A Mindful Mass to Sophia

In a recent interview that I did about Chaos Magic and Gnosticism, the interviewer was keen to understand more about the process of ritual creativity that Chaos magicians often engage in. For me personally I am engaged in an on-going journey of exploration, research and poetic inspiration as I seek to make deeper sense of the material that I’m digging into.

Anyhow, I thought I’d provide a recent example of such ritual practice that probably gives you a feel for how we go about such work. Such ritual outlines are not meant to be prescriptive; rather they are serving suggestions to inspire your own innovation and creativity.

The purpose of this ritual was to creative a ritual environment in which the concept of divine wisdom could be explored via the Gnostic figure of Sophia. Via the use of both poetry and meditative technologies, we were seeking new insight regarding holy wisdom and a sense of deep listening as to how future work should proceed.

Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars

Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars

Opening with singing bowl rung in the 8 directions.  

“We begin in Silence and Space

The realm of the Pleroma

The marriage of Darkness and Light.”

8 Breaths taken together.

“In the pregnant space of reflection

Wisdom is born

Glowing deep blue against the blackness

Silver Star points glow

As the holy Aeon descends

And gives birth to life.

Selah

20 minutes Mindfulness practice – using awareness of the breath as an anchor for awareness and gently surrendering thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as they arise. 

“Wisdom makes manifest

An outflowing of the multiple and the complex

The Craftsman makes the World

Soul glows and breaths:

“I was sent forth from the power,

and I have come to those who reflect upon me,

and I have been found among those who seek after me.

Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,

and you hearers, hear me.

You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.

And do not banish me from your sight.

And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.

Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!

Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.

I am the honored one and the scorned one.

I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.

I am the mother and the daughter.

I am the members of my mother.

I am the barren one

and many are her sons.

I am she whose wedding is great,

and I have not taken a husband.

I am the midwife and she who does not bear.

I am the solace of my labour pains.

I am the bride and the bridegroom,

and it is my husband who begot me.

I am the mother of my father

and the sister of my husband

and he is my offspring…..

I am the silence that is incomprehensible

and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.

I am the voice whose sound is manifold

and the word whose appearance is multiple.

I am the utterance of my name.”

(Excerpt from Thunder Perfect Mind.)

Trance drumming.

During this ritual we had three drummers all using the technique outlined by Michael Harner, where trance is induced through the use of a consistent drum beat of around 200 beats per minute.

After the trance period and drumming ceases the following words are spoken:

“The many forms beget Joy

But also the forgetting of our original face,

We give thanks for these moments of stillness and remembering!

Wisdom calls:

“Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all humanity.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,”

(Proverbs 8 1-10.)

Close with three bells.

SD

 

In my recent post I mentioned the concept of ‘soul making’. This notion appears in a number of contexts. One of the earliest is in the Ireanean theodicy inspired by the work of Saint Irenaeus, the second-century philosopher and theologian. The Ireanean view is that creation happens in two stages. This process requires the existence of suffering and evil, making the world something akin to schoolroom for the soul. The creation of a soul is the work of humans, their aspiration being to become perfect and like God.

Soul Brother

Soul Brother

This ritual grows out of a desire to explore these ideas, concepts related to the tension between the (theoretical Platonic) perfect creation and the (apparently) flawed world of the Demiurge. Through this meditation, this trance and these words we have a space to encounter imperfection, suffering, pleasure and those other abstractions that so fascinated the ancient Gnostics.

Soul making also appears as an important concept in the work of psychologist and Jungian analyst James Hillman. The Wikipedia entry for Hillman nicely summarises this:

The poetic basis of mind places psychological activities in the realm of images. It seeks to explore images rather than explain them. Within this is the idea that by re-working images, that is giving them attention and shaping and forming them until they are clear as possible then a therapeutic process which Hillman calls “soul making” takes place. Hillman equates the psyche with the soul and seeks to set out a psychology based without shame in art and culture. The goal is draw soul into the world via the creative acts of the individual, not excluded [from] it in the name of social order. The potential for soul making is revealed by psychic images to which a person is drawn and apprehends in a meaningful way. Indeed the act of being drawn to and looking deeper at the images presented creates meaning – that is, soul.

Thus this ceremony is an encounter with this Gnostic ‘realm of images’ and, critically through drumming, emphasising the encounter as a somatic as well as intellectual event. This is Gnosticism but one that includes, rather than rejects, the world of the flesh. Fathoming suffering and the vicissitudes of life not as the result of a Fall from grace but perhaps as a necessary proving ground for the unfolding of a divine Self.

JV

Gnostic musings – Part 2, Dancing with the Demiurge

In part one of these reflections; we considered perspectives on what the Gnostics were pointing toward in their vivid and at times anarchic mythologies. It’s hardly surprising that more mainstream Christians got pissed with them – while outwardly appearing orthodox in many ways, their take on the nature of the divine was radically subversive.

For the majority of the Gnostics, the realm of nature and the God of the Old Testament were incompatible with the picture of the divine painted by Christ in the New Testament. If both Yahweh and the natural world were capricious and violent how could one reconcile this with the “heavenly Father” that Jesus believed was ever listening and attentive? For many Gnostics, the tribal, desert God of the old covenant represented at best an outdated perception of the Pleroma’s true nature; at worst this “God” was a deceiver actively seeking to blind humanity to the divine spark within. While I personally don’t buy into such beliefs, they do reflect an important human dilemma as we seek to evolve metaphysical principles that we feel are more congruent with our own experience of life.

In reflecting on these themes, I think it’s fair to own my own biases as both an aspiring Process theologian and a creative magical practitioner. For the uninitiated, Process theology is deeply interested in what the emergence of religious myth reveals about the shape and concerns of human consciousness. Even a cursory study of religious phenomena reveals both our greatest aspirations and the depths of our prejudices. Humanity’s religious expressions, be they tribal deities, anthropomorphized monotheisms, or Lovecraftian terrors, all mirror our collective journey through history. This is not to imply some bleeding out of mystery; rather it glories in religion as art. The gods are real precisely because we’ve made them so (see Pratchett’s “Small Gods” for a fantastic exposition on this concept).

As I hinted at last time, my hunch is that the Demiurge gets a bit of a hard time from many of the Gnostic traditions and gets turned into some sort of cosmic whipping boy! In most Gnostic myths, while the Pleroma kicks back as the “unmoved mover” in his cosmic chill-out zone, it’s the feisty Sophia and her wayward son who actually get on with doing something! Good ideas are great, but unless they work their way through to planning and creative expression, they remain ideas only. The Demiurge arguably represents the messy reality of how we produce and maintain a creative endeavor. As humans we may long for an idealised state in which nothing dies and pain never gets felt, but our shared experience of what happens day-to-day is far from this. Our yearning for Platonic ideals may well be part of our evolving consciousness (you can blame your Neo-Cortex if you want :)), but it may be that the complex joy and violence of Life is like this because it couldn’t function otherwise.

Feisty Sophia

Feisty Sophia

So how do we seek to reconcile our ever-changing, messy world with this longing for a more tranquil numinosity? We could certainly have a decent attempt at going into denial about either part of this equation and burying ourselves in either materialist hedonism on one extreme or spiritual fantasy on the other. The trickier alternative (and my suggestion) is that we have to bare the tension! Here we need to return to the wisdom of the Mother. Between Pleroma and Demiurge lies Sophia. Although some of the gnostic myths want to lay blame at her door for seeking independence, Sophia seems to be key in understanding how the realm of the ideal works alongside our experience of reality. Wisdom (the heady fusion of intellect, experience and intuition) allows us to oil the cogs in helping our ideas move into plans, our plans into actions and our actions into Art.

In contrast to most “believers”, magicians are often those who actively seek to explore dualities and are willing to get their hands dirty in the process of seeking a potential synthesis. The tension between the transcendent and the imminant is what fuels the art and science of magic. What we experience in being embodied and feeling the pull of the transcendent fuels our curiosity and the alchemy of self-transformation. The interplay of longed for ideal and pragmatic action create a hermetic frisson via which new realities might be born.

In my own work as a magician I find myself attracted to those depictions of the Demiurge that reflect something of the alchemical tension innate to a more awakened encounter with the human dilemma. The images of both Abraxas and Baphomet that are most familiar to us, provide vivid pictorial depictions of the cosmic balancing act that we are engaged in. Humanoid bodies mutate with animal heads and transgendered bodies, as arms point at balance or bear the whips and keys of our deliverance. For me these glyphs are road maps for becoming; the path of the demiurge being a journey through the reality of our lives not simply away from it. As much as the realm of matter and the body may provide challenges and obstacles, this is the place we find ourselves, and where the work needs to happen.

SD