Monday, August 28, 2017

The Path of Initiation - The Abyss

This article is Part Fourteen of a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, Part Six can be found here, Part Seven can be found here, Part Eight can be found here, Part Nine can be found here, Part Ten can be found here, Part Eleven can be found here, Part Twelve can be found here, and Part Thirteen can be found here.

Crossing the Abyss is the fourteenth step on the path of initiation into the into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. On the Kircher Tree of Life, the Abyss is the boundary separating the potential from the actual, represented by the three supernal sephiroth on the one hand and the rest of the Tree of Life on the other. Unlike some of the other variants of the Tree, the Kircher does not have a path that runs directly between Chesed and Binah.

Aleister Crowley does relate the Abyss to Da'ath, Knowledge, the "false sephira," so that provides a few possible attributions. However, according to many of his other writings, the fundamental nature of Crossing the Abyss is such that, by its very nature, symbolism itself is transcended. What crosses the Abyss is not the mundane personality - that remains behind, as it essentially consists of the Ruach and is thus limited to the bounds of Yetzirah - but rather nothing more than the point or spark of awareness that represents the Adept's most fundamental spiritual nature.

Crossing the Abyss confers the grade of Master of the Temple, or Magister Templi, and was considered by Crowley to be the second great initiation in magick, the first being attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel which confers the grade of Adept. So in effect, there are essentially three initiations and three classes of magical practitioners - Initiates (1=10 to 4=7), Adepts (5=6 to 7=4), and Masters (8=3 and above).

As I go through this exposition, keep in mind I am now writing from the perspective of my studies rather than personal experience. I've never claimed to be a Master of the Temple - that is, one who has crossed the Abyss - so this article remains speculative. When I finally do cross the Abyss, it's not entirely unlikely that I may turn around and declare that back when I wrote this I had no idea what I was talking about and made tons of mistakes. I will, however, make my best effort to be as accurate as I can based on the sources I have reviewed and what my magical experiences so far have taught me.

In order to Cross the Abyss, according to the A.'. A.'. system you should already be the founder of an established school of thought. If you're not, you haven't completed the task of the Exempt Adept (7=4)and you shouldn't be thinking about moving on until you get that done. You should have published your thesis that lays out your perspective on the spiritual and magical world, and it should have gotten at least a little bit of traction. If it doesn't, you didn't perform the task right - so go back to the drawing board and get that taken care of.

Keep in mind, though, that I'm not a member of any of the A.'. A.'. groups currently in operation, and I have no idea whether or not this is a requirement that they enforce. I am going off of Crowley's original published blueprint laid out in One Star in Sight, and I don't speak for any A.'. A.'. group or teacher. You would need to check with whoever is in charge of any given group to get some idea of whether or not this requirement has been modified for their students.

Obviously, what the original schema means is that only a tiny percentage of people are ever ready to Cross the Abyss, but my guess is that was probably Crowley's intent. His "magical son," Frater Achad, swore the Oath of the Abyss as a Neophyte, and it set in motion a series of events that resulted in a falling out between the two of them. Likewise, Jack Parsons allegedly swore the Oath of the Abyss not that long before he was killed in his infamous lab explosion. Now that doesn't mean you'll get blown up if you swear the Oath - it just means that potentially, bad things can happen.

There are a couple of misconceptions that it is easy to arrive at when reading Crowley. Crowley may have been an exponent of the New Aeon formula of life and growth, but much of his writing about the Abyss is framed in what strikes me as Old Aeon thinking, the dynamic of death and rebirth. It's easy to read Crowley and come to the conclusion that in crossing the Abyss, the mundane personality or "ego" (a psychoanalytic concept that to my way of thinking is profoundly inaccurate, but that's a whole other post) is destroyed in some fashion.

That obviously isn't true. If it were, no Master of the Temple would be able to function in the world in any capacity. Crowley certainly had an "ego" well beyond his attainment of Master of the Temple as documented in The Vision and the Voice. Some people suggest that this means Crowley never crossed the Abyss, but if you look across the various spiritual traditions of the world that idea almost certainly isn't true. Rather, a better description of the process is that the point of awareness - consciousness itself - transcends the boundary of the mundane personality into the realm of pure potentiality.

