Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the temple praising God.
Luke 24: 50 – 51.
Looking at the Sophistry the MBW crowd come up with about “Ascension” (nb: MBW = Mind Body Wallet). Apparently this Ascension-lark involves bowing down and worshipping a list of so-called “Ascended Masters.” Yes, such a patriarchal term is still used even though some of them are female: the term “Ascended Mistress” has yet to gain currency I suppose because of the double-entendre.
Anyway: there was me thinking – “What a jolly wheeze it would be if, instead of worshipping an Ascended Master, it was possible to become one instead! Can such a thing be done?” At least according to some schools of Occult thought, the answer is Yes. So, for the benefit of poor benighted humankind, and to the consternation of New Age money-makers everywhere, I present Alex’ Guide to Becoming an Ascended Master.
The Bible itself says very little about Ascension, save for the fact that it is alleged to have happened on three occasions: Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus. Enoch’s ascension is dealt with in one verse of Genesis:
Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him.
Jesus’ own experience is recorded in three places: the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles.
The most revealing account though is what happened to the prophet Elijah.
Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind.
2 Kings 2:11 (emphasis added).
Now the word “Chariot” (Hebrew: Merkavah) is the clue to what is really going on here: this word was later adopted by proto-Qabalists to denote a species of Mystical ritual. What we now know as Merkavah Mysticism was formulated in the first centuries of the Common Era, although the Hebrew Mystics who did so were aspiring to rediscover the ancient mysteries primarily which enabled the prophet Ezekiel to obtain his visions. I contend that the association with “works of the Chariot” may be extended to Elijah as well.
Hence: Elijah ended his days on Earth whilst engaged in mystical ritual. It should be noted that in the Yoga Tradition it is claimed that great Yogis do much the same thing, where it is called Mahasamadhi, that is – to consciously leave the body whilst in a state of perfected meditation. However, if this is what happened to Elijah though then clearly his heavenly-translation is actually only a metaphor: although his soul would have left his body in a state of perfect meditation, his body itself would be left behind – his Ascension would be akin to an actual death, though no less remarkable in its own way.
The Gnostics also perceived that Ascension is a matter of undertaking certain mystical rituals, and therefore contrived to speculate what form these rituals might take. One of the finest pieces of Gnostic literature deals directly with this: the Pistis Sophia. In essence this is an account of secret teachings that Jesus gave to the Apostles after the resurrection. The post-resurrection period is stated as lasting some eleven years, not the forty days as is commonly believed in the exoteric Church.
At the end of Jesus’ post resurrection ministry, he Ascended into Heaven … then returned a short-while later to teach the Apostles how He did it.
In order to understand the basic method, one should first be aware of the Gnostic conception of the cosmos. The world of matter is supposedly removed from the Supreme ultimate Divinity: in between are the realms of lesser spiritual beings (“Archons”) who act as barriers or obstacles to Man becoming truly spiritually free, keeping him imprisoned in the physical world. These Archons range from being deliberately evil to morally-neutral, depending on which school of Gnosticism one subscribes to, although one gets the feeling that Gnostic writers tended to gild the lily somewhat when describing how terrible the Archons are in order to emphasise their importance.
According to the Pistis Sophia, Ascension is the method whereby Jesus was able to transcend the world of matter, rise up past and through the barriers administered by the Archons, and commune with the supreme ultimate divinity (referred to in the text as “the First Mystery”) in “Heaven.” NB: in communing with the First Mystery, Jesus becomes One therewith, so that at times he talks of the works of First Mystery in the First Person. The whole implication of the Pistis Sophia being that Gnostic initiates following in Jesus’ footsteps would be able to accomplish the same.
The actual method of the Pistis Sophia is centred on acquiring an ascension-vehicle known as the “Vesture of Light” which, when the initiate is wrapped therein, causes all who see it to perceive only Light itself, not the initiate. The Vesture of Light is imagined as a cloak on which are written the Words of Power which are the key to compelling the Archons to let the initiate pass upwards: ZAMA ZAMA OZZA RACHAMA OZAI.
