Tag Archives: Thelema

Coffee Mug of the Month: Virgo

Virgo Hermetic qabalistic coffee mug: Featuring the sigil of Hamaliel, Angel of the Zodiacal Sign Virgo, according to the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

If your birthday falls between now and the September Equinox, may I be the first to say: “Happy birthday, Virgo!”

You now have the opportunity to celebrate your birthday – or get a present for a Virgo in your life, from my new Etsy shop. This features the sigil, taken from the Golden Dawn’s rose-cross lamen, of the Angel of this month’s astrological sign (in this case Virgo), in the correct Zodiacal colours.

I also have similar designs for all twelve Zodiacal signs. Eagle-eyed followers of this blog will notice that these comprise artwork with which I first came up in 2016. I shall also be using my new Etsy store for other merchandise featuring my original artwork.

For more details and to order, please follow this link:
VIRGO Hermetic qabalistic coffee mug

My Etsy store:
solascendans

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August 23, 2018 · 12:00 pm

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and Occult Training

How well do Occult orders actually teach their initiates? How well indeed do individual temples within those orders teach them? In order to formulate a general principle as to how students of the occult should be taught, I decided to delve into a realm far more esoteric than anything in the Western Mystery Tradition: namely, Educational Psychology. More specifically, I decided to compare what usually passes for occult training with a model which is used by teachers in high schools across the world, namely Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. The Taxonomy helps to classify just how a much a student has mastered any given subject which they are learning.

Bloom's Taxonomy (original version)

Bloom’s Taxonomy (original version)

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning (pyramid)

Bloom’s Taxonomy, as updated by Lorin Anderson. They are ranked in order of ascending difficulty

Benjamin Bloom (1913 – 1999), in 1956, led a group of educational psychologists who established six levels of intellectual behaviour important to learning. These levels were organised cognitive levels which ranged from simple recall of knowledge, to making judgements about the reliability and value of an idea. During the 1990’s Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom) headed a new group of cognitive psychologists and updated the taxonomy.

The six levels (i.e. of the updated taxonomy) may be summarised thus:

Remembering

Can the students recall or remember previously learnt information, for example facts, terms, and basic concepts from an educational text?

Understanding

Can the students demonstrate an understanding of the ideas or concepts stated in the text?

Applying

Can the students use the new information and apply it to actual situations?

Analysing

Can the students break down and distinguish between different parts and find evidence to support generalisations?

Evaluating

Can the students justify a stand or decision?

Creating

Can the students create a new product or point of view based on internal or external criteria?

A necessary implication of this is that a Teacher may well come up against *cough* *cough* I mean “come across” pupils whose maximum level of functioning is any one of these six. He or she may even have pupils at different levels within the same class! Therefore, in ideal circumstances the Teacher ought to have the acuity and the flexibility to, firstly, identify exactly at which the levels the pupils currently are and, secondly, adapt their approach as appropriate. Were all pupils in one class taught at exactly the same level in any given lesson, it is likely that pupils capable or only capable of operating at the other end of the scale would feel left out. And of course there is the danger that it the level were uniformly pitched for all in the middle of the scale, pupils at either end of the scale would feel left out.

Now let’s turn to how the mysteries are taught in occult orders, in the light of this taxonomy.

The most influential occult orders today were founded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, i.e. before this taxonomy was codified. More worryingly however is that I have seen little evidence that they managed to incorporate these principles of their own volition, without reference to Bloom’s efforts. I have not actually seen much evidence that they have done so since, for that matter.

Take for example the Golden Dawn. If you shove a Knowledge Lecture under someone’s nose and tell them “memorise this,” you are only operating at the lowest cognitive level, that of Remembering. If then you base the exam for that grade on successful recall of facts of the knowledge lecture, e.g. by weighting the marking so that not many points are scored for showing anything other than Remembering, you will end up advancing people through the grades who show less independent thought than a fairly bright school pupil.

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

Did someone mention my name?

However, this is not a potential pit-fall of just one system. Take, by way of example, this quote from Crowley’s One Star In Sight regarding the tasks of the various grades of the A.’.A.’.

Neophyte. —Has to acquire perfect control of the Astral Plane.

(NB: a “Neophyte” here is a 1=10, which would be called a Zelator in the GD).

Now, what would the response be to a student who has the temerity to ask: “Hang on a sec – why ought a Neophyte to acquire perfect control of the astral plane?”

