“One of the things I have observed and been asked about a great deal (...) is how to ‘get there’ – as though there is a defined end point where someone ends up as an adept and they have ‘power’. This need for a horizon and final destination that is so inherent within us has been a major influence in how magical training lodges and groups organise themselves and the training path.” Josephine McCarthy
On the Aspect of Time
Recently Josephine and I have been talking quite a bit about the nature of the Great Work. In her post on ‘walking the path’ as quoted above she clearly expresses her conviction that magic as such doesn’t work in linear ways. From the point of view of inner contacts, daimons or deities - in essence: all the beings who guide and advise us on our magical paths - many things do not exist that establish strong filters and constraints for our human minds. E.g. time doesn’t flow in a linear fashion in the inner realms. When we consider any magical act from the point of view of inner contacts, we as humans are not only present at that very moment in the ritual, but we are also standing in this rite in the version of ourselves that we will be in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. This explain why the idea of ‘cause and effect’ is incredibly difficult to explain from the viewpoint of magical reality.
The term ‘entity’ provides a wonderful hint at this problem. In one of its interpretations the word entity (from Latin ‘entitas’ or ‘ens’ = being) refers to the current expression, occurrence or state of being of an individual. So at the same time the term signifies all of the temporary appearances of such being as well as its underlying nature. Let’s use a simple analogy to illustrate the ambiguous term: Imagine someone took a photo of you at every stage of your life. There would be a photo of you when you were still in the womb of your mother, as a baby, as a toddler, as a young adolescent, as a grown up, when you first met your first spouse, the day you first walked into an office, etc... There would be a photo for each passing stage of your life until the moment you die. Now imagine someone took all of these photos and stacked them up. It is this stack what you are as an entity: both its entirety as well as each individual photo. You are you in every single moment - but then you are also this intangible, mysterious compound-being that is made up by the collective of each individual moment you passed through.
When working in magic, some inner contacts work with us exactly in this sense - as entities and not as these fleeting spotlights caught in time that we often consider ourselves. So in a magical rite the inner contacts might be working with a future version of ourselves, affecting change years ahead of where we believe to stand today. Yet, when we close the rite and pen down our impressions into our magical diaries - how often do we allow our judgement to be confined by the passage of time our bodies and minds are caught in?
Maybe this helps to explain why magic and any ‘Great Work’ tend to follow very different premises than we might assume for our everyday lives? Certainly this is how I understand Josephine when she says:
“Forget the rush to ‘Be the Magician’, and forget any idea that you can buy a book or go on a course that will ‘speed up’ the process or cut corners. Such books and courses are money spinners and ego strokers for the writers, or are written out of ignorance. Let magic grow with you, and don’t forget, magic and magical beings are all around you… talk to them, listen to that very quiet voice within you, and watch everything around you.”
On the Aspect of Pace
Now, in my eyes we are confronted here with an essential consideration about the nature of the Great Work. And that is the question of its pace and speed. People often say ‘You cannot speed up the harvest.’ Often when I hear this I get impatient and think to myself: ‘Right. But you can certainly forget to sow, water and shield your crops.’ While I agree to Josephine that the rush to ‘Be a Magician’ can be hugely detrimental to building the actually necessary skills and inner attitude, so can be complacency, laziness or a sense of entitlement.
So the question that emerges seems to be: How do we marry the virtues of discipline, focus and commitment with their balancing counter-weights of letting go, accepting, experiencing and immersing ourselves into what is offered to us? In short: how do we marry our male and female sides to become one in the Great Work?
While considering my answer to this non-trivial question I thought back 23 years, to the time when I began my magical journey. I was thirteen and read a book that would turn out to change my entire life. In particular it was one section that I came across, that resonated so strongly with me that is has stayed with me ever since. In fact, I guess I have been thinking of this passage every couple of months since I read it 23 years ago, never letting go of it. And each time I remembered it I questioned myself wether I am still 'calling' in the manner that the author, Gustav Meyrink had laid out in his novel ‘The Green Face’ so clearly:
“‘But then which purpose do all the punches of the outer life hold of which you are talking? Are they a test or punishment?’
‘There are neither tests nor punishments. The outer life with all its fates is nothing but a healing process, more or less painful for one or the other, depending on the way in which each person is sick in their reasoning.’
‘And you believe if I called God, as you say, my destiny will change ?’
‘Immediately! Only it will not change, it will be like a galloping horse that had been used to trotting so far.’
‘Has your fate then been riding in such a storm? Forgive me the question, but after what I've heard about you -’
(…) ‘Remember what I have told you before?: Do not look at others. One experiences a world and to the other it seems a nutshell. If you seriously want your fate to gallop you have to - and I caution you and advise you at the same time as it is the only thing man is meant to do and similarly the highest sacrifice he can make! - you have to summon your inner kernel of being, the kernel without which you would be a corpse (and even less than that) and you have to command it to lead you on the shortest way to the great goal - the only one worth striving for, however little you might be recognising this today - merciless, without rest, through illness, suffering, death and sleep, through honour and riches and happiness, always through and through like a raging horse that pulls forward a cart over fields and stones and past flowers and blooming groves! That is what I call: calling God. It must be like a vow in front of a listening ear.’” (Gustav Meyrink, The Green Face, transl. by Fra.Acher)
It was also Meyrink who once compared the nature of a mystical prayer with an arrow: Once let from the bowstring you cannot stop it, control it or call it back. It’s the moment when you aim and pull the string that only comes once. And this is exactly how we pace our involvement in the Great Work: You ask for it once and then never again. But once it is done, there is no holding back. It is as Brother Leonardo envisioned it in his lectures to the occult lodge: Accelerating our Great Work is a wrestling with nature, a journey into ourselves, an adventure into life that we are either all in or all out. When it comes to aiming our arrow towards God, when it comes to calling for our Inner Selves and commanding our fate to begin to gallop we are at a point of no return. Once we have given such command, once we have let loose the arrow, it can never be called back.
