Monday, May 1, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Water

This article is Part Two of a series. Part One can be found here.

Working with the Water element is the second step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. On the Kircher Tree of Life, the mystical aspects of all four elements correspond to the tenth sephira, Malkuth, which represents the material world. The elements have both microcosmic (psychological) and macrocosmic (physical) components, and as with practical magick, aligning those components is the key to experiencing effective illumination and visionary work. Hence, I use the operant field in these rites just like I do for practical workings.

"Effective" is harder to define with rites of illumination than it is with practical magick. Practical magick is relatively simple to assess - you perform an operation with a specific objective, and then record whether it succeeds or fails. Effective visionary work should obtain information from the exterior world that you could not possible know by any other means, and effective illumination work should transform you in a positive way, increasing your degree of realization and in some real sense making you a "better person."

This process can be highly subjective, and failed initiatory operations often go unrecognized. I am of the opinion that a lot of the nonsense out there from certain allegedly "advanced" magical practitioners can be traced back to these sorts of initiatory failures, and this is a problem that has been acknowledged for a long time in the tradition. To avoid this, you always need to be skeptical about any apparent attainment.

Always test spirits. Always keep track of any changes you observe following illuminating and visionary experiences, and do your best to see if the changes you are seeing from your work are going in a positive direction. Stories of magicians "going insane" from failed operations are highly exaggerated - most often, nothing happens, and the danger lies in being convinced that something did happen and then acting from that perspective.

Today, I'll be focusing on the element Water. The Water element corresponds to the liquid state of matter, and in the ancient Greek system of the elements is related to union of the Cool and Moist powers. The Cool power unifies and the Hot power separates. The Dry power reinforces structure, and the Moist power breaks it down. So the fundamental nature of Water is unifying and unstructured or dissolving. A more detailed overview of the four classical powers can be found here, and that article includes a link to John Opsopaus' Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements, which is where I was first exposed to the system.


According to my "three systems" model of psychology that I covered in greater detail in Part One of this series, the Water element represents one aspect of the "ego function" that Carl Jung referred to as "intuition." It is important to understand, though, that properly considered, intuition includes both the activity of the conditioning system, represented by Water and the Moon, and what the Buddhists refer to as insight-wisdom, represented by Spirit and the Sun.

The transition between these two modes of consciousness is represented by the path of Art or Temperance, related to the sign Sagittarius and the power of transmutation. At the beginning of the magical path, intuitions tend to be dominated by past conditioning - that is, they will tend to conform to your preconceptions. For this reason, any apparently magical insight that matches or reinforces your previously held ideas and beliefs should be tested with great diligence.

It's not that such an insight can't be accurate, but rather that it is more likely to be a product of your own conditioning than something that seems entirely at odds with your beliefs or your conception of the world. The only big exception to watch out for there is a knee-jerk "counter-insight," which manifests as the exact opposite of your current beliefs. These should not be accepted at face value either.

So, for example, if you have an insight that prompts you to go from being a devout Christian to, say, a heavy-metal "Satanist" (and I make the distinction here because I'm not really talking about LaVey Satanism or Setianism or any of the other forms of esoteric Satanism and Luciferianism endorsed by legitimate practitioners), that's also an insight that needs to be tested and interrogated. Most real phenomena don't follow these sorts of binary schemas, and involve some degree of nuance.

And again, that doesn't mean you should discard insights of these sorts out of hand. Conjure the spirits. Ask them questions. Test them with numbers, names, words of power, and so forth. It is also important to do this even as an advanced practitioner. One of my big disappointments with Benjamon Rowe, who did a ton of really great and innovative Enochian work back in the 1990's, was that in his Enochian Temples the angels went on about how Frater Achad's inverted version of the Tree of Life was "more correct" than any of the other arrangements.

