May 102015
 

1126The soul who cries is more living, and therefore fresher and younger than when it does not cry.

The ‘gift of tears’ was always considered by the masters of Christian spirituality as a grace from the Holy Spirit, for it is thanks to this gift that the soul surpasses itself and ascends to a degree of intensity of life which is certainly above that to which it is accustomed.

Now, the ‘gift of tears’ is a comparatively recent spiritual phenomenon in the history of human spirituality. In the ancient world one wept only ritually, ie through verbal lamentations and through prescribed gestures of mourning or grief, and it was amongst the chosen people, Israel, that real weeping began.

It was as a manifestation of the share that the chosen people had in the mission of preparing for the coming of Christ – who wept at the time of Lazarus’ resuscitation and who sweated sweat and blood during the night in the Garden of Olives – that real weeping came to have its rudimentary origin from the womb of this people. And to this present day the Jews preserve, cultivate and respect the ‘gift of tears’. In fact, every revelation in the narrative of the Zohar is preceded or accompanied by the weeping of the one who had it and who comes to share it with the others.

Meditations on the Tarot, Letter II, The High Priestess

Jan 032014
 

chariot-romanDear Unknown Friend

Like the preceding Arcana, The Arcanum ‘The Chariot’ has a twofold aspect. It represents, from one side, he who – having triumped over the three temptations – remains faithful to the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity; and it represents, from another side, the danger of the fourth temptation, which is the most subtle and intimate temptation, and is the invisible synthesis of the three temptations: the spiritual temptation of the victorious through his victory itself. It is the temptation to act ‘in one’s own name’, to act as master instead of as servant….

When you resist a temptation or renounce something desired below, you set in motion by this very fact forces of realisation of that which corresponds above to that which you came to renounce below. It is this that the Master designates by the word ‘reward’ when he says, for example, that it is necessary to guard against practising righteousness before other people in order to gain their regard, ‘for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven’. (Matthew, vi, 1). Reward is therefore the action that one sets in motion above by the renunciation of desire for things below. It is the ‘yes’ from above corresponding to the ‘no’ from below. And this correspondence constitutes a basis for magical realisation and for the fundamental law of Christian Hermeticism. Let us guard ourselves from taking it lightly, for here is given to us one of the principle keys of sacred magic. It is not desire which bears magical realisation, but rather the renunciation of desire (that you have formerly experienced, of course). For renunciation through indifference has no moral – and therefore no magical – value.
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The charioteer of the Arcanum is the victor over trials, ie, the temptations, and if he is a master, then it is thanks to himself He is alone, standing in his chariot; no one is present to applaud him or to pay homage to him; he has no weapons….The victory achieved in solitude….what glory and what danger it comprises at one and the same time! It is the only real glory, for it in no way depends on human favour and judgement;it is intrinsic glory – the real radiance of the aura becoming luminous. It is, however, at the same time the most real and the most serious spiritual danger which exists. ‘Pride’ and ‘vaingloriousness’, the traditional names which one gives to it, do not suffice to characterise it in an adequate way. It is more than this. It is, rather, a kind of mystical megalomania, where one deifies the regulating centre of one’s own being, one’s ego, and where one sees the divine only within oneself and becomes blind to the divine above and outside oneself. The ‘higher Self’ is then experienced as the supreme and it is far from the supreme and unique being….far from being God, in other words.

It would be as well, now, to dwell on the problem of identification of the self with the higher Self and of the higher Self with God.

