The Work of the Hierophant - The Foolishness of the Neophyte

Last week I read Josephine McCarthy’s ‘The Work of the Hierophant’. The book explains in great detail how to set up and run a magical lodge. A lodge that is well connected to the inner realms and balanced by the two currents of divine and chthonic energies emerging from the veil beyond and the depths within the Abyss. 

I guess there aren't many books out there who go on to explain this process in such clarity and transparency, step by step, chapter by chapter? To be honest, I actually don't think there is any other book out there that even touches on what happens in the inner realms when forming or re-awakening a magical lodge with such a precision? And this is what makes this book exactly the type of literature you want to keep away from magicians who are still inexperienced in working actively in the inner realms. Magicians who still life their lives according to the simple principle of 'stay hungry, stay foolish'.

Magicians who believe that nothing bad can happen to them as long as they remain curious, full of positive intent and empowered by their love for all things living... That's right: magicians like me.  

If you don't, though, and hand this book over to magicians who are really Neophytes of the Inner Realms a couple of interesting things will happen. Well to be frank, more accurately we can call these events for what they really are: painful mistakes. Here are few that happened to me...

First Mistake:

I guess we all have come across books that feel so real while reading them that we actually think we are doing the work described while swallowing the words that describe it. Big mistake. We are not doing the work until we do it. At some point we all have to learn that there is a painfully real difference between inspiration and skill, between commitment and competence.

Holding a great book in our hands that takes our mind on a journey hidden in its pages can easily blur the line between experience and imagination. It might evoke the impression as if the work described in it is taking place in this very moment. I guess this is the natural effect all movies and novels feed off? Yet it is clearly not real: Imaging the inner realms is different from acting in them. It's different like the echo from the spoken word, like the living form from the image in a mirror, like the pleasure of a fire-side story from the fear of the present moment. An experienced crime-novel reader doesn't make a good detective necessarily. 

Many before me have called this the difference between an armchair-magician and the price of real field studies... But let's consider this: When encountering a book like Josephine's we can utterly enjoy it as magical theory only. We can enjoy it as what it is: stories of other people's experiences handed on to us. We don't need to strive to make these our experiences. Unless we want to - and unless we are ready to pay the price. If you read the 'Bourne Identity' as a recipe for a successful life it's pretty clear what you will get. If you read a book like Josephine's as instructions for your own magical practice the road ahead is equally open and clear... it will take a toll.

What I am trying to say is - 'The Work of the Hierophant' shows us a hidden path through the maze of how to set up and run a magical lodge in the inner realms, how to build the astral fundament, the chapels and altars of the inner temple, how to form the vessel of the egregore and how to use angelic beings to construct forms and shapes that are both living and sheltering life. I guess many of us have searched for this knowledge for a long time... Yet, the fact that fate opened the window shutter to a forbidden room doesn't mean we are ready to open its door and walk right in. We always have a choice.

Second mistake:

Let's assume the above was unknown to a magician like yours truly. What's next? Well, if you don't get the difference between commitment and competence you will assume that the love for riding a bike will make you instantly able to do so. Unfortunately working in the inner realms isn't exactly like riding a bike. Or maybe it is? But it kind of hurts more if you fall...

Having read through two thirds of the book I sat down and went into the inner realms. If Josephine's instruction kit on how to create temples on the inner realms really worked there must be plenty of temples around to visit? That's right - I had visited the physical remains of the ancient temples in Greece, Turkey, Persia and the Roman Empire. Why not visit what was left of their astral power-houses on the other side? So I set out and roamed through the desert that stretches between the Abyss and the River of Death. After a while I found a temple buried under sand. Only a small entrance at the very top had remained open - and I jumped right in.

What I found underneath during two subsequent visits was impressive. Huge dark halls arranged around a central eight-sided pyramid, containers of energy that glistened like gold, shining surfaces that were covered in moving sigils, walls that were build from a strange organic substance and a 'discussion hall' that contained an oversized harp which could be played by moving your body through it... Until I evoked the temple guardian and he kicked me out.

Some of you might have read my earlier post about the first journey to the city of the ziggurat? The story where I take over the body of one of my ancestors and just possess her? Well, I am getting familiar to the fact my manners in the astral realm aren't what they should be. They actually really suck.

Being thrown out by the temple guardian was a strange thing to experience. First of all I had never encountered any being so huge like this one. The difference between theory and practice, between inspiration and skill became painfully real at this point. He grabbed my astral form - I was shielded by the body of my angel - and in a blast of energy blew me out of the central tunnel through which I had accessed the temple. For a moment I was dancing on top of the beam of energy, like a drop on top of a fountain of water...

It was only later that day the tides turned and the related emotions were released into my body, like ice melting into water... I was laying in bed for hours that night, looking at strange visions behind closed eyes, painfully nervous for no obvious reason. The force of the energy blast had remained with me and now took its toll on my nerves: all my inner senses were irritated and tried to shield themselves against a thread that had long withdrawn into the depth of the temple under the sand. And quite successfully the guardian ensured that I wouldn't return and disturb the silence of the temple and shining walls and the instrument that played melodies on being touched by light... You wouldn't want to share such a space with strangers, would you?

Third mistake:

As all of this has happened quite recently only I cannot give you much more at this point. Except for one thing that dawned on me when I got up this morning. Once you have opened the door and failed, once you have fallen off your bike and bruised your knees, the only reasonable thing to do is to get back on your bike right away. Well, maybe to get some more help first and then get back on your bike... 

Having run into two obvious mistakes after reading Josephine's wonderful book I still have a chance to avoid this third one: Assuming that the difference between commitment and competence can be closed in a single attempt. Cause here is what will hold true always - wether we work on the inner realms, try to learn how to ride a bike or build a romantic relationship that actually lasts: the difference between inspiration and skill is called 'try again'. The only thing that lies between a magician and a fool is time as well as the continuous courage to keep on learning...

Once I heard someone express exactly this in a wonderful sentence about what he called'development courage'. I looked it up again and here it is... Isn't it wonderful how the same rules apply wether we roam the outer or inner realms? If we manage not to be afraid of our own fears, if we only manage not to be afraid to lose, to change and to transition life will be such a wonderful journey.

"Someone with Developmental Courage values learning more than comfort. That means they are willing to risk public failure, deep frustration, and the repeated hopelessness of being at wit’s end all in the name of building new skills, awareness and knowledge."