That was disappointing to me because, first of all, I'm not convinced that a "more correct" version of the Tree exist, since it's really just a system for organizing your mind. Furthermore, Rowe himself was one of the handful of magicians who learned the Tree of Life that way. Hardly anybody uses the Achad Tree because it's different and as far as anybody can tell, confers no practical advantage in magical operations. It just means that you have a lot more trouble working with all the other magicians who know the more "standard" Crowley/GD arrangement.

It seems to me that this was a "realization" or communication that served only to reinforce Rowe's existing beliefs. I do know that Enochian angels have a way of trying to communicate with you using the symbol set you know, but the problem with that communication was that it was stated as an absolute. Nobody I know of who uses the Crowley/GD arrangement has ever been told by an Enochian angel that they were using the wrong version of the Tree, which is what I would expect if it was something the angels really wanted or needed.

So my point is that you should always evaluate insights critically and test everything you can, regardless of where you are on the path of initiation. It always is possible for your conditioning to trip you up. Conversely, though, working with the Water element can help you re-condition yourself so that it serves you rather than gets in your way. One of the ways this is done is with correspondences, as Aleister Crowley lays out in Liber O.

At its base, the key to performing successful magical operations depends on focusing the totality of your awareness on your objective. The dynamics become a little more involved when you're calling on a spirit, but the basic idea remains the same. Focusing thought in that way is quite difficult, as it is part of the natural activity of the mind to wander from thought to thought. But once you have internalized all of your correspondences, you can use that to your advantage.

Crowley gives the example of a Mercury operation, with an orange circle inscribed with a yellow octogram and eight lamps placed at the points. If you've conditioned yourself that orange matches the sephira or state of Mercury, Hod, and that yellow matches the path or activity of Mercury, and that the number eight is associated with Mercury, no matter where in your immediate surroundings your mind wanders, the basic focus of "Mercury" can be maintained by the unconscious action of the conditioning system.

So in effect, you train yourself so that the process of "back to the focus" can be done without any conscious intervention, and this is an extremely powerful technique. This is why we spend the time to memorize columns from Liber 777, so we can get to the point where we "know" them even at an unconscious level. As conditioning loops are activated again and again, they become stronger. So the more magical work you do with a particular set of associations, the more ingrained they become.

I think I've mentioned this elsewhere, but this is one of the reasons that I advise caution when learning multiple systems of magick with different associations. There was a trend in 1990's chaos magick to jump from system to system, supposedly to cultivate "flexibility of belief." But what I found it really meant in practice was that people would learn the easy bits of a system and then jump to another without learning anything advanced. It also pretty much defuses the ability to employ conditioning to reinforce your magick.

The problem is that what you don't want to have happen is this: you see the color red, and then have to think about what it should mean. "I'm working system x, not system y, and in system x it means..." For the technique to be useful, it needs to be automatic. So you don't learn a single set of correspondences because it is "right" in some objective sense, you pick the one that resonates best with you and go from there. All of my rituals are based on Liber 777 attributions, so if you use another system you will want to adapt them rather than use them as is to take advantage of the conditioning system.

Whether you're taking up practical magick right away or pursuing the initiatory path right away, my basic recommendations are pretty much the same. First, take up a daily magical practice, which I discuss here and here. Meditation is important as well, especially for any form of mystical work.

In at least one of those older articles I talk about keeping meditation and ceremonial work separate. That's a precaution that I no longer think is necessary. Instead, you can do a single practice session that includes both. Go through your entire ceremonial practice sequence, sit and meditate for about twenty minutes, and then seal your practice with a concluding Qabalistic Cross. It works just fine that way. The whole thing will take you maybe half an hour a day, not even as long as watching a regular television program.

And let me caution you about extending your practice - and particularly your meditation - much beyond that. Pushing yourself to meditate for hours a day will probably not make your progress much faster, and I find that students who try to do this against my advice inevitably burn out and quit practicing. Persistence and determination should be your watchwords here. Spending half an hour on this, every day, will prove much more beneficial than spending three or four hours on one day and then being too tired to do anything else for the rest of the week.

