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“Laddering Back.”

This is an edited version of a post which first appeared on this website on 29th October 2020, where I attributed a quote about “laddering back” to Carl Jung. However, on researching the origin of the said quote, I realise that it was not Jung’s idea at all, but that of Edward Maitland, the Theosophical writer.

Edward_Maitland

Edward Maitland (1824-1897)

Maitland must probably be the unluckiest man in Occultism, as history appears to remember him as playing Boswell to Anna Kingsford’s Johnson. This despite the fact that he himself had no mean talent as a mystic and psychic quite independently of the latter, such that they ought to be considered as an equal partnership.

In any case: Jung seized upon a passage from Maitland’s biography of Kingsford, in which Maitland described an incident in which he himself attained a state of Intuition or noumenal consciousness. I found this quote, especially the sentiment which I have emboldened, of great help to my Abramelin operation last year and which remains relevant now.

Jung was primarily interested in this quote as he saw it as the key to Active Imagination, and by extension to psychotherapy. However I  believe that in Maitland’s ideas of retaining his outer/circumferential consciousness at the same time as accessing the inner/central consciousness, he (Maitland) had actually hit on the method for becoming aware of the astral plane whilst retaining awareness of the physical counterpart at the same time. The concept of “laddering back” may also be likened to “rising on the planes.”

The reflecting on an idea, related ideas became visible, so to speak, in a long series apparently reaching back to their source, which to him was the divine spirit. By concentrating on this series, he tried to penetrate to their origin. He [i.e. Maitland] writes:

I was absolutely without knowledge or expectation when I yielded to the impulse to make the attempt. I simply experimented on a faculty. . . being seated at my writing-table the while in order to record the results as they came, and resolved to retain my hold on my outer and circumferential consciousness, no matter how far towards my inner and central consciousness I might go. For I knew not whether I should be able to regain the former if I once quitted my hold of it, or to recollect the facts of the experience. At length I achieved my object, though only by a strong effort, the tension occasioned by the endeavour to keep both extremes of the consciousness in view at once being very great.

Once well started on my quest, I found myself traversing a succession of spheres or belts . . . the impression produced being that of mounting a vast ladder stretching from the circumference towards the centre of a system, which was at once my own system, the solar system, the universal system, the three systems being at once diverse and identical.. . . . Presently, by a supreme, and what I felt must be a final effort . . . I succeeded in polarizing the whole of the convergent rays of my consciousness into the desired focus. And at the same instant, as if through the sudden ignition of the rays thus fused into a unity, I found myself confronted with a glory of unspeakable whiteness and brightness ,and of a lustre so intense as well-nigh to beat me back. . . . But though feeling that I had to explore further, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure by piercing if I could the almost blinding lustre, and seeing what it enshrined. With a great effort I succeeded, and the glance revealed to me that which I had felt must be there. . . . It was the dual form of the Son . . . the unmanifest made manifest, the unformulate formulate, the unindividuate individuate, God as the Lord, proving through His duality that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, Feminine as well as Masculine, Mother as well as Father.

From: The Collected Works of C G Jung, volume 13: Alchemical Studies, quoting Anna Kingsford, her life, letters, diary and work.

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October 5, 2021 · 3:05 pm

Review: “The Divinatory Arts” by Papus


Papus (Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse, 1865 – 1916), was a leading figure of the French Occult scene at the turn of the 20th century. He authored “Tarot of the Bohemians,” and founded or co-founded the Martinist Order and the Order Kabbalistique de la Rose-Croix. He was also a leading figure in Memphis Misraim and the Gnostic Catholic Church. He was even a member of the OTO, before Crowley got his mits on it.

He was also very briefly a member of the Golden Dawn, i.e. he only ever attended one meeting, and didn’t stay for the whole thing at that.

Despite being the very essence of “Occult,” Papus at one stage went mainstream by penning a series of articles published in Le Figaro, which is now France’s biggest newspaper, although back in 1895 when the articles were written, it had a more populist stance. Still, that would be like if you were to imagine me, Alex Sumner, being employed at a generous salary by The Daily Telegraph to write for it.

Hence, Papus ended up writing about Graphology, Palmistry, Physiognomy, as well as astrology. The content of these articles was necessarily only a brief introduction to the subject matter – understandable as they were intended for publication in a newspaper. This book, is the first time that these articles have been translated into English.

