Friday, October 29, 2010

Tarot guidance from Dion Fortune


Dion Fortune (born Violet Firth) was one of the great esoteric teachers of the twentieth century, and a true priestess of the Western way. I've returned to her works again and again over many years, and I believe I have dreamed of her. One of the most refreshing things about her writing is that she brings pithy common sense to the most complex and abstruse matters.

Anyone embarking on the study of Tarot would do well to listen to the simple and helpful counsel Dion Fortune offers in Practical Occultism in Daily Life, first published in the 1930s.

Here are some of her key points (the subtitles are mine):

Start out with a new deck and get to know the cards intimately

"To use the Tarot properly... requires a very great deal of preparation, and the preparation does not consist merely in a knowledge of the significance of the cards, but in getting in touch with the forces behind the cards... Obtain a new pack of Tarot cards, for a used one will be too full of other people's magnetism to be reliable, and carry them on the person, and sleep with them under the pillow, and handle them and ponder upon the meaning of the pictures in the light of what the book of instructions has to say about them until the significance of each picture is realized. It does not matter greatly which pack is used.

Test your trial divination three times

Having got in touch with one's chosen pack, the next thing is to lay out a divination according to whatever system is chosen...and note down the results obtained and the position in which the cards fell. Repeat the process a second time, and a third time, upon each occasion keeping accurate notes of the fall of the cards, and, of course, thoroughly shuffling the cards between each lay-out. If certain cards keep on coming up, and especially if they come up in approximately the same positions, or even if cards of the same type predominate through the three divinations, it may safely be concluded that the system is working satisfactorily, and a divination may be made on the basis of the recurring cards. But if the three divinations bear no resemblance to each other; if even the balance of the four suits does not remain constant for at least two out of the three, and if none of the Greater Trumps turn up more than once, then it must be concluded that the Tarot is not working for the diviner, and the divination should be abandoned.

Trust spontaneous impressions and learn by trial and error

Divination is a thing that cannot be learnt out of books, but builds up gradually as a system of associated ideas in the mind of the operator. Moreover, one varies very much in one's capacity for divination; upon one occasion one may be absolutely inspired...at another time, one may have to spell out the meaning of the lay-out with reference to the book for almost every card. It will always be found that it is useless to force a divination; if the interpretation does not leap spontaneously to the mind it is unlikely to contain much insight.

The image of the 4 of Pentacles is from a recently-produced "Dion Fortune Tarot" that was not designed by her but claims to be based on her principles.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mother Africa, and other female incarnations


She is vast, like the continent itself. She sits under a great baobab tree in the center of the village marketplace. She is mountainous under the folds of her bright crimson dress. She wears a matching red headdress and heavy chains of gold around her neck. When people come for her counsel, she sometimes reaches for a gourd in which she keeps the cowrie shells and stones and bones that she casts on a well-brushed layer of powder inside her divining tray, to get a second opinion from the ancestral spirits. The top of the gourd has been cut so that it opens and closely like a box.

I remember her youth. She was brought among her present people as a captive with a choke collar around her neck. Lissome and nubile, she was taken by force by the tribal king. Years later, when that chief tried to hang himself from this very tree, she cut him down and raised him up, cleansed and healed in body and mind, to be a better ruler. Like the baobab, she renews herself - and helps to renew herself - endlessly. I feel humbled and blessed to be able to share her life memories and to imagine myself, if only for a moment, sharing her life as the wisdom of her people, under that great tree.

This is a brief report of one of my experiences during a group journey in quest of the multidimensional self during a workshop I led last weekend. I invited the spirited members of our circle to direct their awareness to a Tree of Vision we had grown in a standing meditation and feel themselves rising up to a place of observation among the high branches. I suggested that they could then look out towards the four cardinal directions and connect with a personality in a different time and culture whose life experience was relevant to them now. We then used shamanic drumming to power and focus a group adventure in lucid dreaming. It was remarkably successful.

I had a personal agenda for this journey. I wanted to connect with female personalities in other times and places. In most of my impressions of "past lives" closely associated with my own, I have found myself linked to men, typically men of power. A Royal Air Force pilot in World War II. An ancient Chinese general. A Scottish druid in a cloak of raven feathers. A figure in the high white crown of Upper Egypt, studying his own family of counterparts in mirrors of water or metal. Where are the women? I have often asked myself. Oh, there is that woman of the future, and I feel her even now, as I write. She is a priestess and a scientist, working to restore our world, seven generations into the future. Dreaming is central to her practice and that of her Order, and I am driven by a sense of obligation to her, the obligation - through my work as a dream teacher - to help make her possible. But where are the women of the past?

