Letters on Rilke, Part Four

Sep 27

cont’d from previous post

The Tree of Life is divided into ten stations of consciousness, called Sephiroth (Sephira is the singular version), which roughly translates from Hebrew as ‘enumerations.’ The Sephiroth are interconnected by paths. Each path contains its own numinous spiritual experience, the dynamic of which is to escalate the spirit of the aspirant from one Sephira to the other. To work all the Sephiroth and run the gamut of experiences from the lowest to the highest is the true work of a mystic in the Western Tradition. Enlightenment in the West is called Illumination, and this is how it is attained. We start in the Sephira called Malkuth (analogous to Earth) and end in Kether (a word that means crown). From there, eventually, one experiences the Ein. This means ‘there is not’, as in, there is nothing we can say that can describe it-Ein is beyond any and all possible attempts to limit what it is by framing it in any but the most abstract of human language and idea. Here is the Unio Mystica, the oneness with God.

When I was a kid, it was vogue to be into Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, any kind of exotic spirituality from the East that seemed to offer some sort of inner work. Many might deride the intentions of those who were seeking (it was, let’s face it, ‘cool’ to do), or the sources from which they gained information. I assert that, often, the desire to have a valid spiritual experience was there. But the question remains, why did my peers seek out foreign systems in which to explore their inner selves? Ironically, it would seem, it was because it was more accessible. Scholars popularized the East, the Beats brought it to the youth culture. By the time my generation got on the scene, it was de rigeur if you were into any sort of alternative spirituality, the East was the place to look. The mystical apparatus of the West, still rich and vibrant, had been dispensed with by our austere Puritan forebears and ignored by the Enlightenment.

So-the question to ask would be why did I select a book on Occidental Arcanum? The answer is that is was purely by chance. Or, if we say that there are no accidents, it was meant to happen. At any rate, I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started. A teacher I had once said that when you start spiritual work of this sort you are telling the universe you are ready to play the game. The only thing is, once you start you have to keep playing-and you have to play to win. What’s more, it’s the only game in town-and anyone who isn’t in the game isn’t alive, not in the truest sense.

The Western mystic builds the Tree of Life about him to attain Illumination. And, as a sixteen year old boy, sitting in the basement bedroom I had in my mother’s house, this was what I was doing. I visualised and built the Tree in my aura, from lowest to highest. From Malkuth to Kether. I saw their respective colors, intoned their God-Names, Archangelic names, angelic names and then settled down in my chair to see what I could see. Now, did I really expect to have a ‘mystical experience’ whatever that is? Did I really think that, somehow, just chanting in my bedroom with incense and candles was actually going to do anything? Or was this just some weird shit I could brag about to friends and ladies to demonstrate just how off the wall I was? I’m not sure-I think that the curiousity was real and the idea that there could be occult (as in hidden) knowledge hidden in a tradition I was already familiar with was rather appealing. The masses only understood a little bit, as much as they could be bothered with. I wanted to have a deeper experience. I wanted to go as far as I could.

I breathed rhytmically for a few moments, and then, I’m embarrassed enough to admit, I passed out. Waking conscioussness went somewhere else and with it, all my sense of being. I might as have been where ever it was that I found myself-as far as I was concerned, I was.

A mist enshrouded land, harsh with granite-somehow, ancient with stones. I stood on the world-it was as old as all life. I met a Watcher on the Threshold. It challenged me and I had to fight to earn my way past, to deserve the rights of vision. And then, above, I saw, garlanded in stars, clad in nebulae, a vast entity, female in aspect. She created worlds-she created them by giving birth to them. All life is born out of what comes before it in unending succession both before and after. It all came from her. She abides.

I’m not sure how much time went by. Sometime later, I woke up on the floor of my bed-room. I took the experience with an adolescent thoughtlessness. I don’t mean that in a callow way-I just accepted it for what it was. It happened. I was there. I went to the Threshold and came back, having gone as far as I could in that moment, I resolved to go again and again and see where the milestone was, what my inner compass could attain to, what new maps I could discover and how far was far enough each time. Since then, I’ve been in the Grail Castle, stood in mud up to my knees in Hades, journeyed to Agartha in the East-but still, the woman in stellar raiment is the star that guides me.

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Letters on Rilke, Part Three

Sep 08

cont’d from previous post..

I jerked slightly at the voice. The book, from a section filled with arcanum, was clearly for adults. Although it wasn’t illegal for me to leaf through its pages-I felt like I’d been caught. The store owner-an attractive, older woman-smiled at me. Somehow, it was okay, I was being given permission to go ahead and investigate something that would have been forbidden in the corners of my former life. But that was then, now, there was no one to look askance at what I read. There was no one to hold my mind in check, to restrain my questions, to tell me I had to to just believe what I was told.

“I think you’ll like that one.” she said. I blinked, nodded. I brought enough cash to buy a number of books-this one, a large and heavy tome, would cost as much as several paperbacks. It was worth it. I shelled out crinkled bills from my jean pockets and then hastily departed. Still young, I didn’t want anyone to see me with a book of secrets. I kept it in its brown paper bag, careful not to pull it out utnil I was home and safe in my basement bedroom. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized most wouldn’t recognize such a thing if you beat them over the head with it.

The book concerned Western Inner Tradition and covered a range of topics: Kabbalah, alchemy, sacred geometry, angelology, demonology-all coherently systematized in a manner that was approachable to the reader. Within a  week I’d collected the elements of ritual-nothing too impressive, just a candle, some incense and a makeshift altar. Having flipped through the pages (I’d already dispensed with the idea of a linear progression as taking too long-an ambition for another day), I’d decided on something that was suitably exciting, but not too dangerous either. The promised results were evocative to say the least.

In that sort of work timing is everything. The season, the phase of the moon, the day of the week, the hour of the day all have significance. This is true for all traditions, really, but in today’s hurried and material world, the subtler nuances of ourselves are hardly noticed, much less observed. I chose my own day randomly-in fact, I don’t think I really out too much thought to the matter. I got home from school. Within a few hours, dusk collapsed into full blown autumnal night. I lit the candles, I lit the incense. Essentially, these are mood-lighting. I sat and tried to breathe rhythmically but soon decided it was too much effort.

Then, still seated, I attempted to build the Tree of Life in the subtler body that is a gradation of the soul. To be continued.

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