Although this is an interesting reference for someone researching Papus’ life, Papus’ own writing here is far from being the most interesting thing that Papus had ever done, given that he had lived such rich and full life. In that sense, the Translator’s own introduction is actually more interesting from an esoteric point of view. Nevertheless, I did find some merit in reading about palmistry and graphology, which were subjects I had never really touched upon.

I had to laugh at one point at Papus’ blatant chauvinism – he assumes, for example that the only reason a man would study Physiognomy is so that he can dominate any woman irrespective of her temperament. Nevertheless, the book as a whole is a curious piece in the larger jig-saw puzzle of the life of an otherwise great occultist.


The Divinatory Arts by Papus; translated into by “The Three Luminaries” © 2020, ISBN-13: 9798684181795. Available from Amazon.

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‘Revival of the occult’: French youth turn to tarot, astrology during Covid-19

Young people in France are increasingly turning to tarot, astrology and other forms of esoterism, a trend that accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll.

Source: ‘Revival of the occult’: French youth turn to tarot, astrology during Covid-19

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Alex Sumner’s answer to How and where could I start to practice Magick? (14 years old) – Quora

I am now an experienced Ceremonial Magician. However, when I was fourteen years old myself, I got turned on to the occult not through reading occult books per se, but through Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, and the fiction of H P Lovecraft.

This is not so crazy as it may sound, since because Call of Cthulhu is based in a fictionalised version of the real world, the creators actually included a lot of historical data of real-life occult organisations and personalities such as Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, the Golden Dawn, etc. Because this piqued my interest, I remembered them when I came to researching the occult seriously when I was older.

Indeed, several serious occultists I know claimed that they were first inspired to take up the dark arts after reading Dennis Wheatley novels. Dennis Wheatley actually met Aleister Crowley, although he was a bit of a hypocrite in that he told his readers not to get into the occult real-life, as it was a sure path to be enmeshed by the powers of darkness, etc.

So yeah, if you do your research, you will probably find that a lot of fiction is inspired by genuine occultism. A lot however is not. The one thing I would advise against doing is watching The Irregulars. This is probably one of the worst programmes out there when it comes to historical accuracy about occultism. Or about the Sherlock Holmes universe. Or indeed about life in Victorian England generally.

(NB: if you are on Netflix and you want to watch something decent about the occult, try The Midnight Gospel instead).

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The Irregulars. Not as authentic as The Midnight Gospel


Source: Alex Sumner’s answer to How and where could I start to practice Magick? (14 years old) – Quora

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Heretic of the Week: Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune

I don’t normally read Catholic Herald, which is why I’ve only just shared a year old story. Apparently, last month, Dion Fortune was the newspaper’s featured Heretic of the Week. I rather think they meant “hermetic” of the week, but that’s beside the point. Among Dion’s crimes are veering between Catholicism and paganism, and lowering the tone of Glastonbury, although I personally think that Kanye West is more to blame for the latter. 😉

Anywho, here is the link to the article:

Heretic of the Week: Dion Fortune. Catholic Herald, March 3rd 2020.

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Bring It Home: Bringing a Hawke’s Bay occult legend back to life

The interior of a house built by Robert Felkin as an annexe to Whare Ra. Apparently Felkin himself chose the bright blue hue for practising Colour Therapy.

Rosie Dawson-Hewes’ charming Arts and Crafts home in sunny Havelock North has a mysterious history.

Source: Bring It Home: Bringing a Hawke’s Bay occult legend back to life

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How can somebody summon a succubus? – Quora

A Succubus. Note that in real-life, Succubi tend to appear without horns, wings, tails, and indeed clothes!

In a novel I wrote, The Magus, one of the characters has an authentic experience with a “Succubus.” Whilst trying to evoke a demon and get it to do its bidding, the demon tries to get out of the pact by distracting him with sex in the form of a beautiful woman. Whilst the experience is highly erotic, the man realises that if he is to succeed with his magic he needs to refuse sex with the Succubus and instead force it to agree to do his Will.

In other words, despite the fact that a Succubus might seem attractive to a lonely but horny teenager who is not getting enough in real life, such a demon only manifests when an evocation goes wrong. One cannot deliberately summon a Succubus, as that would entail deliberately failing at an Evocation – but if you set out with the intent to fail, it wouldn’t work to begin with.

The Magus, by Alex Sumner


Source: Alex Sumner’s answer to How can somebody summon a succubus? – Quora

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Why are people so ready and willing to accept magical thinking? – Quora

“Magical thinking” may be out of place in the hard sciences, but Scientists tend to forget – not everything in this world is Scientific. The most obvious example of which is Art – by which I include literature, music, film & theatre, and just about everything we do for cultural and aesthetic reasons.

