Taking Refuge and the Five Precepts

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | 2 Comments »

Kalagni is talking about the process of taking refuge in the Vajrayana tradition over on his blog. I wanted to address how it is done in the Theravada tradition. Like in Vajrayana, Theravada Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma (Dharma), and the Sangha. It is the act that inducts them into being Buddhists.

There is also a way that you could divide the Triple Gem into six categories like the Vajrayana by seeing an internal and an external form of the refuge. When we take refuge in the Buddha, the external image is the person of Siddartha Gotama and his story. The internal form of this refuge is the fact of his awakening. We’re placing faith in that he became enlightened, that what he realized is the best perspective to live our lives from, and that we too can cultivate the same qualities in our own lives.

The Dhamma is the actual words of his teaching, the act of following those teachings, and the realization gained by successfully following them. The external form of this is the suttas, the recorded teachings of the Buddha as preserved in the Pali Canon. The internal form of this is each practitioner’s work to internalize the Dhamma in their own lives, practice it, and realize the same things that it promises by following the path.

The Sangha can be defined in a few ways. In the conventional manner, it’s the community of Buddhist practitioners or the community of ordained monks and nuns depending on who you ask. But the ideal Sangha is made up of people who have glimpsed Nibbana (Nirvana) and attained at least the first level of enlightenment, known as Stream Entry.

While there isn’t a complete correspondence, I can see how Vajrayana’s Six Gems would match the layout here.

The actual act of taking refuge is pretty simple. One says the following:

Buddham saranam gacchami

I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Dhammam saranam gacchami

I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Sangham saranam gacchami

I go to the Sangha for refuge.

 

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

 

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.

Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.

Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami

For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Ideally, this would be done before a bhikkhu or before a Buddha image if there was none nearby, but it is not a requirement. Sticklers would also say that it has to be in Pali, but I disagree. English is sufficient. There are no visualizations to go along with it. It’s simply an affirmation of faith.

There are sets of qualities that describe each of the Gems that are chanted in Buddhist temples. From Anguttara Nikaya X.92, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“…The Blessed One is an arahant, perfectly enlightened, accomplished in true knowledge and conduct, fortunate, knower of the world, unsurpassed trainer of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One…

The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise…

The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is practicing the good way, practicing the straight way, practicing the proper way; that is, the four pairs of persons, the eight types of individuals – this Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world.”

Going for refuge is almost always immediately followed up by taking the five precepts. This echoes pre-Buddhist ideas of refuge. In that feudal society, people would seek refuge under a powerful person and that person in turn would compel them to perform certain duties in exchange for protection. Similarly, once one has asked for refuge from the Triple Gem, the first thing they ask in return is to follow the five precepts.

The five precepts are the absolute basics of Buddhist morality. They are meant to shield us from deeply unwholesome actions. However, these are training precepts. There’s no Buddha in the sky with a lightning bolt ready to smack you if you break one, although there is a different set of actions that do guaranteed an immediate trip to hell. Unless you’ve killed one of your parents you’re likely not to have done them.

The five precepts are:

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.

4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from lying.

5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami

I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Pretty simple things. There’s more formal definitions of what breaks these in the suttas, but they’re pretty self-explanatory. By taking up the precepts, you’re also affirming faith in the idea that actions can cause positive and negative consequences in the future. That is to say, you believe in kamma (karma). Kamma plays an extremely important in the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right View, but to get into it would really blow this blog post out of proportion. So for now, we’ll stop here.

 


Sigils and Meditation

Posted: July 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Meditation | 1 Comment »

Upon reflection, it makes sense that sigil magic and meditation would be the practices my guide wants me to focus on. Both of these processes are simple yet deep, and I’ve found that practices that run in those veins are perfect for my mind.

Probably everyone who reads this blog has ran into it already, but in case you haven’t the sigil method that I like to use is the one posted on Rune Soup at this post. I took his advice back around October/November of last year to do a sigil web to find my ideal magic system. I guess it was a last-ditch effort to cling on to some form of magical practice while I was busy jettisoning the majority of my work. All it did was accelerate it even faster and bring meditation to the forefront.

Since making breath meditation my main practice, I’ve realized just how incredibly complex it is. It’s more than just bringing the breath back again and again to the point of focus. It’s learning to recognize the hindrances when they come it. It’s trying not to be excited when bliss arises in the body. It’s knowing what to do with that bliss when it arises to enter into deeper states of meditation like the jhanas.

There’s also a lot that goes into it outside of the cushion. Everything we encounter or do has an effect on the mind. There are practices in the suttas that can aid in the attainment of concentrated states. Things like keeping precepts, cultivating contentment, guarding the sense doors, moderation in eating, and others. If you can take the advice to heart and really apply it, meditation can become an even more powerful tool.

I think that a strong meditation practice can also increase the efficacy of sigils. I far prefer inhibitory gnosis to exhibitory gnosis. Holding my breath, or deep meditation, just works better with my noggin. But whichever method you use, I think I know why meditation is such a useful help in firing off sigils.

It appears that having your mental pipe clear and clean improves the power of thoughts.  Deep states of concentration can spontaneously bring up insights about the nature of reality. One of the main reasons of learning how to access jhanas is to clear all the cruft away from the mind to a very deep degree. When you can drop away desire, ill-will, lethargy, restlessness, and doubt for even very subtle objects, the mind can turn much of its power into a single focused wish.

Indeed, accessing 4th jhana and stabilizing in it is the foundation for supernatural abilities according to the suttas. It’s a state of complete equanimity. The physical bliss, mental bliss, and contentment of meditation is completely dropped, leaving a cool equanimity. It’s a blank space for the mind to act from without hindrance. Screw skirting around the psychic censor. Deep meditation can suppress it completely.

