In my previous post I discussed the esoteric idea about different levels to existence. At the very top of these levels is the Spirit Plane. This is something we are all familiar with. Most religions divide existence into the physical world and the world of Spirit. Spirit exists outside of the laws of time/space wherein God, the angels, heaven and the dead exist.
Can we possibility have any knowledge of this spirit world? We seemingly don’t have any direct connection to this realm, so all appears to be conjecture. Religious scriptures have something to say about this spirit dimension. Christian scripture tends to be a bit vague when it comes to the world of spirit. At the opposite side, the ancient Egyptians had an elaborate map/guesswork of what they thought happened after death.
Ceremonial magicians have long thought of the spirit dimension as the source of power for their craft. They would invoke the name of God for just about anything including the most nonsensical objectives. What is up with medieval mages trying to summon angelic powers to find hidden treasure or curse a neighbor? I don’t get that at all.
It is suggested that a part of our being also exists in this Spirit Plane but is inaccessible to our daily consciousness. This part of our being has been called our Higher Genius, or Higher Self. In the grimorie “Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage” there is a technique given called the Abramelin operation which is supposed to bring the mage into direct contact their “Holy Guardian Angel” (another name for our Higher Self) who will reveal great magical secrets to the mage. The occultist Aleister Crowley famously used this method. I never heard of anyone actually achieving the stated results.
Outside of religious and occult doctrines, we have the personal experiences of people who had near-death out-of-body experiences. Very often they encounter a tunnel of light, and after passing through it they encounter the spirit world. They report encounters with their departed loved ones, a feeling a transcendent joy, of understanding the meaning for everything, and have a life-review where in an instant they relive all the good or bad they ever did in their lives.
Is it possible for the living to have contact with this spiritual dimension? What is the essence of spirit? How does spirit reflect itself in our lives? We don’t need any hocus pocus for the answers.
My personal answer is that the nature of the spiritual dimension is Love. Love is a part of our everyday, mundane lives. The love for one’s spouse, the love for your children, loving your friends and neighbors…the love of all humanity is our connection with the deepest level of existence. When a parent is toiling at working two jobs to support their family, they may not realize it but they in harmony with the purpose for our existence.
For me, the clearest statement on the nature of spirit and love is the famous bible quote about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, which ends:
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
To achieve harmony with the cosmos is as simple as embracing love for all humanity. Easier said then done! Religion is often in disharmony with the spirit of love. Look at Islamic radicals killing people in the name of God. That is not only disharmony but complete blindness.
Another example, only a few short decades ago in the U.S., it was illegal for people of different races to marry. People actually got arrested for it! Why? Because it was considered immoral and ungodly for the races to mix. How could supposedly godly people believe in such things? Maybe they were not in harmony with the spirit of love? If people view other races as human beings like themselves, with love, they would not have had such views.
Today we have the controversy about gay marriage. Again, religious people look at gays as abominations and gay marriage as an abomination multiplied. I can appreciate people have cultural reasons for being against gay marriage, but decades from now people will look back and say, “What were those people THINKING back then??” when gay marriage is commonplace. Just like we do today looking back at interracial marriage.
Being in harmony with love and the spiritual dimension is not a religious matter but a personal one. In my next post I will consider the next level of existence…the abstract level, or what might also be the anthropic principle.
secret of true magic
The law of attraction, manifesting reality, and magic are concepts that are basically interchangeable. The methods and techniques used to alter reality are similar when brought down to their essentials. Essentially, it is using our thoughts to create patterns in some form of cosmic energy or vibration which then reverberates down to affect our physical existence.
The law of attraction uses control over our thought process to accomplish this. Magic uses ritual and altered states of consciousness to achieve the same thing. An interesting question is…how does this work? There are vague ideas about vibrations and energies and unity with the universe. It seems the techniques are highly developed, but the theories behind the mechanics are not. Which is reasonable since nobody really knows how it works. But lack of understanding won’t stop me putting in my two cents worth!
What is this cosmic vibration that manifests reality? I will offer the ideas developed by mystics, occultists, spiritualists and cabalists. These ideas are speculative, but make for interesting food for thought. Above is a graphic I made to illustrate the point I will make.
