The Wild Mind – Part XIII

Occultism continued

Scientology 1.0.0 – part 20

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” — Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven

Continuing the “genealogy” of Scientology 1.0.0.

The 18th century West was rife with occultism, secret societies, religious and political radicalism, and an explosion of scientific discoveries. This wild change in pace will not slow down in the 19th century but will instead accelerate exponentially.

All this change was rapidly separating man from his primeval roots, roots that had been firmly established and more or less unchanged for tens of thousands of years before the advent of agriculture. Then, with the rise of civilisation, the world would not change much for another six thousand years, until about five to six hundred years ago. The past two hundred years, though, have seen the tree of civilisation in danger of floating away, unanchored, and doomed to die, possibly for lack of the firm and nurturing ground so necessary to its survival. But the real dangers of this are not to be fully appreciated until the arrival of the apocalyptic and murderous 20th century.

Man has always courted danger; it is in his nature to do so because, without risk, there’s no moving forward. To ask him not to explore the infinite and dark recesses of both the universe and his mind would be like expecting a tiger never to hunt or a horse never to run. The unknown mind is indeed daunting, but it’s the occultists who, like no others, have been the ones to dive headfirst into its shadowy depths. It is certainly true that many people in the fields of the arts, philosophy, and religion have undertaken this type of exploration too, especially the artists, but that made them more occultists than otherwise, because being at the very edge of sanity is the whole point of it, as I hope to explain.

The ultimate leap of faith is to stand at the limit of reality with one foot dangling over the line between what you know and what you don’t know. Then, with the hope of not being swallowed alive, you put your weight on that foot and pray you don’t fall.

The following are a few who did not fall (not right away, anyway).

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873) was, probably, the 19th century’s most influential occultist, and this is saying something given who and what would follow in that century. He authored The Coming Race, an account of a master race and a powerful energy called “Vril.” He also wrote Zanoni in order to “make himself acquainted with the true origins and tenets of the singular sect known by the name of Rosicrucians.” If you’re interested in Rosicrucianism beyond the original tracts, then read this book.

Éliphas Lévi Zahed (1810–1875) was a French occultist. He’s important because he wrote Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic), his first published work on ritual magic, which appeared in two volumes, as well as Histoire de la Magie (The History of Magic). Unlike many earlier works on magic, Éliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, wrote accessibly about what regular people really want to know about, such as the dark and mysterious worlds that may offer the keys to the “more” many of us feel is “just over there” and yearn for so deeply. He would influence Helena Blavatsky with the concept of a magical “doctrine that is everywhere the same and everywhere carefully concealed.”

Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), who, along with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907)  and William Quan Judge (1851–1896), founded Theosophy in New York City in 1875.

Theosophy comes from the Greek theosophia, which combines theos, “God,” and sophia, “wisdom.” Thus “wisdom of God.” Theosophy teaches that there is an ancient and secretive brotherhood of spiritual adepts known as the Masters, who are centred in Tibet. These Masters have cultivated great wisdom and powers, and it was they who initiated the modern Theosophical movement through Madame Blavatsky.

Theosophy describes the existence of a single, divine Absolute and the universe as its outward reflection. The phrase “as above, so it is below” was popularised, in part, by Madame Blavatsky in her seminal work, Isis Unveiled. She wrote:

“There is no prominent character in all the annals of sacred or profane history whose prototype we cannot find in the half-fictitious and half-real traditions of bygone religions and mythologies. As the star, glimmering at an immeasurable distance above our heads, in the boundless immensity of the sky, reflects itself in the smooth waters of a lake, so does the imagery of men of the antediluvian ages reflect itself in the periods we can embrace in an historical retrospect. ‘As above, so it is below. That which has been will return again. As in heaven, so on earth’.”

Theosophical doctrine teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and that the human soul undergoes reincarnation upon bodily death. It promotes universal brotherhood and social improvement (helloo… Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry).

The monad

Very, very importantly, Theosophy plays a significant role in bringing further knowledge of South Asian religions to Western countries. This connecting of East and West religious as well as esoteric teachings is a key factor, especially in the case of Scientology 1.0.0.

Also important is Theosophy’s popularisation of universalism, which is a specific understanding of perennialism.

Perennialism can be traced back to the Renaissance revival of neo-Platonism2 and its interest in hermeticism, with its ideas of “the one thing” (monism) from which all existence emanates. This is very Eastern stuff. As the 19th century wore on and as the European powers, having very closely observed the U.S. war of 1861–65, were gleefully preparing for an even more impressive bloodbath (World War Part I), people like Madame Blavatsky began promoting a universal view of world wisdom to help reconcile all arbitrary divisions and schisms that necessarily contribute fatally to the excuses certain men seem to need to kill one another.