Keep a magical journal, especially at the beginning of your studies. Note your state of mind along with the date and time you start your practice each day, and note anything unusual that comes up while you are doing the work. You can also write down anything noteworthy that happened during the day. It doesn't have to be especially detailed, but you want to have enough information to track your progress along with the astrological landscape and an overview of what is happening in your life from day to day.

And I realize this may sound like a lot - but it really isn't. Add fifteen minutes of journaling to your half-hour practice, and it really only takes about as much time as watching a regular television episode. In fact, you don't want your magical work to consume your life. That can create all sorts of problems, from lack of attention to your material situation and physical health to complete burnout. Even if you love doing the work, try to discipline yourself to under an hour a day, total. You can avoid a whole lot of headaches that way.

The initiatory path of illumination for each element involves two basic operations - a "Rite of Approach" and an "Elixir Rite." The Rite of Approach opens a portal into the elemental realm, and then employs the same methods I lay out in my simple pathworking ritual to explore what lies beyond the portal and interact with the Elemental King. The primary function of this to develop a working relationship with the King and the spirits of the Water domain. When interacting with the King, feel free to ask for initiation corresponding to the powers and properties of Water.

You should recognize the core of the Elixir Rite right away, as it is similar to what we do during the Aries Elixir Rite that I posted last week. The Elixir Rite is a eucharistic ritual that involves the charging of wine (or juice, if you can't drink alcohol) with the power of the element and then consuming it. This may or may not include a specific statement of intent. The function of the eucharist is to spiritually charge a material substance and then consume it, in order to take into your physical body the essence of magick itself.

The opening for the initiatory rites of Water is the same as for my previous Evocation of the King. For these rituals, you don't necessarily need to create the sigil of the King, but if you want you can refer back to that ritual. The reason is that for the Rite of Approach, we will be seeking out the King in his own realm, and for the Elixir Rite he is being called upon to assist in the creation of the Elixir, not to fully manifest within the Table of Art.

Note that Niksa is described here as a "King" and "him," even though the image above is clearly a Queen. This is deliberate subversion on my part. According to the original medieval system, these elemental rulers are all male Kings. According to some other traditions, the passive or receptive elements (Earth and Water) have Queens and the active elements (Air and Fire) have Kings. The truth, though, is that they're all spirits and they can take on any human form they want, male or female. So if you feel more like calling upon "Queen Niksa," go for it. You'll get the same spirit either way.

0. The Temple

There are a number of different ways to arrange the temple for an operation such as this. What we do is place an altar in the center with the banishing dagger and invoking wand. Also on the altar is a containment structure such as the Sigillum Dei Aemeth or the Trithemian Table of Art. The diagram depicting the character and sigil should be placed within this structure. A small container of some sort for offerings may also be placed on the Table of Art. For the Elixir Rite, the cup goes within the Table of Art and no other container for offerings is required (since some of the Elixir is given as the offering).


If you employ scrying in your work, an appropriate device such as a crystal or mirror should also be placed in the containment structure. If you are using incense for such an operation, the traditional method is to place the incense burner between the scryer and the mirror or crystal. Otherwise, it may be placed anywhere in the space. Some scryers like to place a taper candle on either side of the device, and while I can't say that method does anything at all for me, a number of others report good results with it.

Elemental operations do not make use of planetary hours in any meaningful sense, as the planets and elements do not precisely correspond to each other. However, you can improve your results by employing simple electional timing. This is especially relevant to elemental operations, as the elements all share a strong affinity for the Moon.

1. Opening

Light incense, if used (onycha or myrrh). Open the magical field using the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, Star Ruby and Star Sapphire, or the Field Ritual. The usual field for practical work is the operant field, with banishing pentagrams and invoking hexagrams.

2. Preliminary Invocation

Raise energy using the Middle Pillar, Elevenfold Seal (the "First Gesture" from Liber V vel Reguli), or some other appropriate ritual method as you may know how to do.