Creating It is not necessary at all. I have worked outside the strict Thelemic tradition and have had success nonetheless. Hence I am better than Crowley!
Evaluating I have gathered independent evidence which tends to corroborate Crowley’s assertion that a Neophyte of the A.’.A.’. ought to acquire mastery of the astral plane.
Analysing It is not necessary for a Neophyte to do so per se – for example they could have acquired such control whilst they were working as a Student or Probationer – but it is necessary for them to be able to control the Astral no later than that stage in their learning.
Applying Because Neophytes come into situations at that particular stage of their magical development where perfect control of the astral plane is a necessity.
Understanding Because Crowley thought that Astral projection etc was essential to learn immediately after acquiring a general knowledge of magic and before attempting to master asana and pranayama.
Remembering Because Crowley said so, and if we don’t all do what he says then we are not singing from the same hymn sheet.
Below Remembering How dare you question the Great Beast 666! Get out, and do not darken my washroom towels ever again!

So you see, applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to the occult is not just to inform them of the subject but to encourage the pupil to become a free-thinker on the subject. This may be a bit of an extreme example, so allow me to envisage something a bit more down to earth. Say for example the task is to design and consecrate a Talisman, for whatever purpose. Depending on what level the magical student is operating, the following might occur:

Creating The student actually perceives flaws inherent in the principles he or she was taught, is able to come up with an original design and ritual which “corrects” those faults – and achieves success nonetheless.
Evaluating The student comes up with a radically new talisman design and consecration ritual – and then is able to cleverly argue that it adheres to the basic principles which he or she has already been taught after all.
Analysing The student can perceive the underlying structure of talisman design and consecration, and can produce a talisman (and its corresponding ritual) which displays a spark of originality whilst remaining within that structure.
Applying The student can just about design their own talisman and compose their own consecration ritual, though heavily relying on previously published data and synthesising other people’s rituals.
Understanding The student has to use someone else’s design and ritual, but at least has the beginning of a clue as to the meanings thereof.
Remembering The student can only copy someone else’s design, and consecrate it by following verbatim a ritual written by someone else, and even then does not understand either the design or the ritual.
Below Remembering The student cannot design or consecrate a talisman at all.

Becoming a free-thinker when it comes to the occult is all well and good, but the problem is that so little published information on the occult is geared towards teaching students the art of free thinking. It is as if occultists believe that Free-Thinking is a character trait, which you either have or have not – whereas Education Psychologists believe it is a thing that can be taught and is ideally the ultimate end of education.

The very many new-age / fluffy bunny books which are available work at the Understanding / Remembering levels – sometimes cynically as a marketing ploy, but other times innocently because they are intended for complete beginners. Alas for their readership, who may not realise that (according to Bloom) there are four levels of cognition above the teachings given out in their favourite author’s book! I could also make a remark about some occult orders deliberately keeping their members at the lower levels of cognition because they are afraid of free-thinkers … But the greater deceit is practised by fiery Mars-obsessed writers with Uranus on the Midheaven who roundly decry the bullshit of such orders only to lay down their own dogma which is just as doctrinaire as that which they criticise.

So, in conclusion, I leave you with the following gristle on which to chew. Where on Bloom’s Taxonomy lies your tradition? Where lies your particular teachers? And most importantly – where are you?

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Celebrities Discover Thelema Without Realising It

Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, P Diddy, and Snoop Dogg have managed to discover “Thelema” quite inadvertantly. It is almost as if Aleister Crowley has come up behind them and shouted “Surprise!” Not that they are practising occultists (with the possible exception of Gaga) – they have stumbled across the principles without realising.

I should hasten to add that by “Thelema” I do not mean “Crowleyanity” – I doubt any of the above subscribe to Crowley’s dogma in the literal sense, even if they have read any of the Great Beast’s books. They perhaps do not even know that it is “Thelema” they are practising. What appears to be the situation is this: each one has found his or her “True Will” and is Doing it, and achieving great success thereby. However, the irony is that what is actually their True Will they have identified with “God,” perhaps out of ignorance. Hence they profess belief in God which seems to explain their success, but it does not follow any conventional theology.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Neil Strauss,

Before they were famous, many of the biggest pop stars in the world believed that God wanted them to be famous, that this was his plan for them, just as it was his plan for the rest of us not to be famous. Conversely, many equally talented but slightly less famous musicians I’ve interviewed felt their success was accidental or undeserved—and soon after fell out of the limelight.

In a separate piece Strauss mentioned research that belief in God helped liver transplant patients’ chances of survival, and other scientific studies on the power of belief. The fact that people without conventional religion can yet be saved by the power of their beliefs suggest that none of these are actual pieces of evidence for the existence of God but, like Pascal’s Wager, are arguments in favour of the desirability of believing in God.

What therefore is happening? If Belief by itself is powerful, that would tend to suggest that it is actually these people’s own Will which is looking out for them. Identifying the Will with God may not be an insincere move on their part – besides it probably serves to make it a powerful experience for them.

Incidentally: it is a little appreciated fact that the concept of “True Will” is yet another thing which Aleister Crowley “borrowed” from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In “GD” terms “True Will” is what happens when the Lower Will (represented by Tiphereth) is successfully integrated with the Higher Will (represented by Daath). The former is the everyday Will, the latter is that which aspires to the very highest – hence True Will is when one is able to integrate this aspiration into one’s mundane consciousness. Finding one’s True Will is the natural task of every Adept.

