On Fitting Rituals Together

Most of the posts I write are written in one fell swoop, more or less, but on occasion, I’ll save something as a draft to finish later, especially if I feel like I don’t have enough information yet or if an idea hasn’t come through clearly.  The thing about these drafts is that they’ll either be finished in a few days after some more research and thinking it through, or it’ll get shelved indefinitely until I remember that I have drafts backed up waiting for another look.  I have more than a few such drafts from my blog-quiet Year in White, and a few more from before that, that I never really bothered to complete or, if they were complete, publish for one reason or another.

Recently, I went through my drafts and found a post on a PGM conjuration ritual, PGM IV.930—1114, which had a bunch of notes and comments ready for review, that I hadn’t previously touched since June 2014 (jeez).  I decided to pick that one to see where I was, and while it was mostly complete, it had plenty of room for expansion.  I decided to finish out that post, take a deeper look at the source material with a slightly more trained eye than I had before, and finally put it up; seeing how I’ve been on a roll with taking all the old prayers and rituals I’ve posted over the years and putting them into finalized, polished, published pages on this blog (which you can view using the updated navbar at the top of the site), I decided to forego the post and just put out the page.  Thus, if you’re interested, take a look at my write-up on PGM IV.930—1114, the Conjuration of Light under Darkness (under Occult → Classical Hermetic Rituals, with the rest of the PGM/PDM/Coptic stuff).

It’s a pretty nifty ritual, if I do say so myself; it’s a straight-up conjuration of the god Horus Harpocrates, and it bears a huge number of parallels to a proper conjuration ritual in the Solomonic tradition that arose after the PGM period, including prayers of compulsion and formal ritual closings.  One of the more fascinating parts of it is that, instead of performing the ritual on an altar, it uses a sort of anti-altar: a lamp held above the ground on the intersection of two ropes suspended from the ceiling of a room.  Reading deeper into the ritual and Betz’s notes on the source text, the ritual as recorded in the PGM is actually a combination of several earlier rituals: a prayer for divine alliance with a deity, a lamp divination ritual, and a conjuration of a god.  The fact that there are some parts of the ritual that seem duplicated or don’t read as a single flow of a ritual written in one go indicates that it is, indeed, cobbled together, but it also feels somehow familiar to later texts like the Key of Solomon in that same not-quite-jarring, not-quite-disharmonic sense.  It still works, though you can clearly see the distinct parts that make up the whole.

A few days back, Scott Stenwick over at Augoeides wrote a post titled The Template Works for Everything, which I encourage you to read.  He starts out by packing quite the punch:

One of the best things about modular ritual templates is how versatile and effective they are for all different kinds of workings. If there’s a “magical secret” out there, how to put the various rituals and forms together into a coherent operation is probably it. Many published books on magick include instructions on how to do the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. Some include the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Some include the Middle Pillar. And so forth. But there’s little instruction on what to do with them aside from recommendations that you practice them daily. …

At any rate, what I found when I published Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy is that nobody else publishes that stuff, either. I was told time and again how useful my book was because it laid out the whole structure of a ceremonial operation including the basic components that go into actually getting stuff done. I’ve gone ahead and published the whole magical and mystical series here on Augoiedes for precisely that reason. We really don’t need any more occult books that teach the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and then don’t really even tell you what it’s for or what it’s supposed to do.

Stenwick talks a lot more about his operant field theory of magic over on his blog, which should be damn-near mandatory for anyone in a Thelemic or Golden Dawn system of magic to read.  Suffice it here to say that Stenwick puts into no uncertain terms that there are certain components for ritual magic—for any kind of magic within a coherent system—that plug into each other in a modular fashion, and by swapping out certain parts as needed according to a particular template of ritual, you can get anywhere you need to go.

The fact that he put this idea into such bald, direct terms shocked me, because it makes so much sense and I wish I had written about it sooner myself.  He’s absolutely right: every tradition of magic has its own kind of template, and builds rituals up according to that template from smaller actions and rituals.  No matter what it is you’re trying to do, no matter what system you’re using, every complete ritual is a machine built from parts that fit together in a more-or-less cohesive whole, and by swapping those parts out as needed, you get a different ritual as needed.  If it seems like there’s something missing, it’s because there is, and you’re not using all the parts you should.

Yes, rituals that are complete unto themselves from the PGM or any number of grimoires of your choosing are a dime a dozen, but consider: those are snapshots, isolated incidents from within a tradition.  If you actually study the tradition from which such an instance of ritual comes, you’d get a more complete view of the preliminary stuff that would be expected to happen before it, the concluding stuff that would be expected to happen after it, how that ritual can be used as a part of an even larger ritual, and (if you’re exceptionally skilled, and for particular rituals) how to break down a ritual into its constituent parts and repurposed for other rituals.

As an example, consider Rufus Opus‘ now-discontinued Red Work series of courses.  I used to half-joke that he was a one-trick pony and that the only proper ritual he taught in his courses was his version of the Trithemian conjuration ritual, because he did.  Heck, he even wrote a whole book on planetary magic, Seven Spheres, with that being the only real ritual.  It’s true, but that’s the whole point of the system of magic he teaches.  His angelic banishing ritual he teaches, the first actual ritual in the text that isn’t making holy water or learning how to meditate, is just a Trithemian conjuration ritual that substitutes a full charge of conjuration with a half-charge that invokes the angels only so far as they banish one’s sphere; his conjuration of a genius loci is a pared-down version of the Trithemian ritual with a charge of conjuration modified specifically for a spirit of the land; his conjuration of one’s natal genius is almost identical to any other angelic use of the Trithemian ritual with the exception of a heavily-modified charge of conjuration; all the conjurations of the elemental and planetary angels are virtually identical except for the time of conjuration, the name of God used in the charge of conjuration, and the name of the angel being conjured.  Rufus Opus got the modularization of the Trithemian ritual down to a science well beyond its original purpose for conjuring the seven planetary angels, even down to adapting parts of it for his own take on goetic conjurations of demons.  When viewed from a naive perspective, sure, Rufus Opus may only have taught one ritual, but what he was really teaching was a framework, a template, a process of ritual and how to adapt that process to any particular need, just not in explicit terms.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider a text like the Arbatel.  This is a text that teaches about a system of magic, including some of the major spirits and types thereof in the system and what they do, but the text gives you next to nothing in the way of a ritual template; while it provides some prayers and suggestions for working with the spirits it discusses in its aphorisms, the text largely assumes either that you already have a framework of ritual you’re comfortable with, or that you’re spiritually developed enough and suited to the work that one will be revealed unto you.  Those who can read between the lines can divine something resembling a framework, vague as it might be, like I have on this blog before, but it’s just as likely (and just as well) that an experienced magician can take the information of the Arbatel, look at a framework of ritual they already know works, and plug in the few parts that the Arbatel provides to get as much out of it as one can get out of a fully detailed text like the Key of Solomon or Grimoirium Verum.

Now take a look again at PGM IV.930—1114.  It’s apparent that this ritual is composed of parts that were, at some point by some author, cobbled together from earlier rituals written by earlier authors that just so happened to fill the needs of that later author for a coherent purpose, combining the prayers, tools, and processes from each into a single whole ritual.  That magician had a good grasp of what he needed, and tried to keep as true as he could to the parts of the ritual without sacrificing any one benefit for the whole thing.  He had a framework for ritual that would match with that of any Renaissance Solomonic conjurer, and he used whatever parts at his disposal to come up with a complete whole.  Can the ritual be augmented with other preliminary work, or concluded or continued with other rituals?  You bet!  The author even included a part for further extending one aspect of the ritual, which is unfortunately lost in the source material, but not only is the possibility there, it’s a certainty that it’s there.

This is why it’s important for magicians to study the small, routine stuff like simple energy work, basic prayers, attunement and banishing acts, and other simple rituals.  While they all have importance on their own for their own sake, it’s not always said how profoundly important they really are as framing rituals or other ritual components in a wider system of magic.  These small building blocks are used to build larger rituals, and without having a solid grasp of the small parts, it makes having a solid grasp of the larger whole all the more difficult.  It’s not just that the smaller stuff produces a firmer foundation than might otherwise be achieved for later works, but it’s that each part must be able to be carried out smoothly and powerfully so that when they’re incorporated as parts in a larger ritual, the whole shebang is smooth and powerful in a way that treating it as a single unit unto itself wouldn’t be able to achieve.  Every ritual isn’t a single note, it’s a harmonic symphony unto itself, and each part is a movement that must flow from one to the next.

