On the Magical Use of Yantras - Part 1
In a previous post I shared an overview on the human constitution according to Gnostic Hermetism. The differentiation of inner organs as Vitals, Elementaries and Elementals is essential for a deeper understanding of how magic and magical Yantras work as we will see.
Specifically in this context we are interested in the function of Elementals as Stejnar defines it: Distinct from our physical and emotional organs Elementals represent all ideas, imaginations, assumptions and conceivabilities our minds hold consciously or subconsciously. Through their relatively stable thought-patterns they rule and influence the lower parts of our spiritual and physical bodies. Equally they build the interface to the Planetaries, which in turn through their diverse influence create what we come to know as our personalities.
The essential point is: Elementals are specific thought-patterns, mental structures, living diagrams which contain certain levels of individual consciousness. Thus they form living spiritual beings that not only populate our minds but essentially create it.
“Elementaries define the energetic quality, the spiritual aspect of any subtle being. The Elementals on the other hand give structure to the iconic nature, the mental patterns and elements of the very same beings.” (Stejnar, Die Vier Elemente, p.95)
Thus any being that holds a conscious mental function requires energetic charge (defined by Elementaries) as well as a spiritual structure (defined by the Elementals). This rule is not only limited to human beings, yet equally true for any other spiritual being we interact with. Each daemon, celestial or chthonic being is a specific compound of elementary charge and spiritual pattern.
Now, let’s make a slight cultural leap of time here. This understanding of our spiritual nature hasn’t been invented by Stejnar of course. In fact many other traditions leverage a similar approach to consciously create, guard or govern spiritual entities. A wonderful expression of such tradition is the lore of mystical Yantras in India. This Sanskrit words means ‘instrument’ or ‘machine’ - and is used in exactly this fashion in the mystical and magical practice of the various traditions of Tantra:
“Mystical Yantras are combinations of three basic principles: the principle of form (Akriti-rupa), the principle of function (Kriya-rupa) and the principle of force (Sakti-rupa). More than anything else these are believed to reveal the inner essence of any creation that makes up our universe. Just like matter, irrespective of how its outer shape is formed, can be understood as a specific pattern of atoms so can every other aspect of our world in its structural essence be perceived as a Yantra. (...) Thus a Yantra has to be understood as the final equation of form of any energetic structure which manifests in our world. These simple schematic forms create the true nature of our cosmos.” (Madhu Khanna, Das grosse Yantra-Buch, p.11, transl. from German by Frater Acher)
Below you can find a couple of examples of classical Indian Yantras. As we can easily see, many of the Eastern Yantras bear a striking resemblance in structure and appearance to our Western spirit seals, pentacles and classical magical circles. Thus everything we learn about the containment of power in form and the effect this confinement has on creating individual spirit consciousness can be applied across cultural divides...
What we are pointed to here is something very basic. Almost a 101-rule of life and magic that is most often overlooked or simply misunderstood. I guess this often happens to the things that are so plain that we don't grasp their full impact on our lives: Any structure, natural or man-made is a living being and contains consciousness.
Energy is abundant and always everywhere around us (Sakti); the myth of empty space has long been proven wrong. The moment a subset of this omnipresent energy is confined into shape, form or any type of structure (Siva) it becomes an individual being. It happens the very moment a drop is taken from the ocean, a pebble from the mountain, a spark from the fire - a thought from the rivers of our minds.
You see? We are constantly giving birth, constantly creating and producing new beings. Anything we touch and mark with emotional, mental or physical structure is awakened into individual consciousness. This is neither good nor bad, it simply happens. It is what boundaries do - they shape and form and as energy gets confined within structure, it starts to realise itself.
Every form is a dwelling of consciousness enclosed. Anyone who digs deeper from this basic law of magical practice is likely to discover much more than most books tells us about the nature and dynamics of the kabbalistic Qlippoth.
“Each restriction is a magical field in which power is defined and governed and can be used for the purpose of occult skills. Each shape is a means of communication with supernatural powers that act between heaven and earth.” (Madhu Khanna, p.154)
Of course simply drawing a square in the sand doesn’t make us a grand conjurer. Yet, a grand conjurer might not do anything but draw a square in the sand...The most complex Tantric Yantra as well as a simple square in the sand are both based on the same premises and principles of natural power and confinement. How we progress on our path of magical understanding and practice from the most simple forms to increasingly complex structures and then back again all the way to the plain powers of simple objects and shapes, this is the mystery of the Path of the Empty Hand.
On Choosing your Path above Tiphareth
With the knowledge laid out above we have arrived at a point where we can decide to walk into two different directions of magical practice.
One junction of the road leads us to explore the mechanics of these magical patterns in more and more detail. We can aim to understand the structures that resonate with certain planetary or divine beings, examine how we use our breath and mantras to further charge the forms we created, what effect offerings and clay and blood and wax and wool have on the quality and quantity of consciousness confined in our magical shapes.
Taking this junction of the road will ensure us lots of company from other magicians who walked this path before us... We will meet Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Golden Dawn Adepts, magicians of the Fraternitas Saturnis, OTO members and many other occult researchers who all aimed to explore the principles of power and restriction through form for their own use in further and further detail...
Yet, we can also chose to take the other junction of the road. It is slightly overgrown and much less frequented. These days it is actually easy to miss it. This path makes use of the same principles but to a different end. Rather than investigating how these natural laws can be used to expand our realm of influence and power, it asks: If this is how nature organizes the flow and balance of power, how can I become a tool in the magical processes nature is trying to accomplish around me already?
