[Edit: This post was originally published in September of 2017. This was weeks prior to a reaction from the treatment I was receiving for stage IV melanoma that had spread into my brain. The result was a deep psychosis following the swelling of my brain. The experience is beyond what I can explain. At points it was amazing, at others I thought it was utter hell. That was until I realized recently that it was only the prelude to a far deeper psychosis, personal hell, and trial of heath.
The weekend of my 40th birthday, nearly to the day, another reaction from the radiation therapy resulted in necrotic tissue causing more swelling in the brain, which in turn resulted in seizures, more confusion, psychosis, anxiety, and delusion. All while coming closer to death’s door than I had yet ventured. Emergency recourse was taken. I underwent brain surgery to remove the necrotic tissue. The weeks that followed were spent locked in various hospital rooms rehabilitating slightly paralyzed left motor function.
Needless to say, the experience was humbling. A month out from surgery, I have mostly recovered, which is no small miracle. I look back and can see the transformation that has occurred through undergoing such an extreme trial and being truly humbled.
I removed this post as soon as I recognized the arrogance and pride that had grown in me as a result of the perceived spiritual success of my occult training. To be quite honest, I’ve grown deeply ashamed at the recognition of the hubris that corrupted the deeper more meaningful intention of my words. However, I now desire to be transparent and not hide my shame. Anyone who seeks higher spiritual understanding and Illumination must undergo transformations. And many of these will expose darker aspects of the self.
So I now republish this post–as well as the one that followed–complete with its original hubris, arrogance, and the underlying fear of literal death that had been completely hidden from my conscious mind until having experienced my most recent trial in the furnace of death. And for the record… I asked for it. And I got exactly what I asked for, and I am eternally grateful for the Transmutation of Hearth and Soul.]
“For [he] must die to the world, to the flesh and to all the senses and to the whole man animal, who would enter into the closest of secrets…” — Anonymous, The Rosie Crucian Secrets, 1713
Out of the cave, and into the desert…
After I decided to publish essays, there erupted a flood of Hermetic and esoteric ideas I wanted to share with a broader audience. At present, I have about a half-dozen drafts on topics essential for anyone interested in how the world might appear to someone after Nature has pulled back Her veil. However, as is often the case, the very act of writing something down serves as a magical talisman to catalyze deeper and deeper discovery. In my case, diving down the rabbit hole over the last couple months paralleled the next grand adventure on my path toward Illumination–a deeper and more profound connection with my Higher Divine Genius, a mysterious opportunity to trade in the chains of the lower will for the wings of the higher.
A word of warning. The views I’ll be sharing in this essay are advanced. Not “advanced” as in “Oh, man, there’s no way your little novice mind could comprehend what grand wisdom I’m about to lay down.” Rather, it’s a latter perspective held by someone who has walked in Knowledge and Conversation with one’s Higher Genius for many years, not a view fully appreciated by the fresh adept (even after a true and faithful connection with the root of one’s Essence). Moreover, not even time on the Path assures this view of reality that is now so very self-evident to me.
Just as decades of marriage promise no real growth in the relationships between spouses, years in Conversation smolder unless stoked in the supreme desire for continued spiritual evolution and the pursuit of the Great Work. Anything less is the self-delusion of occultists playing at spirituality, presuming they want to be One with All, but habitually acting only to maximize control over material existence. To prepare the lower ego so it might become a fitting vessel for the Higher Divine Self to descend into and dwell upon the throne of one’s earthly kingdom; this is the genuine pursuit of the real Hermetic Adept.
Perhaps in future essays, I might be able to lay out a step-by-step map to help the aspirant walk their mind from its material fog to clear understanding, but for now, let me simply provide a very brief summary of the fundamentals of Hermetic initiation.
