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The God-forms of
by Frater S.L.L.
A few days ago I had a face off with a demon at a Renaissance festival. I had been to one such festival over ten years ago, and I remembered that I hadn't like it. That feeling began to come back as my friends and I passed by the beautiful girls in medieval gowns at ticket gates. This second visit was a chance to see what the discomfort had been about, because ten years ago I was a different person, not having much of a clue as to why I hated or loved things. We entered beneath the Styrofoam archway, which on its inside bore the words painted in gothic font "Fare thee well." Moving amongst us patrons beneath the towering trees were the inhabitants of the festival, dressed in their best. I was face to face with my discomfort again, even after all these years.
Their costumes were enchanting. The women's peasant gowns, perfectly rustic, seemed to be from another world, without a trace of elastic material or zippers. The colors were subdued as they should be, except among those few who masqueraded as nobles, on whom the reds, purples, and blacks stood out in stark pomposity. But the bodies that tried to fill the costumes, the sour expressions, and the shifty eyes, communicated to me something disturbing. If they had looked malnourished, that would have enhanced the illusion of the 1500s. But many had healthy eyes that were nonetheless enervated, preoccupied, and…elsewhere. They didn't seem to be wearing their costumes as much as their costumes were wearing them. Beautiful tunics, cloaks, and bodices were little more than hiding places. A young man with an uncertain step drifted by, seemingly lost somewhere in a robe that was too large for him. He brought nothing to his role, but instead seemed to cower within it.
I have seen similar mannerisms on the contestants in reality TV shows. It is the same thing you can see where ever people are around other people: that quiet surrender to the cultural norm. Intimidation. Conformity. Stage fright.
The feeling seeped into my body, and I began to move about the crowds in the same self-conscious manner. I began to lose my upright posture and to control my movements, subdue myself so I could hide amidst the crowd and fit into the spirit of the group, be accepted. Anything but be myself. Fears came back to me which I thought I had released years ago. I was afraid that people were looking at me, evaluating me. Me, me, me. Endless ideas of me. I no longer was in charge of the space around my body, and peace of mind departed, sucked into the vacuous faces floating past.
I wasn't able to fully regain a sense of focus until returning home. The experience got me to sit down and think about what I had felt and whether it was my own escapist tendencies that haunted me at the festival, mirrored in the people there. The subject of fantasy role-playing, ritual, and drama came to mind. Most importantly it brought me to the subject of God-forms. The magical technique that I was currently exploring, the assumption of God-forms, is a practice very similar to putting on a costume for a theatrical performance. And what I had seen at the fair made it clear that God-form assumption is something that must be avoided until a great deal of progress towards adeptship has been accumulated. I'm convinced that the role-playing that many of those participants at the fair were doing was damaging them, pouncing on them, and sucking the life out of them. Though they were not deliberately assuming the astral shells of gods to expose themselves to the tremendous archetypal powers of the Atziluthic world, they nonetheless were tuning into mythical and historical figures that were exerting an overshadowing influence on their lives.
Ten years ago, if I had tried to assume a God-form, I would have done it for all the wrong reasons. At that time I was like a bad actor, like a groupie backstage at a Goth concert. My attitude towards imagery or symbol was one of weakness and conformity, of unwittingly subordinating myself to its power, hiding in its shadow, like a student idolizing a teacher. The Renaissance fair pretenders that hide from their own role the modern world or the groupies that lurk like vampires back stage at a concert are dramatic examples of this human tendency, the human habit of giving away personal power to images. It can be similar to drug abuse, an addiction in which one gives up control of ones happiness to a substance. But in this case, the poor soul gives up his magical power, his evolutionary potential, to cultural icons. We could even call it "icon abuse." But why not just stick to the antiquated term, idolatry? Why else do you think celebrities are called idols?
When we are young and naive, the world is a big place, full of external forces that tower over us. First there are our parents or guardians who, like gods, know everything. Then there are the more advanced role models-bosses, rock stars, actors, and others-who manage to masquerade as our power archetypes. They represent to us our own undeveloped sexual, artistic, or professional powers, aspects of the individuality we do not yet possess. For a while we give them authority over us; we give them our energy by buying their albums, supporting their causes, and recruiting others into their reservoir of power. On subtle levels our ritual acts of patronage even project part of our aura in their direction. It is very a weak and unconscious form of astral projection.
