Mystical Persuasion

Mystical Persuasion

One of the major discoveries I made about myself on my journey over the past year, is that I’ve always been drawn to the mystical. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I never thought about it deeply before. I am aware of my interests while growing up, but I never bothered to follow all of the crumbs to see where they could lead me. In retrospect, more self-awareness at a younger age could have saved me a lot of heartache and pain, but I also wouldn’t be where I am at today if I had made the connections then. The destination is only a small part of the journey. The fun is in the road trip.  

Our Lady of Medjugorje

As a kid, I was first fascinated by the religion I was born into, Roman Catholicism. I was the kid who knew all of the holy days of obligation, collected prayer cards like baseball cards, knew all of the mysteries of the rosary and prayed them obsessively, and I got into Marian apparitions. I even took a trip to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia when I was seventeen years old. The Virgin Mary is alleged to appear there to this day.

When I went to college I started to shift away from Catholicism, though I clung to it for a while. Much of the beliefs and dogma didn’t add up for me anymore. It was a difficult time as I was introduced to so many different religions and philosophies. I felt like I kept having the rug pulled out from under me. I found something that would make a little sense, but in the end, it would always leave me cold. You could say I became a temporary atheist then, though I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I even called myself a non-practicing atheist because I didn’t know what else to call it. I had no idea what I really believed; I just knew what I didn’t believe any longer.  But my spiritual life dwindled to occasionally playing Magic: The Gathering with friends. This mostly consisted of me creating my own decks and watching others play. I was more concerned with certain colors and spells that appealed to me than creating a competitive deck, so I lost a lot when I bothered to play.  

Apparently, an entire deck of blue cards is pretty useless.

Philosophy of science and 20th century existentialism where far more interesting to me than religion during my undergrad years. I studied philosophy, cultural anthropology, archaeology, geology and paleontology. These things resonated with me and they still do today. But something was missing. Even then, I felt a soul-sucking hole in my life and it ached.  

I would occasionally try to go back to Catholicism, but I didn’t feel moved by it anymore and I felt guilty engaging it it. I stopped going to church completely, which still upsets my mother. But if it’s not there, it can’t be forced. I didn’t feel any connection with any other denomination in Christianity either. And it felt like cheating. I didn’t have a beef with Catholicism in terms of a bad experience, I just couldn’t connect with it anymore. I felt nothing at all for Protestant Christianity or non-traditional forms of it. It was the mysticism I felt an attachment for, and outside of Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, there’s not a lot of it in the other branches.  

When I decided to go back for graduate school, I opted for a religious studies program that focused on the academic study of religion rather than a theological approach. It is during my tenure at grad school that I began to slowly find my way back to a spiritual pursuit. I remember being asked what I believed and I couldn’t answer the question. I pulled out the ole non-practicing atheist spiel, which made people laugh, but left me feeling rather empty.

I also noticed that I’d drift back and discuss my Catholic upbringing when I would be asked about my religion. I had nothing to offer in terms of what I believed, so I mined my past. But it said nothing of what my current beliefs were.

Time went on, I graduated with a masters in religious studies and I procured a few jobs in academia. I still felt no real connection to any belief systems. I felt adrift. Students would occasionally ask me what I believed, and I still couldn’t tell what it was. I knew by then it wasn’t atheism. I started to embrace a form of pantheism, but I wouldn’t classify it as Hinduism or Buddhism. It was more of a scientific pantheism in which there was no real difference between God and the Universe. But for that matter, it might as well be atheism.

About two years ago or so, I woke up in the morning when a desire to find out about the Egyptian god Thoth. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, particularly Celtic, Nordic and Greek mythology. As a child I was interested in Egyptology (I had a great love for Indiana Jones, I wanted to be an archaeologist), but not so much in the gods of Egypt. I knew them in passing only. So, it was out of the blue that I felt this urge one morning to look up the Egyptian deity of communications, magic, wisdom, the moon and invention. I did what most of us do, I looked up the Wikifile on him.

Thoth and the Crocodile Eater of the Souls sitting behind him.

Which led me to Hermeticism and all of the mythic stories surrounding Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, the Emerald Tablet and the Kybalion and… here I am today. I quickly started to obsess over the hermetic tradition. I searched the internet for information, bought every book I could afford, bought tarot decks, took classes, and fell in love with everything I learned. Since I’ve been on this road, I’ve experienced magic through a series of synchronicities that I would never have believed if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Hermeticism gave God back to me in a way I could understand and follow. All of the paradoxes I could never resolve were resolved under this ancient philosophical tradition. I could even reclaim bits of Christianity through the lenses of Gnosticism and alchemy. Divinity wasn’t outside of us, but within us. All religions, understood through the hermetic lens, blossomed with a new comprehension. The ancient symbols of the gods and goddesses, both east and west, revealed their power. The myths and legends from antiquity were — and remain — the magical alchemy that help people, then and now, to understand the divinity within the soul. These symbols, internalized, empower us if we are able to turn them from ideas into action.