Authentic Hermetic initiation is designed to guide a candidate from the illusory identity of the lower mind to an authentic encounter with their Higher Genius, Holy Guardian Angel, Head Spirit, Agathodaemon–“by whatever name I call thee, thou art still nameless to eternity.” Once this encounter has been achieved, and (more importantly) proven through demonstration to the lower self that leaves zero doubt, the candidate is said to have been initiated. From this point, the real work begins for the aspiring adept seeking Illumination about the reality of mind, matter, and one’s relationship with The All and their True Will.
Seems simple, right? Well, the challenge for any natural man or woman is in the proper preparation of the mind’s capacity to perceive what is so foreign to the ordinary material senses and intellect. Essentially, the lower binary mind is locked into a state of dualistic perception maintained by a force of separation between its poles. These are the Ruach and Nephesch of the Qabalah. Consciousness / Unconsciousness – Masculine / Feminine – Logical / Holistic – Reason / Passion – Good / Evil – Life / Death. The stronger that force of separation, the more profoundly a person identifies with the binary illusion–they are their thoughts; they are their passions; they are their relationships; they are their jobs; they are their spiritual orders; they are their religion; they are their desires for material comforts and success. The wider the poles of separation, the more profoundly an individual is locked into this false perception of reality, and the less able they are to see higher truth. The role of an authentic initiator is to guide the candidate toward a neutralization of this force of separation, just enough to close the gap and render perceivable their higher mind–The Neschamah. She then is the gateway of perception that opens the doors to Illumination. She is the bridge across the Abyss unto the Supernals.
Now for the kicker. As one is transformed from a self that identifies with the lower mind of Ruach and Nephesch to one that identifies with one’s Supernal Triad, one becomes something that is altogether a different kind of person. One’s identity changes. And as one’s identity changes from lower to higher, it feels to the lower like death. Sometimes metaphorical; sometimes literal. This is the vital process of putrefaction employed by the Alchemist as the first step in any real alchemical transformation.
At first, these encounters are coupled with fear and anxiety. But the more an aspirant sets aside this fear and anxiety and allows the Higher Genius to guide one’s steps, the more one experiences firsthand that the most productive outcomes for one’s life lie entirely in the supreme wisdom of the Genius, not in the presumption of ego’s lower intellect. Moreover, if one stumbles and insists on exerting will toward the plans of the lower mind–usually driven by a misguided understanding of what’s assumed productive for one’s Great Work–one also gets to experience firsthand just how much less productive it is to act from a position of ignorance and binary illusion. The reward is more often than not a stagnation of any real progress up the Mountain and the realization that one is no closer to their highest aspiration today than they were three, five, ten, even twenty years prior.
Either way, in time, with much experience on both sides of this fence, the adept is led to more evidence than any material scientist would require in support of an essential truth. To accomplish the Great Work is only possible when one sets aside their lower desires, plans, and pursuits and leaves a space for the Higher Genius to move them toward the most optimal direction, even if it is at the expense of losing whatever life they understand as essential to personal identity. The sacrifice may be small, like admitting it’s time to end a bad relationship; it may be big, like quitting a job, selling a home, and moving to Nepal to live as a solitary monk away from all friends and family. Either way, it is a death of the lower mind, a death of the flesh, a death of the man animal. But to the Illuminated, greater Life awaits in what resurrects from the ashes.
Fortunately, Nature has devised a gradual progression for any soul who would walk this path. At the start, any initiate will get to play with little deaths, sacrifices, and minor alterations of identity. Though they may feel significant at the time, they are not. (I remember when Thoth advised I cut off my coveted long-flowing hair that had been the outward symbol of who I thought I was for years. Oh, what an extreme sacrifice of self-identity! Oh, the cruel burden of a tyrant Father! Hehe.) With each voluntary submission, one gains experience in knowing that the Genius knows best and the lower mind is a child (no matter how well-meaning) that secretly wants nothing more than to hold on to the keys of the kingdom and make the world into its own lower image. With each continued step, the adept is led into the deeper unity of Will with the Higher Divine Self.
