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Oliver St. John is the author of fifteen books covering Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, the Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of the Thelemic Magical Collegium, Ordo Astri, and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Magick of Divine Imagination

Magick greatly depends on two factors: will and imagination. These correspond to the Wand and Cup of art. The English mystic William Blake understood the occult aspect of will and desire. Blake held the divine power of imagining in such regard that he created a noun, Imagination, as a term for Christ or Logos. The obsession with digital media and digital images, to the extent that iconography is replacing the written word, means that human beings are fast losing the ability to practice and understand the ancient art of Magick. 

William Blake: Dante and Beatrice

Imagination: William Blake Dante and Beatrice

It may help if we explain this in terms of hand to eye coordination. Magick typically utilises the act of drawing or tracing out figures such as pentagrams, hexagrams and sigils imaginatively upon the astral aethyr. In our tradition at least, this is usually done with a wand, corresponding to the will of the magician. Inscribing pentagrams and other figures on the astral aethyr is no different from handwriting in effect. The ‘ink’ is the Occult Force, conveyed through the imagination. The ‘pen’ is the wand or a thumb, and also the will of the magician. The ‘paper’ is the fluid astral aethyr that is impressed upon by will and imagination.

One good reason why such figures are traced out imaginatively in magick is that the act of writing or drawing them connects the hand with the eye, which in turn memorably places the figures in Deep Mind. This serves as a key to the latent source of the figures that pre-exist our conscious awareness of them. A neurologist could tell us about various neural pathways in the brain that are linked through hand to eye coordination. Some of these pathways must be created, brought into existence. If we examine the magical correspondences we find that the hand and the eye are cognate terms. The hand of ‘five’ is , the letter of the 15th path of Nuit’s creative star-fire, and the window of divine imagining. The number five is that of the pentagram, the star of Nuit. The Grand Number of Five is Fifteen, and the fifteenth Tarot Atu is placed on the 26th path of Ayin, which means “an eye”. What we see is what we are.

The idea of a symbol is enough to set magick into operation. The Idea is at one with the Imagination. The aim of magick is to follow the symbol back to its source in the divine imagining. Our knowledge and understanding of any symbol is as vital as our ability to visualise and project it onto the astral aethyr. The importance of ritual sonics should never be underestimated. The wisdom of the ancient Egyptians was that the name—and therefore the sounding—of any God, is that God. The ancient Greeks would not say the name of Hades aloud, because they did not want him to notice them and perhaps become overly interested in their soul! Hades is the Lord of hell and death and detains souls forever in the underworld.

In Goethe’s version of the timeless play, Faust, all the magus did was turn the book around and show the picture of a hexagram to the spirits. That was enough to call them in. When Mephisto makes his appearance, Faust asks him, “Was it not the power of my mighty spells and conjurations that summoned you?” And Mephisto tells him it has nothing to do with that. Since Faust was inclined towards evil, the Devil did not need to be summoned, he was already aware of what Faust was up to, and would have come anyway.

When men—usually learned gentlemen, wayward monks or clergy—performed magical rituals in the 15 and 16th century, merely opening a book and seeing a hexagram or some such figure set them in awe of God. Add to that the fear of getting found out by the authorities—which meant cloaking such operations with utmost secrecy—and we can understand how their magick was extremely effective. We have to work a lot harder at it now.

Magick corresponds to Mercury, the Roman name for the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth, the god of writing, books and knowledge. Magick and the Word or Logos are therefore inseparable terms. Real books are reliquaries for the knowledge of countless generations. Digital devices cannot replicate this, and never will. A real book can open doorways in the imagination through the power of the written word. Such doorways are formed from the matter itself, the base material as a repository for the imagining. The imagining is in turn the agent for the soul’s transfiguration. To engage on this level, the reader must have enough time to not worry about time. The reader must be free from all other distractions and able to focus the mind without interruption. The reader then becomes an active participant, wholly absorbed in the imaginative creation and recreation of inner worlds.

So far as knowledge and expertise goes, the real book collection is only a starting point. True knowledge comes with actual experience—getting out in the field away from all computers and digital devices, comparing notes, thinking a great deal, practical experimentation. Nothing can be learned in the way of real knowledge from the Internet. For example, in the countryside there is a great deal of completely free food that can be gathered, or foraged, from wild plants. Much of this is highly nutritious and very good to eat. However, some wild plants are poisonous and eating them results in death. Hemlock will paralyse your nervous system slowly, from the extremities to the inside, until your heart stops and you die. Hemlock looks at first glance to be identical to a completely harmless herb called Cow Parsley. It is very hard to tell the difference without real expertise and experience in the field. Would you take the risk of gathering and eating Cow Parsley solely from advice that you found on the Internet?

If the above applies to gathering fruits and herbs in the countryside, how much more can it apply to something really abstruse, bound in secrecy and that has been veiled by metaphor for many centuries, such as magick, alchemy or theurgy?

Survival of any species depends on adaptation to changing conditions, new knowledge. We must all work to further the understanding that our use of digital information must be very carefully managed. We now have access to far more information than anyone can handle. “Information” does not equal “knowledge”. Dissociation of the mind and senses comes about through over exposure to digital images, film, television, and the millions of contradictory thoughts and opinions that pour forth through the media platforms day and night without cessation. While the Internet is a useful device for the researcher that knows what they are looking for, and that can resist the assault of peripheral nonsense, the web is also a digital skrying mirror into hell. Fact, misinformation, fantasy, horror and the utterly banal blend together in an ocean of chaos fit to collapse even the strongest mind.

The e-Book has its uses, but it is not a substitute, let alone an improvement, on the real book made of paper and glue. This is a seldom-realised fact for it is entirely in the realms of the occult to anyone that has not developed their subtle senses. Spending time with a ‘real’ book exercises special cognitive functions that are not only dormant but that are also suppressed when scanning digital information.

It is now common to see people of all ages walking—even in the rural countryside—with an iPod or other device sending its metranomic digital square wave impulse directly to their ears, thus ensuring they are oblivious to their environment. Many prefer to run rather than walk, as a form of recreational exercise. What are we running away from? What it is that we do not wish to hear, to see? Is there something we would rather not think about at all? Man has thus become the most ill equipped of all creatures on earth, since all others spend the greater part of their time paying close attention to their environment. Wild birds and creatures study the world in the utmost detail, mapping it with senses not even dreamed of by the human. The majority of humans are now afraid to go anywhere without a cell phone, lest they should miss a message, a text, a call. We have been seduced into thinking we are no longer alone, when in fact we are more alone than ever, isolated from self, others and the natural environment by our own need to ‘stay in touch’. Silence has entered the realms of the unknown. Fewer persons than ever are capable of real meditation or even coherent thought. Amnesia is fast becoming the normal condition.

The machines no longer serve, they have become the masters, and their operators have become obedient slaves. No small wonder it is then that our systems of government and business are heartless and cruel, operating according to statistics—facts and figures which cannot in themselves reveal any truth, for they can be manipulated to serve the interests of the soulless machine and its slave, the dissociated human ego.

The ways of magick and of true knowledge will therefore remain closed to any child of the 21st century that does not understand the need to be the master of machines and not the slave of them.
© Oliver St. John 2016

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