William Robert Woodman (1828–1891), William Wynn Westcott (1848–1925), and Samuel Liddell Mathers (1854–1918), all of whom were Freemasons, together founded the Order of the Golden Dawn. Again, here are beings like the Masters, whom they call the “Secret Chiefs.”

The Secret Chiefs are the transcendent cosmic authorities, a spiritual hierarchy responsible for the operation and moral character of the cosmos. The Chiefs oversee the operations of any esoteric organisation, in this case, the Golden Dawn.

The foundational documents of the Order are the Cipher Manuscripts. A collection of 60 folios describing the outline of a series of magical initiation rituals corresponding to the elements of fire, earth, air, and water. The manuscripts are a compilation of magical theory, practice, and symbolism arranged into a syllabus of graded courses of instruction.

Goal? The kind of personal spiritual enlightenment necessary to usher in a new Golden Age.

The Greek contemporary of Homer, Hesiod (ca. 750–650 B.C.), wrote a poem called “Works and Days.” In the scheme described therein, there are five ages of mankind: the Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Heroic Age, and the Iron Age (the present age we’re in now). The Golden Age was “an age of plenty, the earth gave forth of its own accord all the needs of man.” It was an age of peace because all rivalries of any kind were unknown. Men of the Golden Age “never aged, and when they died, they went as though to sleep.” Good times, good times!

Actually, I don’t know, but it could be a bit dull for all us Iron Age sorts, what with our addiction to endless drama. (Do you follow the news every day? Is it not like watching pretty much the same train wreck day in and day out? It’s kind of ghoulish when you think about it). That’s why all the raising of consciousness is needed, I suppose. Besides, only people who are having a really too hard a time in this world dream of utopia, an unattainable goal that, when attempted, always ends in more disaster. Still, although a world of absolute perfection might be impossible, maybe a realistic Golden Age would be an age where arbitrary suffering would be significantly less.

(I’d like to make a point here: actually, there is no such thing as “arbitrary suffering.” Thinking that pain is arbitrary is simply not knowing the cause of it. Besides, if there is no suffering, then there is no penalty for playing the game of life poorly; therefore, there must be affliction, and finding its cause often ends the pain. People used to keel over by the millions until hygiene came along and cleared out the flea-bitten rats, you know? All this hand-wringing about a God that could “allow” suffering in the world is just plain silly. On the other hand, it’s perfectly understandable to feel this way when confronted with the afflictions of children. I mean, what did they do to deserve that? What those blaming God may not be considering, though, is the challenge of finding out what the causes are. Many such horrors suffered by innocent people have, in fact, been solved. This means that all the rest of it could be solved too, bringing in a new Golden Age.)

Moving along.

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (1861–1925) was an Austrian occultist, former participant in Theosophy (ca. 1899–1913), and founder of Anthroposophy.

Anthroposophy (from Greek anthropo-, “human,” and sophia, “wisdom”) The name “anthroposophy” was chosen to emphasise Steiner’s humanistic orientation and also has some of its origins in Eastern mystical philosophies, similar to Theosophy. It also draws upon German idealism, with its close connexions to Romanticism and the political aspects of the Enlightenment.

Begun in 1912, Anthroposophy teaches the existence of an objective spiritual world (interesting, that). Anthroposophists seek spiritual growth through trained intuition, and its students and advocates present their views and experiences as verifiable through sober and cogent discourse, in order to achieve the same level of precision and clarity as scientists investigating the physical world.

As I keep saying, since the time of the early gnostics, Western man has been steadily moving toward this kind of direct individual knowledge of the invisible and the Divine, without arbiters or gatekeepers, which may have been the norm in the Golden Age. With the Reformation, for instance, the Bible was translated into everyday languages so regular people could read it to themselves rather than have to rely on a priest to interpret it for them. In a similar way, the secret societies got around the strict social hierarchies. This paved the way for the self-help movement of the mid-19th century. All this is good stuff but it also opened a whole new can of worms, which I’ll talk about in more detail later. The point, though, is that the age of the sovereign, ethical individual is slowly, slowly coming.