Yet it’s not necessary to reach these states for sigils to work, obviously. Even a little mental sweeping is enough to make sigils easier to fire off. Still, if you don’t have a regular meditation program give it a try for a bit then try firing some sigils off after meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised.

 


Planetary Dignity in Practice

Posted: July 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Interpreting a natal chart is a pretty difficult task to be honest, but we all have to start somewhere. I keep dipping my legs in and out of this fascinating art via the door of traditional astrology. One of the major difficulties I encountered when getting into astrology was how to weave the chart together into a cohesive whole, also known as delineation.

Nothing can be predicted in a chart without proper delineation. Delineation is the “what” of the chart. Prediction tells you “when” it will happen. For traditional astrolgers, the first step in delineation after erecting the chart is to measure the power of the planets. This post will teach you how to do that, and how a knowledge of planetary power can make traditional techniques make more sense.

First, what do I mean by power? By this I mean the ability to act freely in a manner according to nature. Thus, for planetary power to even make sense you need to know the range of each planet’s domain. This post isn’t the right place to go into the ranges of the planets domains though. I assume you at least know some basics.

Planetary power, or dignity as it is called in the texts, is measured in two ways: essential and accidental. Essential dignity measures the quality of the planet’s ability to perform through its position in the zodiac. Accidental dignity measures the quantity of power that can be expressed through such things as house position and interference from outside factors.

Both are important. Variations in quality and quantity of power can lead to very fine gradations in how a chart can be interpreted. It’s very common to have conflicting testimonies from the planets. The answer as to which one will predominate comes from measuring the planet’s dignities, as well as proper prediction technique.

For this post, we’ll be using this chart as our example:

smokie

 

 

Here’s a summary of the essential dignities:

 dig

The five essential dignities are lordship, exaltation, triplicity, term, and decans, in descending order. The two major debilities are detriment and fall.

The more of the dignities a planet has, the better that planet is able to deliver on what it promises, and the better we tend to perceive these things. Even Saturn and Mars can bring about positive things if highly dignified, though not without a lot of problems. The opposite also applies. A highly debilitated Jupiter can bring its own set of problems.

Let’s take the Moon and Saturn as our examples in this chart. The Moon is at 1 deg Taurus. Saturn is at 16 degrees Leo. Find the right sign in the chart, then go across the list:

  • Moon in rulership? No
  • Moon in exaltation? Yes! Not only that but she is very near the exact exaltation degree
  • Moon in triplicity? Yes. Taurus is an earth sign, and moon is the night ruler of the earth triplicity. Bonus points as well that this is a nocturnal chart.
  • Moon in term? We see that Venus is the term ruler from 0 degrees to 7 deg 59 minutes of Taurus, so no term.
  • Moon in face? No, Mercury is the ruler of the first 10 degrees of Taurus.
  • Moon in detriment? No.
  • Moon in fall? No planet can be in fall in Taurus.

Some astrologers like to use a point system for weighing these out. Exaltation is worth +4 and triplicity is +3, so we have a very strong +7. A very capable planet, at least in what is possible.

Now what about Saturn?

  • Rulership? No.
  • Exaltation? None in Leo.
  • Triplicity? Fire triplicity. Saturn is the participating ruler in the Fire triplicity, so we have that.
  • Term? Saturn rules the term from 11 to 18, so there is term.
  • Face? Jupiter rules the second face, so no.
  • Detriment? Yes.
  • Fall? No.

So we have a planet that is in detriment, which is generally measured at -4 or -5 depending on which author you read. However, Saturn does have triplicity in this sign and is in term. This does not override the detriment though, even though it’s +5 from dignities. It combines with it. We can say that while this planet is in trouble, he’s found a safe place to hide in the land of his enemy, but is still deep in the territory.

Now, what about accidental dignity? It is also pretty easy to measure:

Angular house (1, 4, 7, 10) – 100% power

Succeedent house (2, 5, 8, 11) – 50% power

Cadent house – (3, 8, 9, 12) – 25% power

Planet is accidentally dignified when:

  • Angular
  • Direct (not retrograde)
  • Swift (I hardly ever use this)
  • Free from combustion or in cazimi (Not within 8 deg 30 minutes of the Sun on either side, or within 17’ of the center of the Sun)
  • In beneficial aspect (conjunction, trine, sextile) to a fortune (Jupiter and Venus primarily)
  • Conjunct a fixed star with benefic nature. (Another thing I don’t use much, though it is important)

Planet is accidentally debilitated when:

  • Cadent
  • Retrograde
  • Slow
  • Combust, or under the beams (8 deg 30 min to 17 deg away from the sun. Like a lesser combustion.)
  • In unfortunate aspect (conjunction, square, opposition) to a malefic (Mars and Saturn primarily)
  • Conjunct a fixed star with malefic nature.

There are some minor accidental dignities as well, but most aren’t worth mentioning unless you want to get all hyper-detailed. Things like Joy and Sect I only pay attention to if a technique needs it. Going back to our example planets:

Moon:

  • In an angular house (the 10th)
  • Can never go retrograde
  • Free from combustion
  • No aspects to any planet
  • Conjoined with Mirach (Beta Andromeda), which is a Venusian star.

So the Moon’s accidental dignity is very good as well. However, there are two flaws. First, there are no aspects to the planet which puts it into a condition called feral. There’s no one watching her do her thing. We all know we act different when we know someone isn’t watching us. However, I don’t quite know how that plays out in practice. The second is that she is very very close to the south node, which is a major debilitation that sucks away the capacity to act for a planet. So our very powerful, well placed moon, is under some serious harassment. She’d have all she needs to really deliver in the 10th house but there’s a block.

