Wisdom in the Aeon of Maat 

I have recently been getting excited about the release of this forthcoming book published by those wonderful people at Starfire  and thought I’d share a piece of writing that appeared in my book The Heretic’s Journey that sought to explore the key role of Nema’s work in manifesting the aeon of Maat:

In reflecting upon the Aeon of Maat and how Nema’s own work developed the initial articulation by Frater Achad, I feel one of her wisest insights relates to the importance of “the double current” in seeking to develop a more balanced magical path. In contrast to simply seeing our current age as needing the mono-message of Thelema or Will, Nema’s own journey has been towards a place where the overlapping Aeons of Horus and Maat dialogue with each other.

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Horus; “Welcome!” Ma’at; “In peace.”

The issue of how Magicians in the West quantify progress has always been a tricky one. Yes, we may choose to rely on the grade system mapped out by a given Order that we participate in, but this is no guarantee of personal evolution. Grades and titles are not without value, but they seem to function primarily as markers of progress within the given sub-culture of that Order. I think a more interesting and potentially demanding question is how we translate any claimed maturation into social or cultural change.

Such dilemmas are not unique to overtly Gnostic or Magical religious paths, with most religions having to grapple with the more collective or political dimensions of their original spiritual message. Certainly in the Buddhist tradition the historical development of the Mahayana tradition (from the earlier Theravarda) reflects an attempt to explore the more collective implications of that philosophy.

The pursuit of true will as a project for the contemporary Mage certainly resonates with the existential and individualistic concerns of the 20th century that birthed Thelema, but is it enough? The icon of Horus as the conquering child certainly seems to capture the type of surging technological change of the last century, but to my mind this energy needs some counter-balance.

The primary symbolism in ancient Egypt regarding the goddess Maat reflect her position as the neter (divine principle) of justice and balance. The hieroglyph of the feather is seen as representing the breath of life, as well as the standard against which the human heart will be weighed at the judgement. Her other symbol of the ruler is in keeping with these ideas of accuracy, assessment and truth.

For Nema (and Achad) the importance of the Horus/Maat “double current” is that it at once acknowledges the need for a prophetic cleansing of a corrupt Piscean/Osirian age, while at the same time recognizing that such change needs balance and stabilization in order to prevent “Will” becoming egoic megalomania. I see great parallels between Maat and the Gnostic Sophia as the embodiment of wisdom. The punk rock energy of Horus may get the revolution started, but in the longer term we need our Aeons to overlap and to allow a multiplicity of perspectives to support us in the cultivation of a fairer society.

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This idea of the Aeons being sequential and dominated by mono-mythologies is frequently promoted in esoteric lore, and while it may have been helpful and even accurate in times past, I believe that the value of such an approach is now limited. What Nema seems to be pointing towards (and which Maat herself embodies) is the importance of allowing these differing Aeonic currents to dance with and inform each other, and create what she describes as a “PanAeonic Magick”.

In my view Pete Carroll highlights something similar in his seminal “Mass of Chaos B”:

“In the first aeon, I was the Great Spirit
In the second aeon, Men knew me as the Horned God, Pangenitor Panphage. 
In the third aeon, I was the dark one, the Devil. 
In the fourth aeon, Men knew me not, for I am the Hidden One
. In this new aeon, I appear before you as Baphomet The God before all gods who shall endure to the end Of the Earth.”

Liber Null and Psychonaut

In contrast to those ages ruled by a singular narrative or dominant discourse, now is the time of Baphomet, a deity more overtly borne of humanity’s creative imagination. Baphomet embodies duality itself and transcends it, within their being they hold the ongoing process of dissolving and coming together.

I believe the Aeon of Maat with its core message of balance holds within it the possibility of the multiple, and the aspiration of being able to recognize numerous perspectives and approaches. Nema’s artistic depiction of N’Aton captures much of this as the half of their face that is visible contains a multitude of individuals dwelling in a futuristic city scape. N’Aton represents the potentiality of a future in which dualities are played with by the Magician: transcended, discarded, redefined and embraced in accordance with a true will that balances both individual freedom and collective responsibility.

The icon of N’Aton provides a potential map for the Magician’s project of self-sovereignty. N’Aton seeks to balance the needs for individual self-definition and collective connection. Rather than getting overly focused the type of brittle, self-obsession that can tip into solipsism or megalomania, for me N’Aton asks that any claims to insight are pressure tested in the realm of wider society. In many ways the Aeon of Maat closely parallels the description of the Aquarian age as described one of Nema’s magical colleagues Louise Martinie of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple:

The Aeon in which we are presently incarnate has been called by various names. “Aquarian” seems to be the designation which is most widely used in the New World cultures. The Aquarian mode emphasizes profound searching, a reliance on experiential knowledge, and a uniting of diverse occult systems. Aeonic Voodoo seeks to incorporate these dispositions in its structure. 