From the standpoint of life and growth, consciousness simply expands outward to include more and more elements within its purview, its boundaries increasing like the rings on a tree. The two big "jumps" happen at 5=6, where the transpersonal realm is integrated, and at 8=3, where the same happens within the cosmic realm - that is, the consciousness of the whole universe viewed as a whole. This is a tall order for any mystic, and as you can probably imagine is quite difficult to achieve and even harder to stabilize.

Because the Adept is assumed to have the council of the Holy Guardian Angel, it is not necessarily of much use to include a lot of exposition and instruction. The Angel is a valuable resource in that regard, and should be able to recommend practices particularly suited to who you are and what your situation happens to be. Any instructions that I or Crowley or anyone else can give are thus inferior to information obtained directly from the source.

Above the Abyss the consciousness of the Master of the Temple and the Holy Guardian Angel are one - which is by necessity, as the Master of the Temple must integrate the entire universe into his or her sphere of awareness. This is what is meant by "higher self" in the context of the Holy Guardian Angel - the intent is not to imply that the Angel is some sort of psychological projection. Likewise, the statement that the Master of the Temple must divest of all, including the Holy Guardian Angel, refers to union with the Angel on the other side of the Abyss.

There is no particular ritual for crossing the Abyss. This is because the Abyss itself is the antithesis of structure. Trying to push yourself across is like trying to push the ocean. In effect, you accomplish all the necessary preparations, swear the Oath of the Abyss, and let the momentum of the universe and your practice up to that point carry you across. It's simple. But simple and easy are two entirely different things.

Crowley recommends the following preparations for the Exempt Adept working towards to Crossing the Abyss:

To attain the Grade of Magister Templi, he must perform two tasks; the emancipation from thought by putting each idea against its opposite, and refusing to prefer either; and the consecration of himself as a pure vehicle for the influence of the order to which he aspires.

As for the “consecration of self as a pure vehicle,” Crowley recommends the following magical practices:

1. The fortification of the Body of Light by the constant use of rituals, by the assumption of god-forms, and by the right use of the Eucharist.

2. The purification and consecration and exaltation of that Body by the use of rituals of invocation.

3. The education of that Body by experience. It must learn to travel on every plane; to break down every obstacle which may confront it. This experience must be as systematic and regular as possible; for it is of no use merely to travel to the spheres of Jupiter and Venus, or even to explore the 30 Aethyrs, neglecting unattractive meridians.

Crowley's Magister Tempi Oath, also referred to as the Oath of the Abyss, has been published in a number of places. The version of it that I am familiar with reads as follows:

1. I, ___________, a member of the Body of God, hereby bind myself on behalf of the Whole Universe, even as we are now physically bound unto the cross of suffering:
2. that I will lead a pure life, as a devoted servant of the Order:
3. that I will understand all things:
4. that I will love all things:
5. that I will perform all things and endure all things:
6. that I will continue in the Knowledge and Conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel
7. that I will work without attachment
8. that I will work in truth:
9. that I will rely only upon myself:
10. that I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul.
11. And if I fail herein, may my pyramid be profaned, and the Eye closed to me.

Many people on the Internet are under mistaken assumption that the entire Oath consists of Point 10, "that I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul." But as you can see, the Oath essentially runs down the Tree of Life from Kether to Malkuth. It is intended to apply universally, excluding nothing. According to Crowley, swearing the Oath automatically makes you a Master of the Temple - but anyone who is not ready will be unable to handle the forces that the Oath sets in motion.

And frankly, if you know where to look you can find plenty of that on the Internet. Self-proclaimed "Masters of the Temple" who comport themselves like toddlers is practically a cliche in the magical community. I'm of the opinion that an easy way to judge someone's attainment is to watch how they behave in online forums. The more ridiculous, self-important, and obnoxious they are, the less enlightened I assume them to be - usually. I'm not going to put that forth as a general principle, but I have found it to be a helpful rule of thumb.

So unless you want to wind up like one of those folks, be sure you're ready before trying to take this step. Crowley refers to Adepts who fail to integrate the cosmic realm and this fail to Cross the Abyss as "black brothers" - which, by the way, is a concept that is entirely different from that of a "black" or evil magician in modern parlance. It may not be true that the mark of a black brother is throwing temper tantrums on social media, but let's just say if that turned out to be the case I wouldn't be that surprised.

