Monday, September 11, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Binah

This article is Part Fifteen 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, Part Thirteen can be found here, and Part Fourteen can be found here.

Initiation into the sephira of Binah is the fifteenth step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. On the Kircher Tree of Life, the third sephira is attributed to Saturn, and the corresponding visions are "The Vision of Sorrow" and "The Vision of Wonder." The word Binah means Understanding, which alludes to comprehension of the fundamental nature of the universe at a cosmic level.

The sephira 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. This allows you to integrate magical principles and forces into your life more quickly and effectively.

"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.

As I mentioned last week, I am in uncharted territory here. I am not a Master of the Temple and make no claims of having crossed the Abyss, so I am writing this based on my studies rather than personal experience. According to the A.'.A.'. system laid out by Aleister Crowley, the prerequisite working with Binah is having successfully crossed the Abyss - along with everything that you need to accomplish leading up to that point.

If you wish to seek formal initiation into an order or similar tradition corresponding to Chesed before working with Binah, that initiation is called Adeptus Exemptus or Exempt Adept in the Thelemic and Golden Dawn traditions. As with the Tiphareth, Geburah, and Chesed initiations, the presence of the Holy Guardian Angel makes much further discussion of the nature the Binah initiation pointless, or at least less meaningful than it is in the lower sephiroth. The angel should be able to answer any question that you have regarding the path in a manner that is perfectly tailored to your own experience.

Briefly, though, Binah represents the stabilization of what I call the cosmic level of realization. According to how I model it, below the Veil of Paroketh on the Kircher Tree of Life is the personal realm, or microcosm. Magick performed at this level is mostly psychological. Between the Veil of Paroketh and the Abyss is the transpersonal realm, or macrocosm. Magick performed at this level is more practical, and includes what most people describe as paranormal effects. Magick performed at the cosmic level is based on the full unification of the microcosm and macrocosm, and the extension of that unified comprehension to the universe taken as a whole.

There was some discussion two weeks back as to whether crossing the Abyss or initiation into Binah conferred the grade of Master of the Temple. Crossing the Abyss represents the experience itself, but initiation into Binah stabilizes the realization. So technically, you're not "really" a Master of the Temple until you complete this initiation, but crossing the Abyss is the most significant component of the initiation. And I have mentioned this a couple of times, but there is a difference between experiencing a particular realization and stabilizing that realization within your sphere of awareness. Both are necessary for a full and complete initiation, at any level.

The "Vision of Sorrow" here was considered by Crowley to be similar to the realization of "the trance of sorrow" discussed in Buddhist texts. But to this realization he adds Thelemic concept of "The Vision of Wonder," alluding to the statement in The Book of the Law that "existence is pure joy," a direct challenge to the Buddhist notion of existence as suffering. Crowley also notes that above the Abyss, where we find Binah, a thing is true only to the extent that its opposite is also true, and therefore it would seem that the consciousness of the Master of the Temple must in some manner fully accomodate this apparent paradox.

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 sephira involves two basic operations - a "Rite of Approach" and an "Elixir Rite." The Rite of Approach opens a portal into the realm of the sephira, 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 Archangel of Binah, Tzaphkiel. The primary function of this to develop a working relationship with the Archangel and other spirits of the Binah domain. When interacting with the Archangel, feel free to ask for initiation corresponding to the sephira.

You should recognize the core of the Elixir Rite right away, as it is similar to what we do during the Aries Elixir Rite. 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 sephira 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 Chesed is the same as for my previous rites. You don't necessarily need to create the sigil of the Archangel, but if you do you can go ahead and trace it on the Saturn kamea. The reason is that for the Rite of Approach, we will be seeking out the Archangel 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 as with the Elemental Kings, I say "he" in my text but angels can take any form they want, male or female.

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).

The Table of Art shown above is from The Digital Ambler. You can read about the design and how it was put together here. You can click on the image to enlarge.

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.

Binah operations are best performed on a Saturday during the hour of Saturn, or when Saturn or Mars are Chart Victors. Avoid any time during which the Chart Victor is the Sun, the Moon, or Jupiter. Also, you can improve your results by employing simple electional timing.