Now what about Saturn?:

  • Angular (in the 1st)
  • Retrograde
  • Free from combustion
  • In a square aspect to Jupiter
  • Trine to Sun
  • No fixed stars.

Angularity means there’s power to deliver, but we’re delivering something bad. The retrogradation means that the planet’s attempts to deliver on its bad promise will suffer delays and twisting, further compounding what it delivers. The aspects aren’t much help. Jupiter is weak in this chart and its’ a square aspect. Sun is normally benefic at a distance, but he is afflicted with a conjunction by Mars. There are some reception things that help a bit (reception is a whole other topic), but we have a very cranky Saturn in a position where he can act. Not good.

But what the heck does all this mean in practice, really? Let’s take a look at an example technique from a traditional text. Let’s take a look at someone’s morals and nature according to Abu Bakr.

Quoting from the Ben Dykes’ translation (Persian Nativities II):

“You should know that the nature and morals of the native are distinguished according to the significations and natures of the seven planets in [their] shapes and morals:… And these significations of the planets will be strong or weak according to the strength or weakness of the planets in themselves, and in their places.

Therefore if some one of the planets were in the Ascendant or the Midheaven, it will give morals and a shape to the native according to its strength; which if a planet inimical to it aspected it, it will alter the morals given, according to the strength or weakness of the aspecting planet. But if the said planets would not be inimical, neither amongst themselves nor by aspect, then the morals given by the first planet will be strengthened… and it must be judged thus for the other significations of morals by means of the significating planets.

But if the said planets are inimical to each other by aspect or naturally, one will render its own signification upon the other, and one changes the morals and peculiar qualities of the other…”

Dykes also say in a footnote that the planets in question should be aspected by the Moon or by the Lord of the Ascendant for them to count in this technique. Now, why does all this represent morals? The 1st house represents the general life of the native, and the 10th his actions. They’re the most “visible” portions of the chart. Planets in these spots have great influence. The lord of the ascendant has great influence over the life of the native in terms of personality, and the Moon controls passions, emotions, and personality in general.

First, in the Ascendant we have Saturn. Saturn is retrograde and in detriment. However, he is also in triplicity and term. Even with two minor dignities, this placement still spells trouble. The potential is there to deal well with the detriment, but it’s still going to bring about bad things.

Saturn is in aspect to the Lord of the Ascendant, so Saturn will play a strong part. Saturn is also in aspected with the Sun, which means that the Sun is going to alter Saturn’s qualities.

We have two planets in the Midheaven as well, Jupiter and Moon. However, there is no aspect between them and the Lord of the Ascendant. Now, is the Moon alone sufficient to have an effect, even though she is not in aspect to the Lord of the Ascendant? I personally would judge yes, thanks to what I know of the native and because the moon has a lot of power even with the node. We can ignore Jupiter since there is no aspect.

We also have to look at the condition of the Sun so we can judge his effect on Saturn. Sun is in Sagittarius, giving him triplicity dignity. However, he is also aspected by a peregrine Mars. The Mars peregrine chain eventually leads back to Saturn. So Saturn is ruling a lot of the show in this chart.

So, what does this mean? First, let’s see what Abu Bakr has to say about what these planets mean in their own natures in terms of morals:

“For Saturn, from his own nature, signifies laziness, stupidity, foulness, fear, servitude, injury, lying, sorrow, and a bad will in the heart.

The Sun, from his own nature, signifies strength, loftiness, honesty, and great power.

The Moon, from her own nature, signifies a heavy tread, weakness, misery, travels, whisperings, and the introduction of evil [into things].”

Let’s look at the power balance in this chart. Who can act powerfully to our benefit and how much? The Moon is off on her own doing her own thing as best as she can in the 10th. Saturn is in the 1st, which has more accidental dignity than the 10th, but is debilitated and retrograded. Is the Moon or Saturn more powerful? I would say the Moon overall, though it’s an interesting case. Does a conjuction with the South Node afflict more than detriment and retrogradation? It’s hard to say.

So first, we look at Saturn. We have a Saturn in very weak essential dignity and very strong accidental dignity. That means it can act openly in its negative manner. Thus, we could say that throughout her life there would be negative things related to Saturn cropping up in her personality. In Leo, I would put more emphasis on things like fear, servitude, sorrow, bad will, laziness, foulness, and lying, all things that are opposite of the Sun. These things cause much delay and confusion in her life.

Yet the Sun is also aspecting. Those more positive solar qualities are brightening up the awfulness of Saturn, yet there is a harsh combativeness to how it works. As to which side predominates will depend on the native’s actions and astrological weather, but on the whole Saturnian qualities are going to win out.

The Moon, acting on her own, does show wanderlust and weakness, misery, etc. When the Moon shines, it’ll shine brightly but most of the time it is occulted by the dark south  node. What would be very positive lunar expressions of morality are overshadowed. Thus, Saturn is still the dominant tone.

The native in question is someone who has suffered from depressive episodes for a long time that have held her back. She also has a very submissive personality, but she tries to cover it with a veneer of impertinence. She has moved many times in her life as well. However, she is extremely honest and doesn’t hide herself, and she does display an imperiousness about her that hides a lot of the inward Saturn angst. In private has been known to use drugs in the past and participates in BDSM. On the whole, this native will have to contend with saturnine problems throughout life.

This technique is just a broad brush overview though. I would want to delineate the 1st and 10th houses more fully, as well as use the special techniques further give in Abu Bakr to get a more well-rounded view.

