Tag Archives: Theosophy

“The Magical Battle of Britain” by Dion Fortune, a review (vlog)

In which I review The Magical Battle of Britain by Dion Fortune, and give it five stars (nb: this was originally recorded for Amazon). What I like most about this book is that it reveals details of the practical methods of occultism which Dion used, which ultimately were inspired by an encounter with telepathy at the start of her magical career.

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Reincarnation: A Hermetic Approach

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28 (emphasis added).

Reincarnation, metempsychosis, palingenesis, past lives, etc, has cropped up in the Western Mystery Tradition since at least the time of Plato. In the Phaedrus, he *cough* I mean Socrates believed that it was man’s destiny to be successively re-born in all walks of life until he was re-born in the highest, which was obviously as a Philosopher, before re-joining the gods.

The New Testament offers evidence that the Jews of Jesus’ time thought that it was theoretically possible for a dead person to be re-born – because nothing is impossible to God – but there is no evidence to suggest that they thought it occurred on a regular basis. However, the writers of the New Testament did believe that future re-incarnation would occur at least once: in the Resurrection on the Last Day. Note the biblical passage at the top of this article – in the Greek New Testament the word for “regeneration” is actually Palingenesis or “re-birth.” The same word has been used for both personal re-incarnation and re-birth of the Universe (like a re-setting of The Matrix!) by some pagan schools of thought, although such usage was hushed up by the Church.

So that was the Western appreciation of re-incarnation… until the 19th century, when Theosophy introduced a decidedly Eastern approach – which from personal observation seems to be what most people understand by the term today. One finds it in the work of Dion Fortune, both her fiction and non-fiction work. Aleister Crowley delighted in it, especially if it meant he could claim just about every kewl person from history from Edward Kelly to Eliphas Levi via Swinburne was one of his prior incarnations. Less frivolously the concept of re-incarnation was adopted, from Theosophy, by a large number of occult groups, from Martinism to Wicca and beyond.

It is thus possible to extrapolate some general principles regarding a “Hermetic” approach to re-incarnation, if one is for one moment prepared to indulge the fiction that “Hermetic” refers to the practices of the Occult revival of the late 19th century, and not to actual Hermeticism as it was at the time it was first invented.

The first and most important principle for going in search of one’s past lives this:

Have prepared in advance a strategy for dealing with the Dweller On The Threshold when you meet it.

Keep Calm And Ask the Dweller On The Threshold For Your Karmic Lesson

Sensible advice for all initiates seeking knowledge of their past lives.

The “Dweller On The Threshold” (or “DotT” as I shall hereinafter refer to it) is a nasty beasty that you will meet when trying to uncover your past-lives. It is so terrifying that it is likely to put you off attempting to discover your past lives if you don’t realise what it really is. The DotT was first described Bulwher(“It was a dark and stormy night…”)Lytton in his book Zanoni, and seems to have been adopted as gospel by Blavatsky, so that it was repeated in hushed tones by the likes of Dion Fortune, Rudolf Steiner, etc.

The DotT looks different for every person who encounters it: it might appear astrally as a thing, an entity, or a disturbing situation; or instead of appearing astrally it might manifest in your life as something disturbing or challenging. It is described in Theosophical texts as an astral double which each person leaves hanging about on the astral plane from the last time they incarnated.

It is this which gives the key to understanding its true nature: the DotT is in fact an astral representation of all of the Karma you have accrued from previous lives, and a DotT-experience amounts to suddenly having to deal with all your Karma all at once. The Dweller on the Threshold is, thus, you.

The ignorant person thus comes up against the DotT and, not knowing what it is, is put off following the spiritual path for the rest of their life. These people can be found spending their days writing highly cynical and depressive texts for Llewellyn or Weiser or New Falcon about how futile the spiritual path is! The true Initiate, however, recognises the DotT for what it is and takes ownership. By not losing ones nerve and by carefully interrogating it, the DotT successively reveals the Karmic lessons which the individual must learn, and the tasks that the individual must perform in order to free him/herself from his/her Karmic burdens.

This leads to the second important principle that a Metempsychonaut should observe: one should first

Be an Adept of all forms of practical magick.

By finding out from the DotT what one’s Karmic lessons are, one is inevitably tasked with list of things to do. It therefore follows that one should be well versed in practical magick, as one can then use one’s skills to resolve one’s Karmic issues.

Logically therefore, the ideal time for going in search of one’s past-lives is only after you have obtained Adepthood. Indeed, Franz Bardon strongly advises the new initiate not to go seeking for one’s past lives, because as soon as you do so, you will become responsible for them.