Mother Africa (as I'll call her, though I also know her personal name) is one, and I am privileged to know her. Perhaps we will now be able to share gifts. Another, I now know, is a magical woman of the Scottish islands who is of the sea as much as of the land, and is clothed in the gifts of the sea. Yet another is a beautiful woman of ancient Persia about whom I will hope to learn more. And I find that, since last weekend, I am starting to find my dream self sharing the experiences of woman as if he has taken up temporary residence in their bodies; I reported one of these in my parallel blog at beliefnet this morning.

In psychological terms, such episodes may mean that I am getting more deeply in touch with my female side. Yet they also feel transpersonal, as if I am connecting with - and sometimes entering into the minds and bodies of - personalities in other times and places who may be part of my family of selves, within the structure of the multidimensional self. Jane Robert's Seth (in Seth Speaks) insists that "the entire reincarnational framework must involve both sexual expereinces. Abilities cannot be developed by following a one-sex line. There must be experiences in motherhood and fatherhood." If this is so, perhaps I'm on the right track. I will be most interested if you wish to share personal experiences relevant to this theme.

Baobab photo by Bernard Gagnon

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You stand at the center of all times


I'm on my way to open a new workshop on exploring the multidimensional self, in a wonderful airy studio in the woods just outside Mystic, Connecticut, under the full moon of October.

My travel reading includes Seth Speaks. I see from the flyleaf that I first read this book, channeled by an entity named Seth by Jane Roberts, back in 1988, when I was trying to make sense of some profound, indeed revolutionary, experiences of my own in the universe beyond the five senses. Though generally resistant to channeled material, I found here a very clear and helpful model for reality creation and for understanding relations between the ordinary self, personalities in other times and places, and the self on a higher level. I went on to read everything I could find in print by Jane Roberts and Seth, including Jane's wonderful Oversoul 7 trilogy.

So I start the day (after noting some dreams from the night) by opening Seth Speaks at random for a thought for the day. I find this:

Knowing your reincarnational background, but not knowing the true nature of your present self, is useless. You cannot justify or rationalize present circumstances by saying, "This is because of something I did in a past life," for within yourself now is the ability to change negative influences.

Yes. And this can be applied to the lives we may lead within one single span of years. As a matter of fact, if we want to grasp the nature of reincarnation we would do well to study how we can rebirth ourselves several times within our present lifetimes.
When you change your life utterly - as I did in the period when I first read Seth Speaks (and was dreaming of an ancient native "woman of power" who required me to learn Mohawk in order to understand her) - you may find you have some karma to deal with, bequeathed by your former selves. You may be distracted by "bleed-throughs" from "probable selves" (as Seth would call them), parallel versions of you who made different choices and are walking not far from you, on paths you abandoned.

Your power is now. You stand now at the center of all times and dimensions. Your challenge is to explore how much it is possible to influence for the good of all through the choices you now make.
-
Hindu vision of a chain of reincarnation. Image from Himalayan Academy Publications, Kauai.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giant grey sheep opens the way to a guide



I am swimming in a very clean canal with green meadows to my left. I've been told that if I keep going this way I can swim directly to the great country house where a meeting will take place; the name of this house is something like "Cairncross".

I see a grey sheep grazing. It must be the size of an elephant. It has a black face, curly horns and black legs and the head is quite small in proportion to the vast body. I guess that sheep of this kind are bred for meat rather than wool. I remember being told that my hosts would roast an animal for dinner; maybe it will be a sheep like this.

The canal is getting quite shallow. Soon I can no longer swim without scraping my chest or belly against the gravelly floor. I get out and notice a large body of water to my right, perhaps a lake. I can just slide down the bank and continue my swim there.

Interruption: My 11-pound puppy wakes me up, barking for me to lift him back up on the bed.

Feelings: Intrigued. Frustrated at being pulled out of the dream.

Reality: I recall that in the Celtic immrama (voyage tales) you know you have reached the Otherworld when there is a dramatic shift in scale. For example, the voyagers come to an island with ants the size of calves.

Action: When my puppy is settled, snuggled down in the small of my back, I decide to reenter and continue the dream.

Reentry experience:

Easy to get back to the giant sheep and the canal. I go down the bank into the lake. The water is delightful, but I am soon aware that there are other inhabitants. I catch a glimpse of them. They are giant eels the size of treetrunks, armed with many rows of spiky teeth. They are blind, but are drawn to movement. I decide it's prudent to continue my journey along the edge of the lake.