Balancing these factors into a delineation is where the astrologer earn their bread and butter. Without accurate delineation there can be no accurate prediction. While I know a lot about astrology, my experience in it is still weak. However, I hope that this taste showed you how weighing planetary powers correctly can help bring out new nuances in the chart.


Who has the HGA? I don’t

Posted: July 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: HGA | 2 Comments »

Kalagni just wrote a three part series on the HGA that made me do a lot of thinking. It’s one of those really contentious things to claim that you have Knowledge and Conversation. It’s not something you can really “prove” one way or another, as far as I am aware, other than saying “this is the process I did and this is the results I’ve gotten.”

The thrust of Kalagni’s arguments is that not all contacts with supposed HGA spirts are contacts with the same type of spirit. Also, when tutelary spirits are contacted, not all of them throw people’s lives into upheaval. True K&C of HGA should cause major upheaval in the interior life of the magician. It’s not that other spirits aren’t tutelary like the HGA, but it’s not the real thing.

The last part especially made me think. There was a lot of internal transformations in myself from working with the entity I contacted, but only afterward. I didn’t use Abramelin when I did it. I used R.O.’s method for contacting the Supernatural Assistant. When I used that method, after a period of a few weeks I had gained contact with an angelic spirit. I could smell the scent of Heaven when he came. He claimed to be my supernatural assistant, and I got a name and a seal. All I had to do was think of him and I could hear the voice.

For months afterward I would test him in several ways to make sure I wasn’t deluding myself. I did readings using multiple methods. I’d ask him directly in the name of Christ and IAO if he was telling me the truth. Over time, I asked him to help me with some things during other evocations and he performed beautifully.

Yet there was still this nagging thing in the back of my head. It only took me a few weeks, not months. I also didn’t have any really big upheavals during that initial period. Had I just gone through so much crap earlier in my life that I was primed for quick contact, or did I contact something else entirely? Perhaps I only attained partial contact. I recall the spirit saying that I didn’t need to perform the Bornless Rite to contact it anymore. Was it a lying spirit?

I was really hesitant to say that I attained K&C of HGA. I didn’t feel like I earned it, and I was very afraid of being wrong. There was certainly no being asked to bind the demons afterward, as the Abramelin text said. All I could honestly say was that I followed R.O.’s methods to gain a Supernatural Assistant and got in contact with a spirit that met the criteria.

I totally get why Kalagni might get pissed if someone tried the method I did and could claim equal status. Even if the supernatural assistant and the HGA from the Abramelin were the same being, I have no doubt the connection is far stronger with someone who did Abramelin.

It’s interesting that he mentions meeting with a spirit from the Abyss if you fail. I am not a kabalist at all. My extent of working with that goes to reading Promethea and working in Neoplatonic systems that don’t use the tree. It has never been something that clicked with me. But it is something to think about. My spirit denies it of course.

The internal transformation, the total upheaval of the interior life, did happen eventually. It happened about two years after contact. The spirit I contacted did lead me to try a lot of magic for a good few years after, but then one day he told me to drop it all. No more magic, no more divination. Go completely mundane. That’s certainly not a small thing to ask after having sunk significant time and money into my practice.

Yet he was extremely insistent. Almost exasperated even. I was to drop it all. When I asked him why he lead me through all this magic practice only to drop it, his response was, essentially, “to get it out of my system so I wouldn’t be curious for it anymore.”

Naturally I balked for a while.  But as I stepped things down in stages I started feeling a lot better about life. I felt surer about myself and where I was heading. Then the spirit told me to go study Buddhism, and to take the dhamma as my teacher from now on. He also told me to stop bugging him, and then he shut himself away. It became really difficult for me to contact him. I could do it, but I really had to work for it. I felt really abandoned.

Yet soon after, my martial arts school began having sitting sessions. I got guided to very good dhamma texts. The more I align myself to the dhamma, the better things seem to run in my life. Is it my “true will” to practice dhamma? Who can say?

About the only time I hear him is if I get a hankering for diving into something magical again. Hearing “NO” yelled in my head gets old after a while, for the record. It’s happens so many times now that I halt myself before getting too deep. Occasionally he’ll pop out to give me bits of advice, then goes to hide again. Just the other day, he did say that I could start using sigils magic again sparingly. I haven’t felt a need to do it though.

I did come in contact with a spirit that I can still talk to with a bit of thought (if he chooses to respond). Over time, he did cause major transformations in my life. My old identity as “magician-in-training” was completely ripped out. I got introduced back to the dhamma, which caused even more transformation. My ethics and views are now very different to how they were when I was practicing magic. I’m very appreciative to how things have gone in retrospect, but it was not easy in the least.

So, did I contact the HGA? Was it K&C? I don’t think so. I’ve got Zomp, not Seafoam. But I did get into contact with someone very helpful.


Agrippa Book 2 Chapter 2

Posted: April 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Book 2 Chapter 2

Chapter ii. Of Numbers, and of their power, and vertue.

Numbers, numbers, numbers! What are the power of numbers? That’s what we’re going to spend the next several chapters on. As usual  for Agrippa, he starts out with citing an ancient authority who stated that all things were created due to proportions between numbers, and that these numbers and proportions were patterned in the mind of the Creator. Therefore: the state of all things subsist by the uniting together of numbers.

And since there are so many occult virtues in natural things, why shouldn’t there be greater occult virtues in numbers since they are more abstract, higher, more formal, and more perfect, not mixed liked the elements, and being of the Celestial realm? Also, Agrippa suggests, number has the greatest similarity in the Celestial realm to the Ideas in the Intellectual world where God dwells.