Every tradition has its process and framework, from Russian Orthodox ceremonies to Cuban Orisha ceremonies, and if you pay attention, you can easily pick up on the structure of how things flow, what should come next, what can be changed, what should stay the same, what can be considered an indivisible part, what can be broken down into smaller parts, what can be modified or tweaked to come up with a whole new part, and how to put parts together.  Every system of ritual work has a template, and as Stenwick says, “the template works”.

Beginner’s Practices

Recently, I’ve been getting more requests for consultations, which I’m happy to do for people.  (Yes, I charge, and you can find my rates on my Services page.)  Normally, people book a consultation for the purpose of an extended divination reading, where I do as many questions as time will allow and talk them through problems or offer advice as the situation calls for it.  However, a few consultations lately haven’t been anything of the sort, and fall under a type of consultory category that I personally love to do: ritual advice.  This is where, essentially, you ask me questions about practice, methodology, technique, or philosophy when it comes to magic and the occult, and I share with you my experiences, research, and the like, kind of like a 1-on-1 tutoring session.  I personally love doing this, since I typically learn as much from people as they learn from me, and we’re both better off for it.

However, I’ve also noticed that I’m seeing an uptick in the number of people who are new to magic and the occult asking for advice, like people who are in Fr. Rufus Opus’ new Seven Spheres classwork who want another view or advice from one of his other students.  Some are just studying on their own and want to know where to go or how they might accomplish something with a bare minimum of resources, while others are just wondering where to begin at all.  This is awesome and flattering, because even though I don’t consider myself a teacher (I’m still pretty damn new to this all myself as it is), I’d love to share my own experiences and lessons (sometimes learned the hard way) so that others don’t have to bungle things or get a slow start when they can hit the ground running.

For people who are utterly new to the occult, seeing all this stuff about grimoires and conjuration and sacrifice and Greek/Hebrew/Latin/Sanskrit/Egyptian terms and whatnot can be downright pants-shittingly frightening, not to mention bewildering.  I know that, when I first started, I was a little overwhelmed myself trying to figure out where to begin or what texts to read (assuming I could read them at all in modern English), but also what it is I should be doing to start.  That’s a crucial thing for a magician, and the line that divides an armchair magician from a practicing magician: what is it that you’re doing?  It’s all very well to rattle off the history of a particular incantation or memorize all the variations of the seals and designs from the Lemegeton Goetia, but if you’re not putting them to use, why are you doing this at all?  Magic should, in my opinion, be more than just a hobby of curiosity, but something that mixes a good way of living with a method of helping yourself and others in this world and all others.

Still, there’s a lot to do, and there’s always more to do even when you think you’ve done what you need.  So, if I had to suggest some basic practices that anyone interested in practicing magic or any spiritual way of life, what might I suggest?  Three things, all of which are pretty simple but which are endlessly profound and rewarding.

1: Learn two forms of divination.
You can’t figure out shit if you don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t always mean by talking with spirits.  Divination is an excellent way to get your foot in the door with magic; it’s how I got started, and this is my view on the subject.  Back in the day, I considered myself only a diviner and a seer, because I didn’t want to get involved with all that magic stuff.  I just wanted to see what was going on and help others make good decisions with new information they couldn’t get on their own; actually changing that stuff was out of my scope, as I considered it.  Then again, one thing led to the next, and I found myself researching what the planets and elements could be used for instead of just what they meant in astrology or Tarot, and the transition was so subtle that I became a magician without even really recognizing it.  Divination was the gateway drug for me, and it makes sense, because it helped inform me every step of the way, and still does as a matter of fact.

Now, I say that you should learn two forms of divination, if only to increase your skill set and to broaden your horizons.  These can be any two, but I recommend two different forms: a simple one that focuses on yes/no answers, and a complex one that can describe a whole situation at length and help provide detail as well as judgment.  The complex one is considerably easier to find in modern use: Tarot, runes, geomancy, astrology, I Ching, grammatomancy, astragalomancy, and the like are all good examples of what I mean by “complex divination”.  The easier one is more like child’s play and some diviners find it beneath them to just focus on yes/no queries, but at the same time, this is a vital skill to figure out.  Sure, you could use one divination system for both purposes, but I find it better to have two methods that complement each other.

Add to it, there’s an added benefit to learning two forms of divination like this.  The complex divination method you choose is excellent for understanding a whole system or situation when you need the guidance and detail that such a divination system can provide.  The simple divination method can be used for this, too, if a simple answer will suffice, but the real purpose I suggest the simple method is for communicating with spirits and discerning their will.  Having a yes/no method of divination, like chamalongos or coin tosses, is amazing to figure out how to proceed with offerings or rituals involving a particular spirit in conjunction with actually listening to them and getting the proper feeling of action.

2: Learn psychometry.
Psychometry literally means “measuring souls”, but it’s basically a fancy way to describe getting the “feel” or “vibe” off something.  It’s one of the first distinctly magical practices I picked up from my sister years ago while I was in college, a few years before actually getting into Hermetic stuff, since she’s more attuned to it than I am, but it’s turned out to be a valuable skill and one of the ones I recommend beginners to pick up ASAP.  Although the notion of reading the energy off objects seems simple and underneath some people, it’s one of the most vital skills a magician can develop, since it can be used in so many instances and is far more applicable than mere objects alone.  The point here is that you’re not just getting the impressions, charges, memories, and the like off of objects, but that you’re actually measuring the soul-stuff of a thing, and it doesn’t have to be tangible; in other words, you’re learning to sense magic itself.

The process of psychometry is simple: focus on a particular object, and figure out what it “feels” like.  How do you perceive the stuff in the object?  That’s really basically it; it’s no more complicated than touching something or coming into contact with it and getting information of the color, weight, temperature, or texture of an object, except that it doesn’t rely on the physical senses.  My sister’s advice for psychometry made a distinct impression on me and guides me to this day, not only in matters of psychometry but in pretty much all magical endeavors: “it feels like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.  The information pretty much pops up in your head, and to a less discerning mind, it would feel just like normal thoughts arising and coming and going.  The thing is, though, that these thoughts aren’t yours; they’re no more “your” thoughts than the sensation of your keyboard or phone in your hand is “your” sensation.  This is information, energy, spirit, presence, whatever that is simply coming in contact with your own sense abilities; there’s not much active practice to go with this, just like how seeing or hearing isn’t an active process but merely light or sound entering into your eyes or ears.

Now, once you get the hang of getting the feel or vibe off a particular object, it’s not a hard leap in any sense to go from small hand-held things to bigger things.  The size of the thing ultimately doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the power inside the thing.  (That’s what he said.)  The more something has been carried around, used, loved, or hated, the more power increases in the thing.  Animate things, like people and animals, naturally have a strong power in themselves, and one can detect how they feel or what they know but also how energy and power flows through and within them.  That said, I would recommend the following general process to practice learning psychometry:

  • Small objects (pebbles, jewelry, cell phones, writing utensils)
  • Large objects (cooking utensils, computers, cars, machines)
  • Places (graves, buildings, fields, forests, mountains)
  • People and animals

Not everyone will get the same type of vibe off an object.  My sister gets emotions and physical states (angry, happy, caffeinated, sweaty, etc.) off of objects, especially worn objects, but I get memories and impressions of place or use.  Some people will find that they get impressions or vibes in the form of colors or images, while others get sounds, yet others get temperature, and others just get pure thoughts or verbal statements arising in the mind.  This is important to recognize, since how you get impressions and sensations the best indicates how you best perceive magical presence and energy.  Not everyone will “see” stuff; I myself don’t have a strong psychic visual sense, but my psychic taste and smell are excellent, and I get the same information as others would but delivered in a different way.  I just have to translate them into the same ideas that others might get in a different “language”.

