Skip to content

Principle 9, Exercise 8

by Tony Willis    

Exercise 8

Begin by mentally clearing the space around you. Next sit, make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Relax and allow your inner eye to embrace darkness. As you sit on, the blackness will change, a little at a time, into a thick, dark mist. The mist rolls and billows and turns from black to gray. As it does so it becomes paler and wispier. And when the mist lifts you realize that you are seated on the raft made of tree trunks held together by thin, sturdy vines. The raft is bobbing gently in the center of the lake. The satchel containing your wand and sword is at your feet.

Before you is the Temple of Themis, its exterior white but weathered and streaked with dirt. The Temple is as you remember it: set in a park fringed by a row of trees. On either side of it lay beautifully manicured lawns; a straight path runs from a small wooden jetty to its door.

Your raft floats near the center of the lake and from where you sit, you can see Themis’s Temple reflected on the lake’s surface as if in a mirror. The upside-down reflection seems cleaner than the actual Temple, while the trees around it give the appearance of bending and flowing like fronds of seaweed swayed by the motion of a restless tide. The path to the reflected Temple, too, seems to twist askew and even, in places, to break in two. In the mirrored surface of the lake, the sky above the Temple reaches almost at your feet. In that otherworldly sky you can make out the silver orb of the moon. This image is bright, and though distorted by ripples running across the surface of the lake, it nevertheless retains its solidity. The presence of the moon in the water is so strong that it is as if she were calling you to join her. Wait until you feel the call of the lunar orb, until you are aware of it as a strong, demanding pull, before you do anything else.

When you sense the cry of the moon for you to come down and visit her, get up and collect your satchel. Go to the edge of the raft, hug the satchel to your chest, and jump feet first into the water. You drop into the lake like a stone, plummeting down. Feel yourself descending, smoothly but rapidly, like being in a fast-moving elevator. All around you the water is pale greenish blue, almost transparent, but at the same time tinging everything you see. And what you see at this moment are bubbles, small, medium-sized, and large, travelling upwards, towards the lake’s surface now high above you.

Your feet touch solid ground and you begin to turn, in an effort to get a look at the underwater world you have been invited into. The picture you saw when seated on the raft has now turned right-way up. It has points in common with the Temple of Themis above but there are many more differences. The path that leads to this building twists and turns dramatically. The building itself is creamy white and there are windows in the walls either side of the door, rectangular but with an arched section above. This building is more of a palace than a temple. Behind it, dark green tendrils of seaweed dance, first this way, then that, as the rhythm of the waters direct. The path to the palace is flanked by sandy earth on which lie scattered tiny starfish and oyster shells, all closed up tight.

A fish swims up to you and halts. It positions itself vertically and you can see that it is as tall as you are. On the fish’s chest, marked in its scales, is a curious design: a square within a circle, the square being balanced on one of its corners. This fish is a messenger from the couple who live in the palace, come to bid you welcome to their domain. Down here, the pair are known by their titles, Despotes and Despoina – the Lord and the Lady. They have names, of course, and you are at liberty to guess what those names are.

The fish, having shown his insignia, swims away. The crooked pathway lays invitingly at your feet. Go along the path but do not leave it. However much the path twists and turns, do not attempt to take a shortcut to the palace door. Follow the path this way and that as shoals of little fish pass you by, silver slithers, darting, reeling, writhing, all about you one minute and the next minute fled away. A handful of carp swim near, their scales as red as blood. They glide down to the path and then rush at you, some going between your legs, others peeling off to one side or the other, one paying great attention to one of your ankles.

When you come to the door of the palace, you see that it stands ajar. A silvery light shines from within and faint, tinkling music is playing inside. Entering the building, you find yourself in a wood-paneled hall painted white with a touch of apple green to it. Slightly to your right is a set of double doors carved with charging horses in the top panels and with a row of seahorses, sedate and vigilant, with aquamarines for eyes, in the bottom panels. As you stand admiring the artwork on the doors, they silently open inwards and you pass through into the space beyond.

It is a long, high, windowless room with its shorter sides to your right and left. At one end is a flight of seven low steps of black marble. At the top of the steps is an ebony throne over which stands a canopy held up by four slim ebony poles. On the throne sits Despoina, the Lady of this place, dressed in a cream robe strewn with seed pearls and covered in a pattern resembling a fishing-net that has been embroidered upon it in black thread that glitters like polished jet. Around her neck, suspended on a silver chain, is a crescent also made of silver, burnished so as to reflect light the way a mirror does. The ornament lies on the Lady’s breast like the moon on its back, mimicking the crescent on top of the Papess’s tiara (see illustration). The Lady, serene and immobile, regards you unblinkingly, with a challenging stare, as if to say, “Approach me, mortal, if you dare.”

2 knapp hall

Go forward, set down your satchel, and kneel before her. Stretch out your arms and bow your head. Send to her this message from your heart (though you may frame it in your own words, if you wish): “I am one who seeks the servants of Truth. My quest is to know myself better and my desire is to be guided on the way by the servants of Truth. For this reason have I come to you, Lady, in your kingdom under the waters, humbly to request your assistance.”

If Despoina remains silent, you must return by the way you came. But if she asks you to raise your head then look up. You will see that her face has softened; she seems more kindly now. She will ask you what your faults are. Tell her of those defects that you contemplated over a period of seven days after your meeting with the goddess Themis, explaining what you have done to try to correct them. The Lady will then ask you to take from your satchel the wand and the sword and to bring them to her. You follow her directions and ascend the seven steps. She places her right hand on the wand and you feel a sensation like a low electrical charge running into it. After some seconds, she transfers her hand to the sword and the same thing happens. Then the Lady holds the palm of her hand in front of her, pointing it at your chest. You feel a subtle energy enter your body. While the energy is flowing, Despoina gives you a title and a name. The title is Dolphin of Light; the name is personal to you; I cannot predict what it will be.

When Despoina lowers her hand, you turn and go back down the steps. Facing you, at the farther end of the long room, you see another set of double doors. Put the sword and wand back in the satchel, and look back to the Lady. You will find that she has key Hecate2gone; her throne is empty. A sound at your rear causes you to spin around. The double doors at the far end of the room have been thrown open. Taking your satchel with you, go to the doors. The floor of the corridor outside is tiled in black. On one of the tiles lies a metal key. The end of the key, the part one would hold to turn the key once it is in a lock, is patterned. There is a circle with a square inside it and the circle itself lies cradled in the arms of a crescent moon.

Enter the corridor and try to pick up the key. You may not succeed at your first attempt. This is the key of Hecate and only those who have proved themselves worthy may lay hold of it. When you reach out to take the key, it may move, gliding across the tiles, skidding away from you. Do not take this as a rejection. Follow the key, trying to take hold of it whenever it comes to a halt. At last the key may permit you to lay hands on it. When it does, put it in your satchel and look around you.

octopus                  tricorn

The corridor has narrowed and the ceiling is lower than it was before. In front of you, squatting on the black tiled floor, is a large octopus wearing a three-cornered hat, a lugubrious expression on its face. With two of its tentacles, it is holding open a wooden door and very obviously expecting you to pass through it. Going forward you see that Eeyorethe view outside is of vast empty space stretching out in all directions, except for a strip of solid ground right outside the door which appears to form a path encircling the palace. Stepping outside, you look right and left but find that there is nothing to indicate which way it would be better to go. Turning back, you find that the octopus has changed into a donkey, still wearing the tricorn hat. It runs at you and butts you over the edge so that you fall further down to a deeper region of this underwater world.

You land on sandy earth beside a dog resembling a German shepherd but as big as an elephant. It regards you for several seconds, then turns and pads away. You follow it, noticing that the ground is sloping gently upwards. The dog leads you in the direction of the wreck of an old vessel, a wooden galleon, very dilapidated, almost a skeleton of ship. The dog sits on its haunches as if waiting for you to do something. As you stare into the bowels of the wreck, a golden glint catches your eye. Leaving your satchel with the dog for safekeeping, you go in among the wreckage and head for the place where you saw gold light flashing. A shoal of tiny sliver fish swim by. The fish dip down, showing an interest in something laying on the floor of the wrecked galleon. They soon lose interest, however, and dash away again. You go over to the object the fish were inspecting, a wooden chest bound with brass bands, a brass lock in the center of one side. If you had your key with you, you could open the lock. Lay your hand out flat and think of the key, as if summoning it to come to your aid. The key appears in your hand and you try it in the brass lock. It fits. Turn the key and the chest will open.