Unfortunately, from my own observations I see people everyday attempt past-life regressions with no thought of what they are going to do when their past-lives are revealed to them. This is not a Hermetic approach, this is just an astral junket – or spiritual tourism.

Conclusion

However there are at least two positive outcomes which will arise from the whole business of going up against the DotT. The first is in the realisation that the DotT is not the Shadow, because it represents all of ones Karma both good and bad. Hence, although the DotT might appear off-putting to some, to those who have lead saintly lives so-far or at least not terribly bad ones, the DotT may well prove far less traumatic than one might have first feared.

Secondly, the authorities all predict an optimistic outcome for those that go through with the ordeal of confronting the DotT and rising to the challenges that it sets. Rudolf Steiner, for one, says that as one resolves each Karmic issue that one has, the DotT appears less and less like a horrible monster and more and more like an Angel of Light, so that eventually it becomes not a barrier but a Spirit-Guide. Most importantly however, it leaves the Initiate with an idea that Death is not the End, and that the terrors of the grave are purely illusory.

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Music In Theory & Practice, part 4

Pythagoras

The Harmonic Method

I will just briefly mention this because it is vaguely to do with the theme of associating colours and musical tones mentioned in the preceding blog posts in this series. The main problem with this method is that it was an idea ahead of its time and therefore, as far as I can make out was not taken up in a great way in the past. Ironically however, living in the twenty-first century we are now technologically advanced enough to develop the idea for the future. The basis of the idea lies in Harmonics.

Musicians who play stringed instruments like the guitar or violin will be familiar the concept straightaway – they are the bell-like tones produced by lightly touching a string at the 4th, 5th, 7th, 12th etc frets or the equivalent positions. What you actually have here is a tone which is equal in frequency to that of the open string, multiplied by a whole number. Hence:

Frequency Known as Where on guitar
x The First Harmonic (Fundamental) 0 (Open string)
2x The Second Harmonic 12
3x The Third Harmonic 7
4x The Fourth Harmonic 5
5x The Fifth Harmonic 4
6x The Sixth Harmonic 3 *
7x The Seventh Harmonic 15 *
8x The Eighth Harmonic 17 *

* These harmonics are not as easy to play on a guitar as the other harmonics. But if they were easy, then it wouldn’t be a guitar!

As a sort of aside, it is worth noting that going by Pythagorean Temperament, the various Harmonics would thus be equivalent to: –

Harmonic Note
1st I
2nd I’
3rd V’
4th I”
5th III” **
6th V”
7th b VII” **
8th I”’

** NB: The note-equivalents of the 5th & 7th Harmonics are approximations – probably more suited to a Just Tempered scale, as opposed to a strict Pythagorean one. The strict Pythagorean versions of these notes would be several cents sharper than the corresponding harmonics.

It is here that Madame Blavatsky shoved her oar in: she asserted that the colours of the spectrum correspond to Harmonically to one another, hence:

Harmonic Note Colour
1st I Red
2nd I’ Orange
3rd V’ Yellow
4th I” Green
5th III” Blue
6th V” Indigo
7th b VII” Violet
8th I”’ “The Ghost Ray”

“The Ghost Ray…” Yes indeed, Blavatsky postulated that there was an eighth, mysterious colour of the spectrum, which is where Terry Pratchett got the idea for Octarine from. Hence Chaos magicians have incorporated this into Chaos Magic thinking they are being really ironic, when in fact they are just re-cycling hundred year-old Theosophy!

Anyhoo… now that we have a basis for assigning colours to harmonics, it is possible to analyse the timbre of a musical instrument in astrological terms – e.g. if one particular harmonic is stronger than the rest, one could say that the sound of the instrument is more under the presidency of the corresponding planet or planets than the others. However, in terms of using this for practical magic, this system would have had limited functionality in the late 19th century when it was first proposed. For a particular planetary working one would have to hunt high and low for the particular instruments that sounded just right. Pipe organs would have been more useful in this regard – unfortunately, most organs were not and indeed are not built to accommodate the full range of harmonics as listed above.

Fairlight CMI

So, to fully make use of the system in the 1880s would have been very inconvenient. However: fast forward one hundred years, and the invention of digital synthesisers from the 1980s onwards does now allow one to pick and choose the harmonics with which to imbue your tone. This of course is only if you are prepared to actually synthesise instead of just use the presets. However, such synthesisers can do far more sophisticated things than just “pick a harmonic” – for example, by creating dynamic tones in which the levels of different harmonics alters in real time, thus reflecting that as in music, so in astrology, and so in Life – the influences of the various planets are not constant, but are modulating continually.