1. Opening

Light incense, if used (Myrrh or Civet). 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 Ritual of the Hexagram for Saturn (Sephirothic). Beginning in the east, go to each quarter in turn and perform the following actions.

  1. 1. Trace the Invoking Hexagram of Saturn in Black while vibrating ARARITA (ah-rah-ree-tah). The Invoking Hexagram of Saturn is traced by starting at the top point and tracing the first triangle clockwise, and then moving on to the bottom point and tracing the second triangle clockwise from there.
  2. Trace the symbol of Saturn in the center of the hexagram in white while vibrating YHVH Elohim (yah-weh el-oh-heem).
The final figure being traced to all four directions should look like this:

Once you have returned to face the east, read or recite the Capricorn chapter followed by the Aquarius chapter from Liber 963:

Capricorn (Saturn Nocturnal):

1. O my God, behold me fully and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my searching is as a bat that seeks some hollow of night upon a sun-parched wilderness.

2. O my God, order me justly and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my thoughts are as a dust-clad serpent wind at noon that danceth through the ashen grass of law.

3. O my God, conquer me with love and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all the striving of my spirit is as a child's kiss that struggles through a cloud of tangled hair.

4. O my God, suckle me with truth and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my agony of anguish is but as a quail struggling in the jaws of an hungry wolf.

5. O my God, comfort me with ease and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all the toil of my life is but as a small white mouse swimming through a vast sea of crimson blood.

6. O my God, entreat me gently and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my toil is but as a threadless shuttle of steel thrust here and there in the black loom of night.

7. O my God, fondle me with kisses and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my desires are as dewdrops that are sucked from silver lilies by the throat of a young god.

8. O my God, exalt me with blood and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my courage is but as the fang of a viper that striketh at the rosy heel of dawn.

9. O my God, teach me with patience and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my knowledge is but as the refuse of the chaff that is flung to the darkness of the void.

10. O my God, measure me rightly and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my praise is but as a single letter of lead lost in the gilded scriptures of the rocks.

11. O my God, fill me with slumber and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my wakefulness is but as a cloud at sunset that is like a snake gliding through the dew.

12. O my God, kindle me with joy and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all the strength of my mind is but as a web of silk that bindeth the milky breasts of the stars.

13. O my God, consume me with fire and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all mine understanding is but as a spider's thread drawn from star to star of a young galaxy.

Amen, and Amen of Amen, and Amen of Amen of Amen, and Amen of Amen of Amen of Amen.

Aquarius (Saturn Diurnal):

1. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my song is as the dirge of the sea that moans about a corpse, lapping most mournfully against the dead shore in the darkness. Yet in the sob of the wind do I hear Thy name, that quickeneth the cold lips of death to life.

2. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my praise is as the song of a bird that is ensnared in the network of the winds, and cast adown the drowning depths of night. Yet in the faltering notes of my music do I mark the melody of universal truth.

3. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my works are as a coiled-up sleeper who hath overslept the day, even the dawn that hovereth as a hawk in the void. Yet in the gloom of mine awakening do I see, across the breasts of night, Thy shadowed form.

4. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my labours are as weary oxen laggard and sore stricken with the goad, ploughing black furrows across the white fields of light. Yet in the scrawling trail of their slow toil do I descry the golden harvest of Thine effulgence.

5. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all the hope of my heart hath been ravished as the body of a virgin that is fallen into the hands of riotous robbers. Yet in the outrage of mine innocence do I disclose the clear manna of Thy purity.

6. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all the passion of my love is mazed as the bewildered eyes of a youth, who should wake to find his beloved fled away. Yet in the crumpled couch of lust do I behold as an imprint the sigil of Thy name.

7. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all the joy of my days lies dishonoured as the spangle-veil'd Virgin of night torn and trampled by the sun-lashed stallions of Dawn. Yet in the frenzy of their couplings do I tremble forth the pearly dew of ecstatic light.

8. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all the aspirations of my heart ruin as in time of earthquake the bare hut of an hermit that he hath built for prayer. Yet from the lightning-struck tower of my reason do I enter Thy house that Thou didst build for me.

9. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my joy is as a cloud of dust blown athwart a memory of tears, even across the shadowless brow of the desert. Yet as from the breast of a slave-girl do I pluck the fragrant blossom of Thy Crimson Splendour.

10. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all the feastings of my flesh have sickened to the wormy hunger of the grave, writhing in the spasms of indolent decay. Yet in the maggots of my corruption do I shadow forth sunlit hosts of crowned eagles.

11. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my craft is as an injured arrow, featherless and twisted, that should be loosed from its bowstring by the hands of an infant. Yet in the wayward struggling of its flight do I grip the unwavering courses of Thy wisdom.

12. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my faith is as a filthy puddle in the sinister confines of a forest, splashed by the wanton foot of a young gnome. Yet like a wildfire through the trees at nightfall do I divine the distant glimmer of Thine Eye.

13. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my life sinks as the western Sun that struggles in the strangling arms of Night, flecked over with the starry foam of her kisses. Yet in the very midnight of my soul do I hold as a scarab the signet of Thy name.

Amen, and Amen of Amen, and Amen of Amen of Amen, and Amen of Amen of Amen of Amen.

The space should now be tuned for the conjuration.

4A. The Rite of Approach

Begin with the conjuration of the Archangel.

Oh Glorious and Mighty TZAPHKIEL, You who command and rule over the spirits of SHABBATAI, Behold me, and in the name of the same your God YHVH ELOHIM, Attend and Appear before me within this circle of art! Full powers and wonders of the sephira of Binah 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 TZAPHKIEL repeatedly until the Archangel and the spirits of Binah 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 Tzaphkiel, the Archangel of Binah.

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 Tzaphkiel. Take note of all you experience here as you explore the landscape of Binah.

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 Binah. 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 Archangel:

Oh Glorious and Mighty TZAPHKIEL, You who command and rule over the spirits of SHABBATAI, Behold me, and in the name of the same your God YHVH ELOHIM, Attend and Appear before me within this circle of art! Full powers and wonders of the sephira of Binah 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 TZAPHKIEL repeatedly until the presence of the Archangel and spirits of Binah 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 mighty YHVH ELOHIM. 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 Binah, charging it with the creative energies of SHABBATAI, 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, Tzaphkiel 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 black 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 Binah: by the vital force of my breath I enliven thee to perfect this work of Holy Magick in the realm of YHVH ELOHIM.

Once this is complete, join or clasp hands and make three full circumambulations of the circle, corresponding to Binah.

Then raise power, visualizing a continuous spiral of black 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: YHVH ELOHIM

The join or clasp hands and vibrate once more: YHVH ELOHIM

Extend hands toward elixir cup. Visualize beams of black 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 Saturn in a horizontal plane over the cup while vibrating once more: YHVH ELOHIM

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 Binah! 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 Tzaphkiel, 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 allowed to evaporate following the rite. However, this is not necessary. If it has not fully evaporated after several days, you can pour it out at any convenient outdoor location.

5. The License to Depart

Archangel TZAPHKIEL and the 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 YHVH ELOHIM, 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 need to perform these rituals multiple times before you can consider yourself "initiated" into Binah. Generally speaking, this is something that the Archangel can bestow, but he won't necessarily do it the first time you ask. 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, YHVH ELOHIM. If you meet a spirit claiming to be Tzaphkiel vibrate his name at it. If it really is Tzaphkiel, 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 Fire. 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.

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Anonymous said...

I guess this is a highly subjective question, but I think it could be worth it. I must explain briefly before. At the end of almost every pathworking ritual I finished the journey inside the sphere into which that path leads, while going upwards on the ToL. The only exceptions were on the horizontal paths, because I had briefly visited Hod, Netzach, Geburah and Chesed at the end of the previous paths.

So, at the end of the paths of Cancer and Gemini I ended up inside of Binah, saw some desolate landscape of a ruined city at night, and briefly met either Saturn of Tzaphkiel, as I did with the gods of the previous spheres. Now, these last two paths have left a deep mark on me, to the point that I'm almost transformed (for the better) from my previous condition. But this also had hard consequences to the extent that I'm constantly living with all the pain that I've accumulated throughout my life. I thoroughly understand it's sources and how it manifests, but I can't seem to find a way to heal it.

My question is whether it's possible that some of that Binah energy rubbed on me and had lead me to experiencing this. Actually I have yet another question. I've read on a Thelemic forum that the Vision of Sorrow can lead to letting go of everything -Yoda telling Anakin to train himself to let go of everything he fears to lose for instance- and simply viewing it as it is. If that can be one of the outcomes, I think I'm also feeling something similar. I'm not saying that I experienced a full initiation (haha), but simply that I highly suspect some of that energy has tagged along. Which brings me back to the first question. Hope I made myself understood :)

Scott Stenwick said...

It is very possible that some of the Binah energy rubbed off on you, so to speak. Remember that we're basically dealing with four Trees of Life across the four Qabalistic worlds, and at all four levels Binah is still Binah. You get still get those effects and see those visions. But you aren't a "real" Master of the Temple until you've gone through the Binah of at least Briah, if not Atziluth.

The Vision of Sorrow can certainly be viewed that way in Thelemic terms. Read Liber Cheth if you haven't done so already.

It outlines a similar perspective. It's not about literally destroying everything around you, but rather letting it go, such that "thou art no longer thou."

To heal it, you can use the Rite of Approach here and go talk to Tzaphkiel, or go looking for the Intelligence of Saturn, Agiel. I would expect that either should be able to help you.

Anonymous said...

I see where Crowley is going with it :)

As for the pain, my angel has told me to turn to Jesus for healing, but I'm keeping it on hold for now because I feel I still have more to understand from it. I will definitely call on Tzaphkiel or Agiel for help if i feel i hit an apparent dead-end in terms of understanding.

Thank you for offering more clarification on this!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that, I meant to say I can't seem to find a way to make it more bearable, because I've obviously been offered a way for healing. And I think Tzaphkiel or Agiel can definitively help me bare it :)

Anonymous said...

I just have to post this here for i think it's really meaningful. The best representation of the Vision of Sorrow i've come across. Needless to say, i've been listening to it for some time now. Again, i'm only referring to those damn Binah energies that got stuck to me :)

javier said...

Hi Scott
I would like to know your opinion Scott and Dacia, from this point of view(Simon jester), the rituals of banishing in any context, are not designed so much to fade energies, but Forces qliffotic associated to the energies in course within the ritual.

I put here the text.

This latter approach has been the route taken by many writers on ritual magic. Out of an exaggerated fear of giving away methods that could be perverted, they only supply the basics and never stop to think that their readers may attempt to go further on their own. Without knowing anything about the safeguards needed when taking magical operations to higher levels, Bad Things can happen. And preventing the Bad Things necessitates facing all the demons that many contemporary writers on magic prefer to keep locked up in the grimoiric closet.
The reality of the matter is this: whenever you ritually open a portal for the positive Forces of any of the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, you are simultaneously providing an entrance for their corresponding negative forces. This is a fact in our reality every bit as unavoidable as gravity, and you cannot ignore it for much the same reason that you cannot pick up the positive pole of a magnet without also picking up its negative pole. What this means in practice is that, when working with Sephirothic Forces beyond the Malkuth level, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Earth Pentagram, one of the most popularly used banishing rituals in the world today, is insufficient to provide adequate protection. Other, more advanced rituals are needed to banish the demons of the higher Paths & spheres.

Scott Stenwick said...

First off, I do not agree that people put much effort into building "blinds" and the like into their published descriptions of rituals. Most of the time, I think when somebody claims to have "solved" one of these based on experimentation and then their methods are validated by other practitioners, what really happened is that they created an innovation in the system. I think it's highly unlikely that the original authors of a ritual thought of everything and chose to hide some of it - rather, it makes more sense to me that magick is a progressive science that practitioners improve over time. Here's more on that:

I also don't think the "Lesser Pentagram" is actually the Earth pentagram - it's just traced the same way. Remember that in Golden Dawn pentagram arrangement, invoking Air and banishing Water are traced the same way, and vice-versa, just with different colors. Here's more on that:

And as an additional point, the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is microcosmic. That is, it doesn't really "banish" anything besides your personal sphere of awareness. If a spirit has created some sort of a link to you, the LBRP will cut it - but that doesn't necessarily have much effect on the spirit itself. To do a full banishing you need to combine the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (microcosmic) with the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram (macrocosmic) to create a banishing field. That does the trick.

