Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Regarding Devotional Work

A commenter mentioned devotional work such as Liber Resh on my post about daily practice. I don't include Liber Resh or anything similar in that article because I'm not assuming everyone reading this is a Thelemite, and in my experience Resh is mostly a specifically Thelemic practice. However, devotional work like Liber Resh can be an effective part of every magician's daily work. This is a short article that I wrote up awhile back summarizing Aleister Crowley's Liber Astarte, which is his guide to uniting with a deity through devotion rather than the traditional methods of ceremonial magick.

Devotional practices are part of just about every spiritual system in existence. In the Eastern systems, devotional practices can have a similar function to meditation, but they accomplish the alteration of consciousness by cultivating the emotions rather than pure awareness on its own. Both of these methods are important in developing the capacity for transpersonal or macrocosmic realization, by which the most effective and powerful magick can be wielded.

Devotional methods comprise most of the spiritual practices of modern Christianity - or at least they should. In terms of daily life, Christianity teaches love and compassion toward others as an essential devotional method for realizing your interconnection with everyone else, and by extension the entire universe. Sects populated by Poor Oppressed Christians who teach hatred and intolerance provide no spiritual benefits to their membership, since exclusionary belief systems impede transpersonal realization and in effect prevent salvation.

Prayer is primarily devotional in nature, though people with enough magical aptitude can use it as an operant technique. If the devotional portion of the prayer succeeds in uniting consciousness with the transpersonal and the specific prayer is focused upon with enough intensity and single-mindedness, an effect will be produced in the material world that is analogous to a practical spell. This practice is in fact a simple form of magick, although magick is considered anathema in many of the Christian sects that use prayer this way.

Little has been written concerning devotional practices for ritual magicians. One excellent and comprehensive exception to this is Aleister Crowley's Liber Astarte vel Berylli, which outlines the basics of devotional mysticism and outlines a method for attaining union with a specific deity or constellation of energy through devotion. This article is a brief summary of the practice outlined there, but you can click the link to read the whole thing if you would like.

The method consists of selecting a deity and then preparing a shrine accordingly, including an image of the deity if one exists, a symbol that in some way represents the nature of the deity, and a collection of Qabalistic correspondences. The magician then composes an invocation of the deity consisting of several parts:

First, an Imprecation, as of a slave unto his Lord.
Second, an Oath, as of a vassal to his Liege.
Third, a Memorial, as of a child to his Parent.
Fourth, an Orison, as of a Priest unto his God.
Fifth, a Colloquy, as of a Brother with his Brother.
Sixth, a Conjuration, as to a Friend with his Friend.
Seventh, a Madrigal, as of a Lover to his Mistress.

And mark well that the first should be of awe, the second of fealty, the third of dependence, the fourth of adoration, the fifth of confidence, the sixth of comradeship, the seventh of passion.

Note that in this specific case, grimoire purists will be pleased to see that Crowley used the word invocation to refer to a form of prayer, rather than the calling of a spirit, deity, or similar entity into one's personal sphere of awareness.

An ordered ceremony is then constructed around this invocation, including basic menial tasks such as sweeping and garnishing the shrine. A set period of time is selected for this practice, and during this period the ceremony is to be performed three times per day, or at least once, and the sleep of the magician is to be broken for the purposes of devotion once per night.

In terms of his or her daily life during this period, the magician is to seek out all things that are pleasing to the deity and avoid all things that the deity finds hateful, eliminating any thought, word, or deed not in harmony with the deity's nature. Furthermore, he or she should strive to invoke the deity in connection with all actions undertaken, mundane or otherwise. Here, invoke is used in more like the modern sense, calling the deity into the magician's sphere of awareness. This purifies body, speech, and mind so that they can be employed effectively during the course of the work.

