On writing the fourth chapter on the Holy Guardian Angel I discovered something interesting. It relates to our readiness to translate philosophical theory into living ritual work - and how this competence changes, evolves and matures over years of practice and experience.
I must admit, a few years back the content I am presenting in the article on the Ancient Greeks would have been pure philosophical speculation to me. Dry theory of long dead people at its best. However, today this is different: These studies allow me to discover, see and follow the traces our ancestors left behind by performing and reflecting upon the same work many of us are still working on today. It is like reading the magical diary of another magician. It doesn’t change a bit of my own practical work, yet it gives me another reference point for the inner experiences I am making on my own. And that’s how the circles of theory and practice start to blur.
When I started out doing magic there used to be a brick-wall between these two. One separated from the other by layers of layers of bricks. I used to read thick tomes by Eliphas Levi, Julius Evola, Crowley, Papus and many others, studied about Alchemy, Kabbala, Rosicrucians, Saturn Magic - everything I could get my hands on. And then I would go out and slept in the woods. Yet, the fear I felt in the dark was miles apart from the words I had read during the day. The only fine thread connecting the two was my thinly stretched mind, trying to build a bridge between what seemed worlds apart.
More than a decade later this is different. The circles have finally started to open and intertwine. What used to be a brick-wall has shrunken to a fine line, a hair-crack indeed, that is still visible on the floor of my inner temple. The circles have come together through experience. Through personal validation of what I had known from books and dead voices only before.
Now, here comes the trick. I think I took a considerable detour in making the two circles overlap by engaging in the circles of theory too deeply too early. My mind became filled with theory and concepts so quickly - that there was little space left for my own genuine experience by the time I started my practice in a serious manner. Every experience already had a label, needed to fit into a drawer and should resemble what others had experienced before me as much as possible. But magic isn't maths.
There are many examples I can think of where my practical progress was slowed down considerably due to the steel-ball of theory chained to my foot. I was caught by the impression my results needed to match certain forms and shapes left behind by other people who had walked this path before me. Their subjective experiences - as true and authentic as they had been by the time they made them - had actually started to block the view of the actual work we were talking about. The personal filter had become more important than the light that shone through it.
Let me share two examples: Forget all the things you have ever read about the ‘Astral’ during your explorations of the circles of theory. Walk into the circles of practice first. Start by learning how to sit still for two hours straight, learn how to calm your mind, learn how to do pranayama. Then go on elemental journeys, walk through the gates of the Tattwas. And you will find yourself right in the middle of the action - without ever coming across the term ‘astral‘ at all.
Here is another, closely related one: Forget all things you thought were meant by the term ‘Visualisation’. Stop worrying wether you have mastered it or not. It simply doesn’t matter. Just walk in the circles of practice. Do. Keep calm, carry on. Keep records of what you experience - and only trust your own experience. Then do some more. Only then start to walk in the circles of theory - yet not with the intention to validate your own experiences. But to explore on how other people tried to make sense of the same things you are experiencing yourself already.
These are two relatively easy examples that all of us will come across relatively early during their magical journeys. The topic of our Holy Guardian Angel is incredibly more complex and still essentially the same thing...
Think of your Holy Guardian Angel as a stranger you are trying to find out in the streets. You only know him from what other people have told you about him. That is, you only know how he looks through the eyes of other people. Actually, what your journey has turned into is no longer a quest for this stranger, but for the very same perspective on the stranger that other people have had before you. Only once you stand in the exact same spot as these other people have stood before you - then you will be able to ‘see’ the stranger. You actually might be standing right next to him right now - not realizing him, simply because the angle isn’t right. He might be talking to you, trying to get in touch. While you are trying to shut him down, still looking for the very same perspective, frozen in time and history, in dust, on pages and in ink - that others have seen before you. Yet, attaining knowledge and conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel isn't a journey to repeat a perspective, but to create a living encounter. It is a deeply personal and unique journey, never to be repeated in the same way before or after you. I guess, that’s the difference between the circles of theory and the circles of practice: the former creates knowledge from reference points in the distance, the latter creates experience through genuine first-hand encounters.
All objects of real experience are placed within the circles of practice. The circles of theory are only mirrors, reflecting them at an angle. If we look for the exact same picture we see reflected in these mirrors at an angle, we might put ourselves up for a life’s journey of failure and exhaustion. Because the face that looks at us already, might look different in the mirror at an angle. Every stranger looks different from behind.