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The Magical Basis for the Law of Attraction

The Secret. Cosmic Ordering. Law of Attraction. Creative Visualisation. The Power. Etc ect tec. Books like these and similar are available from the Mind Body Spirit section of every book store across the globe (I wait until they are available through my local library though, if I read them at all). The more I do read of them, however, the more I am convinced that they are all saying the same thing but expressing it in different words. Equally, however, when I read them, I almost never get a satisfactory explanation as to why they should work if at all.

Well: I have decided for the benefit of poor benighted mankind to give away the real Secret behind The Secret, as it were, for free, by revealing how the modern fancy for the so-called “Law of Attraction” was anticipated by the occult-revival of the late 19th century – and in doing so I hope to indicate a practical method which you, my readers, can put to work yourselves.

The key to it all is in Theosophy.

I have been an aficionado of  the Golden Dawn for an extremely long time. The more I look into it the more I am convinced that the Theosophy of H P Blavatsky is a far greater influence  on it than is generally accepted. According to certain researches I have been doing, I believe that both Mathers and Westcott intended the teachings of the higher grades – which have never been published – to be “westernised” versions of the more recondite teachings of Theosophy. Moreover: at the time the Golden Dawn was founded, just about everyone into the occult scene of the late 19th century was into Theosophy anyway, so the founders of the GD fully intended  the teachings of the order to be interpreted in the light of that movement. It is as if the Golden Dawn provided the How; but Theosophy provided the What.

So to cut a long story short, there I was researching the origin of the concept of Artificial Elementals, and I decided to find out what the various Theosophical sources had to say about the subject.

I had read various people describe extremely convoluted methods of creating Artificial Elementals for magical purposes – more shame them! – but the reality of the subject is actually quite simple:

A Thought, which is contemplated with enough effort, takes on a life of its own on the Astral plane.

That is, essentially, the whole secret of Artificial Elementals in one sentence! The thoughts we have day to day, moment to moment, each create some presence on the astral plane: but because we do not devote much effort to considering them, they soon fade away into nothingness. However: a Thought which is considered often, for long periods at a time, which is invested with much emotional significance and so forth persists on the Astral Plane to the extent that it can attract energy which is sympathetic to it to feed it and prolong its existence. These Thought-Entities (“thought-forms”) can even become so animated that they instinctively perform acts which are consonant with their nature, which have an effect on the physical plane.

The classic example of this is that of a mother who loves her children so much, that quite unconsciously her love for her children creates “guardian angels” for them.

So therefore, the wise magician could attract good fortune unto him or herself, by filling  the mind with strong feelings of positivity, concentrating on this hard and repeating it often. This positivity would then form a kind of Artificial Elemental which coalesces into a helper-spirit which naturally aids the magician.

Similarly, one can wish good fortune unto another by e.g. visualising the subject and concentrating on good feelings towards them.

This is an infinitely flexible method of working: it could be used for Health (by visualising the subject being happy and healthy), or Wealth, Success or something more specific, by altering the precise nature of the visualisation that one concentrates upon.

However: there is a corollary to all this. Just as good thoughts create Artificial Elementals of a benevolent nature, so do bad thoughts create ones of a malevolent or unpleasant nature. Hence, it is not just enough to concentrate on positive thoughts and emotions, one must free ones mind from all negative ones as well. Dwelling on bad, unproductive thoughts lock you into a downward spiral. Moreover, if you were attempting to think your way to success, but retained any small idea that you did not deserve it, or doubt that it would occur, this would serve to negate or lessen the good work that you do.

This is also the best reason for avoiding attempting malevolent or evil magick, because it invariably involves attracting bad influences around you, even if you purport to try and then direct them to someone else.

So I hope you now see how this fits in with the “Law of Attraction” – basically, the various forms which it takes are all methods of creating Artificial Elementals which influence others – whether you know it or not – into bringing the thing thought about to you. Theosophy predicted it over a hundred years ago – but still there seem to be new books coming out about it all the time, none of which acknowledge the source.

Incidentally: I have come across a number of people who claim to be “white magicians” who refuse to cast spells for other people, claiming that even something well-intentioned is somehow black magick. This seems to me utter nonsense – and dangerously hypocritical as well. As far as I am concerned, there is no moral difference between shaking someone’s hand and saying “I Wish You Well,” and casting a spell to wish them well: because if you shake someone’s hand and mean it, you are casting a spell! A little spell, maybe, but still with an effect on the astral plane nonetheless. NB: these people of whom I complain did actually shake my hand supposedly heartily, so you may appreciate why I have a suspicion of insincerity about them.