The Thelemic practice of Liber Resh vel Helios, the four adorations of the Sun, fits this pattern at least to some degree. It is performed four times per day - at sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight. And especially in the summer months in high latitudes, the number of hours between midnight and sunrise generally result in the magician's sleep being interrupted if the adorations are performed at the proper times. Liber Resh does not have to include some of the elements related to building and maintaining a shrine, and so forth, but it might be an interesting experiment to try to bring it more in line with those practices.

All these elements combine into a powerful spell for invoking the deity. They are unified by a mantram, or continuous prayer, which acts as a kind of meditative focus. The magician identifies a mantra which is appropriate to the deity, and then strives to repeat this mantra mechanically in the mind at all times, devoting a portion of awareness to its performance. All these practices, taken together, serve to enflame the heart with love for the
deity and prepare it for the eventual union.

While it is amazingly effective to maintain a mantra to this degree, it is quite difficult and a simpler form of it can be done with a mala or rosary. You can sit and recite the mantra as you work the beads, and do one of more rounds of the mala or rosary each day. This is sufficient to maintain the "thread" of practice. If you can keep the mantra going throughout your day you will get better results, but in my experience it is difficult enough that students run the risk of abandoning the practice because "they failed" by not keeping it going often enough.

Crowley describes the goal and end result of this practice thus:

In the end shall come suddenly a great flame and a devouring, and burn thee utterly.

Now of these sparks, and of these splutterings of flame, and of these beginnings of the Infinite Fire, thou shalt thus be aware. For the sparks thy heart shall leap up, and thy ceremony or meditation or toil shall seem of a sudden to go of its own will; and for the little flames this shall be increased in volume and intensity; and for the beginnings of the Infinite Fire thy ceremony shall be caught up unto ravishing song, and thy meditation shall be ecstasy, and thy toil shall be a delight exceeding all pleasure thou hast ever known.

And of the Great Flame that answereth thee it may not be spoken; for therein is the End of this Magick Art of Devotion.

An account from the Hermetic tradition that seems to correspond with this description is found in Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men, the first chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum. It gives an account of mystical realization arising from meditation which from the text appears to be devotional in nature. According to the text, the great flame resolves itself into a vision of the elements and continues on to illustrate the operation of the transpersonal and cosmic realms through a creation narrative that in some ways corresponds to the creation myth in Genesis but which also includes elements of Neo-Platonic and Gnostic cosmology.

Verse 31 is the original basis for the Golden Dawn adoration of the Lord of the Universe:

Holy art Thou, O God (Theos), the universals' Father.
Holy art Thou, O God (Theos), whose Will perfects itself by means of its
own Powers.
Holy art Thou, O God (Theos), who willeth to be known and art known by
Thine own.
Holy art Thou,who didst by Word (Logos) make to consist the things that are.
Holy art Thou, of whom All-nature hath been made an image.
Holy art Thou, whose Form Nature hath never made.
Holy art Thou, more powerful than all power.
Holy art Thou, transcending all pre-eminence.
Holy Thou art, Thou better than all praise.

This union with the deity will manifest as union with the macrocosm, since deities are essentially intelligences that inhabit the transpersonal realm. While this is in no way to be confused with the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel, devotional practices from this method may be adapted to serve that invocation. Once consciousness has ecstatically overcome the boundary that separates the personal and transpersonal fields it becomes easier to connect with that state of awareness at any other time and for any other purpose and as that connection is the basis of operant magick, the magician will find his or her ability to create change enhanced by the experience.

The basic idea is this - adeptship may be thought of as the stabilized union of the microcosm and macrocosm, which is to say the personal and the transpersonal. As I think I've mentioned elsewhere, the transitory experience of more realized states of consciousness will happen from time to time as you practice, and while they are good signposts along the path they are not the same thing as mastery - that is, the stabilization of the locus of consciousness in that realized state.

The methods of Liber Astarte are designed to induce a state of union between microcosm and macrocosm which is by the very design of the practice transitory - that is, it is pursued and maintained for a set amount of time. Nonetheless, every experience of this kind of union will make the eventual stabilization of the state that much easier.

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