But it is natural for us to outgrow the worship of false gods. In some foggy way the realization dawns that these role models have their power over us because the things we see in them are actually our own faculties. If we develop as we are meant to, we let go of our heroes and begin to cultivate what we have worshipped in them as traits that are located in ourselves. We reclaim and pull back that power into our auras and begin to develop it within our own personas. Incidentally, the best way to learn the art of astral projection, is to learn how not to project. If all goes well with our individuation, we conserve energy and grow into powerful beings too, leaders who can't help but become the idols for the young ones who develop in our wake.
But some people never outgrow the servient stage. There are so many hiding places for them in the world, so many environments that feed on their conformity. Off to the side of the evolutionary stream lie the many stagnant pools of diversion, festering wastes of fellow human beings who are in unconscious collusion with each other to stop growing. The unspoken promise of these dark places is that there is security in escape, that we are safe if we don't evolve. The power of the imagination is inverted, turned away from the journey of individuation. Think of these places: the comic book stores, the night clubs, the sports arenas, secret societies, and even neo-pagan groups, magical lodges, and traveling renaissance fairs.
Are you floundering in one of these eddies? You will know such places by their use of life-sucking images: Photos of celebrities, icons, coats of arms, mandala-like symbols, and still more and more images of celebrities. Aliester Crowley is a good example of a cultural icon that aspiring magicians worship. Many an occultist delays spiritual development for a while, caught in Crowley's wicked charm, trying to be like him instead of exploring the road to his own Higher Self. Why should a teenager bother cultivating her own sexual magnetism when she can have a pin up of a sex symbol on our bedroom door instead? Or why should a sports enthusiast live a life of adventure when we can get the television to do it for him? Beware of what distracts you from your own life.
To someone stuck in the habit of idolizing images, a practice like the assumption of god-forms is dangerous. If he doesn't recognize that the images he feeds with his own energy are representations of his own powers, that they are convenient surfaces on to which he projects his own inner gods, he runs the risk of becoming dominated and controlled by those powers. Instead of putting them to work within himself, he sets them up as parent-like figures around him in his life. His aura becomes divided against itself as it projects its own faculties from inside upon the images of "gods" on the outside. His environment resultingly becomes intimidating. His projections prod, threaten, and control him from without because he simply believes them to be powers other than his own. Anyone from the outside, human or demonic, with a little charisma can step into those projected roles and thereby gain control over him. And if, in such a divided state, he dares to assume a god-form onto himself, he only draws it down upon his enfeebled aura like a sheep feeding itself to a wolf. He invites one of his psychological complexes to inflate into a monster and consume him, possibly turning him into a deranged and utterly powerless devotee of an archetype. This is not to say that the practice of magic turns the one who abuses it into a drooling zombie. The damage can be much more insidious than that. He may end up a lazy couch potato who worships Indiana Jones. Or he may turn into someone like Laurence of Arabia, possessed against his will by a powerful leadership archetype. Or-dare I say it?--he runs the risk of becoming another S.L. McGreggor Mathers.
This is why the outer order of work of magical systems like the Golden Dawn is so important, or why, in other traditions, a lengthy period of tedious exercises and awareness techniques is absolutely essential. Too often the fledgling occultist neglects his foundational training in favor of escapism and glamour.
The preliminary work on the path of magic is designed to clear out bad energy habits. By taking the student through different levels of his being, it teaches him to explore his own psyche by taking it apart and put it back together as a conscious tool to be placed at the disposal of his supposed Higher Self. During the process, if it is properly pursued, all kinds of nasty human tendencies surface, not the least of which is the kind of idolatry that I am talking about here. It is not obvious to the person laboring through such a process, but his years of training (Yes, years. Not weeks or months.) condition him to gain control over his projections. The adept is one who can send his energy forth into images at will, but most importantly, he can withdraw it back into himself at will and resume his individuality. The properly trained magician is a dismembered, purified, and re-assembled being, one who glows with integrity and who knows the ins and outs of psychic fitness and how to sustain it.
But what does integrity mean? The student of magic should take this word much more literally than the student of, say, a business college. In the practice of magic, it means a state of integration, self containment, self-governance, and wholeness. On the surface, the integrated person is magnanimous. He moves through the world unaffected by the mob mind, by peer pressure, or by powerful leaders. He will never be divided against himself, never do anything that would go against his own beliefs. Beneath that surface is the magical adept, a balanced mind that has no tendrils of energy spilling out towards images or people that would otherwise wield power over its authentically constructed sense of self.
