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Friday 18 November 2011

As above, so below

  "As above, so below" is a phrase often used by many in the occult community, but, I often wonder if some of those who use it, understand its significance. One often hears the explanation that entails man and woman are made in the image of God, or the microcosm is a reflection of the Macrocosm, and all that is contained in the Universe is also contained within the very nature of our being. These explanations often suffice to explain the general meaning of this common hermetic phrase, although there is a lot more to be discovered about its meaning if one will but delve a bit more deeply into the ancient texts..

The sacred writings of the ancient sages are what has come down to us as mythology and holy scripture, often the latter being a retelling of the former. For example, many of the New Testament stories have striking correlations with ancient Egyptian mythology. Gerald Massey lists over two hundred and seventy such similarities in the appendix of his excellent two volume book "Ancient Egypt The Light of The World" (pp907-914).

Most of these myths have their origin in astronomical lore and the stories of these myths, as seen from an exoteric (outer) perspective, are explaining the movements of the celestial bodies such as certain star constellations, the planets, and the Sun and moon. The film Zeitgeist explains this principle very clearly in relation to the movements of the Sun with the story of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. See here  But, the meaning of these stories do not end solely with this type of interpretation; there are deeper spiritual meanings which we shall take a look at shortly.

Before we look at the spiritual significance of these myths, it will do well for us to take note of a passage of writing from the Latin Asclepius. It says; “Do you not know, Asclepius, that Egypt is an image of heaven or, to be more precise, that everything governed and moved in heaven came down to Egypt and was transferred there? If truth were told, our land is the temple of the whole world.”

In other words, the ancient Egyptians mapped out there land after the constellations in the heavens. This method is called uranography, and an example of this practice can be seen in the “Records of the Past” series 1, Volume 12 inscription of Chnumhetep page 68-69. Where it says: “he established the landmark of the South; he sculptured the Northern like the heaven, he stretched the great river on its back, its place in the East was Apollinopolis, to remain in the East. Came his sanctity doing away with negligence, crowned as Atum he was Atum himself, he set right what he found wasted; he made the district in two parts, knowing its frontiers, for a district setting up their land marks like the heaven

It was not just the ancient Egyptians that did this, but can also be seen hinted at in a few passages in the Bible. One such example is in the New Testament, Hebrew 8:5. “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.”
The word “mount” means to go up, ascend, and in the ancient writings always signifies a place in the heavenly realm. Just like Mount Olympus for the Greek gods, and Mount Meru in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. When taking this into account it suggests that the place names on earth, in certain localities, where named after their heavenly counterparts - which came first. This can be seen with the name of the place of Jesus' birth, Bethlehem. Which means “house of bread” and is a reference to the constellation of Virgo, because Virgo is pictured as a virgin who holds a sheath of wheat. (See the link to the film Zeitgeist above)

Interestingly, St Paul mentions two Jerusalems in Galatians 4:25-26 “For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of all.”

And there is also a heavenly Jerusalem spoken about in Hebrews 12:22 “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to an innumerable company of angels.”

There are other examples in Revelation 3:12 and 21:2 where it makes mention of a new Jerusalem that comes down from out of heaven. If we look at the meaning of the name “Jerusalem” we shall see that it roughly translates as “abode of peace” which is an apt title for a heavenly place. It should then come as no surprise that in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, (which is correctly called; The Book of Going Forth By Day) the name for the Egyptian heaven is called the fields of peace! As Gerald Massey also confirms in his book, Ancient Egypt the Light Of The World page 539.
The name of Jerusalem we read as the Aarru-salem or fields of peace, equivalent to Aarru-hetep or Sekhet-hetep, the fields of peace in Egyptian. Jerusalem below was the localised representative of Jerusalem above, the Aarru-salem or Aarru-hetep on the mount of peace in the heaven of the never-setting stars.”

As was said before: these myths were attributed to celestial events and the movements in the skies, which were also the ancient's way of describing the stories about the soul's spiritual history and its evolution while down here on earth. This is the esoteric (inner) knowledge of spirit which, I would think, is highly likely that the sky was probably the first book used to explain such principles using the daily, monthly, and yearly course of natures symbols in the sky.