Just as it’s not a big leap to go from small inanimate objects to larger animate ones, it’s also not a big leap to go from tangible things to spiritual entities.  This is why psychometry is vital: the ability to perceive information spiritually is what we use to sense and detect spiritual presence, energetic flows, and the like.  If you can’t detect the presence of a spirit in conjuration, why bother calling them up?  If you can’t get a feel for where a strong place of power is, why bother tracking ley lines?  The ability of spiritual/energetic perception is vital for anyone who works with spirits/energy, since if you can’t perceive what’s going on, you won’t be able to react to it.

3: Meditate.
This is big, and even though I’ve listed it here last, it really should be first and foremost in everybody’s lives, and not just magicians.  Jason Miller, Rufus Opus, and any number of magicians, occultists, priests, monks, and spiritualists have gone on at length about the importance of meditation, so I won’t describe the nuances or details here, nor will I talk too much at length about why it’s so important.  But I will say this: meditation is the art and practice of understanding and working with your own mind.  If you don’t understand how your mind works, and if you don’t know how to react to your own mind’s actions (especially the involuntary ones), you won’t know how to best use your mind.  Seeing how your mind is literally the place where everything happens for you, if you don’t have a basic grasp of how to work with your mind, you won’t be getting far in anything.

Meditation is basically mental exercise.  I’m not talking about strengthening the logical faculties with puzzles or the emotional ones with empathy, but strengthening how your mind itself acts underneath any other action.  The mind is crucial to everything we do.  Writing a novel?  You’ll want to organize your thoughts and focus on the story.  Coding a program?  You’ll need to form a clear design and take into account abstract and obscure exceptions.  Working in retail?  Keep your cool with people and don’t try to let them influence you when it’s your job to influence them.  Running a marathon?  Don’t let your body dissuade you from completing your goal with pessimism despite it being within your body’s ability.  Literally everything we do, from thinking to planning to seeing to hearing to wanting to getting to creating and beyond, takes place in the mind.  If your mind isn’t strong, you don’t have a strong foundation to build great things.

There are so many ways to meditate and any number of traditions have ten score more methods to do so, but I’m a fan of the simplest and most bare-bones way:

  1. Sit comfortably.  Wear relaxing, non-constrictive clothing and sit in a way that allows you to maintain focus without getting sleepy or sore.
  2. Observe your mind.  Just watch how thoughts come up and do their thing, but let them go on their own.  Let those random thoughts arise and fall without getting attached to them or following any train of thought.  If you realize you’re following a thought, become aware of it and let it go.
  3. Continue for a reasonable length of time.  If you’re just starting out, try five minutes.  Work your way up from there.
  4. Repeat daily.  You don’t need a lot of time for this, but I recommend it in the morning when you first get up before you even look at your phone.  If you want, try twice or more a day, but always regularly at least once.

You might get bored.  You might get distracted.  You might get worried or angry or sad or any number of things.  Good; let that happen and keep going.  I’m going to warn you: even the Dalai Lama sucks at meditation, and even the Buddha and the Christ themselves kept meditating because there was always more to do.  The thoughts that arise will, eventually, begin to slow down and relax until they stop arising entirely, even if it’s just for a split-second, and that’s awesome.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will continue longer and longer.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will themselves pass away into something deeper.

The more you meditate, the healthier you’ll be, both mentally and physically; you’ll be able to focus more, have a better grip of your emotions, direct your thoughts better, develop more complex thoughts more easily, manage your body and its voluntary and involuntary actions, remember more things that happen to you, and so much more.  Add to it, the spiritual benefits aren’t to be neglected, especially for magicians; with meditation, you’ll be able to understand what “your” thoughts are versus “something else’s” thoughts, which is crucial when spirits communicate with you (because there’s going to be a mental part of this, and if you can’t discern what they’re saying from what you say to yourself, you’re not going to get very far).  You’ll be able to discern what a thought is from a perception from an idea from a want from a need from a physical lust from an emotional attachment from a logical prerogative from a spiritual command.  You’ll be able to work with spirits better and develop other spiritual and psychic powers that you’ve only heard legends and myths about.  All from just sitting down and shutting up.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do your thing.  Experiment with what you like, read history, study techniques, talk with other occultists, take notes and journal entries, make a plan for what you want to accomplish, develop some crafting skills in a medium that catches your eye.  Conjure spirits, sacrifice to the gods, appease your ancestors, take an astral journey, go into the underworld, open your mind with entheogens, prophesy in the name of your patron, heal with energy and prayer.  For the sake of the gods, of the cosmos, and of your own self, just get to it!

On Rulership and Life’s Bullshit

For some reason, Fr. Rufus Opus (who, I might add, is still not me) claims that I’m his best student.  I don’t really agree with him, since I think I just write more than the rest of his students, but he claims that I’m one of the minority of his students who took his courses and ran with it, not only developing my own style of magic but also implementing them in the way he envisioned his students to do so: to rule your life like a King.  No, I’m not going to wax poetically and jovially about how awesome it is to do conjurations of the planetary angels, rise through the seven spheres, or scarlet women.  He does that enough on his own.

I’m going to make explicit something he doesn’t always say: rulership sucks ass.

It’s not that being king (or queen, or gender-unspecific ruler) of your life is a bad thing.  Far from it, really!  It’s one of the best things you can do, and I’d argue something that every capable human being should attempt at all points in their lives.  He makes it clear, especially in his most recent book, that it really is up to you to make your life how you best can make it.  He’s not rehashing The Secret or new age tripe like that, either.  He’s not saying that if you put out positive vibes you’ll get positive returns; he’s not saying that you should be pious and chaste and virtuous like a meek and mild lamb.  He tells you to get off your ass, find your problems, and deal with them as a ruler does their kingdom.  In the process, you understand more about yourself; you understand more about what makes you, your environment, your enemies, your allies, and your world tick; you understand more about God and the gods and the heavens and the hells; you understand how to work with spirits and powers and forces beyond imagination.  With this knowledge, you get power; with this power, you get results.  That’s it in a nutshell, but it encapsulates everything.

The problem is, however, that not everything is going to agree with you or accept you.  Not everything is easy.  Not everything is kind.  Kingdoms have problems.  The world has problems.  Human life has problems.  You have problems, dear reader, and trying to lie about that fact is shameful.  The first step to overcoming your problems is to admit you have them.

That’s one of the most painful parts about this whole magic and theurgy business.  You have to not only confront your problems, but work with them in a way that resolves them.  You are forced to shove your nose into your own shit time and time again, perhaps realizing that, yes, this is indeed some shit, and that you really should try better or fix things so that there’s less shit next time around (and yes, there will be a next time).  You have to conjure up your own demons, not just the elemental demonic princes or the kings of Hell, but the ones lodged inside your own psyche, and debate with them, wrestle with them, sometimes get pinned down by them in the hopes of kicking them out of the conjuration circle once and for all.  You have to contend with the fact that, sometimes, life is not going to give you what you think you need in order to succeed, and you have to make do with your own lack of preparedness and readiness in order to progress.  You have to deal with your problems any way you can, and often enough, your problems aren’t easy to deal with.

Rulership is about choices.  Every (and I do mean every) choice you make, even avoidance of making choices, changes everything.  Sometimes you make a choice without thinking, either due to instinctive habit or conditioning from birth.  Sometimes you make a choice with incomplete knowledge.  Sometimes you make a choice with all the best knowledge and hopes in the world and everything still turns to shit.  Every choice you make results in a benefit you obtain, a cost you pay for, and accountability that you must be responsible for.  While all of us like the benefits, and a few of us are okay with paying the costs, it’s rare for people to willingly take responsibility for their actions, reactions, emotions, thoughts, and words.

That, however, is the crux of rulership: taking responsibility for yourself, both in the choices you’ve made and those you are going to make.  It truly is the cross that the ruler bears, because when you’re a ruler of your kingdom, everything that happens is going to be traced back to you in some way, shape, or form.

A king (or queen, ruler, tigron, whatever) manages their kingdom.  They manage the defenses and the boundaries, the laws and the public welfare, the discipline and strength, the identity and the pride, the harvest and the wealth, the communication and the transport, the security and the love of the whole kingdom.  Yes, they often don’t do it alone, and have guards, patrols, magistrates, legislature, generals, captains, overseers, messengers, and community leaders help take that burden off their shoulders somewhat, but all authority is derived from the king, and so all decisions made in the name of the king are made, effectively, by the king.  Thus, all choices are traced back to the king, and if there’s a problem anywhere in this chain of manifestation from king to pleb, it’s the king’s fault for not managing things properly.  If there’s a problem with the land, water, air, travelers, traders, or invaders, then it’s not necessarily the king’s fault for those, but however the king reacts to them and manages them as they pop up in his kingdom will be.