Make the Sign of Apophis and Typhon, raising both arms and holding them straight with an angle between them of 60 degrees, and proclaim, very strongly:

Thee I invoke, who art Universe!
Thee I invoke, who art in Nature formed!
Thee I invoke, the vast and the mighty!
Source of Darkness, Source of Light.

Then make the Sign of Silence, by standing straight with one arm at your side and placing your thumb or forefinger to your lips.


3. Tuning the Space

Perform the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram for Water. To each quarter in turn, beginning in the east and turning clockwise, perform the following actions:
  1. Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit in deep purple while vibrating AGLA.
  2. Make the Sign of Rending the Veil, as if parting a heavy curtain in front of you with both hands.
  3. Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Water in blue while vibrating AL.
  4. Make the Sign of Water, making a downward-pointing triangle with both hands and placing it at the level of the navel.
Once you have returned to face the east, read or recite the Elemental Prayer for Water:

Dread King of the Sea, who hast the Keys of the floodgates of Heaven and who enclosest the subterranean Waters in the cavernous hollows of Earth; King of the Deluge and of the Rains of Spring; Thou who openest the sources of Rivers and of Fountains; Thou who commandest moisture, which is like the blood of the earth, to become the sap of plants: We adore thee and we invoke thee!

Speak thou unto us Thy inconstant and changeful creatures in the great Tempests of the Sea, and we shall tremble before Thee. Speak unto us also in the murmur of limpid waters, and we shall desire thy love. O Vastness wherein all the Rivers of Being seek to lose themselves, which renew themselves ever in thee. O Ocean of infinite perfections! O Height which reflectest Thyself in the Depth! O Depth which exhalest thyself into the Height!

Lead us into Immortality through sacrifice that we may offer unto Thee the Water, the Blood, the Tears, and the Flowing Joy of our Aspiration! AMEN.

The space should now be tuned for the conjuration.

4A. The Rite of Approach

Begin with the conjuration of the King:

Oh Glorious and Mighty NIKSA, You who command and rule over the spirits of MAIM, Behold me, and in the name of the same your God AL, Attend and Appear before me within this circle of art! Full powers and wonders of the Element of Water do I rightly desire! Enlighten my understanding, encourage my heart, and manifest unto me now as I enter into and explore your spiritual realm.

At this point, vibrate the name NIKSA repeatedly until the King and the spirits of elemental Water are perceived within the Table of Art. If this is being performed as a group ritual, with everyone chanting the name together, it is helpful for the officiant or scryer to have a bell chime that can be rung once he or she perceives a presence in whatever manner. At the bell chime, the chant stops.

Then sit down on a chair or cushion and read the Simple Pathworking Induction out loud. If you are able, it is helpful to record the induction so that you can listen to it and follow along with the corresponding visualizations. Or, if you are working with a group, each person can take a turn reading during a series of rites.

Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Feel it flowing in and out of your body at its own natural rhythm. Relax your abdomen and allow it to expand as you breathe in, and contract as you breathe out. Feel the breath flowing, allowing it to sink into your abdomen and deepen at its own pace.

Visualize your body from the outside. Around it you see a glowing field of colored light arranged in four distinct layers. Bring your attention to the innermost layer, a field of light tinted with the rich green of earth. This layer extends only an inch or so beyond the boundary of your skin. As you bring your attention to this layer, relax from the toes on up. Then take a deep breath and say to yourself, “my body is at peace.” As deep relaxation flows throughout your body, see the field of green light becoming still and receptive.

Shift your attention to the next layer, a field of light tinted with the blue of water that covers earth. This layer begins where the green layer ends and extends a few more inches beyond your body. As you focus on this layer, pay attention to your emotions and feelings. Simply observe and let them pass, allowing your attention to detach from them. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “my emotions are at peace.” As your emotions become calm and serene, see the field of blue light becoming still and reflective.