According to some mystical viewpoints, there are different levels of reality. At the highest level is the realm of Spirit which exists outside out time and space. We have no direct contact with this reality. Spirit created the Big Bang as an act of creation, the ultimate manifestation of reality. From the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe, all the levels beneath were created.
The level below Spirit is the Abstract level. These are the laws of reality which are revealed in mathematics. It is not matter and not energy, but the rules that govern physicality. It seems to be closely related to the science of quantum mechanics. These laws created evolution…and sentient life.
The level below Abstract is the Astral level. The astral level is the level of consciousness, sentience, the subconscious, and the mind. The mind (Astral body) is not matter, it is not energy, and it is not only biology or even information, but something all together different then anything else in the universe. Consciousness is unique. It is the pinnacle of Universal creation, the big bang’s last act.
Below the astral level is the etheric level. This seems to be a finer form of matter invisible to us. It is closely related to life, auras, chakra and our invisible body. It might also be related to cosmology’s dark matter. Not long ago the idea of an invisible world all around us would be scoffed at. Now science recognizes that invisible dark matters makes up most of the universe’s matter, but have zero idea what it is. It is the realm of ghosts and possibility other entities.
Finally we have the physical world we all know, the realm understood by science, of matter and energy.
What then is the mechanics behind magic? The secret is that all these levels co-exist simultaneously in everything. All individuals are made of the spirit, abstract, astral, etheric and physical levels. According to the theory, the astral level (the mind) can send patterns up to the spirit level, and then it returns descending back down vibrating through all the levels until it reaches the physical world…manifesting reality. The tricky part seems to be contacting the realm of Spirit which exists outside of time/space. The techniques for magic seem to have that as the ultimate goal in one fashion or another.
In future posts I will examine each of these levels of existence in more detail.
In the past, whenever Batman was mentioned in the media, it was usually accompanied by such verbal cleverness as…Wham! Bam! Pow! Holy Batman! This was inspired by the silly TV show from the 1960s, which was the popular cultural view of Batman. It was obligatory for any news story about the comic book character to start off with a recognized cliche. Back when the first Michael Keaton Batman movie came out, this was common. And today? When Batman is mentioned now, the box office success or the acting of Health Ledger is discussed with no “Holy Cow Batman” in sight. What happened? The popular cultural view of Batman has changed, evolved.
Occult hit: Witches bucking religion trend
A couple days ago as I was reading the newspaper during lunch, I came across an article on page 10 of the Chicago Sun-Times. It was a story about witches. I was sort of taken aback, since I can’t recall when I saw an article with the word “Occult” in the headline.
The article is a fair story concerning Wicca and “new” religions. As a page 10 story it wasn’t hidden away in the depths of the newspaper. Does this mean that Wicca has been accepted in our mainstream culture? Not really. While the article is nice, it has the same “gee whiz Batman” condescending air that shows Wicca has a long way to go in the popular imagination. For instance, the first two lines of the article, ”They don’t toil over bubbling caldrons or cook lost kids. They have no use for flying monkeys.” Oh please! Cauldrons and cooked kids. Sigh. Wiccans are still thought to be caricatures from Halloween and the Grim Fairy tales. When will Wicca be mainstream? When news stories don’t begin with brooms, pointy hats and references to the Wizard of Oz.
Another misconception is using the words “occult” and Wicca in the same breath. They are not the same thing. Wicca is a religion. “Occult” is mostly a philosophical approach that touches on religion, but is really not religious. An occultist may seek to understand and interact with a hidden reality and aspire to higher consciousness, but it does not offer information about the nature of God. Mysticism is religious, concerning man’s attempt to have direct knowledge of God. The witch, the mystic and the occultist are not exactly the same thing, even if one person could be all three at the same time.
