Exploring the intersection of magic, culture, spirituality, and humanity

Month: February 2022

Surviving the Kybalion Movie

So god help us, it was bound to happen sooner or later: that most undeservedly popular of occult texts, The Kybalion, has gotten a movie based on it made.

Well, “based on” is a strong overstatement, as it turns out. I gathered together with friends from the Hermetic House of Life Discord last night to watch this cinematic travesty, and I knew going into it that there was no way I could withstand the experience sober. We decided to make it an MST3K-style viewing with drunkenness and heckling. My sanity could not have survived the experience any other way.

Now, I’ve said plenty about the Kybalion in a variety of places, so my expectations were low going into this. But even if I were stone cold sober I could have watched this movie and still not known what the actual fuck was going on. It presented the most disconnected ramblings about material almost but not entirely unrelated to the subject matter of the Kybalion, interspersed with even more disconnected vaguely psychedelic/shamanic vignettes that appeared to exist only to be vaugely sp00ky for the sake of provocativeness. Much like the Kybalion itself, it was the esoteric equivalent of a Rorshach test, which says nothing especially useful but into which you can read a great deal if you want to.

That said, I had a great time jeering and heckling at the film with friends. It was exactly the experience I wanted and needed in order to stomach this indigo starchild woo dumpster fire without losing sanity points.

Sam Block posted a far more entertaining and ire-filled account of the experience over on The Digital Ambler. I apologize to Sam for suggesting this watch party of existential dread, and thank him for writing the more substantive critique of the Kybalion movie so I don’t have to. Give it a read, it’s well worthwhile!

Guided Middle Pillar Ritual

Greetings, friends! As an interlude before transitioning from my LBRP videos into those covering the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, I’ve recorded a guided performance of the Middle Pillar Ritual. In this video I take you through the exact guided meditation I used to lead others in performing when I was still operating in a Golden Dawn temple. We would generally perform the Middle Pillar Ritual together as a group to raise energy prior to launching into the opening LBRP for ceremony. I invite you to listen and participate along with the video, whether you’re a novice with the Middle Pillar or whether you’re an old hand at it.

Rethinking the Golden Dawn Swastika

One of the things that has consistently nagged at me for a very long time as I have worked within the Golden Dawn tradition is its use of the swastika, or fylfot cross. The symbol has an ancient history long pre-dating its appropriation by the Third Reich, and has even been called the “Hermetic Cross” in addition to its various other names. While I appreciate the history, however, and while I understand and accept it, we in the modern day simply cannot get around the fact that in a post-WWII era world, even the Hindu form of the swastika which the Golden Dawn uses has taken on deeply unfortunate connotations that hold a lot of trauma for a lot of people–especially in the West, where the symbol isn’t an integral part of our cultural heritage. And given that we are at a cultural inflection point where we already have to worry about the Golden Dawn name being sullied by the Greek fascist party of the same name, it seems like the time has never been better to rethink the use of this symbol and the baggage it now carries.

The central problem with rethinking the use of the swastika and potentially replacing it, however, is that the symbolic language of the Golden Dawn is incredibly complex. In order to make any changes, you have to deeply understand all of the various touch points that will be impacted by any such change, and ensure that you aren’t doing violence to the many layers of meaning that depend upon any given symbol.

For reference, here is an illustration of the swastika as it is used in its capacity as admission badge for the grade of Zelator. It is typically represented in the Malkuth colors of citrine, olive, russet, and black.

Golden Dawn Zelator Admission Badge

In order to maintain consistency of meaning with the swastika, it’s essential that the central elements of symbolic meaning be maintained. In this case, the symbol must be in the form of a cross to be consistent with the rest of the Outer Order admission badges, it must preserve the overarching solar meaning behind the swastika, and–perhaps the most challenging requirement–it must be able to contain and represent the four astrological triplicities and their associated elements in balanced fashion while laying these out in their corresponding directional quarters. (It will be noted that while the admission badge is colored in the Malkuth colors according to the Four Winds attribution, the symbols are arrayed within the badge according to the astrological directional scheme in which Fire is in the East, Earth is in the South, etc.).

After returning to these considerations multiple times over the years, I believe I have finally devised a suitable drop-in replacement for the swastika as the admission badge of Zelator and as the lamen of the Dadouchos.