The demon/angel dichotomy is another pet peeve of mine. Christian theology is massively oversimplified. In the real spiritual cosmology there are three classes of spirits - celestials, spirits of the heavens, chthonics, spirits of the underworld, and earthbound spirits like the entities of our natural world and of course human souls. Christians say that cthonics are evil demons and celestials are good angels, but the "good" and "evil" distinction is mostly made up. I've met hostile "angels" and friendly "demons." Temperament has more to do with the personality of the spirit than it does with their overall classification.

Now that I have all that groundwork laid out, it is true that when you tune your ritual space to one of the sephiroth, you create a space that is hospitable to the totality of that sephiroth, whether you call it celestial and chthonic or good and evil or positive and negative or whatever. That's why you don't just tune your space - you call in specific spirits that correspond to the operation you want to undertake. If you conjure an angel, you get an angel. If you conjure a demon, you get a demon. And so forth. You can conjure an angel without a demon and vice-versa. I do operations like that all the time.

Does that make sense? It sounds like this is coming from a pretty different perspective than where I'm at. There apparently is money to be made by making magick sound scarier and more dangerous than it really is. Most of the time, even if you massively mess up an operation, all that happens is nothing - you don't get an effect. It's not like in horror movies where you can unleash something terrible and dangerous to everyone around you if you make one tiny mistake.

Anonymous said...

I think Scott nailed it ;)

If you want my way less experienced opinion, you can really screw yourself up mentally when working with any type of spirit (elemental, celestial, chthonic) or god, if you don't have a solid foundation. By that I mean keeping up with daily practice. I've seen many cases on forum with people doing a ritual with a spirit and then feeling haunted or something. It didn't matter if that spirit was an angel or demon - more cases with demons as you may imagine, since they have a more instincual energy. This is why I kept telling people on forums to work on themselves and on building their spiritual authority.

Frater RO has at least two articles on this. One compares working with demons without the HGA as diving into a lake full of crocodiles, if I can remember correctly. The other one says that archangels can really f*ck you up, because they're way more powerful than you, but the divine spark inside of you had created them also and they obey it, so you'd need to be aware of the divine spark inside and use it accordingly. That being said, I've talked with demons without any ritual, circle or constraints, just with the backing of my angel. Even so, I still felt a little off afterwards.

I view the ToL and Qliphot as the two sides of the same coin, so opening a path or sephira on either also accesses its inverse polarity. So what? If you don't call anything from that inverse polarity it doesn't matter from my experience. Either way, you needn't worry if you've worked on yourself ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't know where I've read this, but it said that if you don't build a solid foundation for yourself, the whole ToL will crash down upon you under its weight when you start accessing the higher worlds.

Scott Stenwick said...

I suppose you could say that is true up to a point, but the way it's stated there is pretty over-dramatic. It's not that anything catastrophic will happen, but rather that it will prove difficult if not impossible to properly stabilize your realization at those levels without a solid foundation.

So you may be able to a glimmers of those realizations, but they won't be consistent or reliable like they would be if you were able to stabilize them. The biggest danger is that you become convinced that you ARE acting from a place of realization when all you're really acting from is wishful thinking. That leads to narcissism and solipsism rather than enlightenment.

That's what I think Crowley means when he talks about "black brothers" who "seal up their temples" and so forth when they fail to cross the Abyss. I don't think the over-dramatic framing is very helpful, because the implication is that as long as nothing catastrophic happens, you must have succeeded. But I'm pretty sure it's a lot more insidious than that.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with you, especially on what Crowley said and the way you interpret it based on your judgement and experience. What I got out of it back then and had stuck to me, is that it's not like the person with a weak foundation would have cataclysmic experiences every day, but that their mind would become more and more damaged under the pressure of the higher energies it cannot comprehend. I personally felt that performing the LBRP-MP combo day in and day out, almost like an idiot, does/can have a dramatic effect in increasing personal consciousness. At least that's how it was in my case. When I added the lesser hexagram ritual i felt those energies settling in in a very harmoniously, whereas if I were to add it after a few days I think it would've been a different cup of tea. I mean I cut corners with the GIRP and I had a hellish week after the SIRP during which time the energies balanced themselves.

Scott Stenwick said...

