There is not only folly, but fraud in confusing the planes, and representing that which was experienced subjectively as having actually happened in the world of matter.
-Dion Fortune Ceremonial Magic Unveiled
I have resisted for some time saying anything about the intersection between magick and political ideology. Not because I am wary of controversy (people seem to place me in their camp whatever I say) but because the topic makes my brain bleed. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find an esoteric justification for one ideological position or another that wasn’t directly contradicted by some consideration that I hadn’t thought of.
This was a difficult place to be in, for someone who had matured as a very political animal. Everything seemed turned around or simply empty. Which was of course the point.
The Western Mystery Tradition gives us a framework: that of the Tree of Life. This is further divided into Four Worlds in a manner based on the Lurianic system of Qabalah. While this is a conceptual metaphor, it does refer to concrete system functions. Atziluth really is a different kind of perspective than Assiah, or the other two worlds in between. Even Yetzirah, which holds the patterns of manifestation, requires a different approach that what we experience in Malkuth. It’s more fluid, more like our dream life than that of our waking existence.
Now, what happens to a lot of people is that they start to “get off” during their magickal practices. They experience all sorts of lovely visions and synchronicities and insights into the workings of the Universe. This can lead to a tendency to confuse one mode of perception with another, or assume that the “higher” level supersedes or somehow “cancels out” the realities of the “lower.”
This is true in a sense. The more “in tune” with the more refined or abstract modalities one becomes, their relationship with the relatively concrete will see greater openness and fluidity. But (and this is a gigantic, elephantine “but”) the “lower” must be honored for what it is. Becoming in tune with, more comfortable in, more concerned with, the day to day, mundane aspects of existence is a prerequisite for any true assimilation of the more refined.
Those who neglect to do this, or to refine their awareness of the very real distinction between “map and territory” often come out of the “getting off” phase thinking they know the One True Path to a Utopia ruled by either Ascended Masters or Thelemic Suprefolk who are all free and doing their “True Will” bothering no one else other than those “out of their orbit.” It happens quite a great deal in the Thelemic community because Crowley did a lot of amateur social theorizing (sorry) and because Thelema appeals to the same kids who spent their lunch hours hiding form people in the library, reading Ayn Rand or Nietzsche.
In order to understand why this doesn’t work, we need to familiarize ourselves with one model of how the Four Worlds play out in Assiah, the Eight Circuit Model of consciousness. This, too, is a metaphor, but one which is fairly intuitive. It also has a passing resemblance to the Chakra system and their functional concerns. The important part to think about here is that the territorial circuit (2) can be said to interface with the semantic circuit (3) and create a political ideology. As in Qabalah, the “spiritual development” angle doesn’t kick in until the relative “center point” of the system has been imprinted (circuit 5 in the model, Tipharet on the Tree). Addressing political concerns to this area of the brain is what could be called an “address error.” It’s beyond all that shit throwing and monkey howling.
The “higher” circuits also build on the “lower,” so if the functions “below” are imprinted in an predatory fashion, or in a more victim oriented way, when the 5th through 8th circuits “wake up” they will tend to be hindered by bad programming “in the cellar.” Unless one has actually done the actual work of purification and consecration, that is.
So where does this leave us, politically speaking? What I think it means is that, while esoteric studies cannot tell us what ideology to adhere to, and would probably discourage us from holding to any too enthusiastically, it can teach us how to choose, and how to go about promoting that choice. We learn about balance, about mercy and severity, and about compassion. The world would be far better off if individuals approached their particular concerns in this way, rather than bemoaning the fact that not everyone agrees with them. An awareness of wholes, rather than of clashing “opposites” (mostly phantom horns on ghost dilemmas) can help us in greater measure than the constant attempt to “win” something we know to be beneath our efforts and unduly complicated when achieved. (Rule the world? Are you fucking serious??!! Do you know what a pain in the ass… never mind.)
I’ve written before about “objective interests,” particularly of Pagans. Nothing I’ve said here should be seen to contradict that. There are things which a person who practices magick will be required to concern themselves with. Likewise with Pagans in general: if you say you worship the Earth as a Goddess then that entails a basic set of political problems to address. It does not mean you are required to be a democrat. But, if Republican, I would hope you’d
work to make the environment a real concern for that Party, rather than simply towing the line.
The main point, whether for esotericists or religionists, magi or priests, is to let the light of awareness shine through whatever you do. We will not change the world with manifestos, party platforms, or revolutions. We will change it by making an effort to let just a little more mindfulness, a little more compassion, shine into the dank, dying world we have inherited.