In the system of Hermetic magic that Fr. RO teaches, he gives you all the tools, education, and experiences you need to know what the chains of manifestation are, who to contact for help, who manages what, where things come from, and how to put your own plans into action.  He prepares you, effectively, for becoming king of your own life.  He does not take responsibility for you, however, and he can only help so much if you have problems of your own.  His real help lies in teaching you how to solve your own problems, as well as solving those that crop up in your life without your agreement, because this shit happens and it’s up to us to learn how to deal with them the best way we can with the best means we have available to us.  It is this education that surpasses any ritual, any tool construction, any talisman consecration; it is this that is the real meat and bones of Hermeticism.  Everything else is garnish or flatware.

Fr. RO may call it kingship.  I call it true humanity.  Same diff, really, I just don’t like to sugarcoat (whiskeysoak?) things as much as he does.

Life has shitty problems of many kinds.  We may be born into shitty circumstances.  We may have shitty bodies.  We may have shitty emotional imbalances.  We may have shitty job opportunities.  We may live during a time of shitty politics and shittier warfare.  We may have shitty plagues infesting and killing off our already shitty cities.  We make shitty choices.  We make (not have) shitty reactions.  We make shitty comments.  We make shitty alliances.  We make shitty food and drink selections.  Some of this shit that happens to us is not our fault.  Some of it is.  Regardless, we are not the first generation to have to deal with all this shit.  We’re the most recent, which means that every generation before us has had to deal with this same shit over and over and over again.  And you know what’s awesome?  Humanity has lived through it all, and now it’s our turn.  What makes us magicians and kings and true humans different, however, is that we can make the best of it instead of just enduring it all.  That’s the big thing that few people recognize: a magician’s job isn’t just to live through all this shit, but to adjust to it, fix it, and make this shit less shitty for ourselves and, if you’re up to it, those who come after us

One of the upshots to all this is that you don’t have to go it alone.  You know that one new age greeting, “the light in me recognizes the light in you”? That’s actually a thing, people.  Kings recognize each other.  We see other rulers, and other potential rulers, in the people around us.  We understand what they’re going through, because we’ve already done the work that they’re doing or are about to do.  We know what they go through.  They know what we go through.  We help each other out.  Just as any smart-minded kings, we make alliances, coalitions, treaties, and agreements with other kings.  We build networks of support, even just as friends who do their own things individually but who come together in a time of need.  When problems get too big for any one king, other kings step in to shoulder the burden.  It’s part of that whole chain of manifestation thing, but on a broader level.  It’s okay to ask for help.  If you need it, ask.  It’s better to be humble and ask for help than proud and dead when it comes to rulership, because people can’t depend on a dead king.  Your life can’t be excellent when you’re dead, because you by definition have no life.

Every tool, every ritual, every seal, every tincture, every spirit you make use of should always be used to help you rule your own kingdom.  Every magical implementation and technique should be geared for your own use to solve your own problems.  It’s rarely easy, of course, but that’s why we do this.  If it were easy, we wouldn’t be talking about this, RO wouldn’t have put a book out on it, and we’d all be already in Heaven.

Life sucks.  Rulership sucks.  But rulership, done rightly, can make life suck a lot less, and that’s what makes rulership worth it.  It’s what makes theurgy worth it.  It’s what makes magic worth it.  It’s what makes life worth it.  Nobody promised you an easy life; nobody promised Obama an easy nation; nobody promised Octavian an easy empire.  It may be hard to be a ruler over your own life, but it sure beats the hell out of being subject to your own life.

Search Term Shoot Back, November 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of November 2014.

“wicks for middle eastern oil lamp” — Honestly, for those little clay, metal, or terracotta lamps you find from the Middle East, the best type of wicks are those you make yourself from a cotton ball.  Every cotton ball is actually a tiny roll of cotton; simply unroll it into a flat-ish sheet, then roll it again tightly lengthwise like a dreadlock.  Stick it into the spout of the lamp, soak in oil for five minutes before lighting, and boom, you have yourself a perfectly good wick.  Follow the rest of the rules for oil lamps here.

“seven sphere rufus opus”, “‘seven spheres’ opus”, “seven spheres rufus opus”, “rufus opus seven spheres”, “seven spheres by rufus opus” — Yes, Fr. Rufus Opus (my instructor, who is not me) released a book this month, “Seven Spheres” by Nephilim Press.  It is an awesome book (that I did not write).  You should totally buy it from him (who is not me).  I have my copy that I’m working through, and it’s truly an awesome text.

“cinnamon powder spell benefits to sprinkle in four corners” — I don’t know of any, myself, but cinnamon is used to sweeten things up, as well as bring prosperity and joy into one’s life; given its connections to the Sun (cassia and Saigon cinnamon are a little spicier and given to Mars), it also has some mildly protective benefits in magic.  Some ideas for sprinkling cinnamon in this fashion would be to do so in an hour of Jupiter in the day of the Sun, praying for prosperity and happiness to fill up your home, hearth, and house, that all rooms in the house and all places on the property be blessed with the grace of the Lord.  Simple stuff like that, perhaps also setting a white candle dressed in cinnamon oil in each room.

“how to relate question to geomancy houses” — The twelve houses of geomancy are the same twelve houses in astrology.  You, as the querent, have a query to ask.  That query has a topic.  Find the house that best relates to that topic: e.g., if marriage then house VII, if children then house V, if job then house X, if curses then house XII, etc.  It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.  If your query doesn’t have a topic, then you don’t have a query.  If your query can be associated with several houses equally, then inspect each of those houses.  Take your time.  There is no rush to ask a question of geomancy.  Make sure your query is clear, concise, and concrete enough for you to handle instead of being vague, complicated, and abstract.

“tetractys divination” — This is an idea I’ve been experimenting with, using the Tetractys (especially in mathesis) for divination.  I haven’t yet found a suitable way to do so, but there are opportunities here I may not be looking at yet.  My idea would be to use two ten-sided dice (2d10) from a tabletop gaming set, with the 0-9 die given to “answer #1” (where you’re coming from, where you’re based out of, past experiences) and the 00-90 die given to “answer #2” (where you’re headed to, what you need to become, future experiences).  The number on each die could be associated with one of the ten sphairai on the Tetractys, such that if I rolled a 3 and a 50, that’d indicate the sphairai of Fire and of Salt, respectively, indicating that it’s time for me to reduce myself from pure action in the world to a base of nothing, to burn out completely, to focus on the substance that keeps me burning rather than focusing on the results of acting.  That kind of thing.  It’s a side project, but one that could be useful.

“penis growth curse” — …is this really a curse? I mean, usually you’d want to shrink or remove the penis as an effective curse, which is actually a cultural phenomenon in Africa known as koro.  People actually get killed for being accused as wizards or witches there who shrink or disappear away men’s penises, so this is a pretty big thing, but cursing a penis to get bigger?  Dude, that’s like a fetish of everyone who likes penises, especially their own, unless you’re talking about something so big that it’d crush cars.  Even then, there’s a fetish for that, too (hyper and/or macro).

“huge dick images.” — You won’t find any of those on this blog, sadly; I may be a little colorful with my vocabulary, but nothing here is generally NSFW.  I do make the “big anointed wand” joke occasionally, though.

“how to use elohim gibor in prayer” — Technically, you don’t.  From my point of view, you let him use you.  Elohim Gibor (lit. “Strong God”) is one of the names of God, associated in Western qabbalistic practice to the sephirah of Geburah and thus to the planet Mars.  I’ve used this name when working with a martial aspect of God or when working with martial spirits who respond to this name of God.  However, the process is the same otherwise as with any other name of God: you seek the aid of God for his blessing, grace, guidance, and protection that his will be done and not your own lest it be in accordance with his, that you work with the authority of God that God may work through you, etc. etc.  So, really, the answer to this turns out like that Soviet Russia joke, with Elohim Gibor using you.  Beyond that, gematrialize it, intone it, contemplate it, meditate on it, calligraphy it, and whatever else you want to use to figure the name out.

