In my last post I touched upon the inspiration that I have been gaining from the Ma’at Magick current as outlined by the wonderful Nema (Maggie Ingalls). It was through her description of her work with the mysterious figure of N’Aton that I found a vehicle for furthering my own explorations of the Gnostic current in a more creative, future orientated way.
Those acquainted with my writing here will probably be unsurprised by my attraction to N’Aton as a future-mythic figure. N’Aton represents a non-binary ‘They’ at a number of levels. As is represented by their image half in starry shadow and half in light, their gender is located in a third place that dances between and beyond polarities. N’Aton as a future magical self also integrates an inspiring way of being that holds together the unique individual and shared collective.
While the primary structure of the book Ma’at Magick follows the time-tested format of the Hermetic Kabbalah, for me juiciest insights are gained as Nema incorporates her more Typhonic and Nu-Thelemic inspirations. Having worked closely with Kenneth Grant and the Kaula Nath lineage of AMOOKOS, her work weaves together a rich variety of magical strands.
One of the areas of magical practice that seems to reflect this rich material is Nema’s work with the Forgotten Ones. For her these are the personified aspects of our ancient and primal drives that have allowed humanity to survive and evolve. These are the lurkers in the deep that connect us to the potent needs of hunger, sex, clan connection, communication and curiosity. As Nema observes: “Civilisation, law, governance and good manner form a fragile veneer over the survival urges in the human unconscious.”
Once one has entered into conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel, Nema believes that it is vital to engage in our work with the Forbidden Ones so as to avoid the perils of megalomania and potential magical burn-out. For us to truly earth our experiences of transcendence and the sense of who we might become, it is essential that we as magicians remain connected to the earthy reality of who we are as human animals. For our work to have sustainability the balancing scales of Ma’at need to be attended to. If we focus only on the future, the “spiritual” and the new, we risk fragility and escapism. If we focus only on the ancestral drives of the past, we risk getting bogged down in materialism and missing the possibility of who we might become. Like the scales we seek balance, a Hermetic tightrope walk of “as above so below”.
For me part of the genius of author-artists such as Nema, Kenneth Grant and Austin Osman Spare is their appreciation of the ‘darker’, dream-like dimensions of magical work and how critical these are in fuelling a more integrated version of magical advancement. While critics might depict such approaches as being ‘nightside’, I couldn’t frankly care less as my own experience with dusty, linear approaches is that they often fill the head while doing little for the heart or the body. For our alchemy to be real we need the fuel of body, mind and emotions ignited and transformed.
This need to reconnect to the Forgotten, dark and unconscious has been a theme key to my own magical journey. The psychological struggle to hide aspects of mySelf behind a mask of perceived respectability drove me down into what felt like a pit of confusion and personal torment. While I longed for a quick fix that demanded less effort or a ready rescuer, the answer came via darkness, stillness and the eventual death of who I thought I was. While these days I find limited value in terms such as ‘Left-hand path’, I can still recognise the territory it is attempting to map in trying to describe those spiritual paths that engage with the dark, earthy and potentially frightening dimensions of existence.
In revisiting these insights of Nema’s, I was reminded of my own ongoing focus on the form of draconian magic articulated in the works of Michael Kelly. In works such as Apophis and Aegishjalmur, Kelly describes the work of the initiate as being an ongoing dialogue between consciousness and chaos. Yes we might strive for an awakened sense of Self that seeks the qualities of Godhood, but we must also recognise the darker more chaotic currents of the Serpent moving through the depths of both ourselves and the cosmos. The true adept is the one able to acknowledge the presence of both chaos and order within their personal sphere, and that both impulses can be harnessed when done so consciously.
While the approaches outlined by Nema and Kelly might differ significantly in their chosen starting point and aesthetics, for me their shared authenticity is found in their balancing of wide range of human needs and competing drives. Our personal journeys and tastes will of course shape the degree of comfort and congruence with a given path, but my hunch is that any school or method of lasting value will force us to confront those forgotten aspects that potentially hold the key to deeper progress.