I think that the idea of some kind of progressive damage is likewise over-dramatic. Just because doing the practices expands your consciousness and level of realization - and it does - doesn't mean that there's "damage" that accrues if you don't do them. I find that after about two weeks of no practice your probability shifts from practical operations start to drop off, but again, I don't think it's "damage." I think to get practical effects like that at all you need to be in peak shape, so to speak, and the practices do that.

Anonymous said...

I agree, but it looks to me like we're talking about different things :) You are referring to the degree results manifest -probability shift- while I was referring to mental health, so to speak. Like if you are a beginner and you go all out on conjuring spirits first hand, you could end up messing your psyche. I've read alot of forum thread of people conjuring demons while staring at their seals and vibrating the enn. Some of those rituals are successful in terms of practical achievements, but the person can end up posting Help threads in which they write down all sorts of bizarre things they think they've experienced afterwards.

Scott Stenwick said...

No, I know what you are talking about. The idea that magick causes mental health problems is in my experience, and according to all the research I've been able to do, wildly exaggerated. There isn't likely to be a causal effect for most people. For reference, 25% of the human population has some form of mental illness. So I would expect to see one person in four who tried that technique have problems if the magick was doing nothing. If the percentage is higher, than there might be some basis to your claim.

So do you really think it's true that, say, one person in three on those forums who tries that method is reporting mental health problems? If so, I'll grant that I might be wrong about this, but what I've found is that the percentage is substantially lower everywhere I've looked. That means the magick is either doing nothing and other factors are at work, or that the magick is actually helping despite the lack of rigorous technique.

See these for more related to this topic:

It's like the fundies who claimed back in the 1980's that Dungeons & Dragons caused suicides. A Dragon Magazine letter writer took the fundie group's own suicide numbers, divided them into the number of people playing D&D according to real market surveys, and came away with a suicide rate half that of the general population. As I see it, you have to keep numbers like that straight if you want to draw firm conclusions from them.

Anonymous said...

I haven't listed those people into statistics and again, I don't disagree with you, since you also check out the scientific studies and all that.

It's highly likely I'm not putting my thoughts into words the way I wanted, which is nothing new to me :) I'll try it again. You said that Kelley used to hear the angels talking in his head after the ritual was over, probably because they didn't give them the license to depart. Kelley was a skilful scryer, probably having talked to dozens and dozens of spirits. Now imagine a noob being hit with spirit energies and think about what that dude wrote about LM DuQuette's book. Hope that made sense :))

Scott Stenwick said...

Sure, if you are talking about people having some mild paranormal experiences and being weirded out by them I see what you're talking about. My point is just that if, say, somebody does a sloppy ritual and feels "haunted" by a spirit for a little while, I still think it's unlikely to have much of an effect on their mental health once the situation is resolved.

This is one of those pet peeves of mine, so I'm sorry if it comes off as a bit of a knee-jerk. The "dark fluff" problem is real, and I find it very annoying. People who are drawn to magick because it's "scary and dangerous" really have no idea what they're talking about. You know, because it's a technology that requires lifelong practice, not some sort of fashion statement.

Anonymous said...

Of course, it's not like some silly kids playing Harry Potter all of the sudden and presto change-o you zap people left and right, or manifest a fiery devil in front of your eyes. And forums are full of these people:

Then some "expert" comes along and tells them to stare at the sigil while vibrating the enn then tell the spirit what they want and give it something in exchange. They do the ritual and they might not feel anything at that point, but then they start having all sorts of dreams, probably having been exposed to the spirit's energies. I think there's no need to tell you these are common when dealing with spirits, as are other things like when I see tinyorbs of light throughout the house every now and then. They start freaking out over all kinds of noises etc. Then they come back and ask for help because they're haunted and stuff like that.

In my opinion that lack the consciousness necessary to perform magick and their mundane oriented mind acts by unleashing all kinds of nasty thoughts from what you correctly call conditioning, whether it's from their religion, home and school education, media culture etc. Thus they become entangled into their own web of thoughts possibly leading them to psychosis or neurosis or something.