Indeed, he draws an important comparison. In the Natural or Elemental world, it is the elements that hold the utmost sway. In the Celestial world, it is number. …wherefore also they are of more force, and conduce most to the obtaining of spirituall, and divine gifts… Again, all things that are, and are made, subsist by, and receive their vertue from numbers. For time consists of number, and all motion, and action, and all things which are subject to time, and motion.

This is a very modern viewpoint! How many scientists have dreamed of reducing everything to equation and numbers? It’s not just time, motion, and action though. Other very important things are defined by numbers such as:

  • Proportions
  • Geometric shapes
  • Written characters and figures
  • Natural forms (via proportion)
  • The voice and music
  •  And so on

Agrippa then gives his usual list of ancient authors that extol the virtues of numbers. He also makes a distinction between the adding and subtracting of merchants and the formal rigors of arithmetic. Now they speak of a rationall, and formall number, not of a materiall, sensible, or vocall, the number of Merchants buying, and selling, of which the Pythagoreans, and Platonists, and our Austin [Augustine] make no reckoning, but apply it to the proportion resulting from it, which number they call naturall, rationall, and formall, from which great mysteries flow, as well in naturall, as divine, and heavenly things.

This proportion will show to be very important. It’s about number’s inherent virtues and their relationships between one number and another that reveal their power.


Agrippa Book 2 Chapter 1

Posted: March 20th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 2 Comments »

Heavens help me, I’m actually continuing with this even without Perdue’s translations. Even though I’m not a practicing Hermetic anymore, I still find the book fascinating from a historical perspective. Also, enough people have enjoyed reading all the stuff I wrote about Book 1 that I feel like I should go on to the other two books. So, here we go.

Book 2 is all about the Celestial world. This means we’re getting into numbers. There will be math. Get your Quadrivium on, cause we’re going to supercharge all that Natural Magic stuff you learned back in Book 1 over the next few months by adding in the power of numbers. So let’s get started.

Book 2, Chapter 1: 

Of the necessity of Mathematicall learning, and of the many wonderfull works which are done by Mathematicall Arts only.

Agrippa says right in the beginning that those who do magic without math labor in vain. Why? Because all natural things are governed by superiors.

 For whatsoever things are, and are done in these inferior naturall vertues, are all done, and governed by number, weight, measure, harmony, motion, and light.

And yet, things made wholly by numbers do lack natural virtues. Yet through the power of number, weight, and the rest, many marvelous technological devices can be produced. Agrippa gives several examples of automata and optic tricks.

 Hence a Magician, expert in naturall Philosophy, and Mathematicks, and knowing the middle sciences consisting of both these, Arithmatick, Musick, Geometry, Opticks, Astronomie [astronomy], and such sciences that are of weights, measures, propertions, articles, and joynts, knowing also Mechanicall Arts resulting from these, may without any wonder, if he excell other men in Art, and wit, do many wonderfull things, which the most prudent, and wise men may much admire. 

It’s important to realize that a magician, to Agrippa, is someone who is not just versed in magic but versed in all the classical arts. In fact, he goes on to repute those who feel the engineering feats of the Classical world were done by devils or miracles. Instead, he states, that if they just investigate it with their experience, they’d know the secrets for themselves, as how magnetic force is mysterious until you have played with a magnet for a while.

And yet, there are mathematical / celestial virtues that can be drawn: as motion, life, sense, speech, southsaying [soothsaying], and divination, even in matter less disposed, as that which is not made by nature, but only by art.

Here we come to a key. Last book was all about how natural objects combined could draw down virtues. But here, in this book, we can learn to craft items through artifice that can draw virtues as well even if the matter is ill-disposed to the task, though of course crafting objects with proper artifice out of proper matter is more efficacious still.

And the most “mathematical” thing, the thing with the most virtue of all, is bare number.

But amongst all Mathematicall things, numbers, as they have more of form in them, so also are more efficacious, to which not only Heathen Philosophers, but also Hebrew, and Christian Divines do attribute vertue, and efficacy, as well to effect what is good, as what is bad. 


Devotional Questionnaire

Posted: March 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | No Comments »

So I still exist, and things are going rather swimmingly of late. I’m not doing much magic anymore, but a lot more meditation as part of my Buddhist practice. When Sam posted his Devotional Questionnaire post, it got me thinking about how my own path has shifted. So, here I go.

The closest Buddhist tradition that I identify with is Theravada. However, I try to stick only to the canonical suttas (as opposed to commentarial literature) for guidance. Most Theravadin monks would place the commentaries on almost equal footing, much like how Muslims would place the Hadith as compared to the Quran. I don’t consider the commentaries to be useless, but if they contradict the suttas then I discard that portion. There’s even some parts of the suttas that I discard because textual analysis seems to have made insertions later.

  1. What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

    First, we have to talk about the place of divinities in Theravada. Theravada cosmology has a large amount of planes (31) and states of rebirth (6 primary ones). It is quite possible for a being in heavenly realm to give boons. As the Ratana Sutta states in the beginning:
    1. “Whatever beings (non-humans) are assembled here, terrestrial or celestial, may they all have peace of mind, and may they listen attentively to these words:

    2. “O beings, listen closely. May you all radiate loving-kindness to those human beings who, by day and night, bring offerings to you (offer merit to you). Wherefore, protect them with diligence.

    There are many Theravada practitioners in Asia who approach various divinities for worldly wealth. This is not a practice much seen in the West, in my experience. The primary thing to remember about divinities is that most of them have not attained the same insights that the Buddha has, or have developed their moral qualities. Thus, it can be very dangerous to devote yourself to another divinity for the sake of boons. Monks are expressly prohibited from doing this.