In order to appreciate a work of Science Fiction, one has to has to have a Magical Thinking mindset, not a Scientific one, because the plot necessarily requires a suspension of disbelief. The same could also be said for horror fiction, fantasy fiction, etc


It is also necessary to accept Magical Thinking in order to appreciate history itself, since as late as the middle of the twentieth century, the Arts were given greater emphasis in education than the Sciences. There was indeed a time when it was thought that you could get farther in life with a knowledge of the works of (e.g.) Shakespeare than of Isaac Newton. This is not necessarily the view of modern education, but if you didn’t actually realise this then you would fail to understand the decision making processes of the world’s most influential people of the comparatively recent past.

Finally of course, Magical Thinking is a requisite for understanding actual magic. 😉


Source: Alex Sumner’s answer to Why are people so ready and willing to accept magical thinking? – Quora

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David Bowie: Closet Occultist!

Q: “So were you involved in actual devil worship?”
A: “Not devil worship, no, it was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic.”
Q: “The Aleister Crowley variety?”
A: “No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called ‘Psychic Self-Defense‘. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I’m quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side!”

David Bowie, interviewed in NME, 1997


It being 2021, this year will inevitably see many five year anniversaries marked, none more keenly felt than that of the great David Bowie, who together with the passing of Lemmy marked the start of the second worst year of recent memory, to wit – the dreaded 2016. The tragedy was so great that it had the effect of drawing the Occult community, which is normally riven by fractious arguments, together to an unprecedented degree. Ironically, this post which I wrote at the time became the most read article ever on my blog.


So the news this week has been dominated by the passing of David Bowie, and when I consider how much attention was paid to the untimely death of Freddie Mercury – the last pop star of comparable status to leave us – it is almost certain that this event will remain in public consciousness for years to come. Anywho: amongst the magical community, it has been widely noted that Bowie was interested in the occult, as witness his interview with NME quoted at the top of this page, and the back cover over the Station to Station LP, below left:

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

NB: given the amount of Charlie he was packing away at the time, his precise allegiance might well be pinned to the Holy Order of the Sun! Interestingly, Bowie resurrected the costume covered with, ahem, “white lines,” for his almost-certainly-not final music video “Lazarus” (above right). Might not this video be suggesting that David Bowie did not just keep this costume but this persona hanging up in the closet all this time?

But I digress.

There is an image in the Lazarus video on which a number of bloggers have already commented: where Bowie sits frantically writing at a desk, on which rests a skull. Now the obvious interpretation is that it was a reference to Bowie’s own impending mortality, but when I saw it, it stirred the Sumner Family Brain Cell to life, and got me thinking, where have I seen that before?


See: 3minutes 38seconds.

The answer is: it comes from the first degree (Apprentice) ritual of the Ancient & Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim – a particularly esoteric form of Freemasonry. Assuming the candidate for initiation passes the ballot, just before the ceremony of his initiation,

…[t]he Expert (i.e. Junior Deacon) then takes possession of the Candidate in the Parvis, carefully binds his eyes and leads him to the Chamber of Reflection. He has him sit before a table, sparingly furnished with a real human Skull; a lit wax Candle, half-consumed; a sheet of white paper, pen and ink. The seat is a stool without a back. He lights a little Myrrh, the traditional funereal perfume, in a corner of the room, in a Censer containing lit coals.

Expert: – Sir, alone, left to yourself, before an image of termination of terrestrial Life, I invite you to write your Philosophical Testament.

The “Philosophical Testament” consists of the candidate’s reflections on his duties to God, the World, and himself: but more especially, like its name suggests, how the candidate would answer these questions if his words were the final legacy which he leaves on Earth. However, the code-word “philosophical” indicates that one is meant to interpret it alchemically. In other words, Death is not the end for the candidate – i.e. for David Bowie – but is the first step on the path to spiritual transmutation.

So, there you have it – Bowie indulging in esoteric symbolism right up until the last!

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Hyperspace

Do not read this blog post if you do not want your mind-blown outside the bounds of four-dimensional space-time. Kind of like what happens when the characters in The Great God Pan look upon the face of the supernatural unveiled. Or when the powder of Ibn Ghazi hits the spot in The Dunwich Horror. This  happened to me as a side-effect of undertaking my Abramelin operation this year (i.e. my mind being blown, not literally having an experience with the child of Yog Sothoth), so now I’m inflicting this upon the rest of humanity. Muah ha ha! Ia Shub Niggurath!

