26 February, 2009

Humility and Sympathy

I sometimes find myself asking, well, myself, does God have an ego, is God arrogant? My instinct on this would be "no, God doesn't have any reason to be arrogant or egotistical, its not in the nature of Ayin to be anything that is quantifiable." Then I ask myself "Then why are there so many occultists who are 'doing the work' egomaniacs? Where is the humility of simply being one's own Self?"

I probably have an answer to that last bit, but lets focus on the positive, shall we?

15 February, 2009

More process

Two in one day! I know, I know, I promised that this would be infrequently used. Such is life.

What is the process like? I think originally this is what I was going to write about, but I guess I needed to get that other bit out of the way first. Part of the process and all that.

I shall wait for the groans to subside . . . ready?

I can't, or at least wont, make a "this is how it is for everyone, everywhere, everywhen" kind of statement. I'm not quite full enough of myself for that. My thoughts on the subject are largely influenced by Gikatilla and Luria. Which itself is interesting as Gikatilla was not a Zoharic kabbalist. In fact he was a senior, or perhaps elder, student in the same kabbalistic circle as de Leon was, and went in a different direction than de Leon did. So, there will be thoughts of "rectification" (which is kind of like redemption, but different) in here, as well as that whole spiritual proximity thing. So, Luria first, then Gikatilla, which is in reverse opperation for me, as Gikatilla's mystical theology underlies just about everything in my practice. Luria is a bit more familiar to people than Gikatilla though.

Luria's main focus seems to have been working towards Tikkun ha-Olam, the World of Rectification. He saw creation as (presumably purposfully) flawed due to the Breaking of the Vessels and that it is humanities job to fix it. This would entail both the rectification of our own selves (nefesh with ruach, ruach with neschamah, on all levels) and the rectification of the sparks of Keter that were trapped in the World of Action, and especailly in and below Malkhut so that they may be restored to their proper place. (This is somewhat of a simplification. Luria held that creation existed below Malkhut, mired almostly complete in the world of the broken vessels. Most other kabbalists take the view that physical creation exists within Malkhut, which is more or less how I understand things to be.) To me these are to different metaphors for the same thing; whether we are rectifying our own sparks or the sparks that are around us doesn't really matter, it all needs to be cleaned up by someone, and we've opted in. Kind of like theurgic Boddhisattvas, which is an idea that needs to be explored further I think.

Gikatilla, in Sha'are Orah, the Gates of Light, wrote, repeatedly, about how things in the spiritual realm interacted with one another. He reminds us that the notion of closeness is a matter of, well, matter. Spiritual things, the sefirot especially, do not exist in either space or time, so the language of closeness, which is related to both, is irrelevant. For Gikatilla, and for me, spiritual "closeness" is a mater of similarity. The more alike, spiritually (and everything that entails), to something, the closer to it I am. Again, this may be similar to bhakti, or theosis, or experiencing one's Buddha nature, which is the same everywhere. Maybe. It means that if we want to be like Christ, or Krishna, or our own higher selves, we must start to act like them, think like them, pray like them . . . . we must identify ourselves with them as much as possible. We make the male female and the female male (thanks Thomas!) This is both the process and the goal, and recalls the Vajrayana idea of using the goal as the path. It also explains why the "peak experiences" of mysticism are not the goal, but highlights along the way. We change slowly, day by day. And, all unnoticed by ourselves, we have become who we really are.

Its all about the process

I mean, really, its called a "path" for a reason, right?

While I perhaps understand the desire for instant change towards a spiritual life I've never really understood the expectation, I presume its a weird, Western adolescent post Modernism thing part of the species is going through. But, yes, its a process; we are becoming who we are really are, trying to strip off the aggregate of false ego we've hidden ourselves beneath for however long we've been alive.

That's part of the process too, of course. I'm kind of Neoplatonic that way.

I think this idea is all around us though, and not just in Western traditions; its a core notion in many forms of Buddhism as well, though perhaps their notion of what exactly the real self is, that person in the mirror without rank, and what mine is are not quite the same. Its the goal of psychology as well, that speaking about the soul it gets its name from.

Excuse me, I'm beginning to ramble a bit.