Hermes Trismegistus

It’s been quite the road trip to get to this point. I don’t think I would have gotten to this place right here, right now, had I not gone through the badlands of confusion, and the climbed a few mountains to nowhere. Most of us learn our lessons the hard way on a road paved with blood, sweat and tears. I’ve stopped beating myself up for not understanding it all earlier. We start to understand when we’re able to and not a moment before. The point is to be open to that understanding when we are able to grasp it and act on it.

Thoth came to me in a dream and put me on this path. Here I am.

Road Trippin – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“These smiling eyes are just a mirror for the Sun…”

Embracing the Magic

Yeah, that’s all gonna have to come off.

For a while now I’ve been contemplating the reality that so many of us deny our own magic. Why is it that those of us who seek to recognize the magic in our soul, must go through years of intense shadow therapy to scratch the surface of our nature’s true core so that we can create a united will that will let us shine in our magical brilliance? One would expect that this shadow work needs to be done for anyone wishing to embrace the magic within, but it seems that we run into what I would term as excessive muck. Even once the outer layers of filth are removed, one must apply the proverbial scrapers and picks to skin off the tar, plaque and barnacles that have accumulated over years of systematic abuse and societal programming. The work, it seems, is never truly done.

A good friend of mine, Nick Mather of Dreaming Green, sent me a video from the movie, Samsara, that perfectly nails the visualization of how our psyches are attacked and taken over in a constant barrage of promises of wealth, happiness and beauty that give the illusion that we have some control over our lives. But this is a demonic spell we are under. The message, it turns out, is nothing more than layer upon layer of fear and crippling self-doubt, which keeps us working for the machine. We believe that if we work hard enough, keep our noses clean and don’t make too much noise, we will be rewarded. Except the reward never comes.

Office Man, from the film Samsara

I’m sure the behemoth looks like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

So here we are. Just a handful of shamans and witches in a world full of demonic forces in which most of the people have been scooped up into the behemoth industrial structure. I imagine some mechanical monstrosity held together now mostly with duct tape, rust and wads of chewed gum. And as insanely terrifying as it is, people believe in it and serve it. They can’t get out of its demonic thrall. My friend Nick likened our modern fascination with ourselves to the myth of Narcissus, who wasted away in the thrall of his own image in the water. But today it’s not even our own image, it’s an artificially constructed image. I think the key is there and why it is so worse now in the digital age than ever before. It’s the deception of a false image being made to appear as our own. We’re not looking at ourselves, we’re looking at simulacrum, which is distorted with false ideals of beauty and success. If we stripped off the veneer, we’d be left with something that more accurately depicts the portrait of Dorian Gray; something terrifying and wrought with its own corrupt, corrosive forces. Basically, we’ve each been lured into the trap with our own shadow, which is why it works so well.

Dorian Gray, by Ivan Albright

So, how did we come to this and what can be done about it?

I’ve discovered that much of the spiritual work I’ve done through my whole life has left out the physical world and concentrates on the spiritual realms. That’s really been the main problem all along. Spiritually, most of us have been taught to value the higher realm of God. We ignore the physical world around us at a great cost. The feminine, worldly aspects of spirituality have been stripped away in so many belief systems because it is viewed as lesser rather than the equal partner of the masculine, mystical aspects. This has left our world with a severe hormonal imbalance that is life threatening to the entire planet.  

A colorized version of the Above and the Below. Opus Medico Chymicum, by Daniel Mylius

In Alchemy, we often hear the principle of correspondence translated to “as above, so below, as below, so above.” However, this is not how it’s written in the translations we have of the Emerald Tablet, which is reputed to have been written by Hermes Trismegistus (the tablet has never been found, but many translations of it exist). The Emerald Tablet words this carefully because it is an alchemical formula for us to follow. It states, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” 1 We too often forget that we need to start with the Below if we’re going to work up to the Above. We exist in the physical world and it is here where we begin the whole process. Acting as though we are already lofty entities of great spiritual power is not only hubris, it’s psychotic. The act of world-creating demands that we unite the Below and the Above; these two worlds reflect each other. So, valuing only the Above and treating the Below as though it is trash, leads us into the scenario we are living out today.

Embracing the Divine Feminine and witch within has allowed me to pull the physical world into my spiritual practice. Witches, warlocks, shaman, medicine men and women, spiritual gurus, light workers and warriors, all know that we start in the physical world. We begin with Gaia and connect to the Anima Mundi, the World Spirit. It is from there that we can connect to the spiritual world of the Above to create our world Below in its image.

What I’ve learned from this process is to do away with ideas of sin and shame, which are completely unproductive and only work to sabotage us. Sin and shame, these two twins of destruction, keep us immobilized and trapped in the demonic snare of our current system. This is the muck that covers us unless we commit to the work of freeing ourselves from them.  It’s taken me nearly my entire life to learn this lesson so that I can just begin the process of shadow therapy. I’ve already cleared so much of it; I feel lighter and happier. But there is more to do. I have so much gratitude for witches like Carolyn Elliott and Lisa Lister for helping me to see how to embrace my inner witch — that lushes, gorgeous, powerful. magician within — and bring her forward. They taught me that the physical world is necessary, beautiful, and magical, but we also must remember to be a fully immersed part of it.

The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse

1 Hauck, D. W. (1999). The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation. New York, NY: Penguin Compass.