But I digress. We normally think of space-time as having four dimensions: height, width, depth, and time. But ask yourself this:

How big is a Thought?

How wide is a dream?

How deep is a Memory?

Thoughts, dreams and memories all exist, hence they must exist within spacetime, yet they can’t be measured in terms of the conventional four dimensions. Hence they are Dimension-less, no?

It occurred to me, whilst I was in some altered state of consciousness or other, that if a thing exists yet cannot be measured in terms height, width, depth or time, then the fact of its existence must constitute a separate Dimension in addition to the preceding four. Hence, we are actually living in five-dimensional space-time, to wit:

  1. Height
  2. Width
  3. Depth
  4. Time
  5. Existence (Karl Popper’s Third World, that of the Objective contents of Thoughts). 

Now, this is where things get complicated. Consider the following diagram:

Domain coloured representation of a complex function

Despite the lurid nature of the introductory paragraph, this is not meant to induce major SAN loss. Instead it’s essentially a colour-coded diagram.

Complex numbers are those which consist of a Real and Imaginary part, the latter being a multiple of i, the imaginary square root of -1. Such numbers cannot be represented on a number-line, but they can be represented on a graph – an “Argand Diagram” – where two number lines become the two axes.

However: what if one wanted to display the effects of a Function which involves Complex Numbers? If one were using only Real numbers, this would be easy – just plot a graph. However, this can’t be done with Complex Numbers, as the set of Complex Numbers on which the Function is already performed is already a graph – that is to say, a two-dimensional diagram. Hence the only way to plot a function with Complex Numbers is to somehow come up with a four dimensional diagram – two dimensions for the original Complex Number, and a further two to represent the results of the Function when applied to that number.

It is not literally possible to represent Four Dimensions in just two. Hence, some way must be found to approximate the results – one such way might be by “Domain Colouring,” producing a diagram like that above. In computing terms, every possible colour has an RGB value, or 24-bits. Hence a Complex Number may be represented by assigning 12 of those bits to the Real part, and 12 to the Imaginary part. The colour of the diagram thus becomes the two extra axes needed to complete the Four-Dimensional representation. We have in effect simulated the representation of four dimensions in two dimensions, by adding extra layers of Meaning to the two-dimensional plane.

What however would happen if one were to analyse the above picture from a Magical perspective? One might break it down as follows:

The Complex Plane No extra layers of Meaning The Two Dimensional Object
The colour of each point on the plane, which has been calculated mathematically. Two extra layers of Meaning (representation of) the Four Dimensional Object
Subjective perception that Red is associated with Mars, Orange with the Sun, Yellow with Mercury, etc etc etc Even more extra layers of Meaning (representation of) a Five- or more- Dimensional object, i.e. a Hyperdimensional Object.

Again, consider the following photograph:

Aleister Crowley in A.'.A.'. regalia making the sign "Vir."

Aleister Crowley

This might be analysed thus:

The two dimensional plane – i.e. your computer or phone screen No extra layers of Meaning The Two Dimensional Object
The particular gradation of light and shade to serve precisely defined purpose – i.e. to depict a person. In this instance, one extra layer of meaning (representation of) the Three Dimensional Object
Objective facts associated with this photograph, i.e. that it depicts Aleister Crowley Extra layer or layers of Meaning (representation of) the Four or more Dimensional Object
Subjective thoughts that one adds thereto, e.g. ones feelings about Crowley, his life and / or teachings, Thelema, etc Even more layers of Meaning (representation of) a Hyperdimensional Object with potentially unlimited number of dimensions (? 93?)

Or again, this Tarot card, from the BOTA deck:

Key 1, “The Magician,” from the BOTA tarot deck.

Without going into as much detail as previously, one may say that this can be analysed in terms of:

  • The two-dimensional plane;
  • The objective fact that it depicts a specific Tarot card;
  • The layer of meaning BOTA teaches in the Introduction to Tarot course;
  • The layer of meaning BOTA teaches in the Tarot Fundamentals course;
  • The layer of meaning BOTA teaches in the Developing Supersensory Powers course;
  • The layer of meaning etc etc etc you get the idea.