It is full of jewels – rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls and opals. The dog barks, and then there is an ominous growl; it is not the dog that is growling. You make your way back to where you left the dog to discover that he has been joined by an equally enormous wolf. The dog eyes you warily while the wolf snarls and slavers. You hold out your hands to show that you have not brought any of the jewels with you, and only hold the key of Hecate. The dog and the wolf calm down. Behind you, you hear a snap as the lid of the wooden chest falls back into place and three clicks as if someone were re-locking it. You understand, as if the dog were communicating with you telepathically, that the jewels in the chest are the property of the Lord, Despotes, and are not to be removed without his express permission. Also, that you will not receive his permission until you have met with him face to face. But today you have only encountered his Lady, the Mistress of the Palace, Despoina. With a giant forepaw, the dog nudges the satchel in your direction. You pick it up and drop the Key of Hecate into it.

When you have done so, the dog and the wolf each take a great leap and begin to swim upward. You are caught up in the turbulence of their ascent so that you, too, begin to rise. As the dog and wolf ascend, they start to shrink and go on shrinking until they are the size of a normal dog and wolf. They and you break the surface of the lake near where you raft is swaying gently, waiting for you to climb aboard it. Throw your satchel onto the raft and scramble aboard it yourself. Looking around you, you note that the dog and the wolf have vanished.

Seat yourself on the chair and take a moment to relax and mentally ready yourself to leave the Astral world. Within only a few seconds of you making yourself comfortable on the chair, a mist gathers around you. It quickly grows denser and darker and almost straight away you are aware that you are, in fact, sitting in your own home, your eyes closed, your breathing regular. Open your eyes and allow yourself, your body and your mind, to return to the state of everyday consciousness. Now stand up and walk about. Release any excess energy left in your physical and etheric vehicles by directing them into the earth. Even if you are in an apartment twenty stories high, imagine all surplus energy descending to your legs, down your calves, past your ankles, and finally flowing out through the soles of your feet. Imagine it going down, down, down into the earth, where it may act as a blessing to the world and play some small part in the healing of the planet. Last of all, stamp on the floor or clap your hands together as both these actions aid the earthing process. To complete that process, have a warm drink or eat something before making a note of whatever has impressed you most while on your visit to the domain ruled over by Despotes and Despoina.

pentagram as asterisk reduced

If you have not gained possession of Hecate’s Key you will not be in a position to open the wooden chest. Indeed, if the Key constantly eludes you, or vanishes, it would be a better course of action to return to the surface of the lake right away, without leaving the palace by the door guarded by the octopus. Retrace your steps. Proceed back down the corridor to the double doors. Re-enter the deserted audience chamber, leaving it again by passing through the second set of double doors. Go from there to the door by which you gained entry to the palace. Walk down the winding path to its end. There you will be met by the fish with the symbol of the square within a circle on its chest. Again, the fish will rear up displaying the symbol. Once it has done that you will feel yourself rising up as if you were riding in a high speed elevator. When you the break surface of lake, get yourself back on the raft. Sit on the chair and return to everyday consciousness as described above.

If the Lady has not asked you to raise your head and look at her, or if you have not been able to pick up Hecate’s key, you may go underwater on another day and try again to complete Exercise Eight. But mark this: If Despoina has not asked you to look her in the eyes, it means that you have not done enough work on uncovering and repairing your faults. As Murry Hope tells us in Practical Egyptian Magic (Aquarian Press, 1984), p. 66: –

“Magic is a journey of discovery for the brave and stable individual and, as with any dangerous journey, we do not deny that there are dangers to be encountered along the path. Discovering cosmic truths for oneself can open up a world of wonderment and no teacher has the right to deny the pupil this experience. But . . . it is not advisable to step forth onto the path of magical conquest armed only with curiosity and an outsized ego.” In other words, all human beings following this path need their fourfold natures fully verified and readily available to them in emergency because, sure as eggs are eggs, they are going to need that inner balance if they are to make any headway at all along the path of initiation.

I have adapted, a little, Ms Hope’s last sentences regarding this matter. You, Reader, are free to check out the original.

Taking hold of the Key of Hecate is another thing altogether. The “brave and stable individual” of which Ms Hope speaks is represented by the square set within a circle that forms part of the Key’s symbolism. But on the Key that figure lies in the embrace of the Moon, Mistress of Magick. Only those candidates for initiation who have fostered their Wills and their Imaginations to the same extent may grasp and retain possession of Hecate’s wonder-working Key.

The Ninth Principle – Working In Vision

Occultism’s Astral Plane, Folklore’s OtherWorld

by Tony Willis    

In both the Alice books by Lewis Carroll, the child-heroine accesses the Astral Plane. She dreams of Wonderland and later of the Looking-Glass World. In dreams we enter the Astral realm, but as a rule only that part of it known to psychology as the personal unconscious. Even that aspect of the Astral can be a scary place at times, as when a sleeper finds themself caught up in a distressing scenario and we say that they are having a nightmare. On entering Wonderland, Alice discovered that she was in a chaotic world where the rules of everyday life no longer applied. Students of occultism, going into the Astral Plane in full consciousness, endeavor to rise above the level of the personal unconscious, aspiring to reach the collective unconscious. In all its manifestations, however, the Unconscious is replete with symbols. Astral travelers who cannot decipher those symbols find this world to be as chaotic as Alice did, while those who possess the ability to extract meaning from symbols thrive upon the Astral and are able to make themselves at home there.

The Astral Plane is composed of a malleable, endlessly adaptable energy. Its primary mode of communication with human beings is visual, taking place through the mediums of color, shape and symbol. The forces inhabiting the lower astral tend to borrow images they find in the minds of the astral traveler and clothe themselves in these. If someone has a fear of felines – maybe because they are allergic to cat fur – an astral force feeling threatened by that person’s presence might well assume the form of a tiger or a lion so as to keep that individual at bay.

On the upper astral, the shapes taken by the astral forces tend, almost invariably, to be images and symbols already carrying an emotional charge. This charge will have been infused into the symbol by some particular culture or religious tradition. Astral forces may, therefore, appear to a Christian as an angelic being, to a follower of Hinduism as a deva, as a bodhisattva to a Buddhist, or as a sylph or some other elemental spirit to a Neo-Pagan. At times the astral forces assume the form of an object – a twinkling star, a tree, a spear, a wooden chest.

The symbols available to the forces on the upper astral come pre-charged with energy. Having been adopted possibly thousands of years ago by humans working in cooperation with the Higher Powers – which we may call gods, archangels or divine archetypes – this kind of symbol represents an area of agreement between human beings and the Higher Powers. A fair proportion of these symbols are religious in tone. Among these, I have already mentioned the deities of distant and current cultures. They also encompass culturally accepted images. I have in mind the pious fictions prevalent in some societies; for instance, the myths that babies are delivered by storks and Christmas presents arrive via the good offices of Santa Claus. While not literally true, these stories nevertheless resonate within the collective unconscious of a nation, which does not operate on logic but via symbolism. How these contracts between humans and divine energies came about is not a subject it is possible to go into today. I refer the curious to the works of Dion Fortune and Israel Regardie.

The upper astral is full to overflowing with the debris and detritus left there by ancient civilizations. Astral Forces will inhabit the images of ancient deities or legendary figures, as well as their attributes and totem animals whether that be the cow held sacred to Isis, the bear associated with Artemis, or King Arthur’s fabled sword, Excalibur.

This world, encompassing the Lower and the Upper Astral Planes, is constantly in motion, like a great sea ever ebbing and flowing. The images existing on those planes, too, are subject to change. They may shrink or grow larger; they may fade away as you look at them; they may shape-shift in mid-sentence. Examples of all these occurrences can be found in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. When Alice drinks from the bottle marked ‘Drink Me’, she is collapsed like a telescope. The Cheshire Cat disappears ever so slowly while talking to Alice until only its grin is left. The White Queen transforms into a sheep. Any of these things may happen while you are working in vision. It should also be bourn in mind that versions of the Jabberwock – “The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!” – and “the frumious Bandersnatch” also exist on the Astral. How should explorers of the OtherWorld prepare themselves for a trek across the lower astral and into the more rarified atmosphere of the upper astral?