On the bright side, it is nice to see alternative spirituality recognized in the media, so bravo to the Sun-Times. On an unhappy note, the Chicago Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy this week. The Chicago Tribune already filed for bankruptcy earlier. What is going on with our newspapers? I love newspapers, I am a daily reader, and I enjoy the feel of newspaper, the way the ink darkens my fingers. It is one of life’s great simple joys, like having a cup of coffee in the morning. Reading the news online is not the same relaxing, tactile experience as reading a newspaper. Lets support our local newspapers!
I will take a nugget of an idea and see where it will take me. With some ideas…there is not much of a nugget to work with. I am always on the lookout for anything symbolic of the occult, just because it is so rare. Recently I was at a store and I saw something that literally made me stop and stare. It was a bottle of vodka in the shape of a skull. I thought to myself, “that is SO cool!” I even took a picture with my cell phone (above).
I wanted to buy it to display, but it was $50. Well…I had to think about how badly I needed a glass skull. So I did not get it. But I thought about it! Talk about an excellent marketing gimmick. I have yet to decide if I want this cool thing in a bookcase…but it captured my imagination. So I checked it out online. And behold! I discovered something else very cool. Dan Aykroyd has a video online promoting this glass skull vodka. I am not selling these things. But Aykroyd sure is! He presents the topic ably (if tongue in cheek). Dan Aykroyd is known for his active interest in the paranormal…and acting.
Using this nugget of an idea, I could write about crystals skulls. Indiana Jones made this a concept of interest when the movie came out. After I saw the movie I was curious about the mythology and wanted to see what it was about. The truth is, there were no ancient crystal skulls. They were all fairly recent in origin. Oh well! However, I do like the idea of the occult as a marketing gimmick.
Since we are speaking of skulls…below is a cool and famous optical illusion…all is vanity.
I consider the Bible to be an occult scripture. How so? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be the exact opposite of anything occult? I could refer to the Kabbalah or the bible code concept. Christianity has been the inspiration for mysticism of all varieties. Occultism has strong foundations in Christianity.
As an example, here are two versions of the tarot card “Judgment”. Its imagery is clearly taken from the Christian idea of the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment. Their meaning is not quite that. The angel at the top could be interpreted as spiritual guidance from Above, or as our own higher self, the part of us connected to the Universe, often called our higher guardian angel. Whichever, it is calling on us towards the path to enlightenment and becoming one with the Universe. Of note is that one character at the bottom who has their back turned to us. This represents our self in the scene, seeking inspiration, face turned toward the event. This card invites our direct participation.
However, with the idea of an Occult Bible, I am referring to something else. First is the definition of “occult”. Occult is defined as dealing with the supernatural, with spiritual agencies, about matters that are beyond human comprehension, and concerning secret and hidden knowledge. Occult literally means, “hidden or concealed”. That is the Bible from my perspective…dealing with deep spiritual and supernatural concepts in a cryptic, indirect way.
People assume the Bible is clear-cut in how it defines God and the nature of reality. I personally don’t see it that way. I see the Bible as mysterious with multiple layers of meaning. The first glance is often the incorrect glance. An example could be how Genesis explains the creation in seven days. This can’t be literal (first glance). If we look deeper, we see glimpses of the scientific evolution of the universe described in metaphors. “Let there be light” can be viewed as starting with the Big Bang, and then a step-by-step process of cosmic evolution all the way down to human life…first plants, then sea life, then dinosaurs/birds, then mammals and finally humans. It is not described as a simultaneous creation. There might even be metaphors of what existed before the Big Bang…if only cosmologists had an open mind to consider the possibility.
Which leads to the most occult document of all…the bible’s book of Revelations. Thoughts of Revelations lead directly to bible prophecy. Talk about cryptic! A lot of people have stumbled in trying to understand Revelations. As a young guy I’d listen to a TV preacher named Charles Taylor discuss his view of biblical prophecy. Over the years he gave updates, and I recall him putting great importance on the European Union. He considered how the emerging 10-nation European Economic Union would transform into a 10-nation world power governed by the Antichrist. Sounded good at the time. Except now the European Union has 27 states! Other proponents of Biblical prophecy like Hal Lindsay also laid big eggs. Nostradamus had a better track record then these modern sages.