C.G. Jung who, having explored the sexual or ‘Freudian’ layer, and then that of the will-to-power or the ‘Adlerian’ layer, of the unconscious (ie, latent or occult consciousness) of the human being, encountered a spiritual (mystical, gnostic and magical) layer during the course of his clinical and psychotherapeutic experience. Instead of drawing back from it or extricating himself from it through a corrosive ‘explanation’, he had the courage and honest to set himself to the laborious study of the phenomenology of this layer of the unconscious. Now, this work proved fruitful. Jung discovered here not only the causes of certain psychic disorders, but also the profound and intimate process that he designated as the ‘process of individuation’, which is nothing other than the gradual birth of another self (Jung called it the ‘Self’) higher to oneself or one’s ordinary ego. The discover of the process of the ‘second birth’ prompted him to extend the range of his exploratory work considerably notably to include symbolism, mystery rituals and the comparative study of contemporary and ancient religions.

Now, this broadening of his field of exploration also proved fruitful. Jung’s arrival at his discovery (which at first racked him, preventing him from speaking of it to a living soul for fifteen years) had its train of consequences, including the knowledge and description of some dangers or temptations belonging to the way of initiation and the process of individuation which corresponds to it, One of these dangers – which are at the same time trials or temptations – is that which Jung designated by the term ‘inflation’, which signifies the state of consciousness of the self inflated to excess, and which is known in psychiatry in its extreme manifestation by the term ‘megalomania’.

Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VII, The Chariot

Aug 172013
 

lazarusThe revival of hermeticism in Christianity that, as we said, was foreign to the spirit of the religion of Israel – the latter being based wholly on family and community – was not in any way the result of an ‘Indian influence’ on Christianity. Neither St Anthony of Thebes nor St Paul the Hermit had been influenced at all by India. The same is true for St Jerome and all the other hermits (the Irish Anglo-Saxon hermits included)of whom history has related anything definite.

Christian hermeticism arose out of a profound need of the soul – namely, the need to personally experience the truth of the tradition. And the fact that this need is at the same time the living core of Hindu Buddhist spiritual life, only makes it more plausible that the eternally valid kernel of Hinduism and Buddhism reappeared in transfigured form – that is to say, was resurrected.

Its transfiguration consists in this: the ideal of redemption of the self from the world became the ideal of the redemption of the world: the striving for eternal rest in nirvana became a striving after unity with the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and the  yearning for deathlessness in the world became the hope for resurrection in this world.

The Christianity of the hermits, as the essential core of Indian spiritual life resurrected within Christianity, was no passing phenomenon limited to a few centuries only. Today it still lives with all the intensity of its youth. Though it may not be deserts and thick forests into which one can retire into an undisturbed solitude nowadays, there are still people who have found or created in the deserts of the great cities and among the thickets of the crowds a solitude and stillness of life for the spirit.

And as before, their striving is devoted toward becoming a witness for the truth of Christianity. The way into the depths has not led them to an individualistic brand of belief, but has given them unshakable security in the truth of the Christian revelation as transmitted and taught by the Church.

They know the truth of the following: Extra Ecciesiam non est salus (‘there is no salvation outside the Church’); the Holy Father is not and cannot be the mouthpiece of an ecumenical council; the Holy See alone can make decisions in questions of faith and of morals – a majority of bishops cannot do so, and even less can a majority of priests or congregations do so; the Church is hierarchic theocratic – not democratic, aristocratic, or monarchic – and will be so in future times; the Church is the Civitas Dei (‘the City of God’) and not a superstructure of the will of people belonging to the Church; as little as the shepherd follow the will of the herd does the Holy Father of the Church merely carry out the collective will of his flock; the Shepherd of the Church is St. Peter, representing  Christ – his pronouncements ex cathedra are infallible, and the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven belongs to him, and him alone.

In other words, those who become solitary in order to seek profundity may reach on their path of spiritual experience to the unshakable insight that the dogmas of the Church are absolutely true. And so it can happen that, as they did at the time of the Arian darkening of the Church, the ‘hermits’ of today may again come to the assistance of the Holy See, leaving their solitude to appear in witness to the truth of Peter’s Throne and its infallible teaching.