See the source image

The Jabberwock

How to Travel Safely on the Astral Plane

Before going any further, you, Reader, should decide which religion you want to work with, and which deity from the pantheon of Higher Forces operating within the ethos of that religion you are going to rely on to protect you when you venture out onto the Astral. Hermes is the foremost guide through the unseen realms for followers of the Greek magickal tradition. Mercury carries out the same office for devotees of Roman esotericism, and also for those whose occult touchstone is Western astrology. The angel Raphael is the equivalent Being called upon by practitioners of angelic magick, while in terms of Egyptian mythology, Anubis is not only the protector and guide of astral travelers but is also known as the Opener of the Ways; it is by his good offices that travelers in the various sectors of the OtherWorld are directed back to the safety of physical reality when troubles arise. Followers of the Sufi path are able to call upon Khidr, the Remover of Obstacles. For those who would rather work with a female deity, several options are available. From the Egyptian pantheon one might choose Isis. In the Greek or Roman tradition, there is Hecate, as well as Athene, and, naturally, the Queen of the Underworld, known as Proserpina (to the Romans) or Persephone (to the Greeks). The deity you settle on will be the one to call upon should you ever experience difficulties while working “in vision”

Make an effort to form a rapport with your chosen god or goddess before starting Exercise Eight. This is a matter of etiquette, of good manners. Otherwise you risk giving the impression that you are only willing to acknowledge your protective deity when in need of their assistance while, at other times, paying no attention to them. No sentient being likes to be taken for granted, and it is a grave mistake for the budding occultist to offend one of the gods by disrespecting them.

Any Reader seeing further instruction on how best to choose a protective deity should read paragraphs 3 to 5 on page 96 of Practical Greek Magic by Murry Hope (Aquarian Press, 1985).

Should a problem arise while you are meditating or travelling on the astral, the first thing to do is return your body, i.e., re-establish your everyday mode of mentation. That done, proceed to draw in your aura, which will have expanded while you were in the heightened state of awareness attained while working “in vision”. Do this by imagining that you are gathering all your psychic energies within the confines of your physical body and centering them around your heart chakra. Next clear the room of discordant energies by taking up a position where you are surrounded by plenty of space, in the center of a room, for instance. Then stretch out your active arm with your forefinger pointing directly ahead of you and turn around clockwise in a full 360 degrees. As you turn, say: “In the name of [your protective deity], Guardian of all who seek the Light of knowledge, may all confusion and negativity be gone from this place.”

That done, immediately insulate yourself from outside influences by putting your physical body into an imaginary ‘bubble’. Here are the instructions of how to effect that, which I have extracted from Murry Hope’s book on Psychic Self-Defence.

Now we all know what a large plastic bag looks like, the sort we use for our laundry or dry cleaning to keep out dust or dirt. Simply imagine you are stepping into a clear blue or clear white one, pulling it over your whole body and fastening it securely over the top of your head. But your mental plastic bag will be waterproof, germproof and astral-bullet-proof, if you see what I mean; and you will be able to see through it out into the world without being aware of it being there once it is in position. With regard to fastening it on the top, here you can use a safety-first symbol according to your personal persuasion. If you are a Christian you may like to think of a gold or silver cross. A Taoist may prefer the yin-yang symbolism; a Qabalist one of the sephira, the Hermeticist a caduceus; and so on.”

In addition to these measures, there are other rules to be followed. The first consideration is a simple one: Rely on the text of the guided visualization if you are working from a book, or from an article you have found on a blog. Or rely on the spoken directions coming from the audiotape if that is the method of working you have adopted. As long as you are confident that the source of the guided visualization is to be trusted, that the teaching emanates from an author of good repute, or an authority you have come to trust by having worked under their instruction over a period of time, you are unlikely to come to harm. Beyond that, the advice is: Question everything new, wherever and however you encounter it. Question the appearance of any Being or Entity, of any door or passageway, or of any object not described in the text of the guided visualization you are working from.

Most importantly: Do not deviate from the original text. It will have been put together with great care. The relevant symbols, the waymarkers, the signposts, will all be in place. It will introduce you to guides or instructors who can help you in various ways; for the objective of a guided visualization is to have you reach a particular Astral destination while at the same time putting you in a frame of mind that will allow you to learn from the experience of being exposed to one or other of the Higher Powers that live and move and have their being on the Astral. To deviate from the instructions is to ask for trouble.

Pathworking, Creative Visualization, and the Active Imagination

These three terms are not identical (although for our present purposes we may consider them interchangeable from a practical standpoint). A Pathworking is one example of the broader category ‘creative visualization’, but not all creative visualizations are Pathworkings. Properly speaking, a Pathworking is a journey made TreeOfLifeJPGalong one or more of the Paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. This is a diagram lying at the heart of the esoteric system known as Qabalism. The diagram doesn’t look anything like a tree but we won’t dwell on that anomaly right now. Instead let us focus on the Tree of Life’s components. (See illustration.) These are Ten Spheres (represented on the diagram as circles) and Twenty-Two ‘Paths’ – the bands running between the Spheres.

Rather confusingly Qabalistic tradition also classes the Spheres as Paths, and so Qabalists at times speak of “the thirty-Two Paths”. Thus, for instance, the journey from the lowest sphere on the Tree of Life (representing physical reality) to the Sphere directly above it is, in Qabalistic terms, a journey from the Tenth Path to the Ninth Path by means of the Thirty-Second Path. For the sake of simplicity, in this article I will distinguish between Spheres and Paths, confining the latter word to the bands linking the various Spheres of the Tree of Life one to another. If one adheres to this nomenclature there are twenty-two Paths on the Tree of Life.

Each of these twenty-two Paths corresponds to a tarot Trump and they all have three symbols associated with them. These symbols act both as keys to the Path, giving safe entrance to and exit from it, and as waymarkers. Anybody passing along one of the Paths “in vision” who cannot locate any of the designated symbols has lost their way and would be advised to return to their starting point post haste. Once back at the beginning, that person ought to quit the Astral Plane altogether and thoroughly Earth themselves before attempting to travel that Path again. The procedure for doing this has already been described.

The key symbols associated with any given Path are: The tarot Trump by means of which entry to the Path is obtained, the letter from the Hebrew alphabet assigned by tradition to the Path, and the tarot Trump marking arrival at the traveler’s pre-determined destination and through which they are at liberty to pass into the Sphere of the Tree of Life this second Trump grants ingress to. In its most basic form, a Pathworking is nothing more than an astral journey taking the traveler from one Sphere on the Tree of Life to another.

There is also the symbolism of the start and end points of the journey to be considered. As said, these terminuses represent Spheres on the Tree of Life and they are invariably configured as Temples. There is a specific imagery connected to these Temples just as there are specific symbols associated with the twenty-two Paths. In the case of the Temples, there are many more than three symbols involved, all chosen so as to accord with the psycho-spiritual environment of the Sphere to which they have been allocated. This is a recondite subject that, regrettably, there is no time to enter into in this article. For our present needs it is only necessary that the student contemplating deeper investigation of the OtherWorld understands that every area, every domain there is out on the Astral has certain particular symbols associated with it. While ignorant of these symbols, and more importantly while lacking the knowledge of how the symbols are employed, the astral traveler is at a serious disadvantage.

Many books on occultism contain lists of relevant symbols. In Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy we find, for example, under the heading ‘Of the Number Four and the Scale Thereof’, a chart depicting the symbols assigned by custom and convention to the Four Elements. Likewise, under the heading ‘Of the Number Seven and the Scale Thereof’, there is a similar chart, this time enumerating the traditional symbols allotted to the seven visible planets by the magi of Agrippa’s day. Lists of the symbols associated with the ten Spheres and twenty-two Paths of the Tree of Life can be found in Gareth Knight’s Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism. Aleister Crowley’s 777 is given over almost one hundred per cent to lists of a similar kind. David Allen Hulse’s two-part work The Key to it All (reprinted as The Eastern Mysteries and The Western Mysteries) contains scores of lists, the majority composed of symbols acting as keys to the various domains of the Astral Plane. In this day and age, these symbols are no longer secret, but how they are activated and to what purpose does remain a close occult secret. Over the decades some details concerning the way guided visualizations are correctly formulated have been released to the public by the mystery schools of the Western Esoteric Tradition. Yet very few of the methods for handling the symbols that function as keys to various locations on the Astral Plane have become common knowledge.

Why is knowledge of the symbols associated with the twenty-two Paths on the Tree of Life considered so necessary to anyone attempting a Pathworking? To understand this, imagine the diagram of the Tree of Life as a map of a jungle viewed from above. Imagine that the circles on the diagram delineate ten clearings within that jungle. In each clearing there is a stockade inside which can be found shelter, food and drink, and the means of making fire; in short, a stockade represents a place of safety to anyone attempting to traverse the jungle. Easy passage from stockade to stockade is possible by following these ready-made pathways running between them, clearly visible on the map (understanding that map to be the Tree of Life diagram). Leaving a path and striking out into the uncharted territory of the surrounding jungle is a venture fraught with peril. Wild animals live there as do stinging insects, and poisonous plants whose touch is lethal flourish in the lush deep green undergrowth. Travelers who value their lives would do well to keep to the paths. To ensure that they do not lose their way, certain markers or milestones have been set up by those who have gone before to indicate to anyone trekking through the jungle that they have not gone astray.

