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.


  1. Engel Kobres /

    I *love* the way that you integrate Eastern and Western view points here!

  2. Thanks Engel, I appreciate that.

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