I therefore suggest that if one aspires to the kind of success that these people have, it may be wise to adopt the kind of religious self-belief that these various people adopt – not in a cynical fashion, but in an attempt to discover in truth ones part in the Divine Plan. Who knows? Perhaps one of these celebrities might one day acknowledge their debt to the occult? 😉

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Enochian Magic In Tamworth – update

Plate found in Hopwas Woods, Tamworth

This is a follow-up to my post Enochian Magic In Tamworth. The local paper has finally seen sense and published pictures of the various artefacts found in the local woods, including the plate inscribed with Enochian Letters. Apparently the site, Hopwas Woods, has been a hotbed of occult activity – apparently 27 years ago there was an infamous incident of some occultists dancing naked in a clearing and smoking cannabis!

Tut tut tut! I cannot condone this sort of behaviour! Getting caught by the police and not hiding your stash, I mean. Obviously I’m not about to condemn skyclad rituals, and I can hardly condemn use of da Herb. Anyway – the group that got their collars felt (metaphorically speaking) was called the “Order of the Silver Star,” though whether this was anything to do with Thelema is not indicated.

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A Method of Achieving KCHGA with Tarot Divination

When the pupil is ready, the Guru appears.

Traditional

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Luke 12:40 (KJV)

“KCHGA” (“Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”), refers mainly to the high-point of the Abramelin Operation, which Crowley decreed was the central task of an Adept in his system of Thelema. Since then it has taken on a sort of mythical quality amongst magicians, both Crowleyan and non-Crowleyan, who take it to be the quest for knowledge of the higher self, when in fact a closer reading of mediaeval grimoires such as Abramelin, the Lesser Key of Solomon, et al, would in fact suggest it is no such thing. In grimoire magick, a “Holy Guardian Angel” was a being that one evoked to come and become the Guardian of the Crystal Ball or scrying medium that one would use in subsequent operations to contact other spirits. The Holy Guardian Angel would thus ensure that only the spirit asked for would appear, and that it would speak the truth when it did so. The “Holy Guardian Angel” of traditional grimoire magick is thus what a Medium would refer to as a “Spirit Guide,” though it would be inaccurate to think of it as ones Higher Self per se.

But I digress.

Despite Crowley’s mangling of terminology, KCHGA is nevertheless a convenient metaphor for the quest for the higher self: one could argue that it has virtually become synonymous with the same through persistence of usage over the past hundred years. In identifying the “Holy Guardian Angel” with the Higher Self, Crowley just about associated it with the concept of the “Guru” or inner teacher of eastern tradition. The real meaning of “Guru” does not necessarily refer to any of the supposedly enlightened humans calling themselves Gurus. An authentic Guru can be identified by two characteristics: firstly – they lead the chela (pupil) from darkness to light; and secondly (and most importantly), the Guru takes karmic responsibility for the fate of his or her Chelas. It will thus be appreciated that probably 99% or more of those people referred to as Gurus are not in fact Gurus per se, but “pundits” who have been accorded the title of Guru out of courtesy. More importantly, however, a true Guru may or may not be an incarnate human being, but it is also believed “the Guru” may also be a discarnate being – i.e. like the “Holy Guardian Angel.”

Which leads on to the main subject of this essay – a practical method for attaining KCGHA, knowledge of the Higher Self, the Guru, the Christ-consciousness, etc. Arm yourself with a decent deck of Tarot cards, and do a Divination in the traditional manner, based upon the following very specific question:

“How shall I make myself ready to receive knowledge of my higher self?”

(NB: note how this is phrased – this will be explained momentarily).

The Divination will provide a set of answers which will be a list of practical things for you to do to be getting on with, such as putting your life in order, concentrating on one thing and not on another, etc. Then basically you go and do all of this. The meaning of a Tarot Divination can be cross-checked by making a note of the time, date and place upon which you performed it, and then verifying it with Horary Astrology.

When you think you have done everything your divination has indicated, you may then perform another divination: “How shall I now make myself ready to receive knowledge of my higher self?” – and then repeating the process, performing further divinations subsequently as appropriate.

The reason it is phrased “How shall I make myself ready to receive knowledge of the higher self?” and not “How shall I seek the Higher Self?” or even “How shall I find the Higher Self?” is because there is hidden significance in the old saying “When the pupil is ready, the Guru appears.” One does not “find” the Guru by seeking after him / her / it, but my making oneself ready to receive the Guru’s teachings. The Guru, like the Higher Self, is a spiritual force which is not sought after, because you ought already to know where it is waiting to be found – i.e. Within. The saying “when the pupil is ready the Guru appears” is really saying that instead of concentrating on seeking the Guru, the pupil should concentrate on making him- or herself ready for the Guru. And eventually, when the time is right, the Guru / Higher Self / etc appears, often unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

Imagine the converse of this argument: if you travelled all the way to find to India to find a Guru, but were not ready to receive their teachings when you got there, you would have wasted your journey. Likewise, if you purport to undertake a spiritual quest, like the Abramelin operation, but fail to prepare for what is going to happen when the HGA finally does appear, the results could be disastrous.