In those times it happened that St Anthony of Thebes left the desert and hurried to Alexandria to support St Athanasius with the weight of his moral authority – St Athanasius who became the standard-bearer for the divinity of Christ. The darkening that today is described as ‘the present crisis of the Catholic Church’ can lead to the necessity for the solitary sons of the Church to hurry to the aid of the Holy Father, the most solitary of solitaries, in order to save the Church from the abyss toward which she is moving.

Valentin Tomberg, Lazarus Come Forth!

 

Oct 202012
 

In meditation we turn the searchlight of consciousness off ourselves and that means off a self-centred analysis of our own unworthiness.

‘If memories of past actions keep coming between you and God’, says the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, ‘you are resolutely to step over them because of your deep love for God’.

In prayer we come to a deeper awareness of God in Christ. Our way is the way of silence. The way to silence is the way of the mantra.

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The venerable tradition of the mantra in Christian prayer is above all attributable to its utter simplicity. It answers all the requirements of the masters’ advice on how to pray because it leads us to a harmonious, attentive stillness of mind, body and spirit. It requires no special talent or gift apart from serious intent and the courage to persevere.

‘No one’, Cassian said, ‘is kept away from purity of heart by not being able to read, nor is rustic simplicity any obstacle to it for it lies close at hand for all if only they will by constant repetition of this phrase keep the mind and heart attentive to God’.

Our mantra is the ancient Aramaic prayer, ‘Maranatha, Maranatha’. ‘Come Lord. Come Lord Jesus’.

John Mann, Word into Silence

 

Aug 032011
 

His thoughts and actions continually surprise her, so that, increasingly, she “does not understand” his meaning, as for instance when, in the Temple, he leaves her without warning; when he fails to receive her when she visits him; when he refuses to manifest his power in the public ministry, squandering his life and ultimately slipping from her on the cross, substituting the stranger, John, for himself.

With all the strength she can muster she listens to this Word as it grows more and more vast, divine and seemingly alien; its dimensions almost tear her asunder, yet it is for this, for everything, that she gave her consent right at the start. She lets herself be led where she “does not wish to go” – so far is the Word she follows from being her own wisdom. But she consents to this leading; it is a measure of the fact that the Word, which she loves has been “implanted” in her heart (Jas 1.21).

The Christian who tries to be a hearer of the Word can only experience  these hard, ineluctable and ever-increasing demands in his life if he unreservedly  exposes himself to the Word. On the one hand, certainly, he must genuinely listen to the voice within, to God’s voice in his conscience, to the exhortation of the “interior teacher” (as Augustine  calls Christ’s indwelling in us as Word), in an attitude of docility vis-a-vis  the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

Such an inner listening would correspond in some way to Mary’s inwardly directed contemplation. But it would not be of the same order as her beholding of the Son, bodily present with her, living, acting, challenging her. Without this second element our communion with the Word – hard of hearing and fond of comfort as we are – would be in danger of being stifled.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer

 

Feb 272011
 

The racial soul of Hibernia has very ancient roots that include a slumbering magical knowledge and contacts with primeval forces beyond those that effect the mainland of Britain and the continent of Europe…[a] unique blend of cultural currents from immense antiquity, allied to the Graeco-Celtic stream, is what produced the great power of the Druids in Ireland…The contribution of the earlier Atlantean cultures was of an extremely well focused power of the imagination, which, in short, amounted to a magical power.

This immensely strong, deliberately magically built, group soul of the remote past, mingled with the concrete mind contacts of ancient Greece, and the allied aesthetic ability, has produced an Irish group soul that is stronger than most others in the world apart perhaps from the Jewish – which also derives from immense antiquity in another way. The Celtic druidism of Ireland reached its peak long before that of the rest of Britain and Gaul, and it was originally from Ireland that the British and Gallic druids drew their teaching and wisdom.

The great problems which later beset Ireland over the centuries derive from a combination of these early great strengths. Because of the diversity of the contending currents within a group soul, there has ever been a tendency to internal dissension, exacerbated by the other races and religious authorities that have tried to interfere. This flared to a crisis at the time of the restimulation of the group soul of the British Isles that brought about the reformulation of the Arthurian legends in the twelfth century.