“rufus opus review” — Dude’s cute but in a relationship, also straight, so I typically don’t have my eye out for him like that.  He’s charismatic, for sure, especially once he’s got a few whiskeys in him.

“do males born on a leo/virgo cusp have big dicks” and also “do guys born on a leo/virgo cusp have big penises like greek god hermes” — I’m not surprised I got these searches (again), though I am surprised that they came apart several days away from each other.  Either this is one very concerned searcher, or two separate searchers who have similar tastes and problems.  Hermes, if you look at his Homeric Hymn, would actually be born sometime around the end of Pisces or the start of Aries (a few days after the third New Moon after the winter solstice), and he’s not generally the most sexualized of the gods (though he has his own thing going on), and isn’t exactly a god of giant endowments.  Then again, he might be totally the god to go to if you have a koro curse to enact on someone, which would be hilarious for everyone except those who’d get killed in Africa for it, so I dunno.

“geomancy blog” — While this blog covers many topics, I do occasionally write about geomancy.  A while ago, I wrote a 20-post series on geomancy that covers each of the 16 figures in depth and at length along with four aspects of geomantic technique. the I even wrote a translation of a medieval text on geomancy, which is available on my Etsy that you should check out!  Spread the word, check it out, and I hope it helps.

“congo men biggest cocks” — Since I’ve never slept with someone from the Congo region of Africa, I can’t say whether this is true or not. Also, seriously, I know the US had two federal holidays this past month, but if having two extra days off (for only a percentage of the population here, mind you) gets you that hot and bothered that I’m getting a higher than average hit count for people looking for giant pictures of dicks or for people with giant dicks, I seriously question why you’re using Google and WordPress and not Grindr or Scruff.  Tumblr’s where I go to get my porn, generally speaking, so you might also check that out.

“material used in summoning a spirit” — Technically speaking, you don’t need anything material to summon a spirit; intent, prayer, and a mental connection are all you strictly need.  Some people do a bit of centering prayer to contact a spirit, some people go to their astral temples, and other people just see them, flag them down, and have a conversation with them.  That said, many people (including myself) find it extraordinarily useful to have material tools, for which I suggest a scrying medium (e.g. crystal ball, glass of water, mirror), a summoning platform (e.g. Triangle of Art, Table of Practice), a tool of will (wand or knife or dominant index finger), a few candles, some appropriate incense, and the usual stuff.  Again, none of it is strictly needed, but it helps.

“books on loan from australian libraries about hinese and japanese astrology specifically nine star ki” — I know literally nothing about any of these these things.  I am definitely not an Australian library, nor have I ever been to one nor gotten a book out on loan from one. I’ve talked about these things exactly zero times on my blog or my Twitter.  Why did Google lead you here.  I apologize.

“adherent bandage and jelq” — For those who don’t know, jelqing is a method some men use to increase their penis size (both length and girth) by forcing more blood than normal into it with an extra-firm grip, using an almost udder-milking technique.  The jury’s out on whether this works, but I’ve heard good things with it, so long as you keep at it regularly like any workout; the idea is that you’ll slowly stretch the blood cavities in the soft tissue of the shaft, which allows it to hold more blood when you get an erection, which means getting a bigger hardon.  It’s not recommended for everyone, and there are definitely unsafe ways to do this.  Since you’re forcing more blood into the cock than normally goes in, if you have a cut or scrape or other wound on it that requires a bandage, you really really shouldn’t be handling it that roughly, if at all.  But then, who am I kidding, if you’re already into jelqing then you’re probably not looking to play by all the rules.

“do quadrivium.oils work” — Absolutely!  Some of my favorite oils comes from Quadrivium Supplies, and I’m a big fan of her work.  She charges a pretty reasonable amount for pretty powerful magical oils, and occasionally stocks some other useful and interesting supplies.  By all means, take a look; this time of the year, she has some good sales going on, so have at!

“san lazaro bead pattern” — San Lazaro, more commonly known in English as Saint Lazarus, can be a bit confusing for some people, since there are two Lazaruses in the Bible.  One is Saint Lazarus of Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha and the one who was raised by Jesus Christ from the dead after being in his tomb for four days.  The other is…well, he has no formal appellation, just “Lazarus” from the parable of Jesus known as “The Rich Man and Lazarus”, from the Gospel of Luke.  San Lazaro kinda merges these two Lazari, mostly from the second, and is often depicted as a beggar covered in sores, walking on crutches, and licked upon by dogs.  He’s syncretized with the orisha Babaluaye, the orisha of illness, poverty, death, and the like.  However, there are many paths or aspects to San Lazaro, each possessing their own name, focus, and bead pattern for their elekes.  While you should always go to your local olorisha or Santero/a for real information, you can find some information online that may not be as trustworthy.

“hermes/mercury and legba” — They’re all pretty cool guys who don’t afraid of anything.  However, they are not the same entity, and you’d do well to take heed of that.  Hermes is Greek, Mercury is Roman; these two basically grew up together, with Mercury being solidly based on Hermes (the name “Mercurius” literally means “god of the merchants” and isn’t a native Roman god).  Legba is one of the variants of the name Eleggua, the childlike trickster and messenger of the crossroads who opens the ways.  Yes, they both preside over crossroads, messages, pranks, children, medicines, and many other things, but there are also important differences, too.  Legba, specifically, indicates more of a Haitian variant from Vodou, which has its own means of contacting Legba than Santería does Eleggua.  I highly suggest against conflating Legba with another crossroads gods, especially from a white or European culture.

Fr. Rufus Opus, who is not me, made something awesome!

So, if you’re at all involved with the ceremonial magic blogosphere or Hermetic occulture online nowadays, you may have heard that there was a new book published this week: Seven Spheres by Frater Rufus Opus, from Nephilim Press.  This is Fr. Rufus Opus’ second time being in print (the first being a contribution to Holy Guardian Angel, ed. by Fr. Mike Cecchetelli), and his first time publishing a full book, which is a huge accomplishment for the man.

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From the Nephilim Press page:

Seven Spheres is more than a simple book of traditional Hermetic Magic. It is designed to be a series of rituals that function on many levels to take an average ordinary magician and turn them into a self-actualized powerhouse of proactive reality engineering. It’s entirely about attaining initiation and empowerment in the highest levels of un-manifest reality. These experiences and rites result in the release of a floodgate of power that pour down through the layers of progressive manifestation, building up awareness, understanding, and ultimately raw potential as you move from sphere to sphere through the rites, ultimately culminating in the anointing of the magician as Priest-King directing the forces that climax in your personal daily experience of the Joy of your life. This book isn’t about physical or spiritual mastery, it is entirely about understanding that you, personally, are beloved, honored, blessed, and highly favored of every intelligence, spirit, angel, and god of every sphere. This is about understanding who you are and what you can accomplish as a human being manifest upon the surface of the Earth. Spiritual enlightenment and material mastery will be yours, if you do the work described.

If you’re familiar with Fr. Rufus Opus’ stuff, you’ll know that he had a thing going on a while back called the Planetary Gates series of ebooks and rituals.  They formed the crux of his system of Hermetic theurgy: a series of conjurations calling upon the angels presiding over the planetary spheres.  He understood that a conjuration of one of these angels is a lot more than merely charging them to do such-and-such for you; rather, he realized that working with the angels can be a series of initiations into elevating oneself higher through the heavens to reach, essentially, godhood.  It’s a modern method of Renaissance Hermetic ritual with foundations in ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern theurgy, and it’s awesome.

As some of my own readers are familiar, I’m a student of Fr. Rufus Opus himself and his Red Work series of classes.  It’s how I formally got started in being a ceremonial magician back in 2011, and I’ve been close to him since and have consulted with him on a number of topics.  The Planetary Gates texts he had online for quite some time was one of the pillars of his coursework, and I’ve used them extensively in my own work, culminating in my own conjuration of the angel of the fixed stars and an initiation into the Eighth Sphere.  I can’t suggest his approach enough to people who are new to the occult, since it affords so much and so fast to those who are willing to put the work in and do the rituals.