Proposed Replacement for the Admission Badge

Shown above in the Malkuth colors used on the Zelator admission badge, this symbol maintains the form of the cross, the solar attribution, and the layout and ordering of the triplicities and elemental symbols. The coloring of the circle around the cross additionally lends the hint of clockwise motion which is implicit in the original admission badge. While naturally the associated verbiage in the Zelator Ceremony and the associated Knowledge Lecture would need to be adapted accordingly, I have been sitting with and meditating upon the symbol and have been unable thus far to identify any points of potential conflict that would do unintentional violence to the system.

If the Golden Dawn tradition is going to survive and thrive going forward, we need to innovate. We must honor and pay homage to the past, but we need to not be afraid to change how we do things, how we teach, and how we structure things. And that includes making changes to the established ceremony and symbolism when a compelling reason exists to do so. In this case, I think there’s a sufficiently compelling reason.

Feedback is more than welcome! Please comment or email me if you have any thoughts, or if you see a shortcoming that I hadn’t considered. Experimentation is how we learn, and collaboration is how we grow together. The input is always appreciated.

Special thanks to Taylor Bell, who took my concept and transformed it into the polished diagram above. Be sure to check out his Green Lion Podcast!

LBRP Theory – Q&A

As I mentioned in my previous post introducing my LBRP theory video, the content is dense enough that I wanted to break it out into a separate and more digestible post. I’ll largely follow a Q&A format here. If you have any additional questions I don’t cover, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me!

Q: Where did the LBRP originate?

The LBRP was created by the founders of the Order of the Golden Dawn, and does not appear in the Cypher Manuscript. It was likely created based on several different sources.

While one may be forgiven for thinking that the Qabalistic Cross is simply a portion of the Lord’s Prayer badly translated into Hebrew, this is in fact not the case. While the Qabalistic Cross does bear a structural similarity, the semantic meaning is different in some small but important ways. Most notably, what you’re actually saying here in translation is “thou art the Kingdom and the Power and the Greatness forever, amen”.

This portion of the LBRP likely comes directly from Eliphas Levi, in his chapter on the “Conjuration of the Four” from Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, translated into English by A. E. Waite as Transcendental Magic.  The Conjuration of the Four itself calls upon the four elemental creatures—the salamanders, sylphs, gnomes, and undines—rather than the four Archangels, and does so in all four directions.  By contrast, the invocation of the four Archangels in the LBRP is likely taken from the Hirsch Siddur, a traditional Jewish bedtime prayer, in which the following line occurs:  “In the Name of God, the God of Yisrael: may Michael be at my right hand, Gabriel at my left, Uriel before me, Raphael behind me, and above my head, the presence of God.”

Q: What is the purpose of the Sign of the Enterer and the Sign of Silence in the LBRP?

These are the Neophyte grade signs of the Golden Dawn, and have further use in the ritual of the LBRP itself. The Sign of the Enterer, also called the Projecting Sign or the Sign of Horus, functions to project energy outward.  When paired with the divine name appropriate to the quarter, you are infusing and inflaming that pentagram with the divine name. The Sign of Silence which answers it, also called the Sign of Harpocrates, is used to withdraw and contain the current of energy that is expelled by the Sign of the Enterer.  So if for whatever reason after projecting with the Sign of the Enterer you feel fatigued or drained, make the Sign of Silence again and stand in that position to regain your equilibrium before proceeding. Much of the “troubleshooting” involved in the energetic portions of the LBRP focuses on balancing these two signs to ensure that you are not expending or depleting your own energy while performing the ceremony, and correct use of these Signs is key to maintaining that balance.

Q: Why is movement around the circle in the LBRP performed clockwise?

The direction of progression around the circle is clockwise, because movement in a Golden Dawn temple is always performed according to the sun (i.e. clockwise), with only one notable exception. This exception is during the Mystic Reverse Circumambulation, which is designed to release the current of energy built up by the movement of the Kerux and the other officers around the Hall in the Mystic Circumambulation symbolic of the rise of light and the decrease of darkness. Otherwise, as a system which focuses predominately on attaining and cultivating the state of harmony reached in the solar sphere of Tiphereth, motion around the circle will always be clockwise in direction.

Q: What does the phrase “in the column shines the Six-Rayed Star” mean?

This is without a doubt one of the most unwieldy phrases in the entirety of the LBRP. Remember that the LBRP is a microcosmic ritual, and as such the practitioner is standing in the sphere of Malkuth. As a result, Tiphereth is positioned directly above the practitioner’s head, along with the other Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar. This phrase alludes to the six-rayed hexagram of Tiphereth, the sixth Sephirah, and its position above one’s head in the orientation of the action within the ritual as well as representing the sphere of equilibrium to which one is aspiring as one works toward the attainment of the Adeptus Minor grade.

