Tuesday, December 30, 2008

To Jim, on New Years Eve

Dear Jim,

It’s been nearly a year now since you left. I started the year attending your funeral, and I am ending it by preparing myself to be the father of twins. At least the plot of the year went from death to life, rather than the other way around. We didn’t find your LJ post that described your ideal funeral until it was too late. Probably couldn’t have arranged to prop your body up in the corner and make your corpse try to bite people anyway. Not that we didn’t break a few laws together while you were alive mind you…

I wish I could have called you about the news of the twins. I wish you were here for a lot of stuff this year. The Iron Man movie was awesome and Dark Knight was just equally good. You know we would have seen at least one of those together and I couldn’t help but feel your ghost as I saw each one. I finally got a video game system too. Cant help but think we would have had a good time boxing Avatars of our friends on the Wii.  

I finished my second book, Sorcerer's Secrets. It is exactly what we discussed that night with Ed at the Inkwell a few years ago. I finally was able to get it down on paper. I hope people like it. You won’t get to read it, so I dedicated it to your memory.

I’ll be sure to offer you a drink and play Lay Me Low on the 25th of January. Wish you could be here to raise a glass to 2009 with us. Happy New Year anyway.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

Christmas Eve Message, 2008


Many different faiths posit that we are created simply so that the divine can know itself, mirrors for god, if you like. Even in mainstream Christianity, this concept accepted; The Baltimore Catechism answers the question of why we were created with the statement “So that we could know God”. If our purpose really is to know god, and I am not saying it is or isn’t, just that it might be; it is logical to assume that we are uniquely wired for the task. We are designed to know God. Walking talking machines for Gnosis. We are built for it. Even more than higher and more powerful beings, we are built to know the divine. Though angels are more powerful and long lived than we are, it is we that are the god-knowers. This concept has a parallel in Buddhism as well: that though there are Devas and Asuras that are in higher realms, a human rebirth is the best for actually achieving Buddhahood.

Of course, the way that we go about knowing God tends to get complex. When studying the Old Testament one of the themes that stood out was how complex and demanding early Judaism was with its emphasis on ritual purity and timely sacrifices and so on. History takes an interesting turn though once Judah falls to Nebuchadnezzar. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of a new covenant with God much different than the one Moses established on Sinai. Indeed Ezekiel even refers to the former covenant as so difficult that it was unjust. In Ezekiel 20:25 we read “Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.”

Instead of demanding absolute obedience that the people could not give, this new covenant will extend the grace necessary in a more simple way. In Jeremiah 31 we read: 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,* says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” .

Though we are built to know the divine, the divine decides to reach out to us and make the job easier.  At the start of the new testament, he reaches out yet again. This time it is not through the agency of prophets, but through manifesting as a human child; a sign that a human birth has the potential within it for divinity. Or as Athanasius put it: “God became man, so that man could become God.”

In his Christmas Homily from two years ago Pope Benedict gives an interesting translation of Romans 9:28 “God made his word short, he abbreviated it”. I have never seen this translation anywhere else or his particular interpretation: but I like it. The Logos abbreviated. Divinity manifests as human, as a way of making the work of mankind becoming divine easier. He abbreviates the Logos, “the word made flesh”.

The manner in which he does so is telling. There is no descent from heaven. No chariots of flame. No trumpets. No palanquin. Not any real fanfare at all. Divinity chooses to manifest in the lowest and most awkward circumstances available: as a baby that has to sleep in a stable and rest in a manger. The only people that get a heads up about it are some Shepards. A few Persian magi figure it out for themselves. But otherwise it’s a very low-key thing. No need for anyone to be high born, or have special circumstances. The word is abbreviated.