    Instead, wealth (both in the spiritual and worldly senses) is said to come by your intentional actions. It is your actions that generate fortune and misfortune. Act in skillful ways and your fortune will increase either now or in the future. Vice versa for unskillful ways.

  2. What does your tradition do to increase the power and flow of blessings?

    Self-cultivation in virtue, concentration, and wisdom. Contrary to popular belief that Buddhism is a very dour religion, practicing in the Buddhist path should lead to a direct increase in the amount of happiness you feel. This may take some time. It’s like trying to clean a very dirty house. It could seem to get dirtier before it gets any cleaner. Virtue, concentration, and wisdom must be cultivated with diligent practice.

    Going back to action, part of this is to learn to observe closely the consequences of previous paths of behavior and compare them with others more closely aligned with the teachings. To take a very coarse example, if you’re in the habit of killing you can learn to observe what happens to your mind before, during, and after killing a living being, and what happens when you refrain. The Dhammapada, a set of verses highly revered in Theravada, states:

    “If by renouncing a lesser happiness one may realize a greater happiness, let the wise man renounce the lesser, having regard for the greater.”

    The best way to increase the power and flow of the positive benefits of the Dhamma (the Buddhist teachings) is to learn about it and put it into practice. Both must be done, but the second is where the magic actually happens.

  3. How have the divinities helped you in times of adversity and violent upheaval?

    In one sense, the Dhamma is my divinity. Adversity and violent upheaval are just part of the impermanence of all things. I try to recognize it and train myself to not let it shake my mind. Many things are far less adverse if we give up the clinging to how things used to be.

  4. What are some of the ways that you communicate with the divinities?

    People who do pray to divinities give offerings very similar to Hindu ones. Lots of incense, fruit, flowers, that sort of thing. In Buddhist worship ceremonies, similar things are given. However, Buddhists don’t really pray to the Buddha for communication. Instead, we read the suttas and put them into practice so we can realize them in our own lives.

    However, advanced meditators can receive visions of divinities and communicate with them directly. Ideally, we ignore these manifestations and keep practicing since communicating with other divinities is unrelated to the goal of reaching Nibbana. It is also possible to develop supernormal powers through meditation that allow you to interact with divinities in various ways. That stuff is beyond my pay grade.

  5. If you could travel anywhere on pilgrimage where would it be and what would you do?

    There are four traditional places for Buddhist pilgrimage, the places of the Buddha’s birth, awakening, where he gave his first teaching, and where he died. The purpose of visiting them is to generate a sense of spiritual urgency in the practice. As for what I’d do there, I’m not really sure. Meditate probably.

  6. What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the divinities?

    It doesn’t really apply, but when I make another connection in my understanding of the Dhamma it’s like a door unlocking or a fetter getting removed. I feel lighter.

  7. What offerings do you make in your tradition and why?

    I personally don’t give offerings, but if I had monks living near me I would give food and other necessities. It is an opportunity to practice generosity and to generate merit. Merit is the accumulated goodness done by present and past actions that brings forth future beneficial states. Giving to a monk, especially a highly-realized one, generates the most merit. However, even small gifts to others have some benefit.

    Many Buddhists also perform worship ceremonies to a Buddha statue, where each object has a particular meaning. The Buddha was very skilled at taking current religious practices of his time and twisting them into his viewpoint in a skillful way. Thus, flowers represent impermanence, the scent of incense is compared to be trifling compared to the scent of good virtue, and so on.

    There are also offerings to the dead, which can sometimes help them out in their next rebirth depending on where they were born. As a whole, offerings are more meant to develop your personal quality of generosity towards others.

  8. What methods of inducing altered states of consciousness does your tradition have?

    Lots and lots of meditation! 8 Jhanas, many insights, 40 meditation subjects, lots of ways.

  9. How does your tradition handle wrathful, savage and destructive divinities?

    Several ways. First, if you’re practicing rightly that has a measure of protection on its own. There are also protective suttas that are chanted to ward off attacks from non-human beings. Divinities are also said to automatically protect you if you are practicing well, especially loving-kindness meditation. An especially advanced monk might be able to reason with them, but that’s beyond the ken of most. If recognized, it could be possible to generate loving-kindness toward them. You’d at least save your own mind.

  10. Have you encountered any obstacles as a result of your religion?

    Not socially but I don’t really advertise it. I have had to change a lot of things in my personal life, and still do. It was my HGA that really kicked me off down this path, and that required me to jettison a whole lot of things related to my previous magical practice. That was difficult. However, once I did and I really started practicing my personal circumstances have taken a dramatic turn for the better.

  11. What blocks to devotion have you had to overcome?

    I just haven’t felt a need to practice Buddhapuja (worship ceremony), but I could be a lot more devoted to mindfulness and meditation in my daily life. There’s still a lot of resistance to regular practice.

  12. What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?

    Religiously, not many. There’s a traditional set of 13 for each full moon, the big one being the one in May that celebrates the Buddha’s birth, awakening, and death which are all said to have occurred on the same full moon. I’ve never actually celebrated it though. Personally, I do observe the standard Pagan holidays mentally as I find it to be an excellent way to observe the impermanence of nature.

  13. Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?

    I don’t really bargain with the Dhamma. If I make a promise to do something, it’s to myself. The Dhamma doesn’t really care. That being said, it was very difficult to do it back when I was working with a lot of spirits.

  14. What role does mystery play in your tradition?

    None really, but in a strange way there’s a lot as well. The traditional description of the Dhamma is thus:

    “The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and how; not delayed in
    time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.”