In other words – “Meaning” is our way of depicting Higher Dimensions within the confines of conventional Space-Time. Meaning is not those Higher Dimensions themselves, but a convenient representation thereof. Consequently, it is possible if not to conceive of Hyperspace, then to conceive of approximations thereof, hence:

  1. Height;
  2. Width;
  3. Depth;
  4. Time;
  5. Existence;
  6. Layers of Objective Meaning which one overlays the preceding five; and
  7. Layers of Subjective Meaning which one overlays any or all of the preceding;

The final two being virtual categories allowing for a potentially infinite number of actual dimensions. Conversely when, in Occultism, one studies a Symbol and one perceives that it has many layers to it (as all good symbols do), one may conceive of the Symbol as an object existing in Hyperspace, either metaphorically or even literally.

was going to answer a question on Quora.com, “What do I do if I just threw my tarot cards on the ground out of anger?”  A number of respondents answered along the lines of “Get rid of them, for they come from Satan!” Some more respondents answered “Get rid of them, they are a load of rubbish anyway.” A number just responded, “Just pick them up and clean them up, they’re just cards.”

“But,” I thought to myself, “they’re not just cards.” The simple answer to such a question would go like this:

Assume for one moment it is your unconscious mind which does the divination, and the tarot cards are just tools it employs for the purpose. Your Unconscious Mind will remember the day you treated its tools with disrespect, and will respond by showing you a similar lack of concern, by not providing you with an accurate tarot divination again.

However, a hyperspatial analysis might go like this: they are cards with pictures on them; pictures which have multiple layers of meaning both objective and subjective – and moreover, the connections which one builds with them in ones mind become reified as the psychic keys which unlock the intuition which in turn provides the real answer to the divination. A Tarot Card is thus a perfect example of a Hyperdimensional magical object – nay, a Hyperdimensional Entity – of which the Card laying on the ground where it has been carelessly thrown is but a five dimensional cross-section: which is a long way of saying that a Tarot card is far too important to ever be treated lightly.

I rather think that many of the concepts across which one comes in the Western Mystery Tradition, which at first sight are unexplainable to the rational mind, suddenly become explainable when one starts thinking in terms of the geometry of higher dimensions. For example: the Qabalistic Tree of Life. We all know that it has Ten Sephiroth and Twenty-Two paths, but some theories also say there are four Qabalistic Worlds, and moreover, each Sephirah has a Tree within it. Is there one Tree, four Trees, or forty? Are there Ten Sephiroth or four-hundred? Are (e.g.) Kether of Atziluth, Kether of Briah, Kether of Yetzirah, and Kether of Malkuth the same, different, related to one another, separated or conjoined and if so how? Is each one within the succeeding one like Russian dolls, and how can one conceive of any of them if they are or they are not?

One could try to resolve the incongruities by assuming that curious position of the meditative mind in which all dualities are resolved and the critical intellectual faculty is by-passed… if one wanted to limit oneself to thinking in three-dimensions. Alternatively, one could regard the Tree of Life as a Hyperspatial Object – that each Sephiroth is not a Sphere but a Hypersphere – in which case one can perfectly reasonably say that there is only one Tree of Life, one set of Sephiroth and Netivoth, and that a particular part – e.g. Malkuth of Malkuth of Assiah – is but a cross-section of the Hyper-Object (in this example, the Malkuth Hypersphere) that happens to be visible to us at one particular moment.

Ironically, though, Higher Dimensional Geometry also forces us to re-evaluate what we think we know about esotericism. For example: many of the theories which are candidates for a “theory of everything” in Physics posit the existence of multiple dimensions. If one were therefore to look at this from a Magical perspective, one would have to say that if the Universe is inherently Hyperspatial, then the Creator of the Universe must be a Hyperdimensional Deity. Hence, when we try to represent this Hyper-God using lower-dimensional symbols, we must accept the inevitability of failing to capture a fully accurate picture. The Sepher Yetzirah, for example, suggests that the Twenty Two letters of the Hebrew Alphabet can be arranged to form the Cube of Space. But what if the cosmos were more accurately represented not by a Cube but by a Tesseract? Or a Hypercube of five or more dimensions? If the former, then the Hebrew Alphabet would have to have forty-nine extra lettersHey! Perhaps that means the language spoken by God and His angels in Heaven is infinitely more complex than anything of which us lower-dimensional creatures can conceive? I have not calculated how many letters would be required to make a hypercube of any higher order, primarily for my own convenience, but also because I feel that without knowing just how many dimensions in total are involved, it would be idle speculation.

“If the Universe is inherently Hyperspatial, then the Creator of the Universe must be a Hyperdimensional Deity.”
Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) – Salvador Dali, 1954.

 

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