I come to a rise and see, through woods, another body of water below me. A giant yellow fish, the size of a marlin, breaks surface and I decide that perhaps I won't be swimming here either. There's the back of a house visible through the trees. Maybe this is my destination.

I come to a gate in a high wire fence, and step through. This must be the back entrance. I pass a group of people eating what may be Thanksgiving Dinner. In contrast to the giant sheep, these people are smaller than ordinary human sized. The men are all dressed alike in longish black coats that remind me of butlers' livery. The woman are wearing copious country clothes, patterned like tablecloths.
They don't seem aware of my presence and I don't feel I have anything to learn from them.

I enter the house and find myself in a huge room that looks like the builders left it unfinished. The walls are untreated plasterboard and plywood. There are just a few sticks of furniture and a kitchen nook with very basic appliances and cupboards.

I become aware that a guide is present. I don't see him distinctly, but I sense he is larger than normal human size. However, even his gender is indistinct. I receive his thoughts directly. Our dialogue begins like this:

Why is this room unfinished?
It's waiting for you to choose the design and decor.

I think: I'd like a blue room. Instantly the walls are powder blue, hung with gilt-framed mirrors and set off with gilded boulle tables, very rococo French, with touches of Fragonard. I find the effect cloying, and substitute library colors and features, deep greens and cordovans.

This fooling around with room design is not why I am here. I remember now that I am seeking to learn more about how we can keep in touch with multiple personalities - all related within the multidimensional Self - who are living and acting in different times.

The Guide produces a sphere. It floats in midair, soft white and opaque.

Go inside

It's as simple as thought. I project myself into the center of the sphere. Around me, in every direction, scenes from different lives in different times are playing, as if on multiple holographic movie screens. Sometimes an element from one of these life "movies" will bleed through into another movie. Sometimes what is going on in one of the lives can touch and influence all of them.



Photo: Gotland sheep

Monday, October 18, 2010

Invoked or uninvoked, the god is present


A sampling of one-liners from the road - which led me last weekend to a lodge up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, right on the Eastern Continental Divide, which felt like the right location, symbolically, for bridging several distinct groups that were present (Jungians and Christian ministers, dreamers and Native American ceremonialists).

"I have to work very hard in order to play." (Jungian analyst, in a playshop.)

"I envy you Native Americans because you have ancestors." (American woman of German-Irish descent, quoted by the leader of an indigenous-themed fire ceremony.)

"Play is something you don't want to stop doing." (My own summary of what I felt at the end of a playshop, when I did not want to stop drawing in crayons.)

"You are an unrepeatable miracle." (Retired Presbyterian minister, at the end of one of my presentations.)

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit. Inscription on a mug presented to me in the closing ceremony at the conference. This statement was carved by Jung above the door of his house at Kusnacht. He found it in the Latin writings of Erasmus, who stated that it was an ancient saying of the Spartans. It means: "Invoked or uninvoked, the god is present."


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Book of Raziel



One of the neverending stories is about an ultimate book of secrets, a book containing all the secrets of the universe and the record of everything that has happened and can ever happen to human beings. All celestial and all earthly knowledge is recorded here.
    In Jewish legend, it is said that Raziel, the archangel of the Mysteries whose name means “The Secret of God” gave such a book to Adam when he was living in the Garden of Eden. By means of this book, Adam was able to master the seventy-two branches of wisdom and gain entry to celestial mysteries that were hidden even from the higher ranks of angels and archangels. According to the Zohar, the mighty angel Hadarniel told Adam: “You now possess treasures of the Lord that are unknown even to those who live in the heavens.”

It is the book out of which all things worth knowing can be learned, and all mysteries, and it teaches also how to call upon the angels and make them appear before men and answer all their questions. But not all alike can use the book, only he who is wise and God-fearing and resorts to it in holiness.

