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.
Back in my first year or so of graduate school, I attended a lecture on the importance of writing in mysticism. I wish I could remember the name of the woman, but it escapes me. I carried a copy of it around with me through a few moves, but there have been just one or two many sharp turns in my life since then; it fell off the proverbial truck.
It was the late 1990s and she had come of age reading Derrida and De Man, but beneath the veneer of deconstruction there was an astounding core: for a group convinced of the ineffability and transcendence of the divine, mystics were obsessed with writing about it. It’s almost compulsive. Rather than a via negativa that opens to a pleroma, what if it only ever opens to a threatening negativa, which it is the work of writing to obscure?
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.
So, I’ve started to talk about some right proper kookiness these last few posts: giants, PKD, heavenly invasions to save the dead. Do I really believe this stuff? The short answer is yes, the long answer is no. Or the short answer is no, the long answer yes. Or is it short answer, no, long answer no? Those responses should give you a clear idea of what I am getting at–‘believing’ isn’t quite what matters here, though it does come into play. The gnostic work must take for granted that (1) the human understanding is limited but not incompetent and (2) the world is complex, exceeds our understanding, but is not senseless.