Thursday, August 25, 2011


In this age of Internet flame wars and perpetual games of spiritual one-upmanship, have you ever wondered: What would Christian Rosenkreutz do?

When I think of what it means to be a Rosicrucian, one phrase springs instantly to my mind.  
"To profess nothing, but to cure the sick, and that freely."

This is the first principle of a Rosicrucian, as given in the Fama Fraternitatis, the original Rosicrucian text. The very first rule. Numero Uno. It seems like a simple exhortation to "be secretive" and try to help others, but it is in fact much more than that. It is also a directive against displays of vanity, arrogance, and self-importance. The primary founder of the Golden Dawn, G.H. Frater N.O.M., clearly understood this.

In his paper on "Christian Rosenkreuz" published in Theosophical Siftings and reprinted in R.A. Gilbert's The Magical Mason: Forgotten Writings of William Wynn Westcott, G.H. Frater N.O.M has an interesting take on this most fundamental of all Rosicrucian tenets. It bears repeating:

"That no public profession of any superior knowledge should be made: but that members should when able endeavor to cure the sick, and that gratis."

In his paper on "Rosicrucian Adeptship" (Flying Roll No. XIX) Westcott compares the feeling and expression of "superior Knowledge" to the Scylla of hypocrisy: 

"...a man is liable to compare himself with his neighbours, and say how much better he is than others. Now self congratulation is second only to open hypocrisy, and we hold that it is just as harmful to spiritual progress."

Humility is the underlying principle here. The term "humility" is related to the Latin adjective humilis which usually translates  as "humble" but has the additional meanings of "grounded," "from the earth," or "low," since it derives in turns from humus or earth. Humility is the state of being grounded in reality. It is a condition of stability and inner strength based upon a sincere appraisal of one's self as compared to the magnitude of the Universal Divine. ("In myself I am nothing. In Thee I am Self.") The polar opposite of humility is hubris which "often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities."

In Flying Roll XV ("Man and God") Westcott was able to convey not only the importance of humility, but the truth that each Initiate is responsible for his or her own spiritual growth: 

"You who are here today to listen to this lecture (or you who read it hereafter), have come to this Hall only to seek from my words further suggestions of thought on Occult teachings, you are well aware that I represent myself alone, in what I say, and that you are each perfectly free to take what seemeth good unto you and to reject the refuse. In my honour to the Order in which I bear a part, I have always made the clearest distinction between the Ancient Ritual and our modern comments, and this distinction you must always bear in mind, for it must not be considered that the doctrines of any single elder or ruler are necessarily all true to the Hermetic faith. All individuals go astray even if some go farther than others. The Order here then has no Pope nor Popess and our Bible at every stage is imperfect; we are fellow students, still crying for the Light; and every lecture given here is but the expression of personal opinion, from someone who has far longer than most trod the path of Hermetic progress, and the proportion of doctrine or fact which you accept must be estimated by yourselves, for yourselves—it is a duty you owe to yourselves to work out your own transmutation—to change the powers of physical sensuous life into the refined spiritual faculties of Adeptship, in truth as well as in name. As senior Adept among you, just now, my duties are to keep you to the doctrines of our Rituals, as far as they go,—to leave you quite free where they do not lead, but to stimulate your efforts in the search for the Philosophic Gold..."
Humility is not only a fundamental Rosicrucian value—it is a prerequisite for all successful workings of high magic as stated in the grimoire The Key of Solomon the King:

"…it is absolutely necessary to ordain and to prescribe care and observation, to abstain from all things unlawful, and from every kind of impiety, impurity, wickedness, or immodesty, [...] and all sorts of vain words, buffooneries, slanders, calumnies, and other useless discourse; but instead to do good deeds, speak honestly, keep a strict decency in all things, never lose sight of modesty in walking, in conversation, in eating and drinking, and in all things."

The concept of humility is clearly emphasized at least eight times in the Golden Dawn's Adeptus Minor Ritual to the prospective Rosicrucian—more than any other single principle:

1) Upon first entrance, the Aspirant is told:

"O Aspirant! It is written that he who exalteth himself shall be abased, but that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted, and that blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not by proclamation of honors and dignities, great though they may be, that thou canst gain admission to the Tomb of the Adepti of the Rose of Ruby and the Cross of Gold, but only by that humility and purity of spirit that befitteth the aspirant unto higher things."

2) After his knowledge of the Sword and Serpent is tested, the Aspirant is told that his pedigrees mean absolutely nothing:

" Return thou then, and divest thyself of these ornaments. They are not humble enough to entitle thee to be received." A chain is then placed on the Aspirant's neck as a symbol of "repentance and humility" before he or she is lead out.

3) After being brought in for the second time, the Aspirant is told that the Divine is propitious unto  "whosoever humbleth himself in dust and ashes..."

4) Immediately after that, the Third Adept tells the Aspirant:

"Think not, O Aspirant, that the trial of humility through which thou hast passed, was ordained but to jest with thy feelings. Far from us be any such design. But it was intended to point out to thee that the truly wise man is but little in his own eyes, however great his attainments may appear to the ignorant, and that even the highest intellectual achievements are but as nothing in the sight of the Lord of the Universe, for He looketh at the heart. It is written: When I consider the Heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him? And couldst thou even attain unto the height of a God upon this earth, how small and insignificant yet wouldst thou be in the presence of God the Vast One."

5) Immediately following this, the Aspirant is told that he has been "purified by humility." Thus in the Second Order of the RR et AC, the prospective new member is not purified and consecrated by fire and water as in the Outer Order, but is instead solely purified through his or her own humbleness of heart and unpretentious attitude.