    If you keep the Dhamma at a distance, as an intellectual play toy, its deeper layers will never be revealed. You have to dig in and experience it for yourself to really grok it, and it happens a little at a time. It’s a gradual thing, unfolding over time.

  15. What methods does your tradition employ for protection and the warding off of malign influences?

    The most canonical are paritta chanting and cultivating the brahamaviharas: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Some countries also have mixed in traditional sorcery practices into Buddhism to create charms and other magical devices. These are strange since they are heavily denounced by the Buddha, and yet they’re everywhere. One popular Thai form is to get special tattoos. Pop “sak yant” into Google for more information.

  16. What devotional goals have you set for yourself?

    None really. Just trying to devote more time to my meditation practice.

  17. What qualities should a leader in your tradition possess?

    There’s suttas on this, but they’re more geared toward monks. Basically, can you see the benefits of the Dhamma reflected in their personality and lives.

  18. What does fertility mean to you?

    Zero really from a spiritual sense. One of many reasons why I never got into Wicca.

  19. How do you incorporate movement into your worship?

    Not much. Walking meditation on occasion.

  20. Does your religion help you to be a better human being?

    Indeed it does. If the Dhamma is to believed it would bring about the best of all states.

  21. Have you ever had dreams or visions sent by the divinities?

    I have experienced visions in the past. When I was briefly working with New Hermetics and looked for a spiritual guide (this was pre-HGA) I got a vision of a Buddha statue. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign.

  22. What customs are associated with the home and family in your tradition?

    Not many actually. Some families may regularly do Buddhapuja or give offerings to the ancestors or meditate together, but that’s about it.

  23. When did it first dawn on you that the divinities are real?

    Question never was were they real, but more of how much they could affect me.

  24. What have you inherited from your ancestors?

    I’m so different from most of them that it would be very difficult to say beyond the obvious life and genetic material.


A is for Anapanasati

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism, Meditation | 19 Comments »

The English language is really crappy for talking about the mind. It’s a very materialistic language. I think this is why people have dozens of different activities for describing what the act of “meditation” is.  In this post, I want to talk about one of the most important forms of meditation in the Theravada tradition. I think I wrote about this in the past a little, but I want this to be a mini primer for this upcoming blogging project.

Yeah, so I’m not really “pagan” per se, but this is still a magic blog. It’ll also get me to write more often. So, this week’s topic needs to start with A, so I’ll be talking about anapanasati or “mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation” for long. The word “sati” means mindfulness. By mindfulness, I mean “bringing up to the mind again and again.” It’s related to the Sanskrit word “smriti”.

Meditation on the breath is the Swiss army knife of Buddhist meditation. It can be used both for the development of concentration and for the development of insight. In this post I’ll be approaching it from the concentration side.

Why bother?

If you have to ask this question, you haven’t seriously meditated for a few months. At its core, anapanasati is a practice of purification. In order to make progress at it you need to learn to let go of particular states of mind. When this is practiced, you’ll be able to drop the same states in your daily life. You’ll be able to drop the five hinderances: sensual desire, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and skeptical doubt.

Also, if you get really good at it and sharpen your concentration enough, you can enter particular states called jhanas. These are extremely focused states of awareness that are highly blissful. They fulfill the factor of “right concentration” in the noble eight-fold path, the path of practice that Buddhists follow. By being able to focus the mind so sharply, they can then turn that mind toward the observation of reality to see it as it really is.

From a magician’s point of view, meditation allows you focus all your attention on your rituals. It also helps you to get to know your mind very well. This is extremely important for diviners and anyone who works with spirits. Being able to discern your own thoughts vs. the communications of a spirit is crucial to get accurate information. It’s very easy to delude yourself otherwise.

The process

It’s easiest for most people to sit. Find a comfortable sitting position you can sustain for at least 15 minutes while keeping the back erect, unless your body prevents you from doing this. It’s important to move as little as possible while you are meditating. I like to sit Burmese style with one leg in front of the other. I also use a zafu and a zabuton. If you use a zafu, remember to sit on just the front edge of it. Your hips are supposed to tilt forward if at all possible. This puts a curve in the back that assists with staying upright.

Your hands can rest palms down on your thighs at a comfortable position. Keep your head erect comfortably. Relax and close your eyes. Breathe in and out through your nose, or your mouth if you’re sick and can’t breathe through it.

Place your attention where you feel the breath coming in and out of your nostrils (or your lips if you’re using the mouth). Gently place it there as if you were reading an interesting book. Get curious about it. When you notice your mind wandering away from the breath, gently bring it back and relax. Repeat this over and over again. Each time you bring it back you’re developing the skill of dropping a thought that you don’t want out of the mind. You’re also building mental muscle. This is the “keeping in mind” that we’re talking about.

Every time that you have a thought that pulls you away, give it a quick one-word label, then return to the breath. Labeling thoughts allows you to objectify them. This makes it easier to drop them. In time you may not need to do this.

If there’s a sensation like pain that comes up, keep labeling and dropping. If it’s so intense that you can’t stand it, take the pain as a mediation object for a while. Investigate it. See what happens. Drop any thoughts about the pain and just watch the pain. Try not to move unless absolutely necessary.

When the 15 minutes are up, open your eyes. Over time, work up to a minimum of a half hour regularly every day. If you can keep it up for a few months, you’ll notice quite a qualitative difference in your mind.

