Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nothing is As Practical as Theory

Letters from your Fairy Godmother: Nothing is as Practical as Theory

By now, if you started when I posted about it, you should have been doing the LBRP for about a week.  Let’s talk about why.  Seems crazy that I didn’t lead with that, right?  Just like in math, I think we all learn better by experimenting first.  “Geting your hands dirty” makes it easier to understand the theory.  I know that some magicians (including many chaos magicians) don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on theory, but I think its very important.  In the Metaphysics (which you should read), Artistotle says When the objects of an inquiry, in any department, have principles/explanations [archae], conditions, or elements, it is through acquaintance with these that knowledge [episteme], that is to say scientific knowledge, is attained.  I couldn’t agree more.  That being said, I’m kind of an intellectually pretentious douchbag (see earlier Aritstotle reference), so feel free to skip this lesson if you want.  
  • The first reason is a little absurd:  it’s the sort of thing beginner magicians are “supposed” to learn; knowing it will make it easier for you to fit in to working with other “serious” magicians” when you find some to work with.  It will lend you a certain “status” as a “real” magician, which is bullshit, but sometimes its easier to just play the game.  
  • Second, its a classic example of how classical ceremonial rituals are constructed.  Later in this post, we’ll do some deconstruction to learn how it fits together.  Understanding that will make it a little easier to build your own rituals.  
  • Third, and most importantly, I think it’s a very powerful and effective ritual, but its really a very subtle and complicated one that does a lot more than just “banish”.

General Structure of the Ritual:

The ritual has three basic parts.  The first is called the Kabalistic Cross.  It’s general function is “center” the magician, preparing you for the work that follows.  By "center" I don't just mean to clear your head of distractions and focus on what you're doing (although I mean that too). I mean to ritually (metaphorically, if you prefer to think of it that way) place yourself at the center of the cosmos.
In the ritual, you start off by attatching yourself to Ein Soph, way up above your head.  I assume you learned all about Ein Soph in rabbinics class, but here’s my take.  Feel free to entirely disagree or even ignore all of this.  No matter what a certain bible teacher might say, your understanding of God is entirely between you and Him; the only real way to construct such an understanding is through direct experience of the thing itself.  Now, with disclaimers out of the way, here’s the understanding I’ve constructed for myself out of my experience.
Beyond our experience of the world, there’s a level at which all things are united in one completely harmonious thing. Our ability to work magic is grounded in this; the "divine harmony" connects all things, and so every piece of it is accessible from everywhere else. I think of working magic as pulling the strings that connect one thing to another; the ripples flow out of me to the ends of the world.  
I say “harmony”, but that’s not entirely right, because harmony arises when multiple different things come together.  The ultimate nature of Being, however, is that its all just one thing.  (Never trust anyone who proports to be telling you the “ultimate nature of Being”) What I mean to say is: when I’m deep in mystic trance, I experience reality as all one thing, and its convenient, for this particular explanation, for me to believe that my experience gives me some information about what the world is “really” like.  However, that “level” of reality isn’t one where we can really function for more than a few brief moments (or maybe I’m just not “enlightened” enough to stick it out there).  Between there and here, say the kabbalists, are three “veils” and ten “emanations”.  I’ll talk about all of this in more detail later (or, really, you should do some reading on your own;  “Pardes Rimmonim” is a good source.)  Here’s all you need to know to understand the kabbalistic cross.
The first (furthest from us) of the veils in called Ein.  You know how, in a Riemann sphere, all the ends gather together at infinity, so that no matter what direction you set out in, eventually (after infinitely long), you get to the same place?  Ein isn't the point at infinity that closes the plane. It isn't the sphere itself. It's the higher dimensional space in which that Riemann sphere is embedded.  (I’ll write more about dimensionality as a magical idea another time.  Suffice it to say that, when a magician who isn’t into math describes something as “noneuclidean” or “higher dimensional”, they usually seem to mean that it’s in some way non-metrizable (usually because it’s not fully positive definite)).
The next veil is called Ein Soph, which is where the kabbalistic cross begins.  Ein Soph is the feeling of vast and boundless possibility that accompanies creating things.  It's the moment when inspiration has hit, but not yet resolved into any definite form.  In the Kabbalistic Cross, we gather up some of this potential, and manifest into Being, using our body as the channel.  That, after all, is the basic function of human beings, it's on us to complete creation.
After you’ve “scooped up” some of the infinite possibility, you bring it down into your forehead.  In the traditional Golden Dawn version, you say "ata", asserting that the potential isn’t yours at all, because you’re acting in the place of God.  The thing is, those are the same thing, but a lot of people need to be reminded.  (I think magicians who came up Christian might say something closer to “acting as an instrument of God”, but that seems silly to me.)  In any case, when you do this, you’re holding the divine potential in  your forehead, where its associated with a sephira called keter.  Here’s an important piece of wisdom for you: Keter doesn’t mean “king”, it means “crown”.  When you say "Yours" in the crown, you’re putting on that crown.
From there, you move down the central column of your body, and down into the earth.  Here, a kabbalist would say that your manifesting in malkuth.  Humans form the bridge between heaven and earth, between the ideal and the manifest, standing like a pillar at the center of creation.  
When you come back up and put your arms out, you're standing like a balance scale, with gevorah (din) on one side and gedulah (chesed) on the other.  There’s a whole bit in talmud explaining how justice and mercy temper each other, and how they balance each other at.  The only really relevant part for you is that, when you’re doing the LBRP, you’re the balance point between those two extremes.  Finally, you stand at the center of it all and assert that it will last “ha olam”.  

When you’ve finished the cross, you’ve rituallt announced to the world that you’re at its center, as well as sinking deep roots into the earth, the heavens, the left and the right that can serve to stablize you for what’s coming next.  You can do just the kabbalistic cross by itself when you feel the need to be more stable.  Some people also tack it onto the end of a ritual to sort of “seal” it.
This post seems unreasonably long already. I'll write to you about the pentagrams tomorrow.


  1. I'm loving these posts, and really looking forward to that "kabbalah quick start" Also, I've just googled "Pardes Rimmonim" but I've only found something in wikipedia. Do you know whether there is a printed version? Thanks

  2. The English name for Pardes Rimmonim is "An Orchard of Pomegranates". It might be hard to read without a solid background in Talmud. If you don't have strong background in Jewish text, you might start with Israel Regardie's "Garden of Pomegranates" (which, despite the similar name, is only sort of related..."Garden of Pomegranates" is a classic metaphor for the Kabbalah) Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Deborah) is mid-level text also by Cordovero, which is relatively easy to find in translation: