Stages of Magical Progression.

February 21, 2010

There is no set or right spiritual path. Each of us has our own, unique, spiritual path to walk, and with each of us our exact training and method of progression will differ. However when talking about magical practitioners, there are a set of general stages each of us goes through in the beginning. Note that an adept, typically considered the height of magical progression, is actually a very early stage in ones progression and really the point where they can start to understand more advanced spiritual work. This is because after these very early stages, it becomes near impossible to chart magical progression, because everything is going to be so different for everyone. Although these early stages differ too, when taken in very general terms they tend to be about the same for everyone.

There is no right amount of time to spend on each stage. Some people get stuck and they can spend an entire lifetime in one stage. Others can move through the stages fairly quickly. From my experiences, I’d say that each stage takes a minimum of about three to six months to complete.

Mundane – Also commonly known by other names, it typically signifies a person with no magical ability or aptitude. That however is a subjective definition that could signify some in other stages. For a more exact definition, we’re going to say a mundane is someone who is not actively trying to control the direction of their spiritual evolution. Note key words like active, trying, control, and evolution.

Everyone is always spiritually evolving, regardless of their participation. A devote Atheist is going through a spiritual progression in this lifetime, one that will lead them to the next step in their own personal spiritual path. What defines a mundane is that they aren’t active in moving their spiritual progression, instead they’re just letting it happen as it happens.

In the same way, a belief in spirituality does not necessarily mean that a person is not a mundane. Many religions do not mandate or require a person to be active in their spiritual evolution, which is different from simply being active within the religion or church, only that they be more or less faithful to the beliefs of the religion. Even a belief in psychic phenomena, ghosts, and superstitions would still only constitute a belief, not an active participation in evolution.

Neophyte –
The next stage is the neophyte. A neophyte is a person that is actively exploring spirituality with no distinct direction. It is common, although far from mandatory, for neophytes to explore and try out various groups and religions to get a feel for what they’re about, read books and research religions and other spiritual and metaphysical topics to learn about them, experiment with spellwork and ritual, and experiment with exercises designed to aid in achieving phenomena such as astral projection or remote viewing.

In all ways, a neophyte is exploring. They aren’t committing to anything. They’re just trying to figure out what path will be right for them. Neophytes are always asking questions, at least to themselves in their own heads, about spirituality and are trying to find answers. In latter parts of this stage, the neophyte will usually begin coming up with theories about spirituality and start supposing about things, often times with little or no practical experience to back it up.

Initiate – The next stage is the initiate. An initiate is a person who has dedicated themselves to a specific path that will lead to adepthood. The path may not clearly lead to adepthood, and adepthood may not even be a goal of the initiate, but that is the place where the path does eventually lead.

The beginning of the initiate phase is typically the point where a person first comes into contact with their first spiritual teacher, or when they first dedicate themselves to a group which has a training program that leads to adepthood. Some initiates may be self-initiated, and in this case the initiation begins when they first dedicate themselves to a specific path, however this is much rarer.

Not all self-initiations or even group initiations are signs of a person reaching the initiate stage. Often times these acts are done prematurely when a person is still struggling with the neophyte stage. If a person’s initiation into a system is premature and they are going to be unable to see it through to adepthood, they are not yet an initiate. Remember that you can only progress forward, not backwards. An initiate can never become a neophyte (at least in their current lifetime). A person who fails on an initiated path does not revert back to a neophyte, they were never an initiate.

Also not all systems offer training that leads to adepthood, and some systems do offer training that could lead to adepthood, but not in all instances. In these cases it can be hard to tell where initiation occurs, or if it ever occurs. If an initiation into a system directly leads a person to eventual adepthood, then they were an initiate at their initiation.

The initiate stage is moved through most quickly with teacher assistance. A teacher is specifically molded to meet the needs of the student and offers clear guidance through obstacles which may impede spiritual progression and will usually discourage spiritual stagnation.

The next quickest route through initiation is with a group, as this at least offers a general guideline to progression (through the system the group uses) and hopefully puts the initiate into contact with adepts who have have already moved through the initiates phase along with peers that are currently working at the same level as the initiate, all of who can give general advice for spiritual progression and will hopefully discourage spiritual stagnation of members. On the downside many groups are specifically designed to lengthen the amount of time initiation requires, especially those that are dependent on membership dues, since initiates are usually more likely to remain in the group and pay dues and cost the group less than adepts. Also the system of initiation is a general outline designed to work with the largest amount of people, not a specifically designed system to meet the exact spiritual needs of an initiate while taking into account their specific strengths and weaknesses.

The next quickest route through initiation is self-initiation. The advantage to self-initiation is that there is at least a general guideline for the practitioner to follow. Also, the practitioner can move at their own pace and focus on the specific parts of the system that are important to them. There pace may, at times, be quicker than with a group because the group may try to impede advancement to lengthen the amount of time of the initiate phase, or they may spend a great deal of time dealing with an area that the initiate is already strong in. Self-initiation has the same disadvantage of group initiation, that the system was not specifically tailored but a general system for advancement. Also, there is no one there to help the initiate. If the initiate comes across a difficult area or something they don’t quite understand, there is no one to offer advice or help them through it. The initiate pretty much has to just soldier through until they finally get it. The initiate may also get sidetracked in the wrong direction and spend a large period of time going down a dead end path. They are also more likely to stagnate because there is no one present to encourage their spiritual evolution.

Lastly a person can become an initiate and then an adept without ever having a teacher or being initiated into any system. It does happen, although this is a very difficult route, and is usually only done by people who are gifted and born with a very strong magical aptitude. It’s also a route that can take a very long time as the person has to develop everything from scratch.

Adept – An adept is any person that is adept at performing magick. It’s a simple definition, but it’s the most true. Although adepthood varies, there are signs that can be looked for to identify an adept. I’m not going to go in depth on how to identify an adept here because I believe it would take too long and is something that is best left for its own article (which I swear I’m working on right now).

Elder – This is less a progressive stage and more a term that is used to identify position. Not all adepts will become elders. Eldership is not the next stage of advancement after adepthood. However in order to be an elder a person must first be an adept.

An elder is simply a person who is an adept and has been an adept for a very long time. They are a person who is very experienced at being an adept, and so they are in a prime position to help direct the community and the general spiritual progression of its members. They are in a good position to be looked at as an authority in the community, even among other adepts, and thus can not only offer advice, but can also identify bad advice and those who are not adepts but are, nevertheless, acting as authorities within the community.

Most elders are old. This is because eldership requires many, many years of adepthood. Unlike the other stages which can be reached faster if one applies themselves correctly, a person really can’t reach eldership at an accelerated rate. By its definition, it requires years of experience. It isn’t just the accumulation of power. It’s the knowledge that comes from performing countless magical rituals and living a magical life for a very long period of time.

However remember that old does not guarantee eldership. There is a growing trend of insta-elders popping up in the community. These are folks in their fifties or sixties who have a midlife crisis who then start looking at alternative religions. They’ll read some books and maybe practice for a year or two and then declare themselves an elder, mostly on the authority of their advanced years. These folks are rarely even adepts, and if they are, two years is still not enough time to acquire the necessary experience to be a true elder.

Glossary Up.

February 15, 2010

I’ve just added a new page, a glossary of magical terms and religions. This is meant as a quick reference for anyone learning about magic, and to give definitions for some of the more obscure terms that may appear on my blog. I’ve limited the entries to just enough information to clearly define each term.

Please let me know of anything I may have missed, or any terms which you’d like to see in the glossary (I know I’m constantly realizing I’ve missed terms) or any information I may have wrong. This post is a good place to post suggestion. Please note the following rules I’ve followed in regard to entries:

1. I’m not adding names of individuals, that would take a list several times larger.

2. For the same reason I’m not adding books, the Necronomicon (which is a fictional book) and the I Ching (which is a divantory system too) are exceptions to this rule.

3. I’ve tried to limit groups to only those groups that are very large or have had a strong influence.

4. As for religions and spiritual movements, I’ve tried to list all of the major ones I know about which are closely related to practical magic, except for the Judeo-Christian religions which should be obvious.

5. I’ve listed religions, like Ariosophy, which have espoused views of racial supremacy, but only in cases where they have been metaphysical groups that happened to be racist, not in cases where the group was simply a religion built around racism. I’ve also have only done this to provide complete information about influential religions and in no way promote these groups.

6. I’ve refrained from listing obvious terms that no one would need a definition for like sword or wand.

Tools: Chalices, Cauldrons, and the Properties of Water and Other Liquids.

February 13, 2010

Chalices and cauldrons are magical elemental tools associated with the element of water. This is because they’re used to hold liquid. You can literally put liquid in them for your ritual. You’ll notice I’ve been going through each of the five elemental tools one by one. To understand how chalices and cauldrons work, I need to review how water works and what it does.

Water is a feminine element, and because of this it is a passive element. Water is passive in its flexibility, it takes on the shape of its container, unlike earth which is passive in its stagnation. Because it doesn’t hold a shape water is in a constant state of flux, it can change completely moment from moment. Because of this we associate water with the future, which is ever changing, and anything else that may be associated with a state of constant change.