As I have said, the term ‘Pathworking’ describes a particular type of mental journey undertaken using imaginative qualities and known to occultists as creative visualization. However, the rules and conventions applying to Pathworkings also hold true for all other means of working with creative visualization. In any form of astral travelling, certain precisely crafted symbols are employed by occultists. As I have already explained, these symbols either give access to a designated area of the Astral Plane or they indicate where a person is within the confines of that specific area.

When I say ‘specific area’ I have in mind those locations or levels of the OtherWorld wherein, for instance, the Olympian deities of Greek myth reside, or where Tolkien’s imaginary creation Middle Earth is situated, or the Wonderland that Alice fortuitously tumbled into, as well as the Egyptian underworld so vividly described in the famous ancient text ‘The Book of the Dead’. These and other “imaginary worlds” co-exist upon the Astral Plane. All have their share of sunny uplands as well as dark, forbidding recesses. Out on the Astral one may, unless the necessary precautions are taken, run into the three-headed hound Cerberus who guards the entrance to Greek mythology’s equivalent of Hell, or one may accidently stray into Professor Tolkien’s Mirkwood, overrun with spiders and the haunt of hostile orcs, ill-disposed and armed to the teeth. (The illustration is or Crowley’s Hermit card from the Thoth deck. Cerberus can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.)

thoth hermit 09

To sum up then, the key symbols of which I have spoken were created to prevent those working “in vision” from accidentally stumbling upon such terrors in the course of their wanderings in the OtherWorld. Knowing what the appropriate symbols are, coupled with an understanding of how they operate, ensures safe entry into, and safe exit from, a given destination or level on the Astral. The correct symbols also act as landmarks that Astral wayfarers can use to judge how far they have come on their journey, how much further they have still to go, and perhaps most importantly, whether they are headed in the right direction or have by some mischance lost their way.

Thus prepared, we are ready to contemplate the work Exercise Eight will require of us.

The Ninth Principle, Part Two

by Tony Willis   

Part Two: Under Hill

When attempting to explore the Other World, one type of journey the practitioner of occultism might undertake involves a continued ascent. That is to say, the occultist may imagine themself rising up from the physical world into the Astral world, and then traversing the Astral world with a similar upward motion until the Spiritual world is attained. The British occultist Dion Fortune calls this approach “Rising on the Planes”, though nowhere in her published works, so far as I am aware, does she explain the technique in its entirety. The method has its uses but it is more suited to the temperament and needs of the seasoned occultist. Those with only a meager acquaintance with the Astral Plane are advised to learn as much about it as they can before attempting to travel across its full extent in two or three giant strides, for it is wider and broader and its flora and fauna more diverse than most human minds can imagine.

3 tris stacked

The Three Worlds represented one above the other, this imagery being the basis of the occult technique known as Rising on the Planes.

The more usual approach adopted by occultists, as has been said in part one of this article, is to leave the physical plane by going down, either into the earth or into water, and by so doing access an Other World. From that Other World the astral explorer is free to journey back to the “real” world of physical existence. However, if they have discovered the key that permits ingress to the Spiritual Plane, the astral explorer may succeed in rising up from the Astral Plane, mysteriously bypassing the material world in the process, and find themselves entering the Celestial Realm lying beyond the domain of the seven visible planets.

We are going to make our journey by going under water. But we can learn a great deal about this Other World from a study of the legendary accounts of those who have made the journey by going under earth. At times the expression “Under Hill” is used, because in these accounts access to the Other World is most often gained through a doorway in the side of a hill or mound. The story of Tannhäuser has remained in circulation for eight hundred years. Here is what Wikipedia has to say regarding that legend.

“Based on his Bußlied, Tannhäuser became the subject of a legendary account. It makes Tannhäuser a knight and poet who found the Venusberg, the subterranean home of Venus, and spent a year there worshipping the goddess. After leaving the Venusberg, Tannhäuser is filled with remorse, and travels to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV (reigned 1261–1264) if it is possible to be absolved of his sins. Urban replies that forgiveness is impossible, as much as it would be for his papal staff to blossom. Three days after Tannhäuser’s departure, Urban’s staff bloomed with flowers; messengers are sent to retrieve the knight, but he has already returned to Venusberg, never to be seen again.

“The Venusberg legend has been interpreted in terms of a Christianised version of the well-known folk-tale type of a mortal visiting the Otherworld: A human being seduced by an elf or fairy experiences the delights of the enchanted realm but later the longing for his earthly home is overwhelming. His desire is granted, but he is not happy (often noting that many years have passed in the world during his absence) and in the end returns to fairy-land”

Max_Tannhäuser

‘Tannhäuser’ by Gabriel van Max, c. 1878

It is only in later versions of the story that the queen of the Other World is identified as Venus. At other times and in other parts of Europe, she is known as the Queen of the Fairies. In the Scottish ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, she is Queen of Elfhame, the home of the elves. A modern, fictionalized description of an under-hill Fairyland can be found in Jane Gaskell’s Strange Evil, written when the author was fourteen. The legend of Thomas the Rhymer makes it clear that this Other World beneath the earth is not the Christian Hell. That said, the astral Other World does compare to the underworld kingdoms found in the mythologies of several ancient civilizations that the Church has, in the past, equated with the abode of the souls of the wicked after death, ruled over by the devil. The Babylonian poem The Decent of Inanna tells of the goddess Inanna’s journey to the realm of Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. In order to reach Ereshkigal, seated at the heart of her kingdom, Inanna must pass through seven gates, sacrificing something personal to her at each one. The seven gates allude to the seven visible planets known to primitive peoples, whose powers are active in the Astral World. The myth tells us that at each gate something personal must be given up, and this should remind you of my warning that attempting to traverse the full extent of the Astral, seeking to rise high enough within it to gain entry into the Spiritual World without having first prepared oneself for the challenges and obstacles likely to bar one’s passage is (a) dangerous, and (b) doomed to failure.

The ruler of the Underworld is not always female. Some mythologies present us with a King of the Underworld, notably the Greek Hades. Even where the Other World is presided over by a male figure, however, there are female deities of great potency in evidence. Besides Hades, the Greeks recognized Hecate as a goddess of the Underworld. Her symbols were the torch and the key. The torch is a source of light by which astral travelers can find their way through the dark recesses of the Other World. The key unlocks the gates between the realms, but it also unlocks the seven gates separating the various regions that comprise the Other World itself. Without possession of Hecate’s key, one cannot pass into the Spiritual Realm; one’s only alternatives are either to return to the physical world or to remain in the astral world. Tannhäuser appears to have chosen the latter option.

800px-Codex_Manesse_Tannhäuser

‘Tannhäuser’ from the Codex Manesse, c. 1300. The symbolism is instructive, if you are able to interpret it. The black Maltese Cross on Tannhäuser’s cloak, which is white, tells one story. The shield, divided into a black upper band and a golden lower one, tells another.

Imagery varies widely from culture to culture and from tradition to tradition. But whatever the imagery employed, the essentials remain constant. In the Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds <>, in their quest to find the King of all Avians, the birds are required to fly over seven valleys. The Sufi poet has chosen to depict the demarcation points between the levels of the Astral as valleys, where, in the Babylonian myth, they are described as gates. The key point at issue is that the Other World through which the soul is journeying is divided into seven regions. Another key point is that the seven regions fall under the rule of the seven visible planets. One of the first valleys the birds have to cross is the Valley of Love. From its name we can judge that it is presided over by the planet Venus, which in astrology is associated with the affections and the emotions. The next valley the birds encounter is the Valley of Knowledge, and this can similarly be identified as coming under the authority of the planet Mercury, signifier of the intellect. The final valley is the Valley of Poverty and Annihilation. All signs point to it being the domain of the planet Saturn. The other valleys can be identified with the remaining planets, too. Take special note that one of the earliest valleys the birds come to is that belonging to the Lady Venus, alerting the attentive student to a parallel between the Valley of Love in The Conference of the Birds and the Venusberg of the Tannhäuser legend.

A great many people claim to travel within the astral world joyfully, without ever coming to any harm. I respectfully suggest that the majority of those making this claim have accessed only the safer fringes of the Lower Astral. This is the part of the Other World that my readers have been introduced to in the exercises of in-vision working I have published on the blog to date. I am about to take readers further, and that is the reason I am issuing warnings of how dangerous a more in-depth exploration of the Other World can be. Even what I have a moment ago described as “the safer fringes of the Lower Astral” is not without its perils.

Some readers may know the story of the man with an interest in the esoteric who was undergoing some form of therapy. He took it upon himself to combine a technique he had learnt in therapy with his occult pursuits. Using the psychological method of working with the creative imagination (a method on a par with “working in-vision”), the man imagined that a trapdoor opened in the floor in front of him revealing a flight of stairs leading downwards. This in effect became his rabbit-hole, his doorway into the magick mountain of Venusberg.

The man went down the stairs with the intention of meeting the figure on the first tarot Trump, the Magician, and forming a bond with this being. He managed to do this most successfully and he went on to interview figures from all the other tarot Trumps in turn, up to and including the Angel of Temperance. On these fourteen journeys into the Other World all went well. Then he descended the staircase intending to interact with the figure on the Devil card. On reaching the foot of the staircase, he found the Devil standing in front of him on a raised platform and moved closer intending to commence his interview in the same manner that he had done with the figures from the previous Trump cards.

At that instant, the Devil left the raised platform on which he had been standing, something that had never happened before with any of the other figures. The Devil positioned himself at the foot of the staircase, cutting off the man’s only means of exiting the Other World. The man stood petrified, not knowing what to do or say and with no understanding of how to return to material reality. It was only after some terrifying moments that the man found that he could focus his attention on some part of his physical body, a finger or a toe. This acted as a trigger and his conscious awareness was redirected from the Other World to the world of the five senses. That is to say, once consciousness returned to one part of his physical body, he very quickly became conscious of his physical body in its entirety. His focus of attention became centered on his normal state of consciousness, and whenever he went journeying in the Other World after that he was careful to take all the proper precautions.

I will write in another post of how one may best protect oneself when operating on the Astral Plane.

The Ninth Principle

by Tony Willis    

Part One: Under-Water

The Hermit embodies the principles of Wisdom and Circumspection (otherwise known as Prudence). Eight principles precede that mediated by the Hermit and application of these, rightly executed, will make one wise. More than that, understanding that history repeats itself enables one to calculate future events, albeit in a rough and ready manner. Thus St Thomas Aquinas wrote that the ability “to obtain knowledge of the future from knowledge of the present or past . . . pertains to prudence.” St Thomas is referring to the fact that, in broad terms, history repeats itself, and for that reason one of the symbols assigned by occultists to The Hermit card is the circle. You can see it in the illustration below, on the top left-hand side above the main image, next to the number 9.

Arcane-Arcana-09-hermite-hermit

To the right of the number 9, you can see another of the geometric images associated with the Hermit: three triangles, one above the other. These represent three ‘worlds’ or planes of existence. These are the domains of Body, Soul, and Spirit. In the various occult schools that exist within the Western Esoteric Tradition of metaphysics, these planes are given a multiplicity of names. They may be called the physical plane, the mental plane, and the divine plane. Or they may be known as the material plane, the astral plane, and the spiritual plane. The British occultist Murry Hope, in her book The Way of Cartouche, names them the Transpersonal, the Psychological, and the Mundane levels. She also connects them with Paul Foster Case’s division of consciousness into the Superconscious, Subconscious and Self-Conscious (i.e., normal, everyday thinking). The myriad ways of classifying the three planes of existence may seem confusing initially, but the student of occultism learns first to reduce things to their simplest terms and to then apply to that reduction to the nomenclature they are most familiar with. In other words, whenever you come across a tripartite division outlined in a text written by an occultist, you can be ninety-nine per cent certain that it is the three ‘worlds’ as described above that are being referred to.

In the example of The Hermit card above, the three ‘worlds’ are represented by three triangles. This is a diagrammatic way of indicating that each ‘world’ has three aspects or modalities. This is not the time to go into a greater explanation of the three aspects in all three worlds; for the present I will say only that the three modalities are regularly spoken of using the language of electromagnetism, the terms Positive, Negative, and Neutral being applied to them.

This is, however, the time to say something about the term ‘the Subconscious’, or ‘Subconscious Mind’. Psychologists don’t use this term, though some occult schools do. Psychologists prefer the term ‘the Unconscious’. ‘Subconscious’ implies ‘below’ or ‘beneath’ as in ‘subservient’, yet the diagram on The Hermit card implies ascent, an upward progression from the Material Plane to the Mental/Psychological Plane and further upward to the Spiritual Plane. Why, then, do some mystery schools continue to call the intermediate level ‘the Subconscious Plane’?

The answer is that, in terms of imagery, entry into that plane is typically depicted as a descent. One of the best well-known literary descents into the Subconscious is that of the child-heroine Alice, who went into a rabbit hole and found herself falling, down and down, for so long that she wondered whether she might not re-emerge on the other side of the world. Literature, particularly the area devoted to mythology and the retelling of myth, is full of instances of descent. In stories from the Arthurian cycle, a tale is told of Lancelot du Lac. It is said that he received his singular name, Lancelot of the Lake, because in his childhood he had been taken by the Lady of the Lake to her magickal underwater realm and was fostered there by her for three years. During that time Lancelot grows up and matures much faster than he would naturally have done. In other words, he gains wisdom during his stay in the fairy kingdom under the enchanted lake. In Jungian terms: he comes to a better understanding of himself through the exploration of his own subconscious/unconscious mental content.

Access to the Other World is not always obtained by going under-water. As we have already seen, another route is to pass deeper into the earth, at times like Alice following a tunnel, at other times descending a staircase, or – a favorite means in European fairytales – going down a well. There are psychological formulas for making this journey and there are magickal ones. Among the latter, an outstanding example is The Underworld Initiation: A Journey Towards Psychic Transformation by R.J. Stewart. Though my female readers may find more to interest them in Betty de Shong Meador’s Uncursing the Dark: Treasures from the Underworld.

Whether entry is obtained by submerging oneself in a body of water or by some other means, one thing remains true of this Other World that constitutes the Astral (or Psychological) Plane: It is a realm of reversal. Just as the surface of a lake reflects the scene around it – the same, if a little misted, and upside down – so does the Astral Plane reflect the physical world. Let it not be forgotten that the second way by which Alice passed into the Other World was by going Through the Looking-Glass.

When three years had passed, Lancelot came back from the Lady of the Lake’s enchanted realm to become once again part of the material world. In the physical world he completed his knightly training and after that joined the Company of the Round Table. Alice, likewise, returned from the Other World of Wonderland to the sphere of material reality; she awoke from the astral world of dreams to the workaday world of everyday life. But, as is suggested by the geometric figure associated with The Hermit card, it is also possible to move from the Astral Plane to the Divine Plane, to raise consciousness from the Psychological Level to the Transpersonal Level. Paradoxically, in order to accomplish this feat one must symbolically immerse oneself in the otherness of the Underworld if one is to have any hope of rising up into the spiritual world.

Look again at the representation of the tarot card The Hermit above. You will see, under the main image, three lines of text. The lowest, corresponding to the physical world, reads “Caution” (or one might translate it as “Prudence”). The middle line reads “Initiation”, highlighting the action of the ninth principle when functioning on the Astral Level. The top line, referencing the Spiritual or Transpersonal Level, reads “the protective spirits”. Occult teaching instructs its students that travel in the Astral World is a risky business, likely to prove dangerous to anyone who has not passed the requisite initiation and thereby gained the cooperation of the guardian Spirits that watch over the ever-unfolding processes and procedures in operation on the Astral Plane. (The word I have translated as “spirits” appears on the card as “génies”, a French form of the Latin term genius, plural genii. Scholars variously interpret the word as “creative spirits” or “angel”.)

However, the initiation associated with The Hermit and the ninth occult principle is not an initiation bestowed by a Lodge or from within a magick circle. It is perhaps best described as a condition of mind, a state of realization. We can think of it as a spiritual coming of age. Just as, on the physical plane, a human being passes through the distinct stages of childhood, adolescence and maturity, so, on the mental plane, a corresponding series of equivalent distinct stages are passed through; the only difference is that progress though the stages on the physical plane can be measured in Earth-years, puberty occurring on average in the early teens; whereas psychological puberty can manifest at any time, while for some people psychological maturity does not occur at all.

09-Major-Hermit       T9 cagliostro

The psychological puberty of which I speak is not the same as the condition some psychologists call Individuation; that comes at a later time. Nor does psychological puberty correspond to complete mental and emotional maturity any more than the attainment of physical puberty corresponds to maturity of the physical body, since the adolescent body is still developing when physical puberty occurs.

Although in this series of posts I am going through the occult principles sequentially, it is to be noted that it rarely happens that an individual treading the Occult Path encounters the principles in that way. The order in which they are met with is unique to every student pursuing the esoteric goal of Completion of the Great Work. There are, however, a few commonalities. One concerns the interior initiations corresponding to a student’s psychic development, as occult terminology describes the condition, ‘psychic’ relating in this instance to the Psyche, from a Greek word for soul. Thinking back to the earlier description of the three planes of existence posited by occult philosophy equating with Body, Soul, and Spirit, clearly this ‘psychic development’ takes place in the middle ‘World’ or ‘Realm’. In so far as it is a mental realm, this middle World is a department of the mind. Drs Freud and Jung and their associates call it the world of psychological activity. The terms ‘psychic’ and ‘psychological’ are commensurate, both being derived from the ‘Psyche’ of the ancient Greeks.

There are two inner initiations that the student gains for him- or herself. For classification’s sake we can label them the Lesser and the Greater Initiations. The Greater Initiation cannot be essayed – indeed, it will not be offered – until the student has passed the Lesser Initiation. That Lesser Initiation is signified in the tarot by The Hermit card.

Besides its association with Prudence, another meaning assigned to The Hermit is Wisdom, though that word is not printed on the sample card on view toward the start of this article. Nineteenth century European occultists, working within a Christian framework, did not feel the need to place Wisdom at the forefront of their expositions of this card’s potencies. To them its presence was self-evident, seeing as they were familiar with the quote from Proverbs 8:12, “I wisdom dwell with prudence.” In tarot terms, The High Priestess represents knowledge; The Hermit represents wisdom. What is the difference between the two? Many of my readers will be familiar with the jokey response to that question: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” The teachings of the Mystery Schools approach the question from a slightly different angle. They say: To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. And they follow that up with: Knowledge without wisdom is dangerous.

We can equate knowledge with book learning; that is why the High Priestess is represented with a book or scroll on her lap. Wisdom is something else again.

waite priestess       2T italian old

Sir Lancelot found wisdom by going underwater. He was then returned to solid ground, to earth, or the Physical Plane. As already explained, it is possible to pass from Earth into Water, from the physical plane to the astral plane, and from the astral plane to proceed to the spiritual plane. At times the spiritual plane is called the celestial world, a term conjuring visions of the starry heavens. It is from the viewpoint of that terminology that we find the Roman philosopher Seneca saying: “There is no easy way from the Earth to the stars.” Seneca is right. To make this journey one must first descend into the realm of the psyche and learn the lessons it has to teach. Then, and only then, one can ascend into the celestial world wherein rule the stable forces of the fixed stars, so very different from the forces of the wandering stars, the planets, that hold sway in the astral world. Few make that journey in its entirety. But unless one makes a start one can never hope to finish. And so our next step will be to go under-water with the aim of forming a bond of some kind with the Lady of the Lake, in whatever guise she may appear to us.

Going under-water is not the only the way of contacting the sovereign ruler of Astral Realm. And though that will be our way of forming the contact, it is as well that you know something of the other means also. To that end I shall have more to say on this matter in part two of this article.

Exercise Seven Revisited

by Tony Willis    

I have received several inquiries concerning the previous meditation wherein the meditator agrees to undertake a regime of self-examination for the purpose of cleansing or refining their character. People have wanted to know whether they could go on this ‘in vision’ journey even if they have not been following the program of which it is a part. Unfortunately, the answer is ‘no’ – at least, not in the form in which it was presented in the previous blog post. However, since there appears to be an interest in attempting this feat of self-examination outside the original program of self-development, I have adapted the meditation so that it can be safely undertaken by anyone who has a modicum of experience with the active imagination (as the Jungians call it) or with guided visualization (as occultists call it).

Alternative Meditation

Draw the curtains of the room in which you intend to carry out the meditation. Light a candle and place it towards the East. (East is more or less where the sun rises.) Seat yourself on a straight-backed chair and take up the meditation pose. That is to say, sit with your spine upright, head facing forward, heels and knees together and your hands laid along your thighs. Close your eyes and enjoy a moment of calm. When ready, imagine that the misty darkness your physical eyes are apprehending starts to swirl, to drift and churn. The mist thins, becomes wispy and slowly evaporates. You are standing on a pathway of well-trodden earth beside a river. You are in the country, with trees and bushes to one side of you, the gently flowing river on the other. Beyond the river are, again, trees and bushes. Ahead of you is a wooden bridge, spanning the dark waters. You hasten to the bridge and cross it, hearing it creak and clatter under your feet as you do so.

At the other end of the bridge, a pathway leads you into a beautiful park, a gently rolling landscape, green and lush. This part of the park is surrounded by linden (basswood) or beech trees, standing on an elevation, so that the area around you lies in a slight hollow. A large lake, having the shape of an irregular ellipse is to your right. Beside it, some distance from you, is a one story building of whitish-brown stone. You set off towards it. As you drawn nearer, you can see that there are pillars outside, at the front of the building. You notice also that the stone of which it is built is not whitish-brown at all but white, muckied by grime. There are no windows to the building that you can see but there is an entrance, at the front, the door to which is thrown back leaving an inviting black rectangle in the otherwise blank wall of stone. A small bird flies into the portico and darts to a place above the doorway. Looking up, you see that over the entrance words have been inscribed: Know Thyself.

From within the building comes a pleasant scent; the aroma of sweet mint, the spearmint plant maybe, accompanied now and then by a hint of violet. As you stand savoring this delightful aroma, the interior of the building lights up. Within can be seen a clean, clear space with a paved floor, and a statue on a pedestal some distance ahead of you. On entering, you find yourself in a rectangular space, the longer sides of the rectangle stretching away from you. Light from above falls on the statue at the far end of the hall. You can see that the statue is a female figure in a long robe. Go forward and stand before the statue, looking up at it. It is carved from pure white marble and seems to glow from within. The woman stands, her chin up, her curly hair pulled back, caught above the nape of the neck, and from there falling free down onto her back. She wears a simple sleeveless robe over a singlet that reaches to her wrists and buttons up to the throat. In her left hand she holds a pair of scales and in her right a sword, point up. Her face is calm and beautiful, bearing a determined and businesslike expression. Her feet are not visible. The plinth on which she stands has carved upon it one word: Truth.

veritas2

As you contemplate the word, the woman on the plinth swings the tip of her sword downwards in a long, smooth arc, and brings the sword’s sharp point to rest a few centimeters from your heart. As the sword tip comes to rest aimed at your breast, the scales in the goddess’s other hand tip to one side as if an invisible something occupied one pan of the balance, weighing it down. The woman speaks: “Welcome, child of Earth. You come seeking self-knowledge, and that is a laudable aim. All humans are flawed, none are without bad habits of thought that hold them back. As your next step on the road to wisdom, I desire you to make a promise to yourself that you will look deep within, identify your most obvious faults, and do all you can to diminish or control them. But first, wash your hands, then place them upon my altar and make your promise.”

You notice for the first time a pillar three feet tall over to your right on which stands a bowl of water. Go to it and immerse your hands in the cool liquid. When you remove them, a light green towel sweeps down from above and you dry your hands on it. The towel whisks away. The lady on the plinth points with her sword to your left and you see there a similar pillar to the one bearing the bowl of water, but this second pillar has nothing on it; its top is merely a flat square. It is the altar of Aletheia, goddess of truth. Approach the altar and place both your hands upon it palm down. Make your promise and stand back, turning to face the statue of the goddess. Her sword now is held high, its tip pointing to the heavens.

See the source image

Bow deeply to the goddess and give thanks that you have been offered this opportunity to cleanse your character; for truly, character is destiny. After that, back out of the temple making sure you do not turn away from the Lady until you are back in the portico, standing in full daylight. The door, black with a brass doorknob at its center, closes, the lock clicking as it shuts. Return to the path that runs beside the lake and retrace your steps to the wooden bridge that crosses the smooth-flowing dark waters of the river marking the boundary between the domain of the goddess of Truth and the natural world. Go back across the bridge and walk away from it heading for spot that marks your starting point for this ‘in vision’ experience. As you go forward, you see a figure ahead of you, coming in your direction. You cannot see them clearly because they appear to be covered in a fine, white mist. You strain to see them better, to discern their features, but you yourself are now surrounded by the mist which darkens and settles, enveloping you completely.

In a matter of seconds, you become aware that you are seated on a chair in a room in your own home. Opening your physical eyes, you see that this is indeed true. Stand up and stamp on the floor as this action will commence the earthing process. To complete that process, have a warm drink or eat something before making a note of all that you experienced on your journey to the temple of Aletheia, goddess of Truth.

divider 999

Having made the promise, however, you must keep it. That is simple enough to do. Just take five to ten minutes a day for, let us say, five consecutive days and in those minutes seek to identify your most glaring shortcomings. Name at least three faults before you end this part of the exercise. Having named them, you must next work out how to deal with them. Is there some means by which you can control them? Can the fault be obliterated or can it only be tamed and made into a shadow of its former self? If your fault is excessive anger, ask yourself what sparks that anger, causing it to flare. Identifying a fault is easy, subduing it, mastering it, that is the hard part; and that is something you will have to struggle with on your own behalf, for no one can win the battle for you.