A while back, Fr. Rufus Opus took down the option to buy the Planetary Gates ebooks he had on his website, only recently acknowledging that he had done so to polish them up, add in more content and experiences, and refine it into a proper occult grimoire.  Now, after all that time, the fruits of his labors can be harvested!  The Planetary Gates texts were valuable for their content alone, sure, and how to go about performing Trithemian-style conjurations and how to plunge oneself into the heights and depths of the planets, getting everything one can over and over out of the heavens to benefit ourselves on Earth and in all other planes of existence.  Seven Spheres will have all that and more!  After all, as Fr. Rufus Opus says:

The point is to empower you to be the king and queen of your world. You are the center of your existence, and it is through your decisions and actions that you influence the experience of your manifest life. From money, to sex, to happiness, to fulfillment, all of your life experiences are the result of decisions you make based on your awareness of what’s going on at the time.

Even if you’re not into all that high and mighty theurgical henosis and apotheosis, chances are you’re into getting laid and getting paid.  From low and vulgar ends to the highest and most rarefied, Seven Spheres covers how you can do both at the same time.

So, the text was released this past Monday, November 17, and I noted almost immediately once the news hit Facebook that my blog hits started shooting up, with more than a few searches for “rufus opus” and “seven spheres”.  While it’s true that I do reference Fr. Rufus Opus’ work (I’m kinda indebted to him, after all, for essentially giving me a leg up in the occult world), I just want to make it clear: I am not the Hermeticist you are looking for.  I may be seen to approach his level of awesomeness and, on occasion, drunkenness, but let me tell you, the man you’re looking for is far more awesome and far more and far more often drunk than I could ever be.  To resolve this, I thought it might help if I mentioned that, no, I am not Fr. Rufus Opus, I’m just polyphanes, and I haven’t published anything except a few of my own ebooks yet (which, admittedly, I think you should also buy).  You want Fr. Rufus Opus’ new book, which you can buy from Nephilim Press for US$50.00, which is pretty much a steal for what is essentially a landmark work in modern Hermetic magic.

After all, I’ve already ordered my copy.  You really, really, really should, too.  Even if you have laminated copies of his Planetary Gates texts enshrined in a secure locked-down binder and kept in a safe place (because surely I can’t be the only one who does that), you should get a copy of Fr. Rufus Opus’ new book today while supplies last from Nephilim Press.  Add to it, Fr. Rufus Opus is planning on making this the primary textbook for his future style of Red Work courses, which means you should really get the book anyway especially if you’re considering learning from him.

Stop waiting.  Close this window, get out your PayPal login or credit card, and go to Nephilim Press right now to buy Fr. Rufus Opus’ Seven Spheres.  If you’re interested in doing some real Work, you can do much worse than opening the Gates and walking through them with this.

On the Hymns of Silence

Would you believe me if I said that one of the most powerful prayers, indeed the only true prayer we’re capable of, involves no words or speech at all?  Further, that this prayer is what undergirds every ritual, working, and sacrifice we make to the Source and to the world?

One of the things that Fr. Rufus Opus’ lessons in Hermetic magic teaches is how to get up and running as a Hermetic magician working with the spheres of the cosmos.  This process grounds the magician in working with the four elements that compose this sphere we live in, whether you call it Earth or Malkuth or whatever.  From there, you then begin to work with the forces of the heavens, indicated by the different planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  By cycling through these forces, either in conjuration or astral exploration or qabbalistic pathworking or what-have-you, the magician begins to understand the relationship between the heavens and the earth, what is above versus what is below.  Each heaven feeds into the next, such that the forces that come from Saturn feed into Jupiter, which feeds into Mars, all the way down to Earth.  Ascending through the heavens gives the magician a solid footing in each of the forces that collectively build up the world, understanding how things on Earth come to be through the elements and how the elements come to be through the planets.

But the work doesn’t stop there, of course.  The planets themselves are collectively formed from even higher forces, which is sometimes termed “the sphere of the fixed stars”.  Ancient astrologers and astronomers only knew of the seven planets, and guessed at their relative distance from the Earth based on their speed.  Thus, the Moon, having the fastest speed around the Earth, would be the closest planet to Earth, and Saturn, with the slowest speed of the traditional naked-eye planets, would be the farthest.  From this, we get the terms “first heaven” relating to the sphere of the Moon, “second heaven” to Mercury, and so forth.  If Saturn is then the “seventh heaven”, then what lies beyond Saturn would be the “eighth heaven”, but there are no visible naked-eye planets to correspond to such a place.  The ancients then assigned all of the fixed stars, the lights in the sky that don’t move relative to each other like the planets do, to the eighth heaven; this includes all of the constellations of the Zodiac, all of the lunar mansions, and all other fixed stars, constellations, and the like.  This is the furthest boundary between what exists and what does not exist (God), whose membrane exists somewhere between the stars themselves and Saturn.

My first experience with the eighth sphere was something I looked forward to for some time, and I was finally able to attain during the consecration of my ebony Wand of Art last year.  I had done a week straight of conjuration, going through each element and planet in turn for seven days straight, reincorporating those forces within me to prepare me for the final conjuration of Iophiel of the Fixed Stars, the Eighth Heaven, and to call it a memorable experience would be a grievous understatement.  After a lot of conversation with the angel Iophiel, something had finally clicked that Fr. RO had mentioned time and time again on his blog that had enticed me to contact this angel in the first place, the Hymns of Silence:

In the Eighth sphere, we learn to Hymn in Silence. The Hymns are hymns of CREATION. We are creator gods, and the most holy form of worship is the creation of our world. Hymning in silence seems, from my experience, to mean that we get apply the forces of creation at will through methods such as imagining a shape or form, tensing a muscle, and paying attention (focusing awareness) to a certain thing happening. t’s an immediate thing that has a great deal of potential. (from “Seven Spheres in Seven Days: Phase II”, 11/4/2012)

But when you get to the Eighth Sphere, my God, it’s a whole new ball game! The Hymns of Silence are exactly that. In the rituals and rites of the Seven Planetary spheres and the lower realms, you speak and commune and direct, you mix and mingle and create talismans and tools and things. But in the Eighth, youintend and things happen. I’ve learned there are forces released when you make a physical movement with a specific intent empowered by teachings from certain spirits at certain times, and the world just bends a little bit. (from “Abramelin: Hermetic Rite or Hermetic Wrong?” 6/8/2010)

And it’s really weird for me because I’m used to being able to put things into words. But in the Eighth Sphere, you learn to sing hymns of silence in preparation for the Ninth. It’s a matter of directing your intent in worshipful observation, in celebration of the process of manifestation. You tune your observation-with-intent to harmonize with the manifestation current, and you find yourself as the conductor as well as a player in the orchestra. And see, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished. You name a thing, and it responds, and then it returns to where it used to be.  (from “Ch-ch-ch-changes”, 6/24/2010)

This morning in church, I took time during the worship service to pursue the silent hymns of the 8th Sphere. Doing so in the midst of vocal hymns was interesting, and I highly recommend anyone working with Iophial or the Archangels of the Zodiac to take the time on a Sunday morning to go to a church that sings. It doesn’t matter if it’s contemporary or traditional, but if you’ve forgotten the essence of what a hymn to the highest is all about, then you won’t have the context to understand what they can teach. If you’re a pagan, review the Orphic hymns, I’m pretty sure they’re around somewhere. The point is to worship, which is not a debasing or limiting thing at all. IT is freeing, and you can’t begin to understand the image you were made in until you are able to understand what you’re an image of. If that makes sense. My fingers are typing the wrong words lately. (from “The Silver Key”, 3/22/2009)

Each of the spheres has its own “tune”, it’s own note, with our lowest sphere of Earth composed of all of them.  However, Saturn has commonly been depicted as a sphere of silence, of the lowest possible note where only whispers are possible, if anything at all (especially in my own travels in that sphere, or say Alan Moore’s “Promethea” series).  If these seven spheres correspond to the seven basic pitches of Western music, then what exists beyond that?  Because that’s where the Eighth Sphere lies, and even beyond that the Ninth, which is the Source of all other things that exist.  It’s the beautiful music that comes from the Eighth Sphere without sound, the tone without pitch, the vibration with both all and no vibrations at once, that undergirds all other possible music that can be made below it, and this music is the Hymn of Silence.