Q: Why are the elements attributed to the quarters they are in the LBRP, rather than following the more common grimoiric directional attributions (which have Fire in the East, Earth in the South, etc.)?

As Alex Sumner has done an excellent job of articulating in a blog post on the subject, the “Four Winds” directional attributions which the Golden Dawn uses for microcosmic rituals such as the LBRP derives ultimately from Ptolemaic astrology, specifically from the Tetrabiblos. This scheme assigns the four winds—Eurus, Notus, Zephyrus, and Boreas—to the cardinal directions we’re familiar with in the ordering of the LBRP.  The more grimoire-standard ordering of Fire in the East, Earth in the South, Air in the West, and Water in the North is preserved in the Golden Dawn’s macrocosmic rituals.

Q: Why are the pentagrams traced clockwise in the LBRP, rather than counterclockwise? Shouldn’t banishing be performed widdershins?

In order to understand why the LBRP’s pentagrams are traced clockwise, you have to gain some understanding of the larger Adept-level Pentagram Ritual within the Golden Dawn tradition. The four elements crowned by Spirit are arrayed around the figure of the Pentagram as follows:

While there is some problematic history here regarding the Pentagrammaton, I will not go into it here: for further information on that front, watch the video, in which I briefly digress into the history of the Pentagrammaton and the ordering of the letters around the Pentagram. Suffice it to say that this diagram did not originate with the Golden Dawn, but represents the key to understanding the Pentagram Ritual.

While we are used to the trope of “invoking = deosil/clockwise” and “banishing = widdershins/counterclockwise” in modern occulture, this isn’t how it’s done in the Pentagram Ritual. Here, it isn’t whether you’re moving clockwise or counterclockwise that determines whether you’re invoking or banishing; it’s whether you’re moving towards or away from the element you’re working with.

In the LBRP, you start and finish with the Earth vertex of the Pentagram. Earth is used here as a substitute or stand-in for a general banishing, as it is the heaviest and densest element. You can see this same logic behind the use of the Saturn Hexagram as a general banishing figure within the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram.

So far, so good. Things get complicated, however, by the fact that the lower “X” of the Pentagram—the paths joining Fire/Air and Water/Earth—are reserved for the element of Spirit or Quintessence, as those two paths connect and unite the active and passive elements respectively. Consequently, these two paths are unavailable for use in drawing an Earth banishing pentagram. In the LBRP, you start at the Earth vertex and move away from it to banish.  Because you can’t use the path of Spirit Passive to do this, however, you use the path between Earth and Spirit instead, tracing the figure the only way you can—which is clockwise.

Now, note however that when you perform the LBRP, you are NOT banishing the element of Earth!  The LBRP is a general banishing ritual that works on the microcosmic level—that is to say, the elemental and terrestrial realm.  Remember that Earth here is just used as a shorthand or signature for the overall operation, and is used as a stand-in because it’s the heaviest and densest element.  But again, it’s not an Earth banishing or even a specifically elemental ritual when you’re talking about the LBRP.

Because of the symbolism of the pentagram and its connection to Gevurah (or Geburah), it may be more accurate to say that the LBRP is a Gevuric ritual than an elemental one, insofar as it operates in the same manner that tracing a protective magic circle on the ground with a sword does in the grimoiric tradition—especially when the LBRP is performed using the Sword of the Hiereus or the Magic Sword of an Adept.

LBRP – Advanced Theory

I’ve posted a video on the theory underpinning the LBRP. This one really plumbs the depths of why exactly every action in the LBRP is done the way it is, and I’ve been looking forward to putting it out since I filmed my first video. I hope you find it informative!

Because this goes into such depth, I won’t be summarizing the contents of the video here–I’ll save that for a series of smaller posts on the subject. In the meantime, though, here’s the outline of the major content I cover:

  • Qabalistic Cross
    • History and origins
    • Reason for the mapping of Gevurah and Chesed to the right and left shoulders
    • Explanation of “in the column shines the Six-Rayed Star”
  • Tracing the Pentagrams
    • Further information on the Sign of the Enterer and Sign of Silence
    • Reason for the clockwise progression around the circle
    • Reason for the scheme of attributing the elements to the four quarters, and why this differs from common grimoiric attributions
    • Reason why the pentagrams are traced clockwise instead of counter-clockwise
    • History behind the Pentagrammaton formula used in the Pentagram Ritual
    • Reason why the Earth Pentagram is used in the LBRP (spoiler alert: the LBRP is not an Earth banishing!)