See, there are myriads of spiritual beings all using and leveraging this technique already. Just like us humans they are all creating patterns and confinement and pockets of power. Unfortunately the really big pieces of work they cannot accomplish unless they find some humans who are willing to join in. The way for humans to join this work, however, is NOT to lead, dominate or create it from scratch. Instead it is to listen, to adjust, to blend in, to take what is given to you and then to walk with it like you were told and to fulfill your small piece of the puzzle...
I am probably exaggerating here and these are not two different paths - but rather different sequences on one and the same path. If you look at it through the lens of the Tree of Life or the Hermetic Ladder than this junction appears at the level of Tiphareth. Before you reach this gate it is actually wise to focus on yourself and leverage magical means to alter, adjust and strengthen the structure of your personality. It is the simple fact we discovered in the previous post - that prisonstyle comes before freestyle. And while you practice prisonstyle you build up the strength and reliability and perseverance and understanding, all the qualities that only allow you to assume the form of a tool to contribute to larger work. Yet, should you arrive at this junction and decide to continue to place yourself into the middle of the universe (Tiphareth) while simultaneously continuing to strive for more control (Geburah) and power (Chesed) some very disappointing experiences might lie in wait...
Luckily the entire time you spend walking upwards from Tiphareth, the years you spend working to integrate the forces of Geburah and Chesed into your personality, are the years you get to chose which of the two roads to take. It’s only once you arrive at the Abyss that crossing doesn’t come without a decision for life:
“There are a few who have gotten access at this depth and have tried to control, weave and form the power as it leaves them; they attempted to harness the power of Divinity and they just ended up leaving a mess on the floor. So for any pentacle festooned black clad ‘magician’ reading this with the keys of Solomon on the table beside them, be warned; piss around with this stuff and you will become a flurry of epithelials blowing in the wind...” (Josephine McCarthy, Magical Knowledge III, p.118)
On the Magical Use of Yantras - Part 2
Well, luckily the quote above is taken from the third and final part of the Magical Knowledge series - not from the first or second one. Thus there is plenty of space and time for us to experiment with the flow and containment of power before we get to the place where our choice and inner attitude will have such severe consequences.
In order to better understand how to set out on this path, let’s return to the Indian mystical use of Yantras.
Besides all the techniques of how to enliven, activate and maintain outer Yantras with specific spiritual forces the Indian tradition holds vast knowledge on the use of Yantras inside ourselves. Here Yantras turn into tools that allow us to adjust and re-balance the qualities and quantities of energies present within ourselves.
Remember what Stejnar had to say about inner spiritual organs and the four elements according to Gnostic Hermetism? Here is a powerful path of practice on how to consciously change your subtle body through meditation on forms. For everyone interested in understanding the precise details I recommend Madhu Khanna’s classic ‘Yantras - The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity’ for further reading.
However, there is a much more immediate, a much more practical access to the subject. Let me highlight where to find it. If you peel away all layers of detail, tradition and structure from Tantric Yantra meditations you’ll find that the ultimate goal is described as merging into one with the central point that creates the inner pillar of strength and source of power of any spiritual diagram. This point is called bindu.
“Resembling the spider in its net the bindu (point) is the beginning of all creation, the radiating source of energy which gives birth to all form.” (Madhu Khanna, p.9)
“The point as the first form that appears on the surface of the void therefore is completely transcendent. It is the world in a state of germination when the forces of matter are still very pure.” (Madhu Khanna, p.71)
All Yantras can be imagined as secret gardens or labyrinths which the practitioner explores through his consciousness by meditating on them. In classical Indian depiction one enters through the four gates of the directions of the sky and then finds their way closer and closer to the central point, until finally merging into one with it.
The essential difference in using this type of Yantra meditation on the outside vs. inside of your body is described as following: When traveling and exploring the pathways of a Yantra outside yourself the process results in laying a new seed into your mind which might alter your state of consciousness in the future. The exploration of the Yantra on the inside, however, doesn’t result in spreading any new seed, quite the opposite. At its final stage it results in neutralizing all of our senses, in creating complete calmness and silence and absence of any form or shape within and around us. It creates access to The Void.
Everyone who has read Josephine McCarthy’s Magical Knowledge series will be deeply familiar with her version of a hugely powerful Yantra meditation. One that has peeled away already all layers of tradition, lore and nonessential structure. In fact rather than becoming the end goal of the mystical path, merging with the bindu in the shape of a flame here turns into the beginning of an entirely new journey.
Arriving in this state of utter inner silence and non-perception is not the end goal of the magician as envisioned by McCarthy, but the precondition to start out on a new path. Accessing the Vision of the Void is the last step we take as a physical being, only to emerge as a spirit on the other side, ready to hear, see and interact with all the other spiritual beings who patiently waited for us to walk back through this gate towards them.
“With eyes closed, be aware of the candle flame before you and of the flame that burns deep within you. As you look at the candle flame you are drawn to the flame and find yourself stepping into the fire and bathing in its cleansing flame. The flames do not burn: they are the brightness of the spirit of Divine Being. The deeper you walk into the flame the more regenerated you feel and your inner flame grows in strength and vitality. You pass through the flame and find yourself deep in the void, the place where there is no sound, no time, no movement. In stillness your outer structure falls away and you find yourself drifting without form, flowing with the wind that blows in and out of this place as it carries power into manifestation.” (Josephine McCarthy, Magical Knowledge III, p.125)
Once you have mastered this simple exercise, all magical gates will spring open. From here on all secrets of magical power, confined and defined through inner structure and outer form, all mysteries of the vital winds, your breath and the use of ritual forces will unfold.
Yet all these gates will remain shut down and locked unless you are ready to pass through the Void first. This gate of darkness doesn’t allow for anything to be carried over its threshold, no fears, no desires and nothing gained in the inner realms. You enter and you leave through it not only naked, but void of yourself. It is an initiation into non-attachment. Feel free to call it death.