So what is the secret of realizing the word? Love. When the Pharisees ask Christ what the greatest commandment is he answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”(MAT 22:37-40)

Simple right? Start now. Just Love the divine and the rest of mankind. Good. I am glad that’s settled…

Of course, its really not that easy. The kind of love that Christianity, Buddhism, and most other great spiritual paths demand is not something that can be summoned instantly, and even when summoned, is even more difficult to maintain. This is why modern evangelical Christianity more or less forgets about Love and focuses on blind belief in the power of the resurrection. But this is a cop-out. It’s not much different than just making sacrifices to keep God from getting pissed off at us. Do this, believe that, and god will wont punish you. Rather than a real path to love it becomes a game to keep yourself out of hell. This however is not real Christianity. The challenge of real Christianity is to find a way to achieve this love, but the only way to achieve it is to actually become divine ourselves.

The word is made flesh.

The Logos is abbreviated.

God became man, so that man could become God

I don’t really care if you are Christian or not. I don’t even care if Christ was a historical figure or just a more popular version of Mithras. It doesn’t matter a lick to me. The meaning is still the same. We are freed from the need to keep complex rules and dogma: but the stakes are raised. Instead of just not pissing off god, we are asked to become gods ourselves. Christmas is a quest.  

Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. While Christmas day is a glorious cacophony of guests and gifts, the silence of Christmas Eve is a wonderful time for reflection on the Divine and your relation to it. It is no mistake that Christmas happens near the solstice. Historical issues of stealing Pagan holidays aside: the word Solstice mean Sun Stillness (sol= sun ; stitium=stillness) and again points to the idea the divine taking a time out from its usual movement and holding still for a moment. Just long enough to grasp it. The Sun made still. The Son made manifest.

The real message of Christmas to me is that we are not as far from enlightenment as we think we are. We are not as far from being God as we imagine. The symbolism of the divine manifesting as the lowest and weakest among us, a baby in a manger, should say to us that no matter our own circumstance, we can become that which is most high. I hope that everyone, whether you jive with the symbolism of Christ or not, take a moment tomorrow night and open yourself to the stillness, silence, and peace that are offered on Christmas Eve.

May there be Peace On Earth and Goodwill towards Men.

Merry Christmas

Jason Miller


Monday, December 22, 2008

Old one caught on film.

Scientists call this a Siphonophone, but clearly this is one of the great old ones. Cant tell if its a partial capture of Chthulhu or perhaps a spawn of Azagthoth.  

While on the subject of the great old ones it is time that I post some traditional Lovecraftian Carols for or your listening pleasure. Perhaps you might listen to them while hanging your traditional Cthulhu Wreath over the hearth...

Saturday, December 20, 2008


My friend Andre Kalden once told me about a women he interviewed that was known as the happiest woman in Holland. When questioned about it she said that she basically spent her entire life caring for her sick father and gave very little thought to herself. After he passed, she kept the focus as it naturally was, mostly on others. This was the secret to her happiness. 

My evil west coat twin, Al Billings, just wrote a very insightful post on a similar topic, noting the happiness of those that meet thier own basic needs than are involved with others. In a further comment he calls it "one of the failures of our age - to be so focused on one's self"

One of the biggest reasons that I rejected Crowley's vision of Thelema is that focuses so intensely on the self, yet does nothing to lead one to a real understanding of what the self is. If I did believe in the Aeon of Horus (which I don't) I would say that while Freedom is its great gift, Selfishness is its deep flaw. Of course its not alone in this.

I think one of my biggest disappointments in the Dharma scene is exactly this selfishness. While ostensibly Buddhism teaches compassion, all to often this gets expressed as visualized offerings to visualized beings, meditations on taking in negaticity and sending out positivity, and generally meditating on thinking of all beings as ones mother. In short, a lot of mental gymnastics and not a lot of actual compassionate action to back it up. 

In December 1999 and January 2000 I worked in a soup kitchen every morning in Boudhanath. It was directly accross the road from a Dilgo Khyentse's old monestary, yet we got no help whatsoever from the monks.  Zero. When I asked a monk about this he fed me a line about people working through thier Karma. This is such BS, but it can be a pretty common view in Asia. It turns Karma into a kind of Calvinism. People are poor because of past misdeeds and rich because of good past deeds. Not much different than being favored or unfavored by God. I don't buy it either way. One of the things that I like about Christianity is that there is at least an emphasis on genuine compassionate action rather than navel gazing. Buddhism could use more of it. 

Everybody talks about transcending the ego, but if you really want to transcend it you have to stop focusing on it so much. The intense desire to transcend the ego is often just another type of egotism. I am writing this in a room surrounded by spiritual claptrap. I mean lots and lots of shit. Most of which, if I am gonna be honest about it, is not really about unlocking the cage of the ego so much as decorating the bars. As I look back upon that sojurn in Nepal, nearly 9 years past now, I sometimes think that the only thing that I really did that had any real spiritual worth was work in that soup kitchen. Sure I learned a lot and took lots of empowerments (over 150 in fact), but Liam and Laura who ran the kitchen easily beat most of the Dharma Bums, yogi's, and even most of the Lamas at actually having reduced their clinging to ego. Mostly be giving up being concerned with their ego at all. 

As I approach the initiation of fatherhood I meditate on these mysteries more and more. If you want to find an antidote to clinging to self, try doing for others, or at least being involved. 

New Grange Tommorrow

Thanks to Practically Magick for pointing out that the Illumination of New Grange that happens on the Solstice will be tommorrow.

A live webcast will be available free of charge from 8:30 to 9:30 GMT, which is actually only a few hours from now. You can also watch it here

If you have never been there, I highly recommend that you put it on your pilgimage list for this life. Sort of the feminine answer to Stonehenge in a way. The picture is me at New Grance circa 1993 wearing a really terrible sweater. On the winter solstice the sun shines directly into the sunbox which is over my head in the photo, and illuminates the chamber inside. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sometimes I am right on with the Pope. 
I was just saying this same thing this afternoon. 

I did'nt think I would like Palpetine.... opps Benedict much, but I do. 

VATICAN CITY - The world economic crisis might mean fewer Christmas presents, but Pope Benedict XVI says that tough times can give back simplicity and solidarity to holiday celebrations.

Benedict has expressed hope that the financial crisis will help people focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, when Christians worldwide mark the birth of Jesus.

Benedict says the crisis can help people to rediscover what he calls "the warmth, simplicity, friendship and solidarity" contained in authentic Christmas values.

The pope reflected on economic suffering during his traditional Wednesday audience with pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Caroling

Most of you have probably already seen this, but if you havent, you need to. 

It is the BEST Christmas Caroling I have ever witnessed. 

I give you: Straight No Chaser performing the 12 Days of Christmas

What does this have to do with sorcery and spirituality you ask? 

Fuck you. Thats what. 

STFU and watch it ya Grinchy bastard. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Contact with the Lower

Many people climb the ladder of lights by interacting with the angels, either of the 7 planets, or the 10 sephira or so on. Even when approaching these beings for their assistance in working out mundane issues like money and so on, the interaction with the angels transforms the magician. By their very nature, they elevate the consciousness of any lower beings that they come into contact with. Thus, interaction is not only practical magick, but initiatory as well. 

Not much talk gets devoted to how working with demons is transformative as well. Just as angels are lighter, purifying, and enobling; demons are heavier, passionate, and atavistic. 

This is of course not a matter of good and evil, just gravity. Yet by almost all accounts its dangerous to work with demons before working with angels. Why? The same reason that its dangerous to rush into sexual relationships before you can emotionally handle it, and dangerous to start drinking alcohol before you have developed the maturity to know when to stop. Angels will elevate your mind, demons will excite the passions. Angels will turn up the volume on your inspiration; demons will do the same with your instinct. There is a big difference. 

The biggest danger one is likely to face with working to much with angels is that you get to disconnected from day to day life, and perhaps wind up a monk or hermit. The danger of working too much with demons is that you could wind up a slave to your lowest and most destructive passions. 