The conflict of contending forces has also operated, and still operates, upon the religious level. Through the missionary genius of St Patrick, the Irish Christian church formed a nucleus of Celtic Christianity that inspired and informed the West independently of Rome through the Dark Ages, just as in former times the Irish Druids had been a centre of religious and cultural influence.

Although a Christianized form of Druidism lingered on, and indeed, like the Hermetic tradition, formed a link between pagan and Christian spirituality, this role of leadership was not without its cost. Had the new wine been introduced more slowly, as occurred in the rest of Europe, much conflict and suffering might have been avoided. Many of the highly magically trained Irish druids migrated to Wales, France and Brittany whence we have a rich vein of ancient tradition, much of it manifesting as the Arthurian legends.

The time may not be long before the racial soul of Ireland enters a new phase, manages to synthesize its deep conflicting roots and to work more freely with other nations of the west. The whole trend of Ireland in the past has been to esoteric teaching and knowledge, and a renewal of this, as pioneered by Yeats and Lady Gregory, may have more importance than political and commercial initiatives. It is a little premature to summarily dismiss this resurgence as a literary fad of ‘the Celtic twilight’.

Gareth Knight, The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend

Jan 092011
 

With respect to the magnificent quarternary of  traditional magic: “to dare, to will, to be silent and to know,” it is formulated – mutandis mutatis – by the Master in the following way:

Ask and it will be given you; Seek, and you will find; Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, And he who seeks finds, And to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew vii, 7-8)

It is a matter of daring to ask, of the will to seek, of being silent in order to knock and of knowing when it is opened to you. For knowledge does not happen automatically; it is what is revealed when the door is opened. This is the formula of the synthesis of effort and grace, of the principle of work and that of receptivity, and, lastly, of merit and gift.

This synthesis enunciates the absolute law of all spiritual progress and, consequently, all spiritual discipline. It is the law which every Christian disciple, of every Christian spiritual school, obeys. And Christian Hermeticism, ie, the whole of traditional mysticism, gnosis, magic and occult philosophy, passed through baptism and transfiguration by the fire, light and life of Christianity, is in no way an exception here.

It should not be forgotten that Christian Hermeticism is not a religion apart, nor  a church apart, nor even a science apart….it is the connecting link between mysticism, gnosis and magic, expressed through symbolism – symbolism being the means of expression of the dimensions of depth and height (and therefore of enstasy and ecstasy), of all that is universal (which corresponds to the dimension of breadth), and all that is traditional (corresponding to the dimension of length).

Being Christian, Hermeticism accepts the cross of the universality, the tradition, the depth and the height of Christianity, in the sense of the apostle Paul when he said:

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. (Ephesians iii, 18-19).

This is the complete formula of initiation.

Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VI The Lover

Jan 072011
 

The pendulum has swung back again—or at any rate is about to start its swing. In speaking of ‘the unity of the world and all things in it’, we must, however, avoid the error of oriental monism which denies the dual existence of Creator and created. According to this view the universe and all the inner worlds therein have been self-created, or at best emanated from a central source.

This means that God is in everything, in the holiest of holies and in the dust on the sandals of the worshipper at the temple gate. As a child of an acquaintance put it with devastating childlike logic. ‘When I stamp on the ground am I stamping on God?’ To this the monist would rush to reply ‘Yes’, but the theist would say ‘No’. The monist would go on to say that as God is also in the child’s foot, sock and shoe, God was stamping on God. The theist would go on to say that although God is not in everything He is omniscient as far as the creation is concerned and is therefore aware of the child stamping and in empathy with both the child and the ground.

All this is not academic, theological or philosophical hair splitting, for the consequences of believing one thing or the other are profound. If we are going to build a philosophical or theological edifice we need to be very certain of the rock upon which it is founded. To believe that all things unfurl of their own accord from nothing is to assume that man is capable of expanding his consciousness until he comes eventually as God, comprehending all — and that animals  expand their consciousness to become humans, plants likewise to become animals, even minerals to become plants.