Special thanks are due to Erik Arneson for filling me in on the history of Johannes Reuchlin and the Pentagrammaton. Check out his website and podcast at Arnemancy!

LBRP – Intermediate Praxis

I’ve posted a new video on YouTube about the next steps to take in the LBRP once a student is comfortable with the mechanics of the ritual itself. I cover some minor quibbles about ritual performance, discuss visualizations, and then talk about the specific use cases for the LBRP.

For those of you who prefer to consume your information by reading rather than by watching videos, here’s a summary rundown.

  • While words other than divine and angelic names are not generally vibrated in Golden Dawn magic, the Qabalistic Cross is a notable exception.  Although the original manuscripts instruct only to say the words, today, by tradition, the words of the Qabalistic Cross are vibrated as well.
  • Note that the Qabalistic Cross is an equal-armed cross, not the familiar Calvary cross. It additionally touches the right shoulder first, whereas the customary Christian gesture of crossing oneself begins with the left shoulder.  Unlike the usual crossing gesture, this also isn’t “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” — if you reach your testicles, you’ve gone too far!  You’re aiming for somewhere between the bottom of your sternum and your bellybutton.  Keep those cross arms equal.
  • Now that you’re comfortable with the mechanics, it’s time to add visualizations. But don’t be too quick to add visualizations before you get the basics down: you don’t want to be focusing so much on your visualizations that you forget what you’re supposed to be doing. Note that ALL visualization is a matter of tradition–it was never part of the original writings on the LBRP when they were given to Neophytes of the Golden Dawn–and there’s significant variation out there as far as the specifics of visualization. In the video, I talk through the visualization that works for me.
  • The pentagrams should be visualized in a flaming light. In Liber O, Aleister Crowley, an initiate of the original order, relates that the pentagrams should “appear in flame”.  Regardie elaborated on this and said that the pentagrams should be visualized as “flaming figures of bluish-golden hue similar to that produced by igniting methylated spirit”.  There’s been a somewhat ridiculous amount of discourse on this subject, but the bottom line is that whether you visualize the pentagrams as the blue of a gas-jet flame, the golden color of a candle flame, or simply a brilliant white light, do whatever works best for you.  The core idea here is that the pentagrams should be flaming ones; the specific color of that flame is less important.
  • Some sources say that you should visualize the Archangels facing outward and away from you when banishing, and facing toward you when invoking. In practice, I have not found this to make any difference, and I always visualize them facing me.
  • The LBRP literally grounds or “earths” you. It is used as a preliminary and concluding ceremony in every other Golden Dawn ritual, and serves the same purpose as the magic circle in grimoiric magic.
  • Per Regardie, the LBRP is also used to get rid of disturbing or obsessive thoughts, and as an exercise in concentration–but these uses are secondary. Grounding and protection, and sweeping away the astral dust bunnies, are the primary use cases.

The “No-BS” LBRP

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is a cornerstone of Golden Dawn magic. It’s also one of the most widely taught, adapted, and sometimes abused rituals in modern occulture. Unfortunately, some of the written presentations of the LBRP aim to be so thorough and complete that they risk thoroughly overwhelming and confusing the beginner rather than helping them to learn proper practice.

That’s why my goal in this video, the first in a series, is to give you the “no-BS” LBRP. Simply put, my intent is to give you the minimum necessary amount of information to get you working the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram correctly and competently within the Golden Dawn tradition.

The LBRP is a fairly straightforward ritual, and the novice is likely to encounter difficulty in only a few areas. The first of these is in recalling the correct names to pronounce during the Qabalistic Cross; the second lies in remembering the correct names of God to vibrate in each quarter; and the third involves keeping track of which Archangel rests in which direction. All of these are simple matters of memorization that practice will quickly reinforce, and I treat each of these components individually within the video instruction.

Rather than including a lot of detail on visualizations, because this instruction is geared toward the novice I focus instead on the verbal and kinesthetic parts of ritual. After the student has achieved comfort and fluency with the ritual words and actions, they can then add visualization into the mix and begin building up the onion of symbolism layer by layer. Attempts to introduce instruction on visualization from the outset is a large part of what I feel contributes to “instruction bloat” in articulations of the LBRP, and overwhelms the newcomer to the practice who’s looking to gain an initial foothold.

For those of you who need a foothold, I hope this video serves you well.

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