Note that, in her positive manifestation, Aletheia is represented holding the mirror of self-reflection and pointing to the scroll on which are recorded a person’s past deeds. (See the picture above.) If you make the promise requested of you, with your hands on Aletheia’s altar, and do not keep it, you invoke the vengeful form of the Goddess of Truth. As you can see from the second illustration above, she then approaches holding the scales of Justice, which you have unbalanced by breaking your oath. In the other hand, she carries the contract metaphorically signed by you when you made your promise, the terms of which you have failed to fulfil. The snakes protruding from under her skirts represent the poison that enters the soul of the oath-breaker, rendering them unfit to proceed to the next initiation life has to offer them and will remain there until the oath is kept and the scales of Justice returned once more to a state of balance.

08 II

Exercise Seven: The Temple of Themis

by Tony Willis    

My previous article ended by considering the alterations to character and temperament that need to be made before any would-be magus can take their first meaningful (that is to say, transformative) initiation. It is a little-recognized fact that the occult student must do considerable work upon themselves before the initiatory seed can be planted in their soul. The ground must be prepared (to continue the agricultural metaphor) before the seed is planted in it. If a seed is planted in soil lacking the proper nutrients, that seed will not flourish; it will either not take root or it will appear above ground early in the season as a green shoot and rapidly spend its vital powers, withering and dying within a matter of days. Likewise, the student who has not prepared the ground cannot successfully receive the seed of initiation.

This preparation may seem at times like hard work; but as any farmer or horticulturalist will tell you, gardening is hard work. As the student struggles with their interior reformation, they would well to remember the dictum that “what is done for one, is done for all.” For every successful experiment the occult student carries out within their own psyche feeds into the psyche of the race, the student’s personal unconscious affecting the collective unconscious, to use Dr Jung’s terminology. This is an important magickal point and finds its corollary in the words of Butler Shaffer:

"You and I can bring civilization back into order neither by seizing political power, nor by attacking it, but by moving away from it, by diverting our focus from marbled temples and legislative halls to the conduct of our daily lives. . . .

“This is the only way in which any meaningful social change can ever take place; it will either arise within each individual, or it will not occur at all. Those who insist upon change coming from above, as something to be imposed upon mankind by institutional authorities, have given up on people. They have lost their confidence in the life processes that exhibit themselves only within individuals.

“It is now time to give people a chance to bring order to the world by bringing themselves to order."

Butler Shaffer, The Wizards of Ozymandias

As we bring ourselves to order, we bolster the possibility that others will bring themselves to order too, along with the possibility that one day the majority of human beings will bring themselves to order.

The following meditation (or ‘in vision’ exploration of your psyche) will take you to the temple of Themis, the Greek goddess of Justice. Her name comes from a root meaning ‘to put or place’, suggesting she is the personification of the Force that sets things in order. Whenever we attempt be bring order to our psyches, it is wise to preface our efforts by forming some sort of contact with Themis as the personification of inner balance and Justice in the wider world.

See the source image

Begin by mentally clearing the space around you. Next sit, close your eyes, and allow your inner eye to embrace darkness for a moment or two. The blank blackness gradually resolves into a thick, dark mist, and then the mist turns gray, becoming ever paler and wispier. When the mist clears you are seated on your raft made of tree trunks tied together with thin sturdy vines. The raft is bobbing gently in the middle of a lake and you are looking out over vast parkland. All around you are great swathes of short grass fringed with coppices of linden (basswood) or beech trees.

The water of the lake is in motion causing your raft to circle around and this motion enables you to view the park from almost every angle. As you revolve, you notice that in one direction, not far from the edge of the lake, there stands a small stone building surmounted by a dome. The building looks old, its stones grimy with the dust and detritus of many years. At its front, facing you, is a portico with tall, tapered pillars flanking an entrance the size of a normal door. The pillars too are of stone made grubby be the ravages of time; they are wider at the base than at the top. The pillars capitals are ionic scrolls. (If you don’t know what these are, look them up before setting out on this astral journey.) While you have been gazing at the building, the waters of the lake have driven your raft to the waters’ edge. As the raft sways there, stalled, you stand and step from the raft onto grass.

See the source image

With six or seven paces, you approach the building. Coming close, you can see that the entrance-way is open, the interior all in shadow. From within comes a pleasant scent; the aroma of sweet mint, the spearmint plant maybe, accompanied now and then by a hint of violet. The interior lights up giving you a view of a clean, clear space with a paved floor, a statue on a pedestal dead ahead of you. Entering, you observe that, while the room you find yourself in is rectangular, the longest sides of the rectangle stretching out in front of you, the central space is marked out by a circle of pillars that passes behind the statue. Light from above falls on the statue, which clearly depicts a female figure. You go forward and stand before the statue, looking up. It is carved from pure white marble and seems to glow from within. The woman stands, her chin up, her curly hair pulled back, caught above the nape of her neck, and from there falling free down onto her back. She wears a simple sleeveless robe over a singlet that reaches to her wrists and buttons up to the throat. In her left hand she holds a pair of scales and in her right a sword, point up. Her face is calm and beautiful, bearing a determined and businesslike expression. Her feet are not visible. The plinth on which she stands has carved upon it this sentence: ‘There is no Religion higher than Truth’.

Without warning, Themis swings the tip of her sword swiftly downwards marking out a long, smooth arc in space, and brings the sword’s sharp point to rest a few centimeters from your heart. As the sword tip comes to rest aimed at your breast, the scales in the goddess’s other hand tip to one side as if an invisible something occupied one pan of the balance, weighing it down. The goddess speaks: “Welcome, servant of the One. You have made progress in your quest for knowledge and that is commendable. Yet no knowledge can match self-knowledge. Therefore, in your present unpurified state, you can proceed no further with your quest. I charge you to examine your heart and to do your best to eliminate error from your nature. All humans are flawed, so do not deceive yourself that you are without bad habits of thought that hold you back. Promise that you will look deep within yourself, identify your most obvious faults, and do all you can to diminish or control them. But first, wash your hands, then place them on my altar and make your promise.”

See the source image

You notice for the first time a pillar three feet tall over to your right on which stands a bowl of water. Go to it and immerse your hands in the water. When you remove them, a light green towel sweeps down from above and you dry your hands on it. The towel whisks away. Themis points with her sword to your left and you see there a similar pillar to the one bearing the bowl of water, but this second pillar has nothing on it; its top is merely a flat square. It is the altar of Themis. Approach it and place both your hands upon it palm down. Make your promise and stand back, turning to face the statue of the goddess. Her sword now is held high, its tip pointing heavenward.

Bow deeply to the Lady Themis. Back out of the temple making sure you do not turn away from the goddess until you are in the portico, standing in full daylight. The door, black with a brass doorknob at its center, closes. Now turn toward the lake. Your raft is bobbing on the water awaiting your return. Retrace your steps to the lake’s edge and board the raft. Seat yourself, ankles together, hands flat on your thighs.

The water draws your raft toward the center of the lake, rotating it slowly as it does so. You are afforded a panoramic view of the park, getting to see it from every angle. Eventually you find yourself directly in front of the temple of Themis again but this time with an expanse of water ahead of you, then grass, then the little, domed temple itself. You become aware of the reflection of the temple in the waters of the lake, upside down and shimmering slightly as the surface of the lake is disturbed by a gentle breeze. You can see the green of the grass, the white shape of the temple, a darker green of the trees behind the temple, and the blue of the sky reflected in the water, hazy and distorted, and yet it is as if this inverted scene possessed a reality all its own. Before you can consider further, the breeze that ruffled the surface of the lake gains strength and drives a fine white-grey mist across the park. The mist grows thicker and darker as it envelops you until you are in utter darkness. After a moment you realize that the chair on which you are sitting is no longer swaying with the motion of the waters of the lake. You are not any more on the chair fixed to the raft. You are seated on your own chair in a room in your own home. Opening your physical eyes, you see that this is indeed true. Stand up and stamp on the floor as this action will commence the earthing process. To complete that process, have a warm drink or eat something before making a note of all that you experienced on your journey to the temple of the goddess of Justice.

See the source image

If you have made the promise requested of you at the altar of Themis (and you don’t have to make this promise, but if you have made it you must keep it), make time over the next seven days to contemplate your failings. Are you at times short tempered? Do you envy the lives that others have? Are you sometimes selfish or self-centered? As Themis reminded you in the meditation, all humans are flawed. Identify at least three flaws in your own temperament. Next, determine to work on those flaws so as either to diminish them or to bring them under better control. If you do not carry out this part of the Work, or if you have not made the promise at the altar to the goddess of inner balance, then you should not continue with the exercises I am giving out. Should you ignore my advice and carry on with the exercises without having properly prepared the ground, beware that you do not draw down upon yourself the wrath of Themis, goddess of justice, for the higher forces know all, see all, and reward us all according to our deserts.