This is also the reason that many yogis stress the need for long purification practices before being taught how to ignite the fires of gTummo or raise the Kundalini. That vital force from the lower chakras will amplify everything: good and bad. If you dont have yourself under control, rather than turn up the volume on your spiritual aspirations as a yogi, it will turn up the volume on your aspirations for pure hedonism. 

So why work with demons at all? Why not just stick with angels? 

Because we do live in the world. By working with demons we are summoning a being with a lot of force to work with. It is heavier and more passionate the baseline of material reality, and can therefore move and shake things faster than just the angels alone. 

Also, you are fulfilling your role in the cosmos according to this model. You are elevated by contact with the angels, and the demons are elevated by their contact with you. This is common knowlege. 

But it also works the other way. By working with demons, your work is vivified and made more manifest. By working with you, the angels work is also provided more passion and made more manifest. To put it another way: the angels, when they are working with you, are essentially doing the same thing that you are doing when working with demons. 

Not too many people seem to think in those terms. 

The material of course aspired towards spirit, but spirit also desires to manifest in matter. As a being in the middle world, we are transformed equally by both, and necessarily so. There is a deeper mystery here as well, and those trained in internal yogas that I already mentioned above know it well: that the process is only fully realized when the flames of passion melt the frozen drops of heavenly wisdom. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

St Paul of Mt Latros

At the advice of my Bishop, Tau Nemesius, I made a special prayer today to St Paul of Latros as this is his feast day. 

Paul was a Christian mystic of a neo-platonic bent that spent a lot of time dodging people that wanted to be his disciples so he could devote himself to prayer and meditation. He even spent several years meditating in Pythagoras's cave. A famous seer he was consulted by several Byzantine rulers of his day. 

He was one of the first to promulgate deep meditation upon God as uncreated light. This is a good fit for me as most magicians, can relate to the idea of divine light. Dzogchenpas specifically should be able to find resonance between the clear light of rigpa and the uncreated light of Theoria, and so it fits right in with the work that I do day in and day out. 

I have never worked with this saint before, but felt his presence immeditately. I asked for his guidance and intercession on a specific matter, than entered into contemplation with an unusually small amount of distraction. 

I will repeat this again a few times before I sleep tonight. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beethovan and the Illuminati


Beethoven and the IlluminatiHow the secret order influenced the great composer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spirit of Hermes

"The spirit of Hermes seems to have a pronounced aversion to formal organizations. As soon as a group of humans establishes bylays and begins collecting dues in his name, he's out of there."

The above is from  "On Becoming an Alchemist, A guide for the Modern Magician". by Catherine MacCoun. I was passed it by my firend Jenn this weekend, who also happens to be the authors publicist. 

I am only in the third chapter, but am loving it so far. I will have a full review when I finish. 

Monday, December 8, 2008


I was going to wait until the first trimester was over, but given the news today I can't resis posting that barring any unforseen misfortune I am going to be the father of twins. 

Please pardon me if I have seemed a little off my game for the past couple weeks and if I seem REALLY off my game for the next few...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spiritual empowerment for practical magick

Two days ago I wrote about how Spiritual illumination and Practical magick are not in any way mutually exlusive. 

Yesterday I clarified my point to note that while not mutually exclusive, they are not inherently intertwined either. One CAN do either without the other. I personally think that Sorcery without Gnosis is futile, but it can be done. I think that spiritual illumination without Sorcery is just fine and dandy. I find spiritual illumination without worldly action to be a bit lame, but there are all types of ways to act within the world. 

Today FRATER R.O. wrote: Jason, can you tie this into that post on how I think you need a spiritual baptism to empower your practical magic though? 

Hell yes I can brother! I never miss a chance to get up on a soapbox and pontifocate. 

The Good Frater made a post last week entitled The Secret to Power which you should all read. In it he details how his practical magick AND his illumination really kicked off after his spiritual baptism in church, and than gave a very pithy exposition on the path his work has taken since. I can really dig this, as I had a pretty profound experience today at the Valley Forge chapel that its gonna take me a few days to digest. 

So, while sorcery is not an obstacle to gnosis, and while spiritual illumination is not necessary for practical magick in general, it is helpful for certain types. Working with spirits for instance, the topic of my next book BTW, is usually facilitated by the power of spiritual authority or offerings or both. We will leave aside for the moment, styles of magick that rest on the practice of offerings alone and focus only on traditions that command the spirits through authority, even if there are offerings involved. 

Spiritual authority is established in a number of different ways before calling upon the spirits. The most common way is to simply do it in the name of a spiritual power. Christ taught that anyone with faith could exorcise demons in his name, of course if one lacks faith this tends not to work. Note the episode in Acts: 

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."

Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.

But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"

And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
ACTS 19:13-16 RSV

Another way is to perform an invocation or take on a god-form ahead of time and temporarily identify yourself AS a particular power. THis is why Crowley prefaced his translation of the Goetia with the Bornless Ritual, beacuse you identify yourself with Moses, the Law Giver, and are this able to command the Demons. In Tibetan rituals you generate yourself as Hayagriva or other wrathful yidam in order to command the 8 classes of spiirts or to summon the aid of Dharmapalas. This is what I call the "fake it till you make it" way. 

The best way of course is to possess gebuine spiritual authority by virtue of your own Gnosis. This is why Abramelin was so different than other Grimoires. Rather than just telling you to shout out lots of names of God and threats to roast their ass or lock them up in a brass vessel, he is daring to suggest that you should spend a significant amount of time in prayer, meditation, and devotion so that you actually evolve spiritually. In this case the seal upon your attainment would be the Knowlege and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel. But there are other ways. 

As the good frater points out, dealing with the Angels of the Higher Speres is another. This is one of the reasons I like my Descent of Divinity practice so much. This is the real secret of Enoch. He was seventh descended from Adam (7 spheres) and lived for 356 years (365 a full solar cycle) and than was taken by God without dying, and according to some sources was transformed into the Archangel Metatron. But I digress.

The taking of Holy Orders and Tantric Wangs and other types of transmission, is yet another way to establish Spiritual Authority, but without genuine spiritual work, that authority is never really actualized. 

Beyond the issue of spiritual authority though is a much more important issue: that of guidance. Whether you are guided by your own heightened spiritual perception, or by what you perceive as the hand of God, or your HGA, it is this guidance that is most important in practical magick. It is only by knowing ones true will, which is synonynmous with the will of the divine, or in eastern terms: enlightened action generated out of rigpa or pure awareness, that your worldly action will be truly fulfilling and successful. 

Frater R.O. has found that while his magick worked well enought before his baptism, it now works in harnmony with the universe itself and is profoundly successful. I have found the same, and in the last several years have found the need to perform formal magick for myself almost non-existant. Almost all the sorcery I do now if for other people. By keeping up my meditation, devotion, and awareness, probability tends to unfold better on its own than when i tinker with it myself. 

Thats all I have time for tonight. 

I will write more on Monday when I get back from vising friends in Boston

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop 8 the musical

Hey, Jesus is in it, ergo it qualifies as spiritual for the blog...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Spiritual Realization and Magickal Power

An issue that I meant to cover in my post about lines of transmission came up again today in Frater BH's post, and in a reply by Scott Stenwick. The issue is the relationship between efficacy of practical magick and spiritual realization.

Frater BH seems to treat practical magick as a sort of distraction from realization, which we have dealt with in my last post.

Scott however sees the two as interlocked. In his reply to that post he wrote:

“it is a mistake to pursue either at the expense of the other”

and later wrote:

“objective magical results are definitive signs of spiritual progress beyond the psychological realm.

While I obviously do not see the two as mutually exclusive, this blog is called Strategic Sorcery after all; I also disagree with Scotts view. In fact I disagree with it a good deal more. I do not see spiritual realization and practical magick as necessarily intertwined.