Or instead of love&finance they ask for help because they want to curse someone. What happens if an expert tells them the simplest way to summon a spirit that is warned against for being aggressive? I think the Goetia mentions Andras as a spirit that could kill the summoner if precautionary mesures are not taken. Someone has conjured Sorath for instance, by the angel and the intelligence. The pirit appeared in chains in the scrying device. Upon being asked why it is in chains, Sorath answered that it's to prevent him to attack the magician and that Michael has put him in chains. Some planetary pentacles are especially made in order to keep the specific spirits at bay. I think Crowley had used one on Bartzabel.

Scott Stenwick said...

I see what you are saying. This is basically my only quibble (and has been since your first message in this series).

"Thus they become entangled into their own web of thoughts possibly leading them to psychosis or neurosis or something."

Few experimental psychologists believe that psychosis is caused by environmental factors. I don't personally see why dealing with spirits would be any different, especially since there's so little evidence of it happening aside from anecdotes that rarely hold up under scrutiny. People who become psychotic MAY fixate on spirits or magick, but we're talking about a general biological tendency. So if they weren't exposed to magick, they would be freaked out about the CIA or something. The underlying cognitive processes are all the same, no matter what the "threat" to them is supposed to be.

Spirits do cause anxiety sometimes just be being around people, so for some values of "neurosis" the statement is probably more accurate. But the anxiety is going to subside once the spirit is gone. It doesn't seem to me any more likely to cause long-term mental illness than other forms of stress. It is true, though, that since spirits can manipulate probability they can mess up your regular life if you piss them off.

So none of that means I disagree with you about "experts" telling people to work with spirits "shamanically" or whatever, rather than following traditional methods. The traditional methods are there for a reason, and especially when you're starting out, it seems to me that they should be followed as best you can.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why there's a missing paragraph in there... If it got lost somehow I meant to pose as a desperate person seeking help for summoning demons for love-money troubles, because they've read somewhere that demons do that.

I'm not too familiar with the specific traits of mental issues, so I took it a bit into the extreme by using those words. But I did so in order to underline my point.

As for pissing spirits off, I guess having no previous knowledge in the occult and any skills in practising magick can lead to such an outcome, even out of ignorance, if not out of stupidity.

You can say that again about the traditional methods! I've grown tired of telling people that and simply let them act as they want, then laugh it out if they come back screaming :)

More people should follow your blog if they want to go into magick, simply because you mention daily practice ;)

Scott Stenwick said...

I totally agree with you there. Daily practice is extremely important if you ever want to get anywhere.

javier said...

Hi ¡¡¡

I think that basic preliminaries are always adequate.

the question of bnishing I see a little different, from my point of view Scott, I think there are internal forces (I will not say evil from a moral concept) those forces may be unconscious (here we can include the pentagram-microcosm), while others forces in imbalance may appear in the macrocosm, (hexagram, macrocosms) may not be spirits but forces simply, years ago I remember when I studied the material of Griffin, I could not understand (from that point of view) What sense did they have to banish all the force that you have invoked before? And what I think happens is that they only seek to banish that part of the force in unbalance-not to all-since it does not make sense to expel and close what you call.

however the idea of banishing the negative part of a planetary aspect if it is attractive, for me the formula of exile for this type of ritual would go with a statement of intention or magical Will very clear, it is true that could also evoke the archangel planet that governs the planetary aspect so that that quantum flow does not disturb me, but it seems interesting to work it as banishing, it will be necessary to investigate...

Scott Stenwick said...

The thing is, there are a lot better ways to eliminate negative planetary aspects than using banishing rituals. Years ago, I played around with the idea of doing Saturn banishings to eliminate restrictions and speed things up (restriction and slowness being attributed to Saturn). It sort of worked but it was crude, kind of like using a sledgehammer to pound in a nail.

As I worked through the path of initiation and practical work with the planets, what I came to realize is that you want to INVOKE Saturn if you want control over that stuff - you conjure an angel or an intelligence to which you can deliver a charge. Saturn RULES restriction and slowness, so Saturn angels and intelligences can both restrict things and lift restrictions on them, depending on what you want to do. The same is true of speed - Saturn doesn't just rule slowness, but time in general.

So you're not really banishing - you're controlling, or more accurately, influencing (because control implies determinism, which you rarely get with magick). You're charging the spirit you're working with to pick out the aspect of the planet that you want to work with.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed the arrows that indicate how the hexagram should be traced are missing :)

Merlyn78 said...

