Basic Spiritualist Practice

Maybe it is time to talk just a little about spiritualist praxis? There are some emblematic tools and practices that can be used a lot of different ways. I have hesitated a little because I do have some concerns about people misusing spiritualist practices, but I suspect that is a bit silly on my part. There is nothing that can be talked about on the web that couldn’t be found a dozen or more ways by the curious. It might even be useful to give the techniques some context so folks aren’t just blundering around.

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A Question of Levels

In his advice to fellow gnostics, Ibn al’Arabi warns that one of the most common mistakes made on the path entails confusing the truth of one level for the truth of another. That is good advice, but as always the devil lies in the details. How, after all, do we distinguish one level from another?

I propose that at least part of the answer may lie with reversing the formula–i.e,, when you cross from one level to another, the truths of the previous level cease to hold. That pushes us back to what defines gnostic work in the first place, knowledge. Knowledge is a matter of determinations, of limits, and we find those limits more often than not by crossing them, by making mistakes and discovering ourselves as having made mistakes.

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Can spiritualism be bad for you?

Short answer: yes.

(But so can just about anything.)

Now for the longer answer: Spiritualist work ain’t a corny horror movie. You don’t break out the Ouija board and suddenly find your life taking a turn toward the plot of Final Destination or Serpent and the Rainbow (the movie; the book is fine). There are hazards, but they are almost always overstated by the opponents of spiritualist work. First rule? Don’t be a sucker. Second rule? Don’t be a sucker. Got that? That applies to mediums and spirits. Okay, let’s proceed to the juicier spiritual health issues.

Remember all these discussions of the daemon here? I’ll try not to repeat myself too badly for repeat readers, but the basic gist is that the daemon as the Yeatses understood it was a spirit that shapes our fate and our desire, that is bound to us for our life. As such it has a great deal to with out luck.

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The Big Spirits

One of the advantages of my quirky monotheism is that I don’t tend to be bothered over-much by the tendency of spirits to blend into each other. To my way of thinking, the blurring that occurs between spirits is a necessary aspect of creation itself, of existing in dispersal but having an indelible root in God as an aboslute source of unity. Since we aren’t God, we only ever appreciate that unity in a limited fashion.

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Spiritualism and the African Diaspora

As I started writing out the spiritualist timeline, I was aware that there was no easy way to do justice to the immense African contribution to spiritualism in an abbreviated format. Spiritualism has a deep sympathy with the African Diaspora faiths. Almost as soon as it was a thing (ca. 1850s), spiritualism becomes a big thing in Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and…okay, you get the idea: everywhere. Bam, in no time, hybrid Afro-Spiritualist techniques are everywhere. I want to talk about that a little at length.

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Obsession, Art, and Arcons

[This is one of those speculative posts, so bear with me. I am not necessarily saying that I buy everything said here, but I do think it is is worth putting the model out there.]

It’s not too surprising that the Yeatses’ spirits address the source of artistic inspiration. Not only is it of personal relevance to W. B. Yeats, but the system they describe gives the aesthetic a key place. A Vision divides souls into two sorts, primary and antithetical. The primary souls are souls of action, the McBrides of the world in their various forms, but the antithetical souls are thoughtful souls, inclined to subjective, aesthetic, and intellectual pursuits.

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What is that thing that I do?

Before I get too much further, I probably ought to talk a little about myself and my magico-spiritual work in specific. I’ve been doing that all along, but I have been avoiding about talking directly about my practice, circling around it at a theological and theurgical remove. Some of that is a natural predisposition toward privacy, some of it has to do with how difficult I find translating the work into clear language. A goodly portion of my theological distance has been an effort to lay some of the groundwork for that translation. Hopefully I can put that to some use here…

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A Spiritualist Timeline

This will be a brief post, I just wanted to run down a few dates to help set up a little timeline for myself. This is very gestural, but I am hoping to widen it out a little as time goes on, maybe compose a page for it instead of a post? We’ll see. Entries beginning with a * describe broader movements rather than specifically dated people and works.

ca. 1300-ca. 1320: Dante’s visions begin, leading to the composition of The Divine Comedy which represents a systematic account of his spiritual experiences.

1582-1587: John Dee and Edward Kelley work together to produce what will become the basis for Enochian Magic (e.g., the angels of the apocalypse).

*1730s-1740s: First Great Awakening in North America.

1757: Emmanuel Swedenborg has vision of the apocalypse (also, William Blake, future Swedenborgian, born). His elaborate visionary work follows.

ca. 1761: William Blake’s first visionary experience. From 1790 until his death in 1827, his visions take on an increasingly systematic character.

*1790-1840s: Second Great Awakening in United States.

1827: Joseph Smith has vision of the angel Moroni.

*1840s-ca. 1920s: As Second Great Awakening cools, spiritualism proper gets going. The field is very diverse and diversifying, often retaining ties with global movements like feminism, home rule movements in British Empire (e.g., Besant), and abolition in the U.S.,  Caribbean, and Brazil. Richly nationalist expressions of spiritualism seem to become more common globally, in part driven by intensifying cross-fertilization between mutual aid societies (e.g., lodges) and spiritualist currents. Orientalism leaves a deep mark on spiritualism here, too (e.g., E. A. Wallis Budge).

April 18, 1857: Allan Kardec publishes The Spirits Book.

1858: Paschal Beverly Randolph founds Fraternitas Rosae Crucis.

1875: H. P. Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge form Theosophical Society.

1889: Annie Besant joins Theosophical Society.

April 8-10, 1904: Aleister Crowley records the message of Aiwass, laying the basis for Thelema. (Almost literally, at tangent to spiritualism)

November 15, 1908: Zélio Fernandino de Moraes incorporates caboclo and preto velho spirits in spiritist seance, an event from which Umbanda grows.

1913-1930: C. G. Jung records the spiritual encounters that will go on to form the basis of Liber Novus / The Red Book. This will form the basis, well, for pretty much the entirety of Analytic Psychology.

November 1917-ca. 1920[?]: George Yeats begins channeling the material that will form the basis for W. B. Yeats’s A Vision. W. B. Yeats will credit the work with a return of his poetic sensibilities and observe that the spirits encouraged him to remain active in political life.

1930s: Raimundo Irineu Serra founds the Daime Church in Brazil.

ca. 1949: Allen Ginsberg begins receiving visions from William Blake. The Blake material still a significant part of his spiritual work in 1966.

February 20, 1974-February/March 1982: Philip K. Dick has mystical experience and undertakes his Exegesis.

Useful Spiritualist Concepts: A Vision Materials

The various materials surrounding A Vision are thick with theoretical and practical advice regarding spiritualist working. I can’t think of any set of materials I have ever come across that are so densely layered and useful. I thought it might be really useful to provide a list of concepts and methods for other spiritualists out there who might be interested. I might make this something of a running series, expanding to include material from well beyond the Yeatses’ little circle; we’ll see.

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