For example, the Zodiac chart is divided into four quarters that have three zodiac signs allocated to each quarter. These match the four cardinal points of the compass, the four seasons, and the four elements. As the Sun (which is the symbol for the divine soul) travels through these four quarters, it represents the spiritual journey of our divine soul passing through the four elements of earth, physical; water, emotional; air, mental; and fire, the spiritual. This is the fourfold nature of the human being that the divine soul partakes of, and thus crowns the lower elemental nature with spirit to form the microcosm.

This fourfold nature is also applied to the year with the seasons of winter, autumn, spring and summer; and also to the day with morning, noon, evening and night. For example, when the Sun enters the west it goes down towards the realm of matter where it figuratively dies and traverses through the underworld around the northern quarter until the morning, when the Sun rises in the east, which symbolises the awakening of our divine nature. From there, it moves to the south where we feel its full force of spiritual power until it repeats the cycle again. It is this same spiritual theme that is naturally represented by the seasons of the year and which the ancient annual festivals celebrated with their myths.

So how can we apply this methodology of thinking to our magical practices? One of the simplest ways and probably one of the most effective, if regularly practised, is by doing adorations to the Sun. Twice a day would suffice at morning and at night. By doing this we can form a link with our higher spiritual nature through the principle of "as above, so below." For it is not the actual Sun that we are praying too, but the spiritual principle of which it is a symbol of and which is also contained within ourselves. Once we have started to awaken the spiritual nature, then it becomes easier to see the "as above, so below" principle operating in our lives, and then we are able to partake in the fruits of our spiritual labour that we witness manifesting in our daily lives. If this becomes a regular continued practice, then we learn and gain skill in uniting the higher with the lower, the subjective with the objective, and therefore making it easier to bring about the unification of a peaceful spiritual state of being. It is within this state of mind where it becomes much easier to learn, grow, and develop in our magical practices and ideas; helping in forming a solid foundation from which one can work from.

Any form of prayer or invocation that one favours can be used. For example the Oration of the Salamanders found in the Grimorium Verum. Or maybe you would prefer Crowley's Liber Resh vel Helios.

I use the Aurum Solis Adoration rite because it is simple, direct, and easy to remember; and which I give below.

Salutation and praise unto thee,
O life-enkindling Sun,
Child of Lords creation!

O thou lone all-seeing eye of the vault celestial!
Extend thy light that I may see,
but dim thy glory that I be not blinded.

Unmask thy countenance, O God of Light,
for I am a lover of truth,
and I would behold the spiritual essence concealed
by thy golden disk!

So reveal unto my perception,
that shining and inmost nature,
even that high spirit which infuses thee
and is one with the primal flame of mine own being,

O life-enkindling Sun
child of Lords creation
salutation and praise unto thee!

Monday 7 November 2011

The Symbolism of La Befana and the Witch

This blog is going to contain some of my magical practices, (the ones I am willing to talk about in public ;)) reviews of occult books, and my general musings that will show how I perceive the mysteries of the occult world.

I have debated a long time about doing this, because I am a rather private person, but, considering all things change, then so must we. After all, we are supposed to be entering a new age when more knowledge will become available. I hope that some of my writings will contribute to this dawning of a new age, and in the process also help others find their way along the magical path. Just as some other magician's writings have helped me along my own path, and will continue to do so too.

Here is my first topic which will show my insight into the nature of symbolism, perceived and understood through the meaning of allegory. And considering we have just had Halloween and Christmas is the next festival just around the corner, it is a rather apt topic to write about.

The other day on Facebook, I stumbled upon a post by Sorita de Este that sugested the image of a witch on a broomstick at Halloween, probably originates with an Italian folklore character called La Befana. So I thought I would look up the legend of La Befana to see if I could find any parallels with the ideas I have about the symbolism of a witch. I was pleasantly surprised to find some corresponding symbolism in the legend of La Befana, that could show a possible association between the two.