6) After this, the Aspirant is clearly told in no uncertain terms not to malign others:

"Boast not thyself above thy brother if he hath fallen, for how knowest that thou couldst have withstood the same temptation. Slander not, and revile not. If though canst not praise, do not condemn."

7) Inside the Vault, the Second Adept recites the "Unto Thee Sole Wise" prayer to the Divine on the Aspirant's behalf:

"Not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the Glory...."  

 Shortly after the prayer, the Aspirant is told to rise and stand "in the symbol of self-renunciation" (i.e. humility).

 8) One of the first warnings given to the Aspirant by the Chief Adept (in the guise of Christian Rosenkreutz himself) is a speech that forbids the maligning and disparagement of others:

"Therefore Thou art inexcusable, whosoever thou art that judgest another, for in that thou condemest another, thou condemest but thyself."

Final thoughts: While studying for a college course recently, one of my instructors told us that in order to make something stick in the memory, a student had to hear it at least three times. 

Humility is the single, overriding principle of anyone who claims to be a Rosicrucian: the Aspirant seeking to become a Rosicrucian in the RR et AC is told no less than eight times that humility is the only way of gaining entrance to (as well as the magical method of purification used in) the Second Order.

So two questions remain—why doesn't this always stick with some people?


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Trivial Psychic

A few years back, Saturday Night Live did a skit called "The Trivial Psychic" wherein Christopher Walken revived the same character he played in the movie The Dead Zone. But in addition to being a reluctant psychic, he got visions of things that were small and unimportant: he couldn't tell people when disaster was about to strike, but he was able to tell them things like "your housekeeper is annoyed right now because she just washed the floor and your daughter is leaving footprints on it." He was the Trivial Psychic.

There are times when gaining clairvoyant skills enhanced through the practice of magic feels like just that—like you are turning into the Trivial Psychic. Every vision is not necessarily an earth-shattering event. Many visions, though spot on, may simply be about inconsequential events.

As a double Taurus, I don't consider myself inherently more or less psychic than the next person. Skills involving greater psychic awareness don't come naturally to me, and like the vast majority of magicians, I have to work hard at it to make headway.  I am also stubbornly skeptical by nature: I always test my skryings and other astral workings with the standard GD methods. Even then I take nothing for gospel. I don't accept the literal, physical (as opposed to symbolic) truth of a vision just on faith alone. I never wanted to become what Israel Regardie used to call a "cosmic foo-foo." If a vision, divination, or other astral working passes all my tests and exhausts all attempts by my rational mind to find a mundane explanation for it, then I will consider it a true psychic hit, not before. 

I have experienced a number of what I consider psychic "hits." Some of these were very important hits. Others, which passed all my tests, were simply splendid examples of psychic trivia.

My most important psychic "hit" came in February 1985 when we were living in Georgia. I had an overwhelming feeling that we had to get to Sedona as quickly as possible to see Regardie. Although Chic had visited Regardie several times, I had never met him before. There was a urgent alarm going off in my head—a feeling that if I didn't meet Regardie very, very soon. It would be too late. I was in my mid-20's at the time and such pressing thoughts about the mortality of others was just not something I had ever experienced before. We drove from Columbus, Georgia to Regardie's home in Sedona, Arizona. All the while I felt like we were racing against the clock—that Regardie would soon leave us. The feeling would not go away, no matter how many times I told myself that there was no logical reason for my fear. We stayed with Regardie for a week and then left for Scottsdale. We did not intend to go back to Sedona, but as a result of a purely unplanned, unexpected, and unexplained event (one of those "graceful synchronicities" so typical of magic), we ended up back in Sedona visiting Regardie for another week. After we finally left Arizona, Regardie died ten days later. Everything about the incident tells me that this was a psychic "hit"—a very important one at that. I will always be eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to meet Regardie. It probably changed the course of my life.

I have also had experiences with "hits" that definitely fall under the category of psychic trivia: We were driving to the grocery store one day and it occurred to me that I had forgotten my grocery list. An utterly ridiculous curse word formed in my mind—"Oh, Chicken farts!" I thought to myself. Chic was driving and he turned to me with a curious look on his face. "Chicken farts?" he asked. It is an absolute fact that I had not uttered a word, and yet Chic had heard my mental exclamation. Try as I may, I can find no rational explanation for it. It was a true psychic hit—albeit  a trivial and patently absurd one. 

This is just one example of the kind of frivolous psychic "hits" that magicians have on a regular basis. The knowledge they confer may seem downright stupid, but they also serve an important function. They serve to remind us that psychic gifts come in many forms—sometimes they are urgent and transformative. Other times they serve to remind us that such magical abilities are very possible, even if they remain a rare occurrence. It is as if the Divine simply wants to show us skeptics, through visions of events that have no importance, that magic is indeed a real, potent, enigmatic force. These events are magical "carrots" used to give us a glimpse—a sliver or whisper—of what is possible if we persevere in our studies. I also believe that we receive these "minor" visions more often than the important  visions so that we remain humble and don't automatically assume that we have become the world's "Greatest Prophet." I think they are built-in protections against ego-inflation as well as indications that the Divine has a sense of humor. If some of our best psychic "hits" make us laugh, then there is less of a chance that we will take ourselves so seriously that we lose sight of our spirituality in the quest for psychic "powers."

Sometimes you get life-changing visions. 
Sometimes you just get chicken farts.
And that's a good thing.