Therefore, I fearlessly jump into where these others sages tread! I will give my two cents on eschatology. I think the secret of understanding Revelations is in verse 8:8, the “Second Trumpet”. It states that “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea”. Most of Revelations’ plagues that befall mankind sound remarkably like the byproduct of an asteroid hitting the earth producing an extinction level event on par with what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are vivid verses that visually describe the sky darkened by the debris hurling into the sky and falling down burning much of the planet. Looked at from this perspective, the verses make chilling sense. After this disaster will follow the collapse of civilization and all that entails.
When can we expect this to happen? I sure hope not in my lifetime! A lot of Christians believe in something called the “rapture”. This means that before this asteroid slams into the earth, all proper born-again Christians who follow the correct theology will vanish into heaven, leaving behind all the rest of us to endure the end of the world. “Proper” Christians have nothing to fear and actually look forward to the end of the world.
Personally, I don’t think God plays favorites. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, pagans, or agnostics don’t deserve to be “left behind” while right wing Christians get to watch us from heaven while we handle the asteroid collision. What is up with that theology? I call it Chicken Theology. Maybe “end times” preaching is too scary without a rapture?
I will make my one true prediction concerning bible prophecy and the end of the world. When that time comes, “proper” Christians will be stuck here on earth with the rest of us. After the asteroid strikes, some Christians will be watching the event on TV and thinking, ”where the heck was the rapture?” If the end of the world ever does transpire and we all remain in it together, it will mean that God really does not play favorites, favoring one theology over another. And I will be proven right! But I’d really, REALLY prefer not to have that last chance to say, “I told you so”.
Not a good day
photo by Warner Bros Pictures
It’s great that Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his role as the Joker. Bravo! In his performance he created one of the great movie villains. When I saw the Dark Knight movie in the theatre, it left me thoughtful. What was the theme of this movie? It really did tackle some significant themes, something uncommon for action movies. I had to ponder this movie for a while.
One of many themes in the Dark Knight film, is both Batman and the Joker are damaged individuals, suffering from severe childhood trauma. Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma shaped him for the better, or at least in a better direction. This was a reflection of the positive nature of his upbringing by his parents. Wayne channeled his parent’s ethics into a positive direction. The movie suggests the opposite of the Joker. The personal stories he tells his victims suggests a horrific childhood. A child raised in a dysfunctional family will very likely follow in those dysfunctional footsteps. The Joker seems as intellectually brilliant as the Batman, but his intellect is aimed at trying to prove to the world how unfair life is and how morality and civilization are all a joke. The Joker’s rage is actually against his childhood.
The writers of the movie thought this through very well. The Batman character has evolved through the decades. From a child’s comic book, it matured under writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Inspired by these writers, director Tim Burton reinvented Batman along the line of this mature Batman. Yet, it was only a halfway journey into the direction the comic’s writers had already taken Batman. Later directors totally sank the movie franchise by going back to the silly past.
Director Christopher Nolan finally realized the Batman character’s full potential, taking the work realized with the Batman comics and transforming it into his movies. The themes of the movie were already present in the comics. The idea of the Joker as Batman’s dark opposite is not a new concept. That the Joker finds meaning in his life with his duels with the Batman is a common theme in the comics. What Nolan did that was brilliant was to take the very best ideas of the comics and somehow distill them into a truly excellent series of films.
Lets look at the character of the Joker. The Joker is an example of a Jungian archetype, the trickster. The trickster is a mythological character who plays tricks on clueless humanity. They were often malicious, such as the Norse trickster god Loki. Other tricksters were the fairies whose used their “glamour” or illusion to befuddle mortals. Or he could appear as the diabolic Mephistopheles who attempts to trick men into selling their souls in a doomed Faustian bargain. In the Batman movie, the Joker is very much like a Mephistopheles, who presents terrible moral choices without any chance at victory.
Also significant is the very name…the Joker. The Joker card is reputed to be based on the Tarot card, the Fool. If so it is the only card of the Tarot’s Major Arcana that appears in our modern playing cards. The Tarot’s Joker, the Fool, is the only unnumbered card. It shows a vagabond wandering with a bag hitched over his shoulder and a dog nipping at his legs.