For many of the same reasons we associate water with emotion. Emotions, like water, are constantly changing. Emotions are passive. They are a direct result of the environment, the container a person is put within if you will. Water also has unique properties in regard to holding emotional energy, or any energy for that matter, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Suppose I have two jars of water, each containing one liter (you can do this experiment yourself at home if you wish, there is no danger with it). If I take both jars and pour them into one bucket, what happens? I have my two liters of water, but they’ve combined together seamlessly. You can no longer tell which parts of the water came from jar one and which came from jar two. You can’t tell where one begins or the other ends. You can take this one step further and say there are no longer two separate liters of water. You could say that those two liters came together, and in their union created something new, a bit of water that is now two liters in volume.

This experiment shows where water gets a lot of its properties from. It is the element of unions. It’s the element of two things coming together. The obvious meaning is a romantic relationship, and this can be extended to make water the element of not just relationships, but also love, marriage, and sex. But it’s also the element of all other unions too, be it platonic relationships like friendship or companies merging together, or even symbiotic relationships shared by different entities.

We also said that we could take the experiment a step further, and see the two liters merging into one new entity. This is sexual union and the act of procreation, which is also associated with water. Both fire and water are elements of creation, however fire represents the masculine creative force, the act of singular creation, where as water represents the act of creation via a union of two.

Lastly we need to look at the properties of water concerning energy. Water is sort of weird because it does two completely opposite things. First off, it acts like a sponge. It will take in any energy that is around it. It will even forcefully suck it out of something. The more water you have, the more dramatic this will be. Crossing large bodies of water, especially running water, can be very draining because of this property of water.

The second thing that water does is that it gives off the energy that it takes. Water is not so great at hanging on to energy. Meaning that once water takes energy from something, you can put an item into that water in order to charge it.

Because of these properties, water in motion, running water, is generally clean and without energy, and is good for cleaning the energy from something or someone. For this reason cleansing rituals are best done in the shower. However between when the water hits your body and takes some energy from it and when it hits the drain it loses quite a bit of that energy, and so showers tend to be one of the most haunted places in a home, with spirits conjugating there and things going in and out of portals that have been created. The other really haunted place is over a bed that is slept in. Your entire life is a peep show for spiritual beings :)

Where as running water is clean and constantly giving up energy, stagnant water holds it a bit better, and is thus dirty and will charge you with whatever water is in it. In the same way if you’re in the woods you’re supposed to drink running water from a stream or the rain, not stagnant water like from a puddle.

Buying Chalices and Cauldrons

The majority of chalices and cauldrons will be metal. Sometimes you may find one made out of stone (and this is fine) or even something more exotic, like an ivory chalice. The one thing you need to stay away from are chalices and cauldrons made from plastic. These are going to prove to be vastly inferior tools. In fact plastic tools are almost always worthless, the one saving grace of a plastic chalice being that the water inside it is not plastic.

Chalices and cauldrons are feminine, and so ideally you’d want them made out of silver. Silver items tend to be pretty pricey though. Alternatively you can get one with a silver finish and this will work almost as well. A copper chalice, if you made one, would make an interesting tool and you could, no doubt, do some interesting things with it. This is far from mandatory though and a metal chalice that is neither silver nor copper will work just fine.

Cool Things to do With Chalices and Cauldrons

Chalices are unfortunately feminine, and thus passive, objects. Magick is largely concerned with action and doing, feminine objects don’t usually do things, they have things done to them. Because of this, chalices tend not to get much ritual use. Cauldrons are a bit more useful because of their larger size.

Certain religions that involve active magical practice, particularly many of the Wiccan sects and other neopagan religions influenced by Wicca, try to stress either an equality of the sexes or a feminine agenda. Because of this chalices are included in many rituals either to add balance to the masculine tools (like wands and knives) or in some extreme cases to try to elevate the role of the feminine by having it also encompass what it is not, often times devaluing the role of the masculine in the process. It’s important to remember that, in regards to spiritual practices, masculine and feminine refer to absolute and primal ideals, not gender. A boy is not spiritually masculine and a girl is not spiritually feminine (although they could represent these things). Nobody is entirely one or the other, and most people only slightly lean moreso in one direction than the other, and which direction they lean in has nothing to do with gender.

Back to the important point I was making, you probably won’t see much use out of these tools. Every once in a while they will come in handy, but unless you’re designing rituals to specifically use them, you won’t find much need for them. Some uses for them though:

Marriage Rituals: Chalices and cauldrons represent union. They are a staple of marriage rituals. You almost always see at least one if not two chalices at a wedding. Either the bride and groom should drink from the same cup to solidify their union, or the bride drinks from the groom’s cup as the groom drinks from the bride’s cup.

Energy Holder: This can be done with a chalice, to some degree, but works much better with a cauldron. During a ritual a cauldron can suck in a lot of the ritual energy. The ritual may be about empowering the cauldron, or it could just be that the cauldron is there to get the excess energy you plan on producing. Either way afterwards a lot can be done with the water. It can be bottled up and later thrown on things to release the energy on to it (this could be purifying or aggressive energy to attack with, for instance), an item (like a ring) can be dropped into the cauldron to be charged with the energy, or you could leave the cauldron open so the energy can seep out into the room to set ambience or for use in another ritual.

Sex Magick:
A lot of interesting ideas come to mind, especially with the cauldron. For one, a cauldron could be set up to capture some of the energy from the sexual act. Most people using sexual energy use the preorgasmic energy because this is very easy to raise in large amounts. However at the point of orgasim the energy surges eventually hitting a peak. Unfortunately this only lasts moments and you happen to be in the middle of an orgasm at the time, making it very difficult to utilize this energy. You can set it up to capture some of that energy into the cauldron, although the vast majority of the energy will still be lost (the cauldron is not going to be big enough to hold it all). The bigger the cauldron, the more energy you’ll be able to hold. You could also charge the cauldron beforehand in order to use the energy during sex. It could be used as an aphrodisiac, to direct or heighten the sexual experience, or it could be incorporated into a sexual ritual depending on the specific energy used. You could also incorporate the chalice or cauldron into a ritual meant to create a more meaningful and permanent union during intercourse.

Fertility Rituals: A chalice, and cauldron too, is actually fairly useful, although by no means necessary, in fertility rituals. The chalice is representative of the female, more specifically her genitals, in procreation. It represents both the sexual union of two people, and the female party in that union.

Bonding and Pacts: Remember how water represents all unions? One use of a chalice or cauldron is in a ritual designed to bond yourself to another entity. This means that the entity will somehow be attached to you or even become a part of you, or you a part of it. This is usually done for a variety of reasons, and typically both parties at least think they’re getting something they want or need out of the deal. A chalice can also be used to seal a pact with an entity.

Scrying: Water has a reflective surface. Anything with a reflective surface can be used to scry. Water is even better for scrying when you’re trying to divine the future though because the element of water represents the future. You can’t scry with a chalice, but you can with a cauldron, or even just a bowl. It needs to be a darker color though, since bright colors (and flashy designs for that matter) tend to hinder scrying.

Liquids Other Than Water

There are things other than water you could fill your chalice with other things. Generally most liquids will share some or even all of water’s properties. Traditionally most ritual liquids were either water, juices, teas, alcohol, or other drugs. I would recommend sticking to these and not trying to incorporate weird things like soda pop into rituals (soda, especially cola, is acidic and destructive, and actually would be useful in an infertility ritual. Also some people can use the high sugar content and caffeine to recharge themselves post-ritual).

Juices: Generally juices tend to have properties that are close to the fruits they are made out of. Apple juice is associated with fertility, pomegranate with the underworld, ect.

Teas: Teas are awesome drinks. They both relax you and refresh and heal you. Teas are associated with bringing one to a calm and peaceful state, recharging energy, increasing mental capabilities, and healing. The less refined the tea, the better (black is the worst, white is the best).

Alcohol: Typically the alcohol used is either beer or wine. Beer is used mainly because traditionally it has been more prevalent than anything else in some regions. Wine is preferable¬† to any other kind of alcohol though. When you’re drunk on wine its not as sloppy as hard liquor, or even beer. Even when you’re drunk, and you know you’re drunk and you can feel it, mentally its more like being buzzed. The loss of mental focus and intelligence, and the cloudiness that result from drinking are counterproductive to magical work. With wine, these effects are lessened. With hard liquor these effects are magnified quite a bit, and so generally we don’t use hard liquor in ritual.

All alcohol is associated with removing inhibitions and freeing oneself or bringing oneself to a more natural and honest state. Wine is associated with sacredness and the divine, and is also associated with certain gods (like Bacchus). Beer and ale is also associated with certain gods, and along with hard liquor is associated with the dulling of emotions or emotional healing. Alcohol being a drug, when used in large enough amounts it can lead to a spiritual catharsis. Alcohol can both open up your psychic senses, most commonly occurring with wine, or dull your spiritual senses, most commonly occurring with hard liquor. The actual effects, and their severity, will vary with the individual. Excessive drinking and alcohol addiction are counterproductive to any spiritual work.