See the source image

The Eighth Principle

by Tony Willis     

Taking the Tarot de Marseille as our guide through the occult principles, we start our exploration of the properties of the second septenary of the Major Arcana with an examination of the Trump Justice. The eighth principle is, correspondingly, that of balance and of the processes necessary for the maintenance of balance. On the physical level the card Justice represents the state of balance brought about between forces which were originally – by their very natures – opposing or conflicting. On account of this, some authors state that the Trump represents both Attraction and Repulsion, the two impulses operating simultaneously, a condition that, if managed rightly, would result in perfect poise, or as the occult philosophers of the French School of tarot put it, somewhat poetically, Universal Equilibrium. This attribution is also a reference to Electro-magnetic attraction and repulsion, which is the key to understanding the working of this principle.

This dual action of the number Eight is symbolized by the two ‘circles’ of which the figure 8 is composed, mirroring, in their vertical arrangement, the two pans of the balance held by the figure of Justice on the Trump, where they are presented lying next to one another horizontally clip_image002. It is not hard to see why, at the Psychic Level, the level of Mind, the phrases ascribed to the Justice card are ‘Fair Distribution’ and ‘Reparation’. At the Material Level the card denotes human justice, which, unlike Divine Justice, from time to time delivers verdicts that are biased or inequitable.

Arcane-Arcana-08-justice    08 II

Divine Justice has as its goal Universal Balance. The Trump Justice therefore has much to do with Karma, this being another term for the Law of Cause and Effect. Where Universal Balance is disturbed, the Law of Cause and Effect is brought into play. Karma will strive to bring about the restoration of balance even if several decades have to pass before it can attain its objective. The novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas presents a fictional account of the Law of Cause and Effect in operation, with the title character acting as its agent. Because the instrument of Justice is in this case human, as the novel nears its conclusion the scales of the balance begin to lose their poise and it starts to look as though justice will give way to vengeance. The novel is a lesson in the outworking of Karma, with a footnote on the fallibility of human justice.

Although Karma may take decades to attain its goal and may even on occasion take centuries to reach a state of perfect balance, pursuing the person responsible for creating imbalance from one incarnation to another, this does not mean that, when Karma does act, the process is a prolonged one. The outworking of Karma is not like the aging process, where a miniscule amount of aging goes on day after day, the effects hardly noticeable in the short term. Karma bides its time, and when it does go into action its effects tend to be rapid and life-changing. We can think of the Justice card as standing for that moment in a person’s life when judgement is pronounced upon them. This moment may occur in a court of law, in the minds of their associates, or in the heart of a single person only; and the judgment may be in their favor or go against them.

As many tarot readers are aware, in divination, the card can indicate a law suit, and the legal process can be taken as a model for the way in which Karma works. For most people, going to law is a last resort; if reparation or restitution of what has been taken from them is withheld in everyday life, an individual may feel they have no alternative than to put the matter before a judge and jury. However, the verdict in a court of law is not a forgone conclusion. The person being sued may have broken a moral law but unless they have transgressed civil law the court will not find them guilty; it cannot. A court case is rather like a duel: in a duel the best swordsman or the better shot will win; whether that person is in the right or in the wrong plays no part in the final outcome. There is an irony, therefore, to finding the card Justice in a tarot reading occupying a position indicating the eventual outcome of any condition inquired about; for then it signifies that right will triumph, and the inquirer will only be the victor if they are morally in the right. Almost everyone who becomes involved in a civil suit believes that they are have the law on their side, but as has already been pointed out, there is a world of difference between being morally in the right and being legally in the right.

Arcane-Arcana-08-justice     mmTarot 08

The antagonism of opposite modes of existence may at times only be resolved through the intensity of confrontation. For instance, the combination of Fire and Water in the right proportions can have extremely fortunate results. In Nature, the two Elements fight against each other, one being hot and dry, the other cold and wet, but if a Magus can bring them into balance, the cycle of endless opposition is broken and fruitful growth is offered the chance to commence anew.

Occultly, to a magician of the grade of adept, the secrets of Trump 8 give instruction in the art of neutralizing opposing conditions. Excessive heat is combated by the introduction of cold into the environment; that is the principle of air-conditioning. Intense cold is counteracted by the introduction of heat into the environment; that is the principle of central heating. Opposition is not solved by setting up the forces in exactly equal proportions, for when they are of equal potency the pair merely battle on and on, each looking to achieve supremacy. One force must be slightly stronger than the other, yet not so strong as to utterly overwhelm it. The Feng Shui Masters reign supreme in this area. They are very well aware that in Nature the perfect balance between forces is never 50/50. Feng Shui generally recommends applying a 66/34 proportion to opposing modes of existence. This formula works very well when dealing with major factors such as those that Chinese philosophy names Yin and Yang. More complex situations require a more sensitive handling.

The magician who intuits that there is an unwanted excess of Mars energy in their life must be careful not to invoke upon the situation such a quantity of Venus energy that both forces are nullified; for that would snuff out creativity, leaving behind an arid condition once the magickal operation had been completed. Nor should the magician draw down so much Venus energy that the whole of the Mars force, with its virtues as well as its vices, is obliterated, as that would render the practitioner unfit to face the challenges life constantly presents human beings with.

As already said, on the rarified heights upon which the powers known to Taoism as Yin and Yang (and to Qabalists as Binah and Chokmah) operate, only two factors need to be taken into account when the magician is harmonizing forces. At the lower level of the celestial plane, seven major forces are in play, and the balancing out of these seven forces is a more complex and delicate business.

Should a magician recognize that their innate capacity for compassion for their fellow human beings had become dulled, they might seek to redress the imbalance by creating and consecrating a Talisman of Venus. The planets, and the energies equated with them, operate from the celestial plane. Therefore, in order to consecrate a planetary talisman, the magician choses a time when the planet in question is transmitting its powers to Earth in their purest and most beneficent form. The old texts of astro-magick instruct that, in the case of a Venus talisman, the planet Venus should occupy either Pisces, Taurus or Libra, signs with which it has a strong affinity. Venus should also be in aspect to the Sun, Moon and Mars, all of whom should likewise be well-placed by sign and house. And so the magician seeking to increase their capacity for love and understanding searches for a date and time when the decreed conditions prevail in the heavens and on that day and at that time they consecrate their handmade talisman of Venus.

In this instance, which as already noted concerns the forces of the celestial plane, four factors are involved. Firstly, Venus, and naturally so since it is a Venus talisman that the magician wishes to consecrate. But along with Venus the instructions mention Mars. As psychic centers of harmony and strife, Venus and Mars are polar opposites. Furthermore, the astrological symbols denoting Venus and Mars are used in branches of biology such as botany to represent femaleness and maleness in relation to reproduction, and this distinction represents another kind of opposition. These oppositions of polarity must be equilibrated in the heavens before the forces for which they stand are called down upon the Earth plane and injected into the Venus talisman. The two other planets mentioned in the formula are the Sun and the Moon and they signify dynamic, out-giving force and receptive, in-gathering force respectively. Both these forces must be in productive balance at the time of consecration if the Venus/Mars interaction is to be transmitted to Earth in an undistorted from. Finding the right time at which to perform this consecration is no straightforward exercise. All four factors need to be harmoniously disposed with Venus having, so to speak, the upper hand to a slight degree.

In the career of any serious student of the occult, the card Justice represents a turning point when dedication to the Great Work is asked of them. It comes once the student has committed certain data to heart and has mastered a handful of magickal actions, such as how to perform the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. In making the dedication, the student essentially agrees to work off some measure of the karmic burden they are carrying. Occult training is at root the willing out-working of karma, for only the cleansed and purified psyche is capable of working High Magick. Lao Tzu put the matter very well when he said, “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.

Our next step will be to make that dedication. It is not the Great Dedication wherein the Magus adopts magick as their life’s work, pledging that everything they do, say, or think shall from that day forward be done for the greater glory of the Divine Parent. It is a lesser dedication in which the student consents to take a long hard look at themselves and correct such defects as are immediately apparent; a polishing, as it were, of an as yet unfinished statue, smoothing the rough edges, giving greater definition to the facial details or to the fingers or the toes. At the end of the process, the occult student’s psyche will have attained greater balance. For we should never forget that, while we are in incarnation, the root substance out of which our physical existence is formed is our own psyche. The making of the dedication to examine oneself and modify any character flaws thereby brought to light is a necessary forward step, because the more balanced the magician’s base is, the more effective their magick is.