Got questions about using the breath in concentration meditation? Ask in the comments. This was just a very brief introduction. For more information, you can also consult these links:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyadhamma/bl115.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/breathmed.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

 


On Astrology: Basic Chart Structure

Posted: December 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

I don’t know how versed my readers might be in astrology, so I’m going to start from the bare basics. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the basic structure of a natal chart.

So let’s take a look at a sample natal chart. This is the chart of the famed dancer and actor Gene Kelly:

Kelly, Gene

So what are we looking at here? First, an astronomy lesson. The thick black line going from the left to the right is the horizon. Left is east and right is west. Now imagine you’re facing south. The thick line going at the top stretches from where you’re standing and extends up to the highest point in the planet’s arc across the sky. The planets rise in in the east, travel the arc up to that top, then arc back down to set. They continue around the other side of the planet on the same arc until they hit the lowest point of the arc, then start rising again.

These lines also have particular names:

  • Left-pointing line: Ascendant or ASC (where the sun rises)
  • Right-pointing line: Descendant (where the sun sets)
  • Up-pointing line: Medium Coeli or MC (where the sun reaches its peak, hottest part of the day)
  • Down-pointing line: Imum Coeli (opposite point from the MC)

Now let’s look at this chart from the outside-in. The two black lines of text outside of the circle are talking about special stars that the planets are meeting. We can ignore that for now. Take a look at the first outer ring. This ring shows the zodiac signs using their symbols:

The signs start at Aries and travel counterclockwise around the ring. Each sign covers a 30 degree arc the circle that the planets travel along. 12 signs of 30 degrees equals the familiar 360 degrees in the circle. As the day passes, this ring rotates in a clockwise motion at a rate of 1 degree ever 4 minutes. This is why it is so important to have an accurate birth time when doing a chart. A lot can change in a very short time!

Now in the next ring down you see 12 pie-shaped slices. These are the houses. Each house represents a specific domain of human life. Starting with the Ascendant line, the houses travel in a counter-clockwise motion. As the planets and signs pass through these houses they cause different effects in creation. Here are the basic traditional meanings (taken from Ben Dykes):

  • 1st: Life and body
  • 2nd: Assets
  • 3rd: Siblings and kin
  • 4th: Parents and real estate
  • 5th: Children and pleasure
  • 6th: Slaves and illness
  • 7th: Spouses and contention
  • 8th: Death and fear
  • 9th: Religion and travel
  • 10th: Work and fame
  • 11th: Friends and hopes
  • 12th: Enemies and sorrow

These may be very different from what you know if you’ve studied modern astrology. When I do the post on the houses, we’ll go into these in more detail. The houses don’t have any special symbols. They’re just numbered. My program does label the four strongest houses (1, 4, 7, 10) with roman numerals.

Finally, we have the planets, those colored bits floating around inside the houses. Here are the symbols:

Now this is a traditional chart, so the symbols for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto won’t be found in there.  There’s also another symbol that looks like a circle with an X in it. That is the Part of Fortune, a special point which we’ll get into much later.

Those tiny numbers next to the planets show the locations of the planets in the sign in degrees and minutes.

One thing you’ll also notice if you’ve looked at other charts is the lack of lines running between the planets that show aspects. Aspects are important but don’t have nearly the weight that they do in modern astrology. Planet and sign placement in relation to the houses has much more prominence. We will be getting into aspect though in a later post.

If you have some familiarity with Geomancy or medieval charts, you may be familiar with square charts. They have their uses, but for precision I prefer the round ones when doing astrology.

The next few posts are going to go into the signs, planets, and houses in more detail. Astrology has a lot of grammar that must be learned before things can fit together into an interpretation. Relax. Enjoy the ride.

 


On Astrology: Why Bother?

Posted: December 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

When I first got back into the occult many years ago, my gateway was through traditional astrology. I’m a graduate of Robert Zoller’s Diploma of Medieval Astrology course, but after completing it I decided that I didn’t want to keep my studies going to become a professional reader. Over the past month or so, the urge to dive back into the practice again has grown.

After doing the first part of this Agrippa project, I think it’s important for people working in this tradition of magic to pick up some astrology. However, astrology is a discipline all in its own. You could spend a lifetime just studying astrology and not touch magic at all. However, the study of astrology is important for magicians for several reasons:

First, it tells you what you’ve got to work with in this life. Magicians work to change themselves and their world, but astrology can show you what to focus on, what’s coming over the horizon, and how you can prepare for it.

Second, paying attention to the astral weather can make your magic much much easier. I’ve done very complex and layered rituals, and I’ve done very simple ones. The better the astral weather the more efficacious my magic was, regardless of technique. Agrippa is all about timing in his talismanic creation rites, and there is really something to it.

Third, it can tell you how well you’re advancing in your magic. In the traditional world-view, the natal chart is like a cage and a blueprint all rolled into one. The interplay between free will and astrological influence has gone through several permutations over time, but my perspective runs something like this. Most people think they are using their “free will”, but are instead being influenced by a host of factors that push their free will around. Magic, ideally, should help you free you from these patterns. It adds a certain amount of flex into your life that wouldn’t otherwise be there. We can use astrological magic to boost the naturally powerful parts in our chart and dampen the negative parts in our lives.

For the non-magician, having a grasp of their chart can help them to direct their energies to useful endeavors and to gain peace of mind. It can be a relief to know that your problems might be foreshadowed in your chart. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do intense work to get over those problems, but it can help a person to drop the guilt that can build up. It’s a lot like receiving a disease diagnosis. It gives it a name and a possible approach to overcome it.

I think that anyone working with the planets in magic needs to examine astrology as well. The next few posts are going to go into some of the basic techniques and mind-set that goes into traditional astrology so you can get a glimpse into this fascinating art.