Shift your attention to the next layer, a field of light tinted with the yellow of air that covers water. This layer begins where the blue layer ends and extends yet a few more inches beyond your body. As you focus on this layer, pay attention to your thoughts. Simply observe and let them pass, allowing your attention to detach from them. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “my thoughts are at peace.” As your thoughts become calm and clear, see the field of yellow light becoming still and integrated.

Shift your attention to the next layer, a field of light tinted with the red of fire that burns at the heart of the sun. This layer begins where the yellow layer ends and extends yet a few more inches beyond your body. As you focus on this layer, pay attention to the sparks of will that give rise to your individual sense of being. Simply observe and let them pass, allowing your attention to detach from them. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “my will is at peace.” As your will becomes focused, see he field of red light becoming still and distinct.

Visualize your body and the aura that surrounds it. Allow any remaining tension, stress, or worry to drain away into the earth, and as you do, see the field of ethereal light that surrounds you becoming more vibrant and harmonious. Realize that you are now observing your body, emotions, thoughts, and will from outside, and that you are more than just these facets of your personality. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I am.” Then pay attention to your attention.

Now, begin to focus on your purpose in this temple. We are alone in the temple. The powers await just beyond our sensing. We will now bring these powers to life in our hall. Nothing awaits us or concerns us but the Great Work, which we shall now continue as we explore the realm of Niksa, the King of Water.

Visualize an idealized form of yourself taking shape out of the light in front of your inner vision. See your astral double standing, facing you. Take some time to get the best image possible fixed in your mind. Once you have this Body of Light complete, look around the temple space from the viewpoint of your double and notice first that you are surrounded by a blank gray fog.

As the fog clears, you begin to make out the astral form of this temple around you. To the east you notice a portal take shape out of the mist. This could be a doorway, a large magick mirror, a window, or some other kind of opening large enough for you to enter. You pass through this portal, and find yourself in the realm of Niksa. Take note of all you experience here as you explore the landscape of Water.

At this point, allow 10-15 minutes for meditation in the spirit vision, or longer if it be your will. Use a timer, to remove the temptation to keep looking at your clock, watch, or phone. When you are finished, the induction is concluded as follows.

It is now time to leave the realm of Water. Take a few moments to finish your exploration here, and then turn back the way you came.

When you arrive at the portal, pass back through into the astral region of the temple. Stand in front of your physical body, turn around, and allow the Body of Light to merge back into your physical body. Retain all that has happened in vivid presence, while you quietly remain for awhile, with eyes still closed.

As you slowly merge back into the physical, be aware of your breath flowing, gently in and out of your body. Feel your eyes still gently closed and relaxed. Feel the movement of your abdomen as it moves away from your body as you inhale and back towards your body as you exhale. Finally, be aware of your body and the space that your body occupies.

Slowly bring your hands up to your face, cover your eyes with your hands and then gently open your eyes. Remove your hands slowly from your face, slowly look up and come back to the present space in circle.

Once you are back, stand and return to your place at the altar. Skip to Point 5 to close the rite.

4B. The Elixir Rite

Begin with the conjuration of the King:

Oh Glorious and Mighty NIKSA, You who command and rule over the spirits of MAIM, Behold me, and in the name of the same your God AL, Attend and Appear before me within this circle of art! Full powers and wonders of the Element of Water do I rightly desire! Enlighten my understanding, encourage my heart, and manifest unto me now as I partake of your spiritual realm.

At this point, vibrate the name NIKSA repeatedly until the presence of the King and the spirits of elemental Water is perceived within the Table of Art. If this is being performed as a group ritual, with everyone chanting the name together, it is helpful for the officiant or scryer to have a bell chime that can be rung once he or she perceives a presence in whatever manner. At the bell chime, the chant stops. Then say:

O unifying and stablizing AL. To thee we present this talisman of our magickal will! I ask thee, Oh Exalted One, to receive the body of this rite into the light of thy presence. As we proceed in making this Elixir of Water, charging it with the creative energies of MAIM, we shall achieve a true alchemical ferment, mighty in Yetzirah and vitalized by thy blessing. In partaking of this Mystery, let there be unto us vitality of soul, increase of sight, true gnosis, and complete manifestation of the wonders of thy Sphere!