What is the symbolism behind the Fool card? Slung over the Fool’s shoulder is a bag containing the suits of the Tarot. The four suits of the Tarot cards represent the various conditions of human existence, but they are tied up in the Fool’s bag, unrealized and unused. The Fool is unaware of their potential, and his own.
The next card in the Tarot is the Juggler. The Fool’s bag is now opened and their contents are laid out before the Magician on his working table. The Magician understands his potential and exercises it. The Fool wanders the earth clueless to his potential in his bag, chased by the dog of mundane everyday life. The Fool card symbolizes a state of ignorance and unawareness. The other cards of the Tarot show a steady progress through the various states of human existence on the path to final enlightenment. But at the very beginning is the Fool, completely oblivious to his great potential.
Is the Joker the Fool, and Batman the Magician?
The Fool and the Juggler cards
I’ve scanned some pages (above) from an old occult catalog. Nowadays everything is sold online, and quaint catalogs like this are pretty much part of the past. I don’t think the company that published this still exists. Yet, I get a kick out of checking out the different offerings from the past. These pages contain a mixture of cool stuff and some silly stuff.
I wonder…does anybody collect vintage occult items? I love collecting things. But I’ve realized that vintage occult objects are not easy to find. Not many people are into this topic to begin with, and I don’t think those who are consider acquiring these items as collectables. I know there is a healthy market for vintage books with occult topics. Outside of that, what is collectable?
True antique tarot cards are extremely rare and are not to be found. Modern mass produced decks are easy to find, but forget finding something made by woodcut. I know that there are collectors of Ouija talking boards and there are some nice pieces to be found. But that is as much a part of game collecting as occult collecting. Here is a great site for talking board collectors:
Does anyone collect interesting vintage items? There is not a big market for these items yet, which might make vintage occult artifacts something worth acquiring. I think this stuff is cool!
The Third Eye
Can spiritual practices alter the structure of our brain? The answer is yes! The current issue of Time Magazine has a cover story titled “How Faith Can Heal”. It has a lot of material to chew on. I quibble with the article “Biology of Belief” and it’s stance on applying “brain science” in trying to explain why people have religious or spiritual feelings. Neuroscience has no clue what consciousness is but they sure make a big deal about what parts of the brain are activated by certain thoughts. Do we need brain scans to explain why someone enjoys a game of chess? Here is the article:
What really caught my attention was this passage from the article:
“Pray and meditate enough and some changes in the brain become permanent. Long-term meditators — those with 15 years of practice or more — appear to have thicker frontal lobes than nonmeditators. People who describe themselves as highly spiritual tend to exhibit an asymmetry in the thalamus — a feature that other people can develop after just eight weeks of training in meditation skills.”
We can actually thicken our brain’s frontal lobes by long term meditation. That is very interesting! The density of our brain can be altered by such practices, like a muscle getting larger with exercise. Here is another article to confirm that:
When Buddhist monks were tested during deep meditation, monks with years of meditation experience showed dramatically higher gamma wave activity in their brain. Gamma waves are considered links to consciousness. What is intriguing from an occult view is that the frontal lobes, along with the pineal gland, are considered the “Third Eye”.
The Third Eye is a way of describing the area in our brain that is a link between the physical world and the spiritual world. It is associated with clairvoyance, second sight and contact with higher dimensions. This was thought to be the Pineal Gland at the center of our brain. But it really is our frontal lobes, the seat of our consciousness. It is fascinating that science has physical evidence of our Third Eye and how it is modified by spiritual exercises.
If you want to experience your own Third Eye, close your eyes and feel your consciousness…where do you feel you dwell? In your forehead’s frontal lobes. Along with meditation, if you want to develop your third eye and its potential, try this as an exercise. Again close your eyes and imagine you can see with your imagination. Look at your surroundings with closed eyes but visualize the area with your mind, your third eye. In time this visualization will become uncanny. Done regularly this will thicken your frontal lobes!
