Archive for the ‘Qabalah’ Category
Much of what gets posted on this blog is essentially ephemera — random thoughts, idle speculation, little morsels of meaning, and the occasional snapshot. But I do also produce more cohesive work in my “real life” as a historian and philosopher of science. Believe me, in the age of the corporate university, that’s a lot less glamorous than it sounds.
Anyway, without further ado (well, maybe a bit more ado) here’s a link to a semi-popular piece that I wrote last spring in the literary e-magazine Berfrois about breathing, mindfulness and their simple transformative potential.
So take a deep breath and dive right in!
L. Sprague de Camp
They say the men of magic are all dead.
No more does the diviner in his swoon
Perceive the future in his mystic smokes;
No more the reckless sorcerer invokes
A demon fell to serve him. Xaltotun,
Imhotep, Merlin, and the rest, it’s said
Are gone from modern life.
But yesteryear, one who, the tale relates,
Was called MacGregor Mathers, Kabbalist,
Had built his Order of the Golden Dawn,
Donned robes, and struggled with the Devil’s spawn –
The wizard Crowley, skulking Satanist –
And, exiled, played at four-men chess with Yeats,
A ghost, and Mathers’ wife.
Then, too, in London sat, with cigarette
In hand, unkempt and testy, azure-eyed,
The uncrowned empress of the occult world –
Huge Helena Blavatsky. Round her swirled
A horde of chelas who, though daily plied
With dicta from Mahatmas in Tibet,
Were locked in frenzied strife.
And what bewhiskered Alchemist of yore
Made gold from lead with such astute address
As Mrs. Eddy, Hubbard, and their kind
Turn doctrines full of gibberish refined
To fortunes from the dupes that they impress?
With such, as in the mystic times before,
The world will long be rife.
From Anne McCaffrey, ed., Alchemy & Academe (New York: Ballantine, 1970), 41-2.
[N.B. Synchromystically, this is the 666th post on this blog...]
“Kether, the first Sephirah, is a center of light, and in the Qabalistic Cross, it is attributed to a center positioned slightly above the crown of the head. It refers to that higher genius or it which, not yet fully incarnated within, broods above, a silent watcher. It is for each of us the source of inspiration and freedom and enlightenment. It is life itself.”
From Israel Regardie, The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic, ed. Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero (Woodbury, MT: Llewellyn, 2012 ), 72.
“The ninth sphere or Sephirah on the Tree of Life is that of the Nephesh, which means the animal soul. It is the sphere proper of the animal instincts and urges, which may in truth be called the Freudian unconscious — that which was conscious at one time or at one stage of development but which has since been lost to consciousness. It is regarded as comprising all those psychic faculties which are not conscious. All the various automatic, habitual, and routine actions; all the things that we say and do ‘without thinking’ and all the thousand things we never really ‘do’ at all, these processes are assigned to the unconscious realm, to the principle of Nephesh. To it is related the cerebellum, the hind section of the brain, and it is intimately connected with the glandular and sympathetic nervous systems. As such it is that part of our being which regulates the circulation of the blood, the pulsation of the heart, our digestion and respiration. All the promptings of desire and the urges of passion that spring unbidden within us, have their seat in Nephesh. This is the underworld of the psyche through which we get comparatively close to nature, to the elemental side of life. It is the undermind in which function the primary instincts of self-preservation and reproduction. It is the seat of the sex instinct itself. The Jungian concept of the unconscious might be the approximate term for this side of life, as is held by the Freudian school, whereas the much abused word superconscious would be distinctly descriptive of the Supernal Sephiroth of the Yechidah, Chiah, and Neshamah corresponding to the Jungian unconscious.”
From Israel Regardie, The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic, ed. Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero (Woodbury, MT: Llewellyn, 2012 ), 36.
So this is the thing. I’ve been reading about fringe, esoteric and occult traditions – from anthroposophy to Zoroastrianism – for twenty years. I’m also a professional historian of medicine and philosopher, versed in ideas like the anima, archaeus, pneuma, vital force, chi, prana, Od, orgone, etc, etc…But here’s the rub – I have no experience as a practicing healer or occultist.
The opportunity arose this week to finally change that fact and I took it. In truth, the opportunity was always there and I never seized it…
The Middle Pillar is a really basic magic ritual – it is derived from Qabalah with a western spin by way of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; And particularly, more recently (since 1938), by way of Israel Regardie. It’s a simple process – a combination of breathing, visualization, and incantation (chanting). But it’s a process!
So much of occult ritual and ceremony has been written about and rendered into theory, but its practice is what is key. However much one tries to distinguish or unify these paths and their philosophies – they are all, by virtue of the universality of practice, one. Too much reading, intellectualizing, and thinking – these are, as in life, dangerous. They take away from the too often forgotten fact of life – that it is lived, experienced, inhabited.
All these occult traditions are, in a way, about presence and mindfulness. About being, moment to moment. The theory and contemplation are fine, but they can only really add details and depth to doing. True gnosis comes from habit, and even then it is a real effort to grow and find “enlightenment”. Time and energy are required.
The Middle Pillar reminded me of this – of the existential essence of the esoteric. I step onto a path armed with a deep body of knowledge – but in order to move forward, it may be as much a question of forgetting than of knowing.
As I suspected long ago when writing about vitalism and its history – all is breath. As we breathe, so do we live. And create…
This is, beyond all the complexities of history, terminology, and theory, all we need to know (nous).