Practical Exercise – for attracting general Good Fortune.

As promised I will end with describing a simple little exercise which you can put into practice immediately. Note carefully, however, what I say about dwelling on negativity. If you do not banish – e.g. with the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram – every negative influence from your life, you will find that the exercise is not likely to work.

The exercise is this:

Every day, spend about 5 to 10 minutes in meditation, meditating in the following manner. Visualise that you are outside your body looking at yourself. As you contemplate yourself, mentally repeat the phrase “I LOVE YOU” like a mantra. As you do so, allow yourself to feel pure, unselfish Love filling you and projecting out towards this visualised image of yourself.

In the short term you will experience an immediate effect of feeling good about yourself. In the long term, by repeating this exercise every day, you will begin to notice that you are attracting good fortune into your life (i.e. because you are forming a benevolent Artificial Elemental on the astral plane).

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The View From Halfway Up Mount Abiegnus

Imagine that you are in a room in a building, looking at an (opaque) ceiling. You are asked: “What does the roof look like?” What do you do? The obvious (at least to me) answer is that you find some way to get up to the roof, or otherwise take steps to see it from outside. What you do not do is reason like this: the room I am in is such-and-such, therefore the roof of the building must look like a logical continuation hereof.

It is a logical fallacy, of course, something like the gambler’s fallacy – thinking that something unknown will be like what you have experienced already, when in fact there is no reason at all why this should be so. The reason I bring this up now is that I look around the Golden Dawn community and this fallacious thinking when people try to speculate what the contents of the higher grades might be, or ought to be.

Consider this: the structure of the grades of the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn tend to follow a certain pattern: opening; being initiated into the paths leading to a sephirah; being initiated into the Sephirah; closing. (This is of course a generalisation, only three grades of the Outer Order are based on this model). If one were to believe that this represented a trend, a Philosophus, assuming he hadn’t read ahead, might be tempted to think that the next grade he was to experience would be structured like the Philosophus ceremony, but with the associations updated to Tiphereth as opposed to Netzach.

In fact, the Portal and the Adeptus Minor ceremony are nothing like that at all. If one did not know what the Adeptus Minor ceremony was, it would be impossible to guess at its nature purely based on what one has experienced up to that point. More to the point – it would also be impossible to guess (without being informed in advance) that the Adeptus Minor grade of the Golden Dawn has anything to do with practical magic. It could – for all that someone in the outer order knows – just be about more knowledge.

However, once one has experienced the new grade, and learnt its contents, one can convince oneself (rightly or wrongly) that it all makes perfect sense – using the benefit of hindsight. Speaking personally I can well appreciate the value of deliberately confounding someone’s expectations with each successive grade, because one can argue that a new level of consciousness deserves a new set of symbols.

For this reason it is useless to speculate what the contents of the higher grades ought to be, based on what one knows now (another logical fallacy: arguing from is to ought). For example, one could say that the higher grades are meant to examine the lower grades of the order, because that is what has been happening so far … or one could argue that they are meant to achieve something entirely different. After all there has already been at least one example of confounding expectations, so it might happen again, or then again it might not, it might instead be more of the same mutatis mutandur. There is no way, philosophically speaking, of telling.

For example, I have heard one example of arguing from the known to the unknown, that the grade of Adeptus Major is all about examining the Portal ceremony; the Adeptus Exemptus the 5=6; Magister Templi the 6=5; and Magus the 7=4.

HOWEVER, I could argue that the ultimate secret of the Golden Dawn is the existence of extraterrestrial life-forms, and hence the higher grades progressively introduce the initiate into contact and working with alien beings. Why not? There has already been one instance of one’s expectations being confounded so there is no logical reason to say it is or it isn’t likely.

Or again: I could argue that the founders of the Golden Dawn intended to introduce completely new material in the higher grades, e.g. stuff based on the more abstruse teachings of Theosophy – stuff which is not covered anywhere in the preceding grades. It might be possible, or it might not: we have no way of knowing. The problem lies in the fact that Mathers, Westcott etc went about founding the Golden Dawn in the wrong way. What they should have done was “invoked the highest first” and started with the Third Order, thus establishing the overall egregore, before finishing with the lower grades.

So my advice is: if anyone offers any speculation on the higher grades of the Golden Dawn whatsoever, be alert to whether they are trying to work out the appearance of the roof from looking at the underside of the ceiling – which is a polite way of saying to assume they are all talking bollocks.

PS: I have physically seen Westcott’s notebooks in which he was working out the higher teachings of Theosophy. 😉

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