Yet, make no mistake. If your highest aspiration is the supreme fulfillment of the Great Work–to become a living vessel completely One with your “Father in Heaven”–each step will require more and more profound sacrifices of lower identity and will, until a time when the mind has been fully prepared to freely hand over everything, even if at the risk of losing physical life itself, if that’s part of the bigger plan necessary to transform the lower selfhood into the True Self.
Though success is never guaranteed, this is the very precipice up to which I’ve so recently been led. Having worked for decades in my pursuit, sometimes stumbling, sometimes greatly victorious, I now see future progress toward Illumination as only possible if I can come face to face with the biggest sacrifice of lower will–to willingly hand over my physical life into the hands of my Genius to do with as It sees fit. I share what follows, not to elicit any particular belief or understanding in anything I say, but rather to illustrate one example of how a Hermetic Adept lives by the perception of reality that develops years after being initiated into the Greater Mysteries.
A few years ago, while in Conversation, I was asked: “Do you want to prove to yourself that you are beyond the fear of Death?” A proof I knew was required to reliably hand over the lower will and let the Will of my Genius dwell within. This being my highest of all desires, I agreed, and within 24-36 hours of that encounter, I developed what became malignant melanoma on my neck. My first thought was, “Nice! Magic sure works fast for me these days!” My second thought was, “Oh shit… Magic sure works fast for me these days!” At that time, there was a bit of fear and anxiety, but the prominent emotion was the disillusionment that followed having to accept a literal end of my life. The period of this trial exposed a counterproductive aspect of my nature filled with pouting over not becoming a great wise Master Alchemist whose life had been prolonged by the consumption of the Elixir Vitae. As lofty as that might sound to any aspirant of the Great Work, it was still a lower desire as understood only by my Ruach and inflamed through my Nephesch. In time, my Genius led me through this encounter with minimal discomfort and toward a newly held demonstration to my lower self that I had, in fact, overcome my fear of literal death. It was a real possibility I fully accepted but was graced not yet to endure. But what to do with that awareness would require a few more years to mature.
So at last, at the start of this year, again in Conversation, I was asked if I was willing to continue my highest spiritual goal. I knew very well what that meant, and I knew that it would require the next level of willingness to trust my Genius. Long story short, soon after my acceptance, the previous melanoma spread to my lung and brain, where it now resides. Others around me were shocked, but I had been shown what was coming, and I was given a choice to accept or reject whatever may result. This time, with zero fear, zero anxiety, and zero desire to take control and steer the ship as I see fit. I’m grateful to be given another truly profound opportunity to test my metals within the crucible of my Genius in the hopes that I might be led that much closer to union with my Higher Divine Self. Whether in this life or the next–or maybe both at the same time! Who am I to presume? 🙂
I was inspired to share the private details of my journey by a conversation I had with a friend and past student regarding my current health situation. It seemed to me that regardless of any portion of Hermetic teachings I felt he understood, his confusion regarding my attitude and approach toward full submission was beyond him. “What about free will? Isn’t that just fatalistic?” In conclusion, I’d like to address this very notion, because I know that how I approach life and death situations in the context of my Great Work is anathema to even those who claim a desire for Illumination above all material pursuits.
Many will not see a submission in this matter as any different than the “Let Go and Let God” mantra of those who must come to understand that they really have no control over their lives. For these folks, there is a need to come to terms with the fact that they can’t control everything. Submission for them is less about an exertion of free will and more about faith and acceptance. A true virtue indeed!
This, however, does not parallel the adept who has received, practiced, and demonstrated repeatedly (always with 24-36 hour effect) the magical link required to alter one’s physical condition, whether bodily or in the surrounding conditions of life. In popular occult circles, the repeated demonstration in a predictable manner of the rapid alteration of material existence is often the highest desire of the seeker. For the authentically initiated Hermetic Adept, finding and pushing buttons in the esoteric landscape that quickly result in desired effects are as expected as the roar of the engine upon the turn of the key. It is truly a simple matter.