The real danger is this - when you go to Cross the Abyss, nobody thinks that they fail. However, the difference between what is essentially entrenched narcissism and genuine enlightenment is vast, but from moment to moment it can be difficult to perceive. In the end, it all boils down to ignorance - if you think you're enlightened and you're not, your actions can result in all sorts of ridiculous ends. So even if you perform this operation and think you have succeeded, be on your guard. Test everything, all along the way.

After all, even if Crossing the Abyss is the second great initiation in magick, you're never really done. You have to keep up the work, day in and day out, and every realization simply opens the door to the next one down the line. You just have to keep moving forward, no matter what.

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Dacia Pacea said...


So, in more practical terms, one says the oath, then uses their highly trained body of light and reaches Chessed. Once there they start moving towards Binah using their will, taking a leap of faith to some extent and awaits to see what happens, before coming out the other side and "seeing" the Supernal Triad - I think I remember reading that Crowley saw them as a single sphere.

From what I've read in various sources (some more doubtful than others) the stripping on the Ego takes place by the hand of Choronzon (the demon lurking inside the Abyss, or something), who only allows the part of the soul representing the divine spark to pass. Then as the person returns back across the Abyss, they reintegrate their Ego part, but this time they are very much aware of the divine spark inside of them - this is pure speculation on my part, representing what I think I understood from reading on this subject.

This is also speculation on my part, but isn't the rank of Magister Templi attained only after the initiation into Binah?

Scott Stenwick said...

So your first part there pretty much lines up with how I see it. The deal with the supernals is that Binah can stand in for all three in some contexts, but not all.

The second part - that's pretty much how Crowley wrote it. My main point of disagreement is that "the ego" as a discrete "thing" is a psychoanalytic concept that has no real scientific basis whatsoever. That wasn't really worked out until the 1960's, so Crowley used a lot of psychoanalytic language because it was the "hot new technology" in psychology.

So "stripping the ego?" Not really a thing, in my opinion.

A better way to think about it is like rings on a tree. What you are doing when you work magick is expanding those rings outward, through the subsequent sephiroth. Malkuth goes in the center, next ring is Yesod, next ring is Hod, and so forth. So nothing catastrophic happens to the mundane personality below the Abyss - or at least it shouldn't. It's just that the Abyss is a boundary that only the spark of awareness itself can pass.

I would say that if your mundane personality destabilizes when you cross the Abyss, it means that you didn't have everything properly stabilized when you tried crossing.

As far as initiation into Binah goes - according to Crowley's writing about the A.'. A.'. degrees, they are "a stamp upon an existing attainment" rather than the attainment itself. So the attainment that corresponds to Master of the Temple is Crossing the Abyss, and the stamp of that attainment is the initiation that stabilizes it. So technically you are correct in the context of the degree system, but the degree comes after the experience itself.

In short - you cross the Abyss to get the realization, and you do the initiation into Binah to stabilize it.

Dacia Pacea said...

Yeah, I'm not saying something/anything inside the person is destroyed, because as you stated in the text, they wouldn't be able to function properly afterwards. I guess I'm associating it with the notion of unlearning what has been learned, but I think you've covered it both in the article on Chessed as well as here. My christian background made me think of what Christ said - empty yourself so that I will fill you - to represent the crossing of the Abyss. Or does that happen at the level of Tiphareth. I dunno :) I'm just speculating here, so don't mind me :)

Scott Stenwick said...

It really is hard to talk about with any degree of precision. The same process exists in Christian mysticism just like it does in Buddhism and other systems that are primarily contemplative. But it's framed very differently.

I think your idea is basically right though - and some of that happens at both Tiphareth and Binah.

Dacia Pacea said...

It would be interesting to talk with a monk who has achieved something similar to this. I'm curious to what he'd say.

Would you consider Chaper VI of Liber O as a good practice for strengthening the body of light to the degree necessary to undertake such an endeavour? I've tried it at least a few times, but failed miserably, exactly as Crowley wrote it down and marked with an asterisk :)

Dacia Pacea said...

I don't want to put you at odds with Frater RO or anything, but I take it his initiation into the 7 spheres is not enough for succeeding in such a thing as crossing the Abyss and all that. Or is it?