Hi Scott,

Have you personally used Civet Incense? If so, can you tell me more about it, please?
I've never used it and can't find much about it, especially for Practical Magick, using Google. What is it burned for, specifically? Thanks.

Scott Stenwick said...

No, Civet is a scent that is practically impossible to get today. It was made from the musk of the civet cat, which is an endangered species. It corresponds to Binah and Capricorn in Liber 777, but I don't think you are going to be able to find it anywhere.

Ambergris has the same issue, but because the smell is desirable they do make artificial versions that can be used. Not so much with civet musk.

Scott Stenwick said...

You know what? I spoke too soon.

This is a perfume, not an incense, but you can use an oil diffuser with a perfume and it will work just like incense. Scents don't necessarily have to be burned to work.

It's pretty expensive, though.

Samat said...

Scott, someone told me that the sephirotic angels have the advantage over planetary angels of being able to go around the bad elections and get your charge fulfilled. Does this ring true with you?

I want to invoke either Cassiel or Tzaphkiel along with Agiel and Zazel to remove restrictions and slowness from things, but Saturn is in retrograde and other bad aspects. However, I'm not sure if the godname used will be Ab or YHVH ELHM or both because the intelligence and spirit are not Binah spirits but Saturn but because the operation will be a practical Binah op, then YHVH ELHM I suppose but will the intelligence and spirit also be included?

Here is my Tzaphkiel sigil on the Saturn kamea. Note how the smallest kamea has to squeeze everything in. This ok with you?

Samat said...

Oh I forgot to ask whether the hexagram will have to be traced in the King Scale color; crimson. What? The KS color for Binah is red? Tzaphkiel will unalive me if I use crimson/red or the Queen scale; black?

Also, why did the GD swap the KS colors of most planets with their QS colors? Traditionally, the Sun has always been Yellow but GD changed that to Orange and Yellow for Mercury for their KS colors.

Scott Stenwick said...

I really cannot say whether that is true or not. In general I find for practical work the paths are more effective, but the sephiroth will work as well. I haven't done much work comparing them in different astrological conditions.

If you want to try sephirothic for Binah, the godname would be YHVH Elohim, angel Tzaphkiel, and then the intelligence and spirit as usual.

For sephirothic hexagrams, you trace in the Queen Scale because you're working with a sephira. So Binah would be black.

The idea with the Golden Dawn arrangement is that the "natural color" - that is, the color that you trace figures in, should be King Scale because the paths represent the active movement of energy while the sephiroth should be Queen Scale because they represent vessels that contain energy. So just remember path is King and sephira is Queen for tracing.

Samat said...

I see. So it doesn't matter whether the operation is practical or mystical. If one is working with the sephirot, then the Queen Scale will have to be used and the King Scale for the paths and the sigil will incorporate all 4 color scales of the force nonetheless.

I would like to inquire about the symbol to be used in pathworking for the sephiroths. Specifically, when it comes to sephirots, can we use the glyph of the paths they rule? Using the same symbol for both the path and its Sephirah - the Saturn glyph in this case - makes it difficult for me to distinguish where I'm going once I arrive there. So far I've had success visualizing the symbol for the path which are distinct but never the sephirots.

Here is my Tzaphkiel sigil on the Saturn kamea. Let me know what you think. Saturn Kamea doesn't allow for long names but it's here. It's almost unrecognizable but it's true to the core

Scott Stenwick said...

Ni, it does matter. Generally path works better than sephira for practical work. But I don't know if it's true that working with sephiroth lets you get around negative astrological conditions. I literally don't know because I haven't done the necessary research to draw a conclusion one way or the other.

Usually it's fine to use the planetary symbol. The color is what determines if it's sephira or path.

Your link doesn't work for me, but it should be fine as long as the name is encoded onto the path according to the general rules.

Samat said...

It also occurred to me that we can call the sephirotic angel in the path and vice versa because spirits are not limited by their realms. People who have done path rituals with both angels have confirmed that they both work.

Scott Stenwick said...

Yes, the sephira and path angel share a planetary affinity, so there is some overlap. I generally find that path works better for practical work and sephira works better for mystical work, but that's not a hard rule. Both can be involved with the power (path) and vision (sephira).