Note that the plural used here is NOT a typo or carry-over from the other elixir ritual. Even if you are working on your own, Niksa will also be partaking of the elixir in the form of an offering at the end of the rite. So there will always be at least two of you present.

Make one clockwise circumambulation, visualizing a wall of blue light whirling rapidly in the same direction about the circle. When finished, the wall of light is allowed to fade. Hold the cup at heart level and say:

Creature of Wine who art established in the Sphere of Water: by the vital force of my breath I enliven thee to perfect this work of Holy Magick in the realm of AL.

Then raise power, visualizing a continuous spiral of blue light ascending from the ground at feet, whirling clockwise around body and ascending until it disappears above head. Hold this visualization, and vibrate the divine name once: AL

The join or clasp hands and vibrate once more: AL

Extend hands toward elixir cup. Visualize beams of blue light emanating from both hands and entering into the cup. When the cup feels “full” end the visualization, folding hands on breast left over right. Finally, trace the symbol of Water in a horizontal plane over the cup while vibrating once more: AL

Make one more complete circumambulation of the circle. Battery: 1 (that is, knock on the altar table). Raise the cup and say:

Behold the Elixir of Water! For all and for each it is prepared! Let each and all receive its magick virtue!

Drink and then visualize or speak any practical intent. The cup should not be entirely drained. When finished, Battery: 1. Indicate the cup, which should still contain some of the elixir. Say:

Glorious and Mighty Niksa, we make this offering unto you, that it may nourish and fortify you as you attend to your appointed tasks. Be the ferment of our spiritual alchemy mighty in the crucible of our souls! So mote it be!

The offering should be poured onto the ground outdoors following the rite, that the King and spirits of Water may partake of it easily. Better still, you can also pour it into a body of water if one is nearby - the point is for it to quickly reach the water table wherever you are.

5. The License to Depart

King NIKSA and the elemental spirits of Thy domain, because thou hast-diligently answered unto my demands, and hast been very ready and willing to come at my call, I do hereby license thee to depart unto thy proper place, without causing harm or danger unto man or beast. I charge thee to withdraw peaceably and quietly with the blessings of the great god AL, and that peace be ever continued between us. So mote it be!

7. Closing

The ritual should be closed with the Qabalistic Cross.

A couple of points: You will probably need to perform these rituals multiple times before you can consider yourself "initiated" into the element of Water. Generally speaking, this is something that the King can bestow, but he won't necessarily do it the first time you ask. Or, maybe he will. It depends on his estimation of your state of awareness or realization. He may also give you specific instructions to follow in order to make yourself ready for the initiation. And they can always be performed afterwards, at any time, as rites of illumination.

Especially in the case of the Rite of Approach, be sure to write up a detailed journal entry including all that you experience. A voice recorder in the temple can be helpful for astral work of whatever kind so that you can describe what is going on as it happens. You may find trouble getting into the right mindspace to experience much the first time you do this and that's okay. Just use this trick: say to yourself "If I really was projecting into the astral, I would be seeing..."

You can test spirits you encounter by vibrating divine names at them. EHEIEH is a good general one, that dispels most false visions. You can also use the godname called upon in the ritual, AL. If you meet a spirit claiming to be Niksa, vibrate his name at it. If it really is Niksa, the vision should intensify rather than weaken. Finally, obtain from the spirit a word of power, a number, or both.

After the ritual, go back and look those up in a resource like Sephir Sephiroth or Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia to see if the number or the gematria of the word is appropriate to the element of Water. If it is, you most likely found your way to the right place. On the other hand, if you can find no connection, it is advisable to perform the rite again at some point in the future, maybe after doing an Elixir Rite or two.

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