So, yes, a process. I think some of the modern language of ceremonial magic, as well as the way the spirituality of such has been redirected (I'm looking at you Mac and Uncle Al!) has confused us though. The wholly external "Holy Guardian Angel" is one example, the focus on "Tiferetic Consciousness," whatever that might be, is another. The first is, at least, a useful in the short term, as it certainly looks that way for a while, given how the laws of spiritual proximity work. I would imagine that everything looks that way for quite some time, actually. But then we engage in Theosis or Bhakti or whatever you want to call it, and we disolve ourselves into the other. For some things that dissolution is not complete, and possibly cannot be complete, for other things, we were never really two to begin with. Those thoughts and ideas that didn't seem like ours, that come out of nowhere and make us think "well, yeah, why didn't I see that the last 100 times I looked at this?" become our very own, as they always were: we are just not the "we" we were before.

That second metaphor, made so popular by the Golden Dawn/RR et AC, bothers me a little more, probably because it is in rather gross violation of kabbalistic thought, this is the kind of thing that caused the Shattering of the Vessles and stops the flow of shefa. Go read Gikatilla's Sha'are Orah, its dense but well worth the read. The metaphor that I, personally, grok to comes, ultimately I guess, from the Song of Songs, but is found throughout the Nevi'im and Ketuvim and is really brought to life in the Zohar.

The union of the Bridgegroom and the Bride.

Here we have the bringing together of the nefesh and ruach. Not just the lower aspects of the ruach either, not just reason but intellect as well, where those flashes of true insight come from. In modern hermetic language this is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. And its not what it seems to be. The "Higher Self" language is misleading when we forget that the Higher Self is the Lower Genius, not the Divine Genius so many mistake it for, and we've all seen what happens then.

It is, however, making onself fully human. The Zohar tells us the story, interpreted from Genesis 1:27: Male and Female He created them (or "They" if you wan't the plurality of the Hebrew Elohim). The Zohar teaches that the first human was both male and female, two beings combined in one, back to back. In their yearning to face one another they were separated into Adam and Chevah (Human and Life, whereas before they were Human Life). This was the fall and we've spent the rest of our existance trying to come back together again. Yes, I realize the sexist nature of the story. You really wanted something else from a Bronze Age peoples?

To bring our life (the nefesh) and our humanness (the ruach) back together again makes us fully human once again. I suppose if we were to use the metaphors of modern ceremonial magic, this would be the final processes of the grade of Adeptus Exemptus (feel free to use that, if you happen to be using that grade system). It is, though, only the foundation for something else, the next phase in the Work, the realization of the Divine Genius, the neschamah and its components.

That's another discussion though.

05 February, 2009

Belief, Faith, Intellect and Reason

I have, in my "working" library, the Modern Catholic Dictionary, written, or at least compiled, by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.. This was published in 1980. It claims to be the first new Catholic dictionary published since the second Vatican Council.

Its amazing what you can find in the "Dead Book Sale" of a small community college.

I found four entries to be quite interesting, those on faith and belief and those on intellect and reason.

The relationship between these pairs is, to me, fascinating. Briefly, faith and belief have to do with the acceptance of another, trusting that they know what they are talking about and are being honest in what they are saying. The difference between them is two-fold: 1) Faith has a stronger level of trust than belief, 2) Faith is an act of of the mind whereas belief is an act of the will.

That second part is really interesting. Belief is without recourse to reason, it is only an act of will (not in the occult sense). Faith, though, is much more, it is not just an act of will, though it is that, it also requires employment of reason. This reminds me of Medieval and Renaissance traditions, both Jewish and Christian (and I'd imagine Muslim as well) that support of reason is necessary for any real understanding of God. The requirement of reason for faith also pulls it away from popular uses of the term that really suggest "blind faith", which is now nearly a contradiction of terms.

Intellect and reason stand in a similar relationship. Reason is a process through which we analyse and employ evidence. Intellect, though, is the faculty through which we recognize truth, regardless of a process of reason. It is still a way of thinking, but one that transcends the necessity of, or recourse to, the senses or imagination. A kind of gnosis.

The mystical theology of the desert father Evagrius Ponticus describes a spiritual process that moves from faith to gnosis, with gnosis being the culmination of faith.

I don't really have a point to any of this. I just thought it was interesting.