Karl Kellner (1851–1905), an Austrian industrialist, formed the Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the East or Order of Oriental Templars– O.T.O. for short), an occult initiatory organisation, in the years between 1885 and 1904. (It appears to have been founded in 1895, although there are no verifiable records of the order until 1904.) Kellner established an Academia Masonica where high-level Masonic degrees could be awarded to initiates in German-speaking nations. (There would be ten degrees, of which the first five were Masonic.) The occultists Franz Hartmann (1838–1912) and Theodor Reuss (1855–1923) collaborated in its creation.

The higher O.T.O. degrees were possibly formulated out of the writings of American occultist Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–1875) and describe certain rituals harnessing sex. This factor, no doubt, was a central attraction for one Aleister Crowley, the English author and occultist who basically took over the O.T.O. in 1923.

“Io Pan ! Io Pan ! Pan Pan ! Pan,
I am a man:
Do as thou wilt, as a great god can.”
— Aleister Crowley, Hymn to Pan

Thelema is the English transliteration of the Koine Greek noun θέλημα meaning “will,” from thélō: “to will, wish, want, or purpose.” It also ought to be recognised that the word θέλημα, although rarely seen used this way in classical Greek, signifies the will as sexual desire, a typical word allusion used by its creator.

Founded by Aleister Crowley in the early 1900s, Theosophy is, in essence, formulated in no small part upon Augustine of Hippo’s dictate: “Dilige et quod vis fac,” “Love, and what thou wilt, do” (another linguistic innuendo: by the late 1900s, “love” will be increasingly interchangeable with the sex act, as it will eventually be indistinguishable by the 1960s).

Another possible inspiration for the name was the Renaissance writer Francesco Colonna (1433/1434–1527). He created a character named Thelemia, who represented will or desire in his book, Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream. In the story, the protagonist Poliphilo has two allegorical guides, Logistica (reason) and Thelemia (will or desire). When forced to choose, he chooses the fulfilment of his sexual will over logic. This is a reference to the ancient tension between prudence and purity (reason) and passion and emotion (irrationality). These are the realms of objectivity and subjectivity, the two things most confused and conflated in the human experience, and they are famously represented by the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus in Nietzsche’s work, The Birth of Tragedy.

Speaking of Nietzsche, an important idea in philosophy is reflecting something long understood in the occult, namely, that it is the individual man alone who can know the Divine (“Io Pan ! Io Pan ! Pan Pan ! Pan, I am a man: Do as thou wilt, as a great god can!”). Even though groups can be moved by awe, ecstasy, and maybe even the Divine, the ethics and reasonability of the group as a whole (the infamous “collective”) can only be counted on when each member has experienced and understood this mystery in his or her own way. This transcendence is much discussed in Nietzsche’s work and is quickly recognised in his term Übermensch (usually translated as “superman”), which is possibly one of the most misunderstood concepts in all of philosophy, if not history, especially by the Nazis.

Not all occultists care about the good of the group or, even, society, as is well illustrated by the example of our man, Crowley. (I’ll discuss him more in a later article because he played such an important role in the 1960s as well as in Scientology 2.0).

As to Thelema, it is really a very simple yet extremely powerful observation that, in the end, “will,” which means the faculty by which a person self-determinedly decides on and initiates action, is the sum of everything human. What you do (or not do, as the case may be—non action being a form of action), is all that matters in the world. It is not what you feel nor what you think, but your actions—and your actions alone—which determine the quality of life as it is lived both objectively and subjectively. That Crowley got this idea all bound up with his own sexual frustrations and drug habits sadly confuses the issue. (Later, the meaning of “will” got even more mixed up with the excesses of the tragically over-sexed and frivolous “drug culture,” etc., etc., which too is unfortunate, but that’s another story for another time.)

By the way, this action concept connects directly to the Eastern concept of karma, another often misunderstood observation of Natural Law. Karma does not mean “if you do good things, then good things will happen to you,” or “if you do bad things, then bad things will happen to you,” etc., so common an idea in pop culture, although it is something slightly akin to that. It means you are the sum total of all your actions. As you act, so shall you be, and as you are, so shall be your actions. Your actions influence what happens to you. There’s much more to it, but that’s the basic concept.

Back to Thelema. One of the putdowns for Scientology and its founder is that ”Mr. Hubbard ripped off some or all of his ideas from Crowley.” Although Mr. Crowley had many unique and useful views, he got most of his ideas from the Golden Dawn and Theosophy, and they got their ideas from… well, you get the picture; that’s all I’ve been talking about with these articles on the wild mind.

