This has been an issue of my for some time now and, as a blog is a cheap form of therapy, here it is.
I have read the biographies of countless mystics it seems. For those of you who are really interested in the subject I highly recommend Fr. William Harmless's Mystics. Beyond this, of course, are the actual writings of these mystics. While there are a great many similarities, and a great many differences (I am very much not one of those "all mysticism is ultimately the same" sort of people, they might all be equally good (then again, they might not be), but they are not the same and frequently have quite different goals, but that's a different issue. One neurosis at a time.) one thing that seems to be extraordinarily common amongst them is an insistence on the moral growth of the practitioner as being both a requisite for spiritual growth and a result of spiritual growth.
This isn't my issue. I like this. I see this in my own life. It is good.
My issue is that it seems to be almost completely ignored by the vast majority of ceremonial magicians, who are supposedly attempting to gain the "Knowledge and Conversation," and you already know how I feel about that phrase, or whatever other metaphor for spiritual attainment you would like but remain complete and utter jerks throughout their entire life.
That's me being polite, but this is a family show.
Kabbalistically speaking one is attempting to unite Malkhut and Tiferet, the Shekhinah and the Bride Groom (Sophia and Christos for my Gnostic readers). The metaphor usually employed is quite insistent that it is the higher that will take control of, rectify, perfect, whatever, the lower.
Again, I'm good with that, even if the ancient metaphors are quite sexist.
Now, let's look at Tiferet. Tiferet means beauty. This is probably not an accident. If you are looking for Platonic philosophy you've probalby found it, beauty is a direct product of the Good. The Sefer Yetzirah gives Keter the title of Good, Tiferet lies directly below Keter on the Tree of Life. Tiferet is also called Compassion (rachamim), Truth (emet) and Justice (mishpat, which should not be confused with the judgment of Gevurah). These are the qualities of the fully actualized ruach. We should remember that the "higher self" of modern Hermeticism is the lower Genius, it is the unified ruach and nefesh, which is then to be brought under the sway of the neshamah. Someone who claims to have this level of consciousness/spiritual awareness/mojo, or even just the union of the two, the lower genius rather than the higher, should also be exhibiting these traits. They should be compassionate, they should be truthful, be just. That doesn't disqualify someone from being a jerk, of course. There are levels of attainment/awakening/enlightenment/whatever, and our starting points will all vary as well (compare with Confucius' idea of the natural moral self before education and becoming a student-scholar) but moral change and growth should be an observable phenomenon for those on spiritual paths.
Al-Ghazali probably said it better.
At any rate, my issue is, simply: where is this today? I know it is there somewhere, I know a few people, fellow magicians, who have noted the same thing, but they seem few and far between today. Is it the PostModernism? The excuse that morality is cultural and therefore totally subjective is just that, an excuse; no one lives their lives that way. Is it just laziness? I admit this is one of the advantages of the working lodge; if everyone is doing their job no one can be lazy and everyone keeps moving. Is it all out there but I'm just missing it?
I hope so.