QUEENS OF HEARTS AND CUPS
The Rider-Waite Tarot is a legendary deck of tarot cards. They are unique in having symbolic imagery for every card of the deck and not just the major arcana. The minor arcana consist of what is now our standard deck of playing cards, except it has the addition of a Page added to the face cards of King, Queen and Jack/Knight. The Rider-Waite deck is full of symbolism from mystic A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith. It can be fun trying to find all the symbolism in the cards, like a game of spot the symbol.
To understand the symbolism in the Rider-Waite deck, we need to understand that each of the four suits of the cards represents one of the four basic occult elements. The suit of diamonds represents the element Earth, and in the Rider-Waite deck it is symbolized by the Coin. The diamond/coin symbolizes matters of money, commerce, and property.
The suit of hearts is the tarot’s Cup, and it symbolizes the element of Water. Water represents matters of emotion, the heart, and relationships. The suit of spades represents the element Air, and is shown as the sword in the Rider-Waite deck. I tend to disagree with this, I think the spade/sword should represent fire, but so be it. The spade/sword symbolizes conflict, politics, and power. And finally the suit of clubs is symbolized by a literal wooden club in the Rider-Waite deck, representing the occult element of fire (as in kindling wood).
The first card of the major arcara is the Magician (or Juggler). It shows the Magician at his working table and laid out before him are the four suits of the minor arcana (and our modern day playing cards). The Magician seeks to obtain mastery over the four occult elements and thereby all aspects of the human condition. Notice the magician points upward towards the Heavens/Universe and downward towards the earth, to call down divine power for dominion over the physical world.
Aces and Queen of Cups
Today is Valentine’s Day, so in honor of the holiday lets look at the Rider-Waite Queen of Hearts/Cups. Can you spot the symbolism in the Queen of Cups? Now that we understand the Cup symbolizes the element of Water, we can see all the symbols of water in the card. She sits on a throne at a beach with the water and sand at her feet. She holds in her hands the elaborate Ace of Cups. Her robe has the pattern of the ocean’s waves on it. And most interesting, engraved on her throne are Undines, which in occult theory are the elementals of the water.
In occult theory each of the four elements have spirits that exist in those elements. In water exist the Undines, in earth the Gnomes, in the fire live the Salamanders, and in the air dwell the Sylphs. These elementals are a big deal in occult theory. Some say faeries are the same thing as the elementals. I sort of doubt that. Elementals are a cornerstone of occult practices and their power is summoned in ceremonial magic. Faeries are not so cooperative!
The Rider-Waite face cards have these elementals represented in them. Knowing the Rider-Waite cards are filled with elemental symbolism, it can be fun to search the cards yourself and see if you can spot the symbols.
Last summer I visited the Yerkes observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is a beautiful 100-year-old observatory full of wonderfully carved ornamentation. For anyone visiting Wisconsin, and for fans of astrology, it is worth a visit just for its carvings of the zodiac, the moon and other celestial objects. What I thought odd was why an observatory, an institution of science, would be covered with the zodiac. Sure, celestial symbols are appropriate for an observatory, but astrology and astronomy are not exactly brothers-in-arms. Looking at the carvings made me think the architect might have had other things on his mind. Viewed from the occult perspective, it was fun to identify the occult symbolism I found there. A clue might be the Masonic symbols I saw. That is often a good indictor something else might be going on. Below are some snapshots of the interesting stonework at the Yerkes Observatory. Here is a link to their website: http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/
I am always on the lookout for spiritual or occult symbolism in public. This symbolism appears nearly nonexistent today. Maybe a hundred years ago it was different. Barns would display hex signs. Masonic symbols were put on tombstones. Today…nothing at all, or so it seems. However, if we look closely, we actually can see pagan symbolism is widespread, especially in our holidays.
Today is Groundhog Day. If we think about it…what a strange holiday. What is up with that? Groundhog’s Day comes from the Christian celebration of Candlemas, which was adopted by the church to take the place of the pagan celebration of Imbolc. This morning I watched live as the groundhog Punxsutaney Phil was taken out, with great fanfare, to see if he’d see his shadow. Many people were gathered to witness the event, and the press was covering it. Did anyone realize this was all based on a pagan holiday?