Dealing with the last quote first, I have met many people that possess what I would call a high degree of spiritual wisdom, gnosis, or illumination. Only a few of them have any interest in practical magick. In fact, most do not. Now that I think about it most of the writers and teachers throughout history that I hold the most dear as Spiritual authorities had absolutely no interest in practical magick whatsoever.

On the other side of the coin, I have met many sorcerers, witches, and psychics who have no interest in “realization” or mysticism, but totally kick ass at practical magick. They may be members of a religion, and they may even have a bit of faith, but that is not the same as spiritual attainment.  

Therefore I do not see success at sorcery as evidence of spiritual realization. This is VERY important to realize. You may, in the course of walking your path meet many powerful men who can do amazing things. That does not make them wise! As one friend of mine told me in Nepal about a certain Lama: “He is an extremely powerful Tantrika. If you need a mo or a puja done, you should go to him. Just watch your wallet and your girlfriend because he will try to take them both…”

Now, as to the first quote, I think that practical magick only calls to a small amount of people. In fact, I wish that a lot less people who have no real calling for it, and no real talent for it would just drop it. Your posing and psychological reductions are harming the art.

Spiritual realization on the other hand is something that I think everyone needs. It is only by a great inner revolution that we can ever hope for the mind and spirit of humanity to catch up with its technological progress.

While I do think that spiritual realization should be a concern of practical magicians, I do not see it as essential for the performance of practical magick. 

I certainly do not at ALL see practical magick as necessary for spiritual realization. 

Percival wanted not only the Grail, but the Quest as well...

Frater BH made a post today called Has Percival Made a Come Back? in which he ponders whether he is spending too much time on practical magick (thaumatrurgy) over spiritual Union (theurgy).  This is not the first time he has pondered this on his blog. 

I have struggled with the same issue myself. When I was five I had a vision that sparked my interest in mystecism. Later in life, while exploring various spiritual systems, I found practical magick and found that I had a talent for it. I see no reason for viewing them as separate things. Almost all great spiritual leaders performed actions that effected the world around them. Some of these actions were accomplished through magick, or supernatural means. 

I see practical magick as both a means for dealing with life to the point that we can focus our mind on spiritual illumination. Maslows pyramid teaches us that its hard to work on self actualization while our basic needs are in dissarray after all. Thaumaturgy is also the rays of light that reflect our illumination into the world. I have no interest in spiritual persuits that are divorced from the manifest world. 

While there is no inherent contradiction between Illumination and Sorcery, there is still the matter of striking a balance. I happen to know that our good Frater has been reading up on a bit of the Hoodoo of late, which while not devoid of spirit, is practiced more by people who rely on faith rather than a quest for gnosis as the cornerstone of their spiritual lives. Nothing wrong with that, but its not Frater BH's path, nor is it mine. 

I strongly suspect that his post is the result of a gentle nudging from his HGA to not stray to far from the path. I recognize this because I get those nudges all the time. I used to get them even when I would get caught up in Buddhist Lower Activity practices rather than the Pure search for enlightenment. 

Recently I have made some firm decisions about my activties as a Sorcerer vs those of a Mystic. I have some things I need to accomplish over the next few years and than I will retire from practical magick and devote myself fully to BEING. (ie: Gnosis is not enough. You must BE). These decisions have eased the burden of balance lately, but I have had trouble in the past keeping that balance, and so I sympathize. 

I only wish to point out to my freind, that he claims that he is : "a man without religion seeking the ultimate god, the ultimate unity." If this is ALL he is interested in or called to, than he is going about it in one of the worst possible ways. GD, Enochian, Hoodoo, etc aint gonna get you there in the fastest most efficient manner. You are in fact never very far from what you seek and if thats really all you are looking for than drop everything labeled "magick" which takes long and meandering routes back and forth along the paths, assidulously mapping them as you go, and take on something more direct like Zen, Dzogchen, or some other type of meditation. It will shoot you straight up the middle pillar. 

But I suspect that you are actually called to more than just seeking the ultimate God