This isn’t something that Fr. RO made up, either.  It goes all the way back to the beginning of Hermeticism in the Poemander (section 26):

And then, with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father.

They who are there welcome his coming there with joy; and he, made like to them that sojourn there, doth further hear the Powers who are above the Nature that belongs unto the Eighth, singing their songs of praise to God in language of their own.

And then they, in a band, go to the Father home; of their own selves they make surrender of themselves to Powers, and [thus] becoming Powers they are in God. This the good end for those who have gained Gnosis – to be made one with God.

Why shouldst thou then delay? Must it not be, since thou hast all received, that thou shouldst to the worthy point the way, in order that through thee the race of mortal kind may by [thy] God be saved?

And the idea is talked about even more at length in Hermes’ Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth to Asclepius:

H: “Lord, grant us a wisdom from your power that reaches us, so that we may describe to ourselves the vision of the eighth and the ninth. We have already advanced to the seventh, since we are pious and walk in your law. And your will we fulfill always. For we have walked in your way, and we have renounced […], so that your vision may come. Lord, grant us the truth in the image. Allow us through the spirit to see the form of the image that has no deficiency, and receive the reflection of the pleroma from us through our praise.  And acknowledge the spirit that is in us. For from you the universe received soul. For from you, the unbegotten one, the begotten one came into being. The birth of the self-begotten one is through you, the birth of all begotten things that exist. Receive from us these spiritual sacrifices, which we send to you with all our heart and our soul and all our strength. Save that which is in us and grant us the immortal wisdom.  Let us embrace each other affectionately, my son. Rejoice over this! For already from them the power, which is light, is coming to us. For I see! I see indescribable depths. How shall I tell you, my son? […] from the […] the places. How shall I describe the universe? I am Mind, and I see another Mind, the one that moves the soul! I see the one that moves me from pure forgetfulness. You give me power! I see myself! I want to speak! Fear restrains me. I have found the beginning of the power that is above all powers, the one that has no beginning. I see a fountain bubbling with life. I have said, my son, that I am Mind. I have seen! Language is not able to reveal this. For the entire eighth, my son, and the souls that are in it, and the angels, sing a hymn in silence. And I, Mind, understand.”

What he had finished praising, [Asclepius] shouted, “Father Trismegistus! What shall I say? We have received this light. And I myself see this same vision in you. And I see the eighth, and the souls that are in it, and the angels singing a hymn to the ninth and its powers. And I see him who has the power of them all, creating those in the spirit.”

H: “I am singing a hymn within myself. While you rest yourself, be active in praise. For you have found what you seek.”

A: “I will offer up the praise in my heart, as I pray to the end of the universe and the beginning of the beginning, to the object of man’s quest, the immortal discovery, the begetter of light and truth, the sower of reason, the love of immortal life. No hidden word will be able to speak about you, Lord. Therefore, my mind wants to sing a hymn to you daily. I am the instrument of your spirit; Mind is your plectrum. And your counsel plucks me. I see myself! I have received power from you. For your love has reached us…Grace! After these things, I give thanks by singing a hymn to you. For I have received life from you, when you made me wise…”

The closest way I can describe the Hymns are something like a combination of recognizing our True Will, joining intentfully into the Pleroma, and the injunction from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”.  The experience of singing the Hymns is ecstasy in the deepest meaning of the word, making us stand apart from ourselves in rapture.  The act of singing the Hymns is the act of dwelling in the Eighth, no matter where else we might be in mind or body, and to hear the Hymns even once leaves a mark on your own self that can never be erased.  It’s one of those milestones in Hermetic practice that, much like getting contact with the HGA, can never be forgotten nor ignored.  The sound, or thought, or vibration, or whatever-word-to-best-describe-it-that-I-can’t-find always lingers in the mind, like the currents under the surface of water or the bones supporting the body.  It never goes away, even in sleep or meditation, even above earworms that get stuck in the head, even above the most dire worries and concerns we have in this life.  This Hymn is the presence and awakening of Nous within ourselves.

This Hymn is the true and only Hymn we can ever possibly sing.  Any words put to music or used in religious service are ultimately empty without this Hymn, and any ritual done without this Hymn being sung is worthless and ineffective without it.   The good news is that this Hymn is already with us and coming from us, whether we’ve reached the Eighth Sphere or not, though we may never realize it without our eyes being opened.  We may be able to sing snatches of the Hymn, or pick out the tuneless tunes that match it for a particular purpose, but these Hymns are always within us, always being sung.  It’s obtaining access to the Eighth Sphere, however, and really learning about these Hymns that allows us to always be aware of them being sung within and without and around ourselves, and which allows us to intently and willfully sing it whenever we want.

In fact, if we want to be minimalist about it, singing the Hymn is the only ritual action we ever need to do.  The Hymn is the accumulated powers of the Eighth Sphere, the source of all things below it; it is the foundation of the planets, elements, and all that exists.  The only thing more primordial than the Eighth Sphere is God itself, and singing the Hymns not only prepares us for working with God directly as God but also prepares us to work with any other force in the cosmos.  Instead of using elemental magic to change things down here on Earth as they already are, or using planetary magic to change things as they come down to Earth through the planets, the magic of the fixed stars allows us to rig the game before it ever even starts.  You don’t work with a single part or multiple parts of the system, but the system as a whole; you get a broader picture of the harmony of the cosmos and what really needs working on and what’s really in discord rather than what we think is discord.  In singing the Hymns with our entire body, soul, spirit, and mind, we effectively become magic itself, capable of feats unimaginable even to ourselves, since the Hymns allow us to all but tap into Mind directly.

Of course, like anything else in magic, it’s not simply a one-time thing; you don’t just waltz up to Iophiel in the highest discrete sphere possible, get initiated into the Hymns, and be done with it.  Like any meditative or spiritual practice, it takes practice and effort to really get the Hymns to flow through you without discord coming from you; just like your True Will, it takes some work to align and fine-tune ourselves to sing the Hymns of Silence in Silence, with or without words.  We have a lot going on down here with ourselves, and a lot to use reason for, but not all reason is truly reasonable; we may justify what isn’t reasonable to look like reason, and we may happen upon reasonable acts without reason and without knowing why we should really keep doing reasonable things.  Singing the Hymns takes Work, and is another “key” to performing good ritual of any kind, but especially that of Hermeticism.

If any of the foregoing is confusing, I apologize, but this is hard to put into words to begin with, and even my talent for vocalization falls short when I try to describe something that is essentially unspeakable.  The only real advice I have for further clarification is for you to go and do the Work yourselves for this.  Go conjure the angels of the elements and learn their “instruments”, go conjure the angels of the planets and learn their “pitches”.  Understand the principles of the music of the spheres, the harmony that builds up to the crescendo creation of  our world, and with all those understood and incorporated into your own sphere that makes you your own orchestral symphony, go forth into the Eighth Sphere and learn the Music behind the music.  It’s not that hard; you’re born for this.  Go and Sing.

Book Review: “The Holy Guardian Angel”, ed. Michael Cecchetelli

As you may already have heard elsewhere on the blogosphere, dear reader, there’s a new book out on one of the most central and confusing parts of modern Western Hermetic magic: the Holy Guardian Angel.  Michael Cecchetelli of The Lion’s Den, author of Crossed Keys and The Book of Abrasax, recently approved the final proof of his most recent book “Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel” and it’s on its way to the printer with Nephilim Press.  With 10 authors contributing, including amongst others Jason Miller, Conjureman Ali, Scott Michael Stenwick, Aaron Leitch, Frater Ashen Chassan, and my own mentor Frater Rufus Opus, the book is one I’ve personally been waiting for for some time now. Happily, Fr. MC himself posted a call for reviewers, and after sending the good man an email, he sent me a copy of the text for my own review!  To say that I’m honored is an understatement.