In kabbalistic mysticism this path of prayer has often been described as the Rainbow Path. It leads directly from Jesod upwards and onwards, into Daath and beyond it. Yet, it should be called out: The rainbow path is the path on which we pray as mystics, not the one we walk as magicians. It is a path we can use to utter our true purpose and be tested. Yet it is not a path we set our foot on. Let's take a closer look at how this might work.
On the Aspect of Prayer
So you might ask: 'How do I learn to call out on the rainbow path?' As Josephine said, you certainly won’t learn it in a magical seminar or in books bound in goat-skin. You probably won’t even be able to learn this through any other living person, neither through correspondence courses or magical fireside chats. The only practical thing to learn such skill is to get yourself into situations that foster discovering of your own way of calling.
This is exactly why Gustav Meyrink as one of the most remarkable adepts of the early 20th century preferred to write novels instead of how-to-books. This is equally why the adepts of the past veiled their teachings in images and symbols rather than stating the obvious. Because in magic ‘the obvious’ does not exist outside of ourselves. It changes each time it passes from one human to another. It changes its shape and form and how it desires to come through into reality. It stays the same as its inner core and kernel; yet its gestalt is fluid. Remember the stack of photos which in its entirety makes up an entity? This is how the entity of the Great Work always in essence remains the same - yet also hold a free space for your photo right in its middle.
Here is how one alchemist looked at the problem of pacing our Great Work: In 1708 the famous Michael Maier wrote that what it takes to make the Great Work come together is to arrange the following four points into a single harmony: Nature, Reason, Experience and the philosophical or alchemical Books. Let me portray this a little more clearly:
Now, don’t fall into the trap of misunderstanding which alchemists loved to install wherever you set your foot: Your Reason, Nature or the Books themselves aren’t what will make you wise or open the doors to the Great Work. They are but the raw materials that you have been given to work with. Raw materials such as any experience you encounter, such as any other being or object you meet in nature. For wisdom to flow from them it is down to you to shape them and arrange them in harmony.
Now, here is the good news: Understanding how to arrange these materials in harmony is the actual process during which you can speed up the harvest. It would not come without pain or loss or suffering. But it is this process of arrangement and of emergence of harmony that we humans can decide to accelerate. Every single day. -- Now, the early Rosicrucians used three very simple principles to illustrate how they fostered the emergence of such harmony from the raw materials of our lives. They modelled their principles after a quote from the Bible:
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7.7)
In a simple synthesis of this quote 'Asking, Seeking and Knocking' became the principles according to which man could speed up the process of emergence of harmony. They were the tools which needed to be applied to the raw materials of our lives - experiences, reason, books and nature - in order for wisdom to flow from them.
Why? Well, because they portray pretty exactly the opposite mindset and attitude that humans normally tend to be. By their very nature these three principles are non-judgemental, full of curiosity, playfulness and willingness to encounter the unknown. A life led according to them indeed creates a very special place: A place where beings known and unknown can respond to us (Asking), where we embrace the idea that at any stage we really only have just begun our journey (Seeking) and where hidden in each moment of our lives there are doors to be opened, and new spaces to be discovered (Knocking). Embracing a life led according to these principles challenges us as humans in the most fundamental way - as it is never about what we have Said, Found or Created - but exemplifies a state of constant moving forward. It portrays the way in which we speed up our magical harvest.
You think I might be over-interpreting these principles? Well, I don't think so. But maybe it helps if we take a look at what one of the founding fathers of the Rosicrucian philosophy had to say about them. It was the great Paracelsus (1493-1541) who emphasised these three principles as a practical way of living discovery - and as the modern way of achieving all goals in magic. In his nine books of De Natura Rerum (Of the nature of things) he specifically shares the following advise:
"This is why we should know: That which the Old Ones of the Old Testament, who lived during the first generation, achieved and managed to realise through ceremonies and conjurations, we Christians of the New Testament, who are in the other generation, shall all realise through prayer, that is Asking, Seeking and Knocking in the faith. It is in these three principal points that all foundations of the cabalistic and magical art are buried, and through which we shall achieve and manage to realise all that we desire and wish for." (Paracelsus, Werke, Band V, p. 123, transl. by Fra.Acher)
See, the beauty of this key is it works equally well in the inner realm as in the world around us: We can apply these three principles to our inner state of praying (and vision) - or we can come to understand our outer lives as nothing but a form of 'prayer'. As long as we allow the principles of Asking, Seeking, Knocking to define our inner attitude and focus, they will form a stable saddle on the galloping horse of our magical fates.