According to the legend, La Befana is an old woman who was known to fly on her broomstick at night on the eve of January 6th, delivering gifts to children throughout Italy.
 As the story goes, while La Befana was busy cleaning her house, the three wise men knocked on her door asking her for directions to where the Son of God was because they had seen his star in the sky, but she did not know, and kindly offered them food and shelter for the night. After dinner the three wise men asked her if she would like to join them on their journey to find the Son of God, but La Befana refused because she was too busy cleaning and sweeping her house. Later on she regretted her decision, so she took a basket and filled it with treats, grabbed her broom and off she went to find the new born Son of God. This proved to be difficult, so she stopped every child and presented each one with a treat in the hope that one of them would turn out to be the Christ child. To this day she carries on searching for the divine child, and on the night of every epiphany eve she rewards good children with sweets or fruit, and the bad ones get a lump of coal!

As is usual with folklore tales, they often contain a deeper meaning which often gets forgotten as time goes by. These folklore tales then get passed down through the generations as customs preserved in the traditions of each culture. Like most folklore tales the stories are often a syncretic form of different beliefs and customs. Just as some scholars have pointed out that La Befana is also associated to the Roman goddess Strinia.

( From Wikipedia:) “An interesting theory connects the tradition of exchanging gifts to an ancient Roman festivity in honour of Ianus and Strenia (in Italian a Christmas gift is called strenna), celebrated at the beginning of the year, when Romans used to give each other presents.”

The name “Befana” is said to be a mistranslation of “epiphany” which, as many will know is the Christian festival that commemorates the visiting of the three Magi to the baby Jesus, and the physical manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles on the twelfth day of Christmas, Jan 6. The number twelve is a very significant number used many times in ancient writings. For e.g. the twelve labours of Hercules, the twelve signs of the zodiac, the twelve legions of angels and the twelve apostles, to name but a few. For the number twelve represents the powers through which the light of divinity manifests. Therefore the word “epiphany” means an appearance or manifestation of divinity and/or, a sudden illuminating insight of perception. If we put these two meanings together they form an interpretation giving us the “divine knowledge that illuminates the mind”.

La Befana more than likely represents the manifestation of divine knowledge in the physical form, this is because the female as a symbol represents matter, henceforth why we have such words that represent the female, like the Latin “mater” from which the English words mother, matron, matter and material are derived, and through which divinity manifests and where its holy presence resides, like the Shekinah.

How does the witch as a symbol fit into this idea? I may hear you ask. To answer this we need to take a look at the etymology of the word “witch.” There has been suggested various origins for this word, with three choices mainly used, one of these being “weid which is the most favoured, and means “to see” or “to know.” This is the root of the Latin “video, videre” “to see”, the English “wit”, which means “intelligence” or “to know” and, the German “wissen,” “to know”. All this implies that the witch is a wise person. This could probably explain the reason why the image of the witch and La Befana are described as flying through the air, because divine knowledge comes down from above through spirit, and the words for “spirit” in many languages are the same as those used for air, wind and breath. The broomstick is used because it symbolises a cleaning process. (a purification) A clearing away of the impurities of the lower nature (hence why it sweeps the floor) with divine knowledge to allow divinity to manifest within the individual. After all, as the ancient proverb says; “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

With the above information it clearly shows from an esoteric perspective similarities of meaning between La Befana and the image of a witch. Taking these into account it can shed some light on a possible meaning of the story of La Befana.

The wise men or magi, are the higher qualities of the soul (because they come from the east) bearing three gifts that represent the triune aspect of divinity, mind, spirit and soul. In the story of La Befana they knock on her door, which must represent the door of knowledge, because they are seeking to know the way to go. They stop for dinner, i.e. to consume knowledge.

La Befana did not leave with the three magi straight away because she was to busy cleaning her house, which probably means after a certain time of purifying the lower nature, ones knowledge has spiritually evolved enough to be ready to search for divinity (Christ). So one prepares with offerings of spiritual nourishment and goes in search of divinity.

On the night of January 5th (night also being another symbol for matter) La Befana (higher Knowledge) gives to us (the children of God) the sweet taste and/or fruits of divine wisdom. The ones who are given the coal are those who still have to realise and understand the spiritual nature of things, and are therefore given the coal (hidden knowledge) which they must learn to understand and transform into the sweeter truths of spiritual wisdom.