I mean I've read accounts of people who have followed it and they noticed their life improving in the physical realm (better job, great relationship etc.), but I don't know anything about their spiritual improvement. As I understand it, those rituals are to be performed one planet per week, in which case I doubt it that all the things gained from one ritual would have time to sink in properly before the next. I mean my pathworkings have stretched from one per week for the first few paths, to more than 5months since I did Gemini, and I'm not done yet. Maybe if one were to perform them repeatedly over some time...

In any case, the spirits themselves would be the judge of that. And first and foremost, the HGA.

Scott Stenwick said...

With the seven spheres it depends on where you are at magically.

Keep in mind that you have four Qabalistic worlds and you have the equivalent of a full Tree of Life in all four. You start off in Assiah, the material world - so it stands to reason that when you do it as a beginner, you see material improvements. Once you start working with the HGA, you move on to Yetzirah, and once you Cross the Abyss you can work on Briah and eventually Atziluth. So there's that.

It's like the spiral dynamics idea. You don't just do it once. You keep doing it every so often, and every time you work your way a little further down the path and get a bunch of new insights.

Dacia Pacea said...

Oh, you're right. I forgot about that :) Thanks!

enokiano1 said...

Hi Scott ¡¡

has been incredible the result obtained working progressively with the 4 elements,for a very very difficult objective,first I worked with jupiter but I felt it was necessary to work with the powers of the 4 elements through the great kings of the elements,, it would be interesting to add the magical Eucharist via solis can greatly enhance the magic link of the objective,the spirits, the goal and the one who asks...every day I feel more powerful the operant field for the Magick in general ¡¡

Scott Stenwick said...

Glad to hear it. You can adapt the Elixir Ritual from Via Solis to the elements. Instead of the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram, use the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for the element you are working with.

Then, for charging the elixir, use these godnames, angel names, and colors:

Air - YHVH - Raphael - Yellow light
Fire - Elohim - Michael - Red light
Water - El - Gabriel - Blue light
Earth - Adonai - Auriel - Green light

For the circumambulations, you go around 10 times, because Malkuth is the sphere of the elements.

I think that should do it.

enokiano1 said...

Hi Scott ¡¡¡

I will do it if, it is exciting we can load a juice or wine with the forces evoked, having a support if the power is going to increase.
on the other hand I also think that rituals can be done harmonizing with the planetary forces of the day, even with the zodiac sign also and here arises an issue...

if we imagine 12 bands of the zodiac from the head to the feet, eg red -aries on the head I could perform the middle pillar, but I could fill the auric field in red and pronounce YHVH -for aries- if I then want to tune with a concrete force like Geburah or Mars, I could light that part in the appropriate place with what I have the red fire sphere of Aries and then with Elohim Gibor active that center, so I would remain a sphere of powerful energy of Mars and all the auric sphere vibrating in ries red, something like Mars in Aries
I would like to expand the possibilities of the middle pillar far beyond what is known,what do you think about this to you?

on the other hand what would happen if the seals of the archangel imagine them inside of me? I saw something like this and ... I saw it interesting

well I also think that it will be interesting to experiment on the planets in a sign, to try to generate that energy and to direct it where it is necessary, for that reason I believe that a middle pillar that also has incorporated the zodiacal force can be interesting to explore new ways,it will be fantastic listen to opinions

Scott Stenwick said...

I have done some experiments with variations on the Middle Pillar, like working all the way down the Lightning Flash as opposed to just the Middle Pillar sephiroth. Back when I was still doing the Middle Pillar, it seemed like a sound method - it just takes some time to run through them all. These days I use the Elevenfold Seal, which does the same basic thing in a different way.

And you probably could enhance that working down the Lightning Flash method with the angelic seals for each sephiroth, too. I haven't tried that one myself, but I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't work. I haven't tried your zodiac idea either, but again, it sounds logical to me and I think it should work. The signs are attributed to the parts of the body in that way, so the correspondences you're talking about are sound.

Dacia Pacea said...

@enokiano I found this exercise great as a variation of both the MP and the Lightning Flash

I think it can be used as a method to raise power before charging an elixir or talisman. In the case you proposed - Aries and Mars - you can perform the exercise to draw the forces of Aries first, then repeat it and draw the forces of Mars. I've had good experiences when I used it, back before I added the hexagram rituals to my daily practice.

enokiano1 said...

Hi Dacia ¡¡¡

oooo it is wonderful it seems very powerful ¡¡¡¡

Dacia Pacea said...

Please share how it went if you use it in a ritual for creating elixirs or talismans.