As it happened, my father was already extremely well versed in the vast subjects I’ve briefly touched on in these articles, as well as much more, long before he ever got involved with the O.T.O. in Pasadena back in the late 1940s.

Crowley’s main drive was, however, rebellion, one of the driving forces in the occult: disruption as an engine of change (change destroys the status quo). But then there’s rebellion for purposes of evolution, and rebellion for its own sake, and it can be very hard to tell the difference sometimes. Especially with the “wilful” and, in many ways, very immature Mr. Crowley.

The dark arts

I thought I might throw this in while I was on the subject of rebellion.

“I am Satan!” must be achieved before one can claim true Christhood, the highest quality of doing good. But why? This question has puzzled quite a few people climbing up the advanced levels in Scientology. I don’t know why since it is pretty well explained.

There is “white” magic and “black” magic.

White magic is magic used only for “good.” It has traditionally always referred to the use of invisible powers for selfless purposes, and it is often associated with angels or other benevolent spirits. It is also sometimes called the “right-hand path.”

Black magic is used for “evil.” Also known as dark magic or the “left-hand path,” it has traditionally referred to the use of invisible powers for selfish purposes. Thus, it is often associated with the Devil or other evil spirits or demons. (Often, though, the definition of black magic has been confused by people—religious literalists,3 for instance—who define it as any kind of magic or ritualistic practice of which they disapprove; “witches” using herbal remedies, for instance.)

White magic versus black magic is a corollary of the Christ versus Antichrist concept, which is based on the fundamental polarities of the universe as described in hermeticism. There can be no action (or energy) if there is only a positive (+) pole (Jesus). For energy to flow, there must also be a negative () pole (Satan). Similarly, with white and black magic, you can have no creation without destruction, or the other way around: you can have no destruction without creation.

Properly trained magicians teach that the powers of un-creation (destruction), which are essentially black magic (the negative pole), must be learned before creation spells, which are white magic (the positive pole). This is because if a creation goes awry, it can be quickly undone. In science, this would mean it would be smart, if possible, to create the antidote before creating the toxin. In life, this means it is wise to create or have solutions before getting into potential problems, such as placing a fire extinguisher to hand before assembling fireworks. Teaching people how to put out a fire ought to be accomplished before teaching them how to start one.

So, “being” a Satan is the important first step to “being” a Christ. Of course, this is easier said than done and requires much soul work by most people in order to clean up and clear away those demons that would have them just being a Satan and that’s that. The decision to be a force for improvement in the world is a pretty good guarantee, most times, that anyone undertaking this monumental project will win out–not that one can always tell whether the other guy has made the same choice, which causes a lot of trouble for any person or group that teaches this stuff.

Speaking of bad actors, it is interesting how often black magic is mistaken for white magic, in that white magic is too often used to cause an effect one has no right to attempt. Such a case would be a spell to heal someone against their will to be healed or a ritual to alter the course of some event that has been decreed by Natural Law to happen (such as hurricanes). People involved in the usually narcissistic projects of “saving” people or things are crossing this line, so when they attempt to use magic, it can accidentally (or not so accidentally) end up being the black sort. Sometimes it is time to just let things go and let people suffer or die, even though it is going to cause pain and sadness. It is beyond the ken of any one individual to actually know what is best for anyone or anything but themselves, so seeking outcomes that seem positive is mostly just ego and may result in disaster, as illustrated in the fable of the sorcerer who cast a spell to heal a sick little boy named Temujin. Little Temujin got well, grew up, took the name Genghis Khan, and doomed millions to death.

After doing that, use the appropriate magic. Or have faith and just leave things be; they often work themselves out.

1 Christian theosophy, also known as Böehmian theosophy, refers to a range of positions within Christianity that focus on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe. They have been characterised as mystical philosophies. (Wikipedia)

2 Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the 3rd century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as a series of thinkers. Neo-Platonism is both philosophical and religious, beginning with the work of Plotinus (ca. 245 A.D.) and combining ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and the Stoics with Asian mysticism. Among the common ideas it maintains is that of monism, the doctrine that all of reality can be derived from a single principle, “the one.” (Wikipedia)

Be careful with Wikipedia; it’s dominated by politically correct contributors and full of woeful inaccuracies. (Also, like most modern encyclopaedias, it contains thousands of articles written by experts showing off for experts, which defeats the whole purpose.)

3 Literalism is one of the great plagues of mankind. The inability to think conceptually, that is, to understand the actual meaning of words and things, is a major source of trouble. Especially when those crowding the corridors of power are as poorly educated as they are today.

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