Waters of Return: The Aeonic Flow of Voudoo

He then goes on to describe this Aeon’s defining features:

Anarchism; the state of being without a “frozen” hierarchy. Postdrogeny; the abrogation of all existent gender roles so that new perceptions may manifest. Feminism; as it is in the forefront in its stand against restriction and for human liberation. Equalitarianism; the belief that all people have equal political and social rights, and Nonviolence; a refusal to subject the self or others to physical coercion. 

Whether we define this Aeon as being Aquarian, of Maat, or holding a multiplicity of overlapping words, we seem to be moving towards a place where language and definitions are being asked to become more plastic and amorphous in trying to stay alive to the diversity of human experience.

Steve Dee

Working with Recent Ancestors

In my recent re-exploring of the Ma’at current, I have been struck by the importance of how we work with concepts of balance and time within the magical project of personal and collective alchemy.  As already considered, for me part of the genius of Nema’s work is the way in which the scales of Ma’at seek balance in the present by consciously engaging with the future (as embodied by N’Aton), and the history of our primal drives (the forgotten ones).

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The moment of Truth

As part of my day-job I run a small family therapy clinic that aims to help groups of people consider how they communicate with each other. When I sit with families of all different shapes and sizes (some formed by biology and others by intention), I try to invite them to be curious about how they connect to each other and also whether there are ways in which they would like to improve communication. Part of what we do together is to adopt a detective-like interest in the often unspoken principles that shape our interactions. When these principles are applied to the practicalities of daily life they often become manifested as ‘scripts’ that determine the way people relate to each other. As with scripts in a play, we are often given rules about a whole range of things (such as who cooks the food and who resolves the arguments) that have been handed to us by previous generations. These scripts are often shaped by deep-seated beliefs regarding gender, illness and success, and within families we can be warned against departure from these via cautionary family legends regarding disasters that will befall us if we do.

In exploring with people why they think this type of therapy might help, our initial piece of work is often focused on trying to bring these previously buried beliefs above ground. One tool that we can employ to unearth this material is a genogram, or family tree. By mapping out the members of a family through three or four generations, we can begin to gain a picture of how styles and stories have been co-created over time. The scripts we inherit aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but often the people who attend family therapy are doing so because these scripts are no longer functional and are causing people to get stuck.

This is a process of externalisation where (at least for that moment) we consciously consider a difficulty as if it were separate from the group or individual reflecting upon them.  When we can name the scripts at work and the principles that might lay behind them, so we can create a small sense of space to explore within. In being able to stand slightly Meta to these narratives, we can begin to consider the possibility of improvising new styles of interaction that allow different types of behaviour to be considered.

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Genogram, or Sigil; or both?

As you are reading this description of this style of work, I’m hoping that you as magically curious folks are beginning to spot parallels with some of the ritual processes that you are engaged in. Magic that has a focus on the initiatory transformation of Self almost inevitably has to engage with some of the baggage and conditioning that we have inherited. If my magic is focused on allowing more liberated and peaceful versions of who I am, then I will need to begin a process on naming those inherited scripts/thought forms/entities that I experience as limiting. Whether we describe this conditioning in terms of Tantric Kleshas (shells) that need breaking down, or as parasitic entities that need to be ritually contained, by magically externalising them, we create the possibility of engaging with them in a more creative manner.

This process of trying to understand repeating patterns of behaviour and how they have been manifested within an individual’s history has also been helpful in my own work with my ancestors. At the beginning of our monthly Zen Hearth we consciously honour “Our Gods, Our Ancestors and the Spirits of this Place” and like many people not every ancestral relationship is an easy one. For me, being able to take one step back in trying to understand the origins of difficult dynamics has allowed me to gain some insight on any positive values they have passed to me. This does not absolve anyone of abusive behaviour, but it does provide a potential opportunity for gaining a new and wider perspective.

For me the therapy room and the magical circle have a number of similarities. Hopefully both provide the opportunity for safe exploration, the gaining of insight and the potential for healing. Both of these environments invite us to take risks, but hopefully the scaffolding of solid theory and good practice allow us some degree of confidence in stepping out. In my experience, both work well when there is a high level of transparency about the process being undertaken and sensitivity to the dynamics of power at play.

Part of why I continue to describe myself as being as a magician as well as being a bit of a mystic, is that in contrast to some forms of mystical encounter, I work hard at naming and understanding the process of what I do. Yes emotional and/or mystical stuff may occur as a result of my framing of my ritual activity, but the scene setting and conscious structure of the work allows me a more conscious process of integration. I have lots of builders and crafts’ people in my family line, and although many of them might struggle with the strange path I have followed, I hope at least that they can appreciate my attention to detail!

SD

Further Adventures in Ma’at Magick

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.

naton

Face of the Future

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.

SD