When we give other people-or gods for that matter-our power, we hand our undeveloped potential over to them, saying essentially, "This power is not my responsibility; it is yours. I am yours to command." The adept, who has dropped that bad habit and learned to pull back that power into himself, is frugal with his energy, learning to curl it back in on itself to let it accumulate in his own aura. All things, good and bad are contained within him. All are one. In such a state he has the potential to claim any power in the universe as his. In such a state is he then ready to practice paganism as a high magical art. The paganism of high magic is called Theurgy (THEE-ur-jee), and it is a skill that comes to us from the magicians and priests of ancient Egypt.
Trithemius, a monk of the 15th century, was one of the first Western Magicians on record to make the point that, when the adept decides to invoke a force, he must first rise to its level and dominate it (Zalewski 145). This idea echoes the magical practice of the ancient Egyptians, who invented the concept of assuming god-forms.
Uninitiated historians scoff at the boldness of Egyptian magic. It is said that the ancient priests purported to use their secret arts not only to worship their deities, but to subjugate them to their will. It sounds like a fantastical power trip, but the ancient adepts clearly knew that real magic views the gods as internal to the mind of humanity, subject to the will of the individual who has gained the proper training. Theurgy is the art of awakening ones own god like faculties and putting them to work.
Such ideas are not unique to the Egyptians or to a Medieval wyzard like Trithemius. Other traditions show the same kind of training in their magicians. For instance, the Buddhist adept Padmasambhava is said to have established Buddhism in Tibet by using his Tantric powers to subjugate the elemental deities of the Tibetan landscape. Up until that point, the great nature spirits had terrorized Tibet through its indigenous religion called Bon (Ch'en 192). The Bon Shamans sometimes demanded bloody human sacrifices from the population in order to propitiate the angry nature gods and keep them from sending pestilence or from devouring children (Ch'en 189). Padmasambhava entered Tibet at the request of its ruler who wanted to bring Buddhism to the people. The Tantric adept used ritual magic to identify the nature gods as powers that existed within his own being, and thereby he subjugated them. The end result was a new state-sanctioned proliferation of Buddhism that gradually dominated and absorbed the Bon religion into its practices.
The medieval grimoire The Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage, well known by serious students of high magic, puts forth a similar view about dominating spiritual powers. Once the operator has transformed himself through a rigorous training and purification period of 6 months, he receives the "knowledge and conversation" of his "Holy Guardian Angel." In the Western magical tradition the Holy Guardian Angel is none other than the true self, the so-called "Higher Self," which can reveal itself to the student once he has integrated every aspect of his psyche (in other words, drawn his projections back into himself) . Immediately after achieving the illumination of his Angel, the student sets about calling forth various spirits, both good and bad, to submit to his newly unified identity. Any image or imagined entitiy that he may have perceived as powerful in the past is called up in the imagination, and its power is reclaimed back into the the aura. The astral entity then is, from that point forward, officially recognized as an extension of the magicians power (as it always has been anyway), at his beck and call via the same image that was once a source of intimidation. "For by names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened" (Regardie 118).
This practice of rising to unity with the Higher Self, of then evoking and dominating spirits, can be used to reach out and encompass within the aura any power anywhere in the universe. There is therefore no limit to the extent of the magician's being. Where the gods end and he begins is entirely arbitrary. He can link himself in meditation with any cosmic force and use magical techniques to employ some of its power. However it takes a great deal of integrity and personal accumulation of energy to be able invoke/evoke the gods effectively to do ones bidding. The state of equanimity necessary for the containment such power is only possible for the adept.
Dion Fortune, in her book Applied Magic and Aspects of Occultism,
describes how the aura of a powerful magician appears to the psychic. In
the average living human, the aura is an oval shaped spheroid consisting
of an invisible magnetic field resonating between two circuits of energy.
