It has been a while since I talked about the tree of life/coil of life, hasn’t it? It is a useful symbol and there is a mobile and vitalist aspect to it that often gets obscured in the (overly) formal habits of Neoplatonism that yielded us its most popular expression.
I mentioned that it is all too easy to overemphasize the lunar and the solar in accord with the prominence of the sun and moon, suggesting that there is value in recalling the other forms of communication. Well, here is perhaps the essence of Saturn:
Alles ist austragen und dann gebären. Jeden Eindruck und jeden Keim eines Gefühls ganz in sich, im Dunkel, im Unsagbaren, Unbewußten, dem eigenen Verstande Unerreichbaren sich vollenden lassen und mit tiefer Demut und Geduld die Stunde der Niederkunft einer neuen Klarheit abwarten: das allein heißt künstlerisch leben: im Verstehen wie im Schaffen.
(All is gestating and then birthing. Each impression and each germ of a feeling comes to completion, wholly in itself, in the dark, in the unspeakable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience one waits for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone signifies the artistic life: in understanding as in creating.)
Rilke speaks so elegantly, I hesitate even to gloss it. Still, let me situate this in reference to spiritualism. We can talk about the fires we receive, the messages given to us, but we also ought to consider the messages that we are and contain in our very being.
There are forms of communication, forms of initiation if you will, that vitalize and activate what is already within us. These often entail a (painfully) slow work, one that begins with feeling and presentiment and grows to become an integral part of your being. These are not the sorts of messages from someone. Rather, in pursuing certain sorts of spiritual work, your warm and nourish the seed within so that its branches begin to grow into your own consciousness.
That sort of work is about becoming the tree, becoming the spiritual purpose that you carry.
This morning I woke from dream with a bit of a headache, the sort I have come to associate with dreams that are just a little too big for the ole’ noggin. In the dream, Adam West’s Batman was explaining to me the principle of substitution while burning blue spheres of light spun slowly behind him, suggesting the tree of life.
The message was simple, that each sphere or sefirot was defined by the way in which it substituted one thing for another. Each sefirot had a basic substance which it used to represent to itself the message it received from other sefirot. There wasn’t a clear sense that this followed any easy pattern of descent or ascent, and there was a sense that the message retained some part of its original constitution. Over the course of being passed between several sefirot, a message would end up being a hodge podge of substances, of feeling and thought, matter and spirit.
There was a clear sense that this paralleled the way in which language operated. In the same way that language takes sounds and modulates them into meaning, so too does each sefirot modulate what it receives. Like language, the original medium (sound) remains and occasionally causes problems and resistance.
I don’t know if this is just a quality of spiritualist work or of the spiritual world more generally, but every time I discover a set of domains into which spirits may be organized and understood, those domains multiply by a process of reflection and internalization. I can, for example, sort spirits according to their affinity for certain sefirotic patterns, but then I find within each of those sefirotic patterns the entire sefirotic pattern replicated. I have glimpsed a parallel pattern in the Enochian material, but I can’t speak too deeply on that and, well, I wonder how much of the Enochian material might fall into the spiritualist framework.
Today has been one of those days that has brimmed over with synchronicities surrounding my spiritual work. I’m still a touch punchy and this post may follow suit. Be kind. Hopefully, it will become more clear over time as I dwell upon its contents. Some of this only makes sense if you follow the links.
Do you ever feel the urge to say something and then discover a message for yourself from spirit within it? Of course you have; it’s just the spiritual side of the Freudian slip. So, in response to Gordon’s post about neotheosophy I caught clear sight of the relationship between Hod and sattva. Despite the fact that we put Hod on the pillar of severity, it has profound ties to the pillar of mercy, in a way that mirrors the ties between Netzach and the pillar of severity.
When Ibn al’Arabi talks about the imagination, he places it in the category of things that makes us a proper image of the divine. When we engage our imagination fully, we imitate the creative act through which God created the world. This mirroring is one of the reasons that we can even begin to make sense of what would otherwise be the utter ineffability of God, though it is also the source of a lot of our misunderstandings, too. Our imagination is concrete and specific, motivated by, and concerned with, other concrete and specific things. God’s creative power is total, which is something we don’t have the chops to grasp.
If you read P. D. Ouspensky and G. I, Gurdjieff you’ll find that a chunk of the Fourth Way practices entail visualization techniques. Taken superficially, these practices resemble the sort of things going on around the Golden Dawn. However, once we pass beyond a cursory examination of them, they appear quite different. The Golden Dawn seems to have treated the visualizations as a vehicle while for the Fourth Way system it served a kind of mental calisthenics.
The differences can be seen clearly enough in the sorts of visualizations. While the Golden Dawn sorts of practices emphasized symbolic (i.e., water as a symbol of emotion and nourishment) elements, the Fourth Way emphasized abstract and geometric elements for theselves. Obviously, these two branches aren’t entirely disparate. The tree of life as the Golden Dawn portrayed it was pretty darn abstract and geometrical, though if you read Dion Fortune’s pathworkings for it, you’ll realize that the primary means of accessing those forces were through symbolic meditations.
I talked a little about the ceremonial-hermetic and spiritist circuits in the last post, but made an obvious ommission, the gnostic circuit. This circuit cuts straight through the heart of the coil and provides the backbone for pretty much all initiatory practices. Folks familiar with the Kabbalah will recognize this as the middle pillar, the straight road that joins Keter, Daath, Tifaret, Yesod, and Malkuth. No matter the initiatory circuits favored, the gnostic one will necessarily come into play. Activated, it will activate the entire coil in sympathy. This sympathetic activation is part of what leads to the confusion of circuits. A spiritualist who work activates Hod will have magician-like experiences but without having the tools to manipulate them properly, and vice versa.
Once we start down an initiatory process, it becomes very difficult not to draw comparisons between what we are experiencing and what others have experienced. This can be beneficial, especially when we are comparing our experience with people who have undertaken initiation through the same set of practices as ourselves. It can also be problematic, especially when we compare our experiences with those of people using alternative practices. When beneficial, it allows us to judge our progress and better understand how to overcome the obstacles confronting us. When harmful, it leads us to use techniques ill-suited to the specific challenges of our initiatory work and potentially hinder our progress.
The ‘really important’ things discussed in the last two posts (here and here) are also what I take to be the really real things. Here I diverge somewhat from some strands of gnosticism that borrow too heavily from Neoplatonism, transforming these really real things into derivative things, illusions that vanish in the bright day of enlightenment. Gnosticism depends upon making a distinction between that which is real and that which is the source of the real (the reality of the real to talk a little like Ibn al’Arabi), not on the reduction of one to the other.