This is a theory that is, in fact, held by many students of the occult, based on the monist philosophical assumptions of the East It has its superficial attraction as a logical sounding kind of arrangement. It takes in the ideas of human progress and general life evolution that were newly formulated and current in the nineteenth century, and it is hardly surprising that these ideas in occult form were first promulgated in the West in the late nineteenth century by the efforts of the newly formed Theosophical Society.

What Madame Blavatsky, its founder, did really was to take nineteenth-century materialist evolutionary theory as formulated by Darwin and stand it on its head as a spiritual evolutionary theory, in much the same way that
Marx had inverted the spiritual dialectic of Hegel to form the dialectical materialism of Marxism. Both Marxism and Theosophy have a great spurious appeal as seeming  to answer many questions by this agile topsy-turveydom. Unfortunately both are wrong — though this does not alter the fact that Marxism as a political philosophy came to dominate a third of the world and Theosophical monism  dominates  much  of modern occult thought.

It is not our task to try to judge why certain particular nineteenth-century philosophical ideas should retain such a hold into modern times, though in the case of oriental monism and occultism its influence spread because a whole generation of occult students sat at the feet of Madame Blavatsky and imbibed her principles  even if they later rejected some of the superstructure of her philosophy. They later taught others and so the basic assumptions spread — with various modifications to and arguments about the superstructure, but with the entire theological foundations  taken for granted and accepted unchallenged.

The whole Western occult tradition, which had followed an underground course for centuries, burst out into the open, only to be thoroughly mixed, swamped and diluted with Eastern ideas deriving from Hinduism and Buddhism. The true occult heritage of the West stems, however, along with the religion of the West, from Christian and Judaic tradition  — or rather from revealed as opposed to natural religion.

Gareth Knight, Experience of the Inner Worlds, The Sphere of Light

Oct 162010
 

There is in man – notably in his soul, and not in his body – a seed of evil of his own, without which temptation coming from outside would not exert any action on him. Because temptation would be impotent if it did not find a terrain already prepared in the human soul.

The unfortunate misunderstanding locating innate human evil in the body instead of in the soul is due to a tendency towards a materialistic interpretation of our Biblical story of paradise and the Fall. It is the body which, rightly. has more reason to be ashamed of the soul inhabiting it, than the latter of the body.

For the body is a miracle of wisdom, harmony and stability, which does not merit scorn but rather the admiration of the soul. For example, can the soul boast of moral principles as stable as the body’s skeleton? Is it as indefatigable and as faithful in its sentiments as, for example, the heart, which beats day and night? Does it possess a wisdom comparable to that of the body, which knows how to harmonise such opposing things as water and fire, air and solid matter?

Whilst the soul is torn by opposing desires and feelings, this ‘contemptible’ body knows how to unite opposing elements and make them collaborate: the air that it breathes, the solid matter of food, the water that it drinks, and the fire (warmth) that it produces unceasingly within it….and if this does not suffice to change scorn into respect, admiration and gratitude, the one can recall, if on is a Christian, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, inhabited this flesh and that he honoured it to the point of uniting himself with it in the Incarnation.

Similarly, if one is a Buddhist or Brahmanist, one should not forget that Buddha and Krishna, also, inhabited this flesh and that it served them well in the accomplishing of their respective missions. Negative ascetisism, directed against the body and not for celestial things, is the practical consequence of the materialistic interpretation of paradise and the Fall. However, the fact alone that a Cherubim “was placed at the east of the garden of Eden, with a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life”  (Genesis iii, 24), suffices to drive away any shadow of a doubt: here it is a matter of a plane higher than the terrestrial plane, and it was therefore souls who committed the original sin – and the body had nothing to do with it.

Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XVI, The Tower of Destruction