One circuit proceeds from the top of the head to the soles of the feet in
a vertical shaft. The other circuit is peripheral, arising out of the central
one. The central circuit is directly connected to the Higher Self (or Holy
Guardian Angel), presumably hovering over the top of the head. Being of Divine
origin, it is unaffected by the environment. It is the source of the energy
of consciousness. The peripheral circuit is sensitive to the environment,
affected easily by circumstances, other people's auras, and Planetary and
Elemental energies. The magnetic field that fluctuates between the two circuits
contains currents and cross currents in patterns that are simple in nature
but highly complex in arrangement (142). Fortune then goes on to describe
the aura of an advanced, evolving human:
|.....||The more highly developed the aura, the greater what may best be described as its surface tension--a kind of skin of resistance formed by the interweaving of magnetic circuits. These arise from outgoing rays of emanation obeying the law of curvature of force and returning upon themselves at their point of emanation. The tension gradually increased, causing, as it were, a shrinking and tightening of the circuits, until finally a tensely resistive surface of magnetic loops is established. This constitutes the exterior envelope of the aura (143).|
You may gather together your own conception of the highly evolved aura based on this somewhat fanciful, though highly evocative, description. It is clear that a stronger aura, that of a well-integrated psyche, retains its own energy better, thereby accumulating power. A stronger aura curves almost all of its emanating rays back in on itself, losing less and less energy. And when it stops giving away energy uncontrollably, it gains what P. W. Bullock (another Golden Dawn adept) calls "Equipoise," a state of absolute independence that is required before the projection of the magical Will is possible (Mathers, Astral Projection 57). Over time, force accumulates in a balanced and calm reservoir of magical power that is at the disposal of the adept (Fortune 143). The human being who learns to stop unconsciously giving away his energy to other people, gods, or symbols; retains it for later deliberate, conscious use. With enough power he can even project his waking consciousness in an astral body and penetrate different levels of existence.
Other adepts echo this idea. Florence far speaks of the projection of the scarlet ray of Will from the heart center: "Get a distinct image of the thing you desire, placed, as it were, in your heart. Concentrate all of your wandering rays of thought upon this image until you feel it to be one glowing scarlet ball of compacted force. Then project this concentrated force on the object you wish to affect" (Mathers, Astral Projection 60). Here we have the concept repeated of pulling in the "wandering rays" and focusing them. This is precisely how god-forms are generated before the magician assumes them. It is also how almost every other feat of magic is accomplished.
Following is the standard Golden Dawn procedure for creating and assuming a god-form. It is adapted from the book The Magician's Art: Ritual and Magical Use of Tools by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. As you read it bear in mind the state of being that the adept must have in order to perform it successfully. This kind of work is not for the beginner.
The amazing experience that you can get by invoking a god in this manner brings to mind one of the characters I saw while at the Renaissance fair. He was dressed as a cavalier on horseback. He wasn't like the other pretenders around him. His chest stuck out. His eyes were dark, calm, and intense. Even the very colors of his cape seemed somehow richer in contrast than the clothes of the others. Perhaps he cared for his wardrobe better. In any event, he filled his clothes well and his projected persona completely as though he owned it. He had not retreated into his role-playing as though it were some kind of shelter. He played the part actively as a means to expressing himself, his lines completely spontaneous and yet in the colloquialisms of the time period that he genuinely represented. And I couldn't help but marvel at the mystery of it, and the power of his presence was a brief gust of fresh air in the otherwise stagnant recesses of the fairgrounds. Not everyone there was hiding from life. As his horse strutted around and he tipped his red-feathered hat to the visitors, he conveyed more than just nostalgia, but a sense of genuine regality and confidence which modern humans seem to lack. Perhaps he had inadvertently contacted, dominated, and put to good use some powerful Shakespearian archetype. As he passed on, I felt privileged to have met his glance. It seemed to bestow a martial blessing.
Ch'en, Kenneth K. Buddhism: The Light of Asia. Woodbury, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 1968.
Cicero, Chic and Sandra Tabatha. The Magician's Art: Ritual and Magical Use of Tools. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2000.
Fortune, Dion. Applied Magic and Aspects of Occultism. Wellingburough, United Kingdom: Aquarian Press, 1987.
Mathers, S.L. MacGreggor. Astral Projection, Ritual Magic, and Alchemy. Ed. Francis King. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books: 1987.
Mathers, S.L. MacGreggor (translator). The Sacred Magic of Abra Melin the Mage. Chicago: De Laurence Company, 1932.
Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1992.
Zalewski, Pat. Talismans and Evocations of the Golden Dawn. Loughborough, Great Britain: Thoth Publications, 2002.
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