.  The whole point is that it’s not worked for, it’s just received freely because it was given freely.  In a sense, I figure that it’s partially because God loves us, because we are part of God, and one cannot love without loving oneself.

Now, going back to my awkwardness with Jupiter, the whole kingship thing is weird for me.  I’m no leader, as I’d consider myself; I may be a guide and teacher, but I consider myself a servant and assistant to those who need it.  Being more Mercurial, I like to figure the world out in terms of transactions: you give me X, I give you Y.  This is how our world works, and the universe on a grand scale seems to operate this way as well (no action without reaction).  The cosmos as a whole, however, does not necessarily operate like this: yes, there are kinds of cosmic transactions that turn Ideas into manifested Reality, but there are also states of cosmic fluidity where there is no concept of ownership or exchange.  From a qabbalistic point of view, the pillar of Boaz (spheres of Saturn, Mars, and Mercury) take things away or exchange things (Saturn defines limits, Mars decides on utility, Mercury reasons out rules); the pillar of Jachin (spheres of the fixed stars, Jupiter, and Venus) fill things and give things freely (the fixed stars gives unbridled creation, Jupiter fills things with desires, Venus fulfills purpose).  Mercury is on the opposite side of the Sun, in terms of the Tree of Life, from Jupiter; while Mercury exchanges and sets out rules, Jupiter gives freely and lays out responsibility.

In the end, the goodness in life is derived from doing the right and proper thing for us, as individual humans and as part of Humanity, while the badness of it results from doing the wrong thing.  The good things, which can be considered our True Will, bring us closer to the Will of the Divine and help carry out the cosmos’ machinations as it should; this is essentially the return to the father, or the Father, that helps us enjoy the grace given to us that we can only enjoy in our father’s, or our Father’s, presence.  Sin isn’t something so much one does as it is one enters into by going against what we need to be doing, getting distracted with vain or low things that don’t help us on our path, and separating ourselves from the grace that actually makes things good.  Life may not be glamorous or rock-star-style fabulous even when one is doing their True Will, but it sure is nicer and easier when one does the right thing and does the thing right.  Even small gifts can still make you smile, after all.