What’s less simple is discerning when it is prudent to exert that will and when it is merely the act of the lower will trying to get its way. For me, at this point on my path, it is all or nothing. And to truly come face to face with that real choice, it must be about the most coveted possession of the lower mind–physical life itself. To let go and see what might transform in me through the full laying down of my lower inclination to avoid struggle and suffering.
And here lies the important point I’d like to make for those who may be confused by this extreme edge of the Great Work and what happens to the Free Will of the initiate the closer they become with their Higher Genius. When one is bound by the material illusion of the lower self–locked in identity with the intellect and passion of Ruach and Nephesch–one feels free when one is acting in accord with the desires for material existence. One feels free when one’s life is manifesting in accordance with one’s lower will. To the Illuminated, the illusion of this “freedom” is understood as nothing but slavery and chains, the material programming of the natural man animal. What feels like freedom is nothing more than ignorant obedience to internal forces designed for the sole purpose of maintaining existence in the physical world of the common human. Certainly, this state is critical for the individuation of any soul and all of Creation; the necessity of this mystery is profound, and one I would like to write about in future essays. But it is slavery hiding as freedom nonetheless. True freedom resides in the Will of one’s Higher Genius, that part of Self which is All and knows All about the essential individual, completely free from the material chains that bind men with their poor intellect and worldly yearnings.
This is the journey from the aspirant to the fully Illuminated: from the illusion of self as identified with Ruach and Nephesch, as intellect and passion, where one thinks they are free but are really a slave to their own material programming, toward the full perception and understanding that one’s true essence is a state of being transcending all physical limitations and presumptions.
I realize the gravity of my particular journey would appear as daunting and extreme to anyone who lacked the years of evidence, proof, and demonstration I have received from my Higher Genius. Do not be discouraged. I also realize that I possess a greater detail about the story that’s unfolding for me (which I will not publicly share), but that fills me with a degree of trust and certainty that all will manifest exactly as it is orchestrated by higher forces. Might it kill me? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s far less important to someone who no longer views death from the perspective of material illusion. What matters is how the adept responds when faced with whatever manner their Genius asks them the question: “Are you ready to hand over the keys?”
Your journey will be your own; only you will know the limits of your courage and dedication to Illumination and what your essential nature is urging you to become. In my case, I will settle for nothing less than the absolute completion of the Great Work, even if it means handing over of my life while trying to prepare my being for the task. To some, that might seem fatalistic and a giving up of my right to Free Will. But by the lights that shine on me, I know it to be the complete opposite–the truest sense of freedom from the bondage in which a human can ever partake.
I hope you’ll pardon the rambling nature of this post. It was my intention in hosting this website that I’d start at the beginning, laying the groundwork to ease the sincere aspirant toward a desire for the Great Work. Inspire them with evidence and reason so they might gain the courage to continue on the pathway to the Greater Mysteries. But instead, this essay presents the reverse, starting with a most extreme understanding gained in Act 3. But make no mistake… there is still so much more to come in this story. 🙂
As opportunities arise, I will present more essays of the “gentle walk” variety to help the true seeker tiptoe from wherever they may be in their esoteric understanding to a clearer view of how a person goes from playing at the occult to becoming More Than Human. In the meantime, I hope something I may have shared here helps settle any curiosity regarding how the Hermetic Adept understands the alchemical process of death and its role in catalyzing the transformations needed on the path of Theosis–the only truly Great Work. Whether your death-calling is big or small, figurative or literal, personal or global, I urge you to embrace it with courage. You will become truly liberated in the process, I assure you.
Thank you Arsolis,
I’m not sure what to say. . .the traditional ruach nephesch thought is to say, “I’m so sorry”, which is how I feel; however, I understand (without the ability to fully understand) you are saying that clinging to the things of this world – even your own life – is a lower function endeavor if your HG is pushing you to evolve more, to be Ulysses and strap yourself to the mast to sail past the Sirens of lower functions.
I will be thinking about this for a bit.