Some say the book “flew away” when Adam and Eve committed their transgression.
Others say that many of the angels were jealous that such powerful knowledge had been entrusted to the first human. The jealous angels stole the book and hurled it into the depths of the sea. To retrieve the book, God had to enlist the help of a primordial power of the deep: Rahab, the angel of the sea.
    From time to time, two of the archangels who are friendly to man – Raphael and Raziel – have shared the book with humans.
    After the fall, Adam repents and prays for God’s compassion. He asks for knowledge of the future Raziel comes to him when he has been praying for three days on the bank of a river that flows out of Paradise. Raziel tells him he will give him a sacred book that will give him and his descendants knowledge of things to come “if they will but read this book in purity, with a devout heart and a humble mind, and obey its precepts.”
   Adam is so terrified when Raziel starts reading from this book that he falls on the ground shaking. The archangel tells him to get up and brave up. “Be of good courage, be not afraid, take the book from me and keep it. Learn from it and become wise, and you will teach its contents to all who are found worthy of knowing what it contains.” When Adam accepts the book, ‘a flame of fire” whooshes up from the river bank, and Raziel soars heavenward with it, leaving Adam in no doubt about the nature of his visitor.
    After the death of Adam, according to one tradition, the book disappeared. The cave where it was hidden was revealed to Enoch in a dream. It was from this book that Enoch derived his wisdom and the maps he used in his otherworld journeys. He committed to the book to memory and returned it to its hiding-place.
    Since then it has come into the possession of exceptional humans in the way of Adam or the way of Enoch: through direct transmission by an angelic visitor, or through dream revelation. (Often the two are closely related.) When God decided to send the great flood, he despatched the archangel Raphael to Noah with the book. From it Noah learned how to construct the ark. The book Noah received was made of sapphires. When he took it on board the ark, it served him as a timepiece, allowing him to distinguish night from day. From Noah, it descended to Shem and then to Abraham. It turns up again in the hands of Solomon, “who learned all his wisdom from it, and his skill in the healing art, and also his mastery over the demons.”
    In the middle ages, a number of manuals of angel magic and occult lore circulated among a discriminating (or less-than-discriminating) clientele under the title of Sefer Raziel, the Book of Raziel. A number of these works survive in the British Library. They seem heavily tainted by the Faustian desire to wield secret power for its own sake. I have the feeling that Raziel would like to dissociate his name from the schools of sorcery and recall us to a higher path of knowledge.
    The descriptions of the book as “made of sapphires” and lighting up Noah’s ark are glimpses into hyperreality, for a book that contains the secrets of the cosmos is clearly no ordinary book. It may be related to the “painted curtain” on which all souls are depicted, that was shown to Adam according to the Zohar. It is surely related to books we discover, like Enoch, in dreams.

Quotations without other attribution are from Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Ginzberg is the indispensable source on Jewish angelology.

Graphic: illustration from one of the manuals of magic titled Sefer Raziel, not to be confused with the Book of Raziel of the higher tradition.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Return Journey




In the journey of the hero (or heroine) of a thousand faces, the homecoming is often the most difficult passage. A large part of the Odyssey is devoted to the trials and battles of the hero after he makes it back to his homeland. I wrote a poem about this at the end of leading a deep adventure into soul recovery and soul remembering:



The Return Journey

You found the courage
to turn on the tiger who pursued you
to fight with him hand to claw
to be swallowed and spat out
and to win through your losing
reforged in a shining body
worthy now to take his heart
and call him as your unswerving ally.
It is not enough.

Out of your yearning
you danced into worlds of enchantment
you drank from the breasts of the Goddess
where kisses flower into hyacinths
caresses stream into rivers of milk
every nerve ending is a partner in love
and hearts are never broken.
You discovered that dreaming is magic.
But it’s not enough.

As a confident traveler, you learned
to shrug off your bodyshirt
and ride the World Tree
as your private elevator
to soar through the face of the moon
dance with the Bear among the stars
to enter the sun behind the sun
and fly on wings of paradise over a fresh world.
You’re out there, but it’s not enough

Out of your calling
you braved the gates of the Underworld
and crossed the borderless river on your heartbeat
and tricked the Dark Angel in his own realm.
When you stood, defeated, before the impregnable walls
of Death itself, you raised a song from your heart and belly
that called help from the highest heaven
to pluck a soul from the cold recreation yard
where nobody plays new games.
But you must make the return journey.

The way back is full of diversions.
Some will detain you with pink kisses;
some will drag on you as drowning men
You’ll find the markers have been moved, or stolen.
Maybe you’ll have gone so deep, or so high
you can’t remember which world you left your body in.
Or you’ll rebel against returning to a world
where hearts are broken, and the earth defiled.
You will return. This is your soul’s agreement.

Now you have danced with the Bear
you will bring healing to the world of pain.
Now you have traveled the roads of soul
you will help the soul-lost to bring their children home.
Now you have flown as Apollo on a shining arrow
you will bring light into the shadow world.
Now you know the gates and paths of the Real World
you will make bridges for others.
You will bring it all home.

Returning, you will remember your mission:
To serve the soul’s remembering;
to go among people as dream ambassador
opening ways for soul to be heard and honored.
Let the world be your playground, not your prison.
Starchild ,plunge with delight into the warm, loamy Earth,
Renew the marriage of Earth and Sky,
Follow your heart-light, dance your dreams,
Commit poetry every day, in every way.
Now you are home.

Odysseus and Calypso by Arnold Bocklin