I personally made contact with my HGA back in the summer of 2012, about the time when I was consecrating my Solomonic Ring and was undergoing a large amount of time doing solar work in addition to the Headless Rite at least once daily.  I made some allusions to it before, but never formally talked about making contact with my HGA or talked at length about my HGA’s nature.  Partially, that’s because I’ve been busy with other parts of my ritual work done or finishing up other projects, and in my life that’s already pretty busy to begin with, this is no trivial matter.  I haven’t done as much introspection and inspection of my HGA that I probably should have by now, and I admit that the feeling I get between us may be strong but is also somewhat distant.  That said, since having made contact with my HGA, he has never ignored me or abandoned me; that connection, though it may be distant and small, has never been weak or forsaken.  I’ve spoken with other magicians in my circle of friends about the nature of the HGA, with one of the best/most comical ideas being that the HGA is akin to a “divine sockpuppet”, throttling back the incomprehensible majesty of the Source into a single comprehensible figure for our individual selves, something like a personal Christ figure, but this might be more properly be considered akin to an agathodaimon or similar tutelary god.  It’s tricky, and during previous blogosphere debates on the HGA, I’ve never thought myself capable of getting enmeshed in them since I don’t really know what to say.  The connection with the HGA is something intensely personal and is truly a revealed mystery, and there’s really so little that can be said about the HGA to begin with.  Those who have contact with the HGA know what it’s like and have little need to talk about it; those without contact have no means to understand what can be said.  Still, even among those who do have contact with the HGA, there’s a lot that can be said about the development, use, and work with the HGA, and that’s what Fr. MC’s new book aims to accomplish.

"Walking With the Angel" Banner

The text itself is 216 pages long, beautifully typeset and well-edited, making the reading of it a pleasure all on its own.  The book is broken down into four parts: the nature of the HGA, what comes after contact and how to work with the HGA, different schools of thought about the HGA, and a whole section devoted to some of the important blog posts made during the 2011 pan-blogosphere debates on the HGA.  Of course, MC himself is only one contributing author to the book, and that only in the final section; as he says in the introduction, he “realized no author had set about producing such a volume [on achieving K&CHGA], wherein are presented a diverse and varying cross-section of the beliefs on the subject, was because no single author could”.  It’s a complicated subject with layers upon layers of interpretation, use, and philosophy, making writing such a book on such a spirit more daunting than any other series of tomes on almost any other part of magic.

One theme that’s developed throughout the work is that K&CHGA is not just part of the Great Work, but is in fact the whole of the Great Work itself.  Taken at face-value, that’s kinda a silly statement, and doesn’t make much sense, but on deeper inspection, it becomes abundantly clear.  Many people in the Golden Dawn associate contact with the HGA to start at the grade corresponding to Tiphareth on the Tree of Life (Adeptus Minor); it’s no coincidence that (as far as I’ve heard) there are no formal grades beyond this point beyond what’s directed by one’s HGA alone, though the structure exists for them.  The entire work from this point onward is directed by one’s HGA, who really is our true teacher to understand our True Will.  After a certain point, however, even the HGA disappears when it becomes no longer useful for us, like how a raft is left behind after a journey across a river.  This is why I almost always say that I’ve made “contact” with my HGA instead of “knowledge and conversation”; I have at least partial knowledge of my HGA, sure, but developing the deep connection between us to where there is nothing external to me, becoming one with, within, and as God, the true “conversation” of the HGA, is something I’ll forever be working on.  The HGA, indeed, is a fundamental part of the Great Work, and though Crowley states that “the single supreme ritual is the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”, this is a ritual that takes a lifetime to complete.

This theme is developed through the book, that attaining contact with the HGA isn’t a one-time thing.  Even for myself, where I already have contact with my HGA, Fr. MC’s book is packed with good advice from people who have done the Work beyond what they’ve generously written about, and it inspires me with new things I’m eager to try out.  While I don’t see the need at this point to go through the Abramelin operation or redo a six-month stint of daily Headless Rites, that doesn’t mean I completely understand and can do anything with my HGA that I want to do.  You don’t just do the rituals and be done with it, receiving a full spirit guide at your beck and call; it’s the opening to a relationship where you two must work together to understand the Work to be done.  Just as the Sun rising once for one day doesn’t give all the light and energy necessary for the Earth to do everything it needs to do for its predicted 3.7 billion years, it has to rise continuously over and over again, each time going through the nocturnal underworld in order for the Earth and all its life to continue developing, building, and lasting.  Speaking from experience, I can definitely attest to this being the case, but happily this book provides means and new ideas for me to continue working with my own HGA in a big way that I wouldn’t’ve thought of.

Something that I’m totally okay with and agree with as a matter of scope is that the book does not offer much in the way of ritual.  Several authors offer some ritual rubrics and ideas to actually work with the HGA, but these are still rubrics with mostly experiences of use with them and not detailed ritual instructions themselves.  Rather, the book focuses more on “what the HGA can do for you”, and points out that there are so many ways to approach the HGA and many ways to come in contact with it, not just via the Headless Rite or the Abramelin operation.  That’s one of the goals of this book and the overall work of the HGA, too: it really doesn’t matter how you do the work here, so long as you do something.  Fr. MC himself says as much in his final entry: “there is no substitute for experiential knowledge…what is most crucial is to DO”.  The rituals offered within the book are references to those from the PGM, Abramelin, Solomonic-inspired shamanic acts, or Gnostic Ogdoatic methods to work with the HGA, which is saying quite a lot about the background the book offers that it combines all of them near seamlessly into a cohesive text.  What this book is good for is that offers the reader a glance into the experience of those few practicing magicians with actual experience with the HGA, as well as their (wildly divergent but critically useful) thoughts on the spirit.

It’s the combination of authors within “The Holy Guardian Angel” that really gives authority and authenticity to the book.  There’s a lot written about the HGA out there, but very little of it can be trusted (even more than most stuff on magic out there).  Even Fr. MC himself says as much in one of his old blog posts (reproduced in the book as a part of the section on the blogosphere debates):

…of all those who claim they have established “Knowledge and Conversation….”, 70% are lying, 15% have interpreted the aforementioned S.A. or another helpful spirit AS the HGA when in fact it is not and therefore truly believe they HAVE Knowledge and Conversation… etc…, 10% have no contact with any spirit and are under the new age proliferated misconception that contact with spirits evoked comes in the form of “clear messages, like really reeeaallly clear messages in my head” or another such abominable lie.

5%, then, are those who genuinely have made conscious, true contact and have attained what Abramelin and Abraham von Worms call “Knowledge and Conversation of The Holy Guardian Angel”. And thats a liberal number. In the majority of cases, those who are among this 5% and have ascended to this level, will know recognize one another in conversation or when reading each others writing on the subject. This is because the experience of meeting this transcendent being is absofuckinglutely changing, and there are no circumstances under which one having done so could not be utterly, permanently changed.

While I may not agree with the literal percentages of these counts, it hits home when Crowley himself says that “until the Magician has attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel he is liable to endless deceptions”.  Attaining contact with the HGA is no easy thing, and while it’s no advanced thing either, it takes work and, like any real spiritual endeavor, it changes the entire game of one’s life.  It’s one of the closest parallels the modern Western mystery tradition has to a life-death-rebirth ritual seen in many other spiritual paths, and if you ask anyone who’s undergone that type of ritual, if it was done right then you and everyone around you knows for a goddamn fact it was done right.  Anything else is a lie and there is no substitute for it, either to get others to think you have the contact with this spirit or to get yourself to have contact with this spirit.  That we have such a collection of esteemed magicians who have the experience and scars to show they have the real deal with their corresponding HGAs is a treat for magicians in the modern day, especially since more and more is being written about the HGA by people who may not be anywhere as qualified to talk about it.

Whether you’ve already had contact with your HGA, or even already reached the grade of Ipsissimus in the Golden Dawn, or even are a newcomer to Hermetic magic generally, Fr. MC’s book “The Holy Guardian Angel” is going to be a wealth of information and practice for you.  It’ll give you things to look forward to if you don’t yet have contact with your HGA, and it’ll give you plenty to chew on if you already do (or think you do).  The book is one of the closest things we have to a textbook on working with the HGA especially when paired with things like the Book of Abramelin or Liber Samekh, but it’s also definitely one of the most approachable texts out there.  To see the words and minds of these magicians put together in a single volume on a complicated subject is a treat, both intellectually and spiritually, and definitely a must-have for ceremonial magicians.  Stop by Nephilim Press and place your orders soon!