How is the “Vesture of Light” acquired? The Pistis Sophia is open to interpretation on this point. Jesus acquired His “Vesture of Light” from the First Mystery Itself, although this is a rather circular conception when one considers that in Ascending, Jesus identifies as the First Mystery. In the opinion of G R S Mead, the Pistis Sophia was not meant to be a publicly circulated document, but reserved for initiates. If so, we can infer that there may have been further oral teaching given to Gnostic initiates which was never written down. As to what this oral teaching might be, several modern commentators have reached their own conclusions, as will be noted below.
Mead, a keen scholar of Gnosticism and related subjects, was also the first English writer to translate a key ritual of Mithraism which again deals with Ascension – which he describes as the “innermost rite of the carefully guarded secrets of the Mithriaca.”
NB: it is called a Mithraic Liturgy, but this may be misleading. There is no internal evidence in the text to suggest it has to do with Mithras at all! All that is known for certain is that the papyrus in which it is contained dates from the fourth century AD, was written in Greek and derives from Egypt (the timing makes it contemporaneous with the decline of the cult of Mithras).
The ritual itself consists of a certain number of invocations and utterations to be made whilst astrally-projecting into the Higher Realms. The basic idea of memorising a long and complex ritual to be performed in the astral is not too dissimilar to the practice of Merkavah, although the rituals differ in the details. Of modern magicians Julius Evola published a version of this ritual, implying that it may have been practised by his “Ur Group.”
Being the world’s greatest Ipsissimus, it has come to my attention that there is a group doing the rounds claiming to have made contact with the secret chiefs of the so-called third-order. On investigating, it quickly became obvious (i.e. obvious to someone who has the total consciousness of the universe, in other words, not obvious at all) to what they are referring.
The said Group appear to be practising a form of Gnostic ascension à la Pistis Sophia (see above). However they have come up with a radical method of attaining the “Vesture of Light,” by a means of a certain method of what may quaintly be termed “internal alchemy” – or less quaintly – Sex Magick.
I have reason to believe that the group of so-called “secret chiefs” is in fact a genuine organisation (i.e. in the sense that it exists), however: certain public details about it have been deliberately obscured. It is not, for instance, as one rumour goes around the interwebby-thing, the third-order of the Golden Dawn at all, but a highly elite and exclusive group that draw their members from high-degree Memphis-Misraim initiates.
The time, date and place of their meetings, as well as who attends them, are obviously strictly confidential, though the “secrets” are not particularly so: there is nothing there that cannot be gained from cribbing from the works of Kenneth Grant, for example.
I shall say no more on this matter, as I do not wish criticisms against me to “snowball.” ;)
So as you can appreciate, for the practising Occultist, “Ascension” is a goal which may be attained (allegedly) through advanced mystical and theurgic practices. Needless to say, the Qabalistic, Gnostic and (pseudo)-Mithraic methods stop short of the full deal, as in each case the initiate returns to Earth afterwards – at least in the examples that we know about. It is thus a form of shamanic journeying, albeit to the higher as opposed to lower worlds.
It is important to bear in mind at this stage a distinction between the Right and Left Hand Paths when it comes to the matter of Ascension. The aspiration of the Right-hand path practitioner is to undergo an Ascension experience in order to attain the Beatific Vision whilst living, not necessarily to permanently translate to the higher realms. After all, there is a far simpler way to do that, and that is by simply dying.
The practitioner of the Left-Hand Path is in a different position. Whereas one on the RHP automatically assumes that his or her soul is immortal and will survive death anyway, the LHP practitioner has no such guarantee. Thus, the LHP practitioner can be recognised by an obsession with Ascension not to gain the mystical benefits to derive therefrom, but as a means to cheat Death itself.