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Magick, Wicca, Witchcraft, Christianity

Magick is an old English spelling of Magic which was revived by Aleister Crowley. He defined it as “the science and art of causing change in conformity with Will.” The crucial word in this sentence is Will. This does not mean any passing fancy, but refers to the great spiritual forces which are driving ones soul. Magick is therefore really about finding your Soul’s purpose – and then giving effect to it.

The concept of True Will is something Crowley took – like most things – from the Golden Dawn. True Will is what occurs when your ordinary everyday conscious Will is perfectly united with your Higher Will – which is your aspiration to that which is highest and most spiritual.

Wicca is a term most associated with the movement first brought to public consciousness by Gerald Gardner in the middle of the last century. It is primarily concerned with worship of the Goddess and God, and the observance of the traditional pagan festivals (Sabbats) and full-moon ceremonies (Esbats). There is now evidence to suggest that what we now know as the modern Wicca movement was founded in the 1920s by former members of the Golden Dawn who believed that they had been Witches in previous incarnations. Gardner did not found Wicca, but he was the first person to actively publicise it. See, for example, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration by Philip Heselton (which coincidentally I once reviewed in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition).

Witchcraft is a general term for the historic Witch tradition. Many Wiccans would say that Wicca is Witchcraft, or at least a part or an example of Witchcraft: I do not particularly want to get into an argument upon the matter.

Can a Christian ever practice Magick – and remain a Christian? Certain elements of Thelema and Wicca have a religious character, so in these instances, probably not. However, one should also remember that for 1900 years prior to the 20th century, magick was being preserved and studied by Christian scholars. Not, of course, those who slavishly followed the dictats of the Church, but freethinkers who believed that the Kabbalah was the perfect synthesis between magic, mysticism and religion – even though at times they were persecuted by the mainstream Church for daring to say so.

So for a modern day Christian who is thinking of magick I would say if you are such a Free-Thinker then yes it is possible – you would then find Christian overtones in Martinism, the Elus Cohens, Waite’s Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, Dion Fortune’s Society of the Inner Light, and even in the Golden Dawn.

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The Equinox, Volume 2 *

March 21st is the Vernal Equinox in those parts of the Northern Hemisphere which lie above the tropical zone – so I shall spend some time analysing how various occult traditions treat this seasonal event.

In Wicca, the Vernal Equinox is celebration of Light. The central part of the ceremonial consists of the following invocation, which the High Priestess recites before a bonfire is lit.

We kindle this fire today
In the presence of the Holy Ones,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
But the High Gods
Thee we invoke, O Light o fLife;
Be thous a bright flame before us,
Be thous a guiding star above us;
Kindle thou within our hearts
A flame of love for our neighbours,
To our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all,
To all men on the broad earth;
O merciful Son of Cerridwen,
From the lowliest thing that liveth
To the Name which is highest of all.

(Source: “What Witches Do,” by Stewart Farrar).

In the Golden Dawn, the Equinox is the time when the old Hierophant steps down, and the new Hierophant is installed. It is also the time when the pass-word for the Equinox has changed. The choice of pass-word is significant, for it represents a Magical Affirmation to inspire and guide the Order for the next six-months. The Equinox ceremony of the Golden Dawn when worked with all the inner magical working, is in fact a magical ceremony to put that Magical affirmation into effect.

It was for this reason that Crowley referred to the reception of the Book of the Law as “the Equinox of the Gods” – because he saw it as a cosmic Equinox ceremony to give effect to the new Word, not of the next six-months, but of the new Aeon, i.e. “Thelema.”

Those of us who are not so much interested in becoming the Magus of a new Aeon as using the Equinox formula in our own workings, may find an insightful analysis of the ceremony in Circles of Power by John Michael Greer.

The final equinox working to which I will briefly refer is that of the Elus Cohens. This was a theurgic order founded by one Martinez De Pasqually in the  eighteenth century. It ceased working in the late 18th / early 19th century, but was revived in modern times by Robert Ambelain. Ambelain’s own group was allegedly closed sometime in the late 20th century, although it is within the author’s personal knowledge that the Elu Cohen rituals are still being worked by various people to this day.

The essence of the Elu Cohen Equinox ritual is that it is a great Exorcism rite, designed to banish all evil spirits from this planet. It is in fact quite intense, as it takes five days to complete (i.e. it was worked on five successive nights).

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