Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
The Need for Neighborhood Magical Orders Part 2
Or how to pick a decent esoteric salon topic.
Greetings and well met to those of us who are still blundering into the ethereal, hearty hello to my witches, sorcerers, alchemist, overly cautious deconstructing christian who has silently stayed on this mailing list for two years since the transition, I see you, and all the rest of the Beloveds!
Welcome back to “a sorcerer's notebook.”
Remember it is not THE sorcerer’s notebook. I am not an authority, I am a practitioner. Think of me as your crash test dummy in the astral plane. Your test pilot through the cosmos. Your scout team in a new land or a red shirt on star trek. Basically disposable esoteric hero. Some would say fool, but I digress.
We are continuing our talk about the need for neighborhood magical orders. The case for a watchgroup, or magical gathering, is in the last newsletter, linked above, but someone asked a fair question. “Isn’t that just a coven?”
The short answer is no.
The long answer is although what I am suggesting may offer community, foster magical, spiritual, personal esoteric growth, open the “doors” on the block, maybe even move the juggernaut that is human experience a notch forward.
No covens can and do all that, but they are typically dedicated to a similar tradition, goddess, or divine framework.
I am saying we need something much more esoterically ecumenical and intentionally structured around mystical diversity. When is the last time you heard another esoteric practitioner functioning in an almost separate ontological cosmos describe a phenomenon you are experiencing?
What I am suggesting are salon-like gatherings. But what’s a salon without an incredibly engrossing subject, and how does one select a subject?
So I am going to suggest a hermeneutic for you as a group first to help you make great selections.
In other terms if we are to take a position of a modern paranormal research gathering of scholar practitioners, which I would argue we all are the moment we start to move in these ways towards a shared esoteric community, then what are we on the “watch” for?
What shared principles should we use to recognize places that esoteric practitioners can move as one across traditions? Without, hopefully nonconsensual transgression of tradition, misrepresentation, and more importantly some basis for shared communication. I suggest when you gather you only discuss methods, oddities, and the strange in regards to discussion items that can meet 4-5 of these requirements, that Goodrick-Clarke lays out in his voluminous text on the subject of western esotericism called quite poetically: The Western Esoteric Traditions. Lolz.
This is admittedly a very “white framing”, but only because Goddrick-Clarke and many others completely miss the indigenous perspective and the diasporic traditions of black peoples of the americas. My current research at the GTU is creating the counter narrative over this prevailing one but: the hermeneutic is a sturdy tool for trans and cross traditions.
“Taking the Renaissance concordance of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and Kabbalah, along with astrology, alchemy, and magic, Faivre deduced six introductory fundamental characteristics of esoteric spirituality. The first four of these he described as intrinsic in the sense of all being necessary for a spirituality to be defined as esoteric. To these he added two more characteristics, which although not necessary, are frequently found together with the others in esoteric traditions.
The six characteristics are as follows:
The entire realm of nature in all its constituent levels of being (stars, planets, humans, animals, plants, minerals, humors, states of mind, health and disease) are considered to be linked through a series of correspondences or analogies. This connection is not understood causally, but rather symbolically through the ancient idea of the macrocosm (the universe or heavens) being reflected in the microcosm (the constitution of the human being) and expressed in the Hermetic axiom “As above, so below.” These correspondences, essentially expressing the divine origin of all manifestation and its underlying “cousinhood” in a taxonomy of creation, are often veiled but are intended to be deciphered by humans as the seals or signatures of the divine. Thus links, seen and unseen, exist between the seven planets and the seven metals, between the planets and plants and between plants and parts of the human body. Such correspondences between the natural, celestial, and supercelestial worlds provide the theoretical basis of astrology, alchemy and magic and played an important role in Paracelsian medicine. Correspondences also exist between the cosmos, history, and revealed texts, giving rise to Jewish and Christian Kabbalah, esoteric biblical exposition, and eighteenth-century forms of “sacred physics.” The universe is conceived as a cosmic hall of mirrors, in which everything finds an analogy or reflection in something else.
2. Living nature.
This idea comprehends the cosmos as a complex, plural, hierarchical entity that is continuously animated throughout by a living energy or soul. The idea that nature is alive in all its parts underlies the esoteric conception of the correspondences possessing a vital, responsive connection with one another. In the practice of natural magic (magia naturalis), the magician knows how to exploit the sympathies or antipa- thies that link herbs, stones, and substances, and how to invest talismans with their powers. The idea of living nature is a defining characteristic of Paracelsianism and continues in modern expressions such as German Romantic Naturphilosophie and the vital fluid of Mesmerism.
3.Imagination and mediations.
Faivre’s third intrinsic characteristic of esoteric spirituality rehearsed Henry Corbin’s idea of Creative Imagination. Faivre speaks of a “kind of organ of the soul” which can establish a cognitive and visionary relationship with a mesocosm, an independent world of hierarchies and spiritual intermediaries which link the macrocosm and microcosm. This mesocosm is identical with Corbin’s mundus imaginalis, which although drawn from the latter’s study of Islamic spirituality, finds a strong parallel in such Western esoteric figures as Paracelsus, Boehme, and Swedenborg. Faivre notes that this idea of mediation also represents a functional difference between mystical and esoteric spirituality. Whereas the mystic typically seeks a direct and immediate unio mystica with God without any intervening images or intermediaries, the esotericist tends to focus on the intermediaries (an- gels, devas, sephiroth, hypostases) that extend up and down the ladder of spiritual ascent as a preferred form of contemplation. Imagination and mediations thus give rise to the rich iconographic imagery of alchemy, theosophy, cosmology, and spiritual anatomy that characterize esoteri- cism from the seventeenth century onward.
4. The experience of transmutation.
Faivre’s final intrinsic characteristic concerns the inner experience of esoteric spirituality. Esotericism does not simply describe some intellectual or speculative knowledge of the cosmos but rather an understanding that fundamentally transmutes the speculative subject. Just as there is a change of state in alchemy, so there is a change of being as a result of the illuminated knowledge (gnosis) that the esotericist experiences through active imagination and engagement in the mediations between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Corresponding to alchemy’s central metaphors of refinement and purification, illumination offers the experience of transmu- tation, a change of state and spiritual ascent. By virtue of this revealed knowledge, the human being experiences an inner metamorphosis or “second birth.”
5. The Practice Concordance.
From End Of The Fifteenth Century Onward, an intellectual tendency to establish similarities between various esoteric traditions is marked. The Renaissance esotericists were excited to dis- cover homologies between Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and Kabbalah. Their motivation was not simply a matter of establishing intellectual harmonies, but rather the implication that these traditions sprang from a single, authentic, and divine source of inspiration, thus representing the branches of an ancient theology (prisca theologia). With the advent of comparative religion and knowledge of Asian religions in the nineteenth century, modern Theosophy repeated this project positing an ancient wisdom tradition inspiring all religions and esoteric traditions.
Many esoteric traditions imply that the full profundity of the teaching can only be passed from master to disciple through an es- tablished path of initiation. The validity of the teaching is attested by various forms of certification or authentication bearing on the tradition, lineage, and credentials of the group, order, or secret society (as in Rosicrucian orders or Freemasonry), and the process of individual initiation represents the ritualization of the reception of that tradition.
Such a taxonomy offers a means of systematically comparing traditions with one another.
Using this lens taken directly from Goodrick-Clarke is a great starting place as a framework for your first conversation. Does this subject have a line of transmission? An obvious correspondence in all the gathered traditions or most? Does it feel transformative when used by practitioners across traditions? Is it a part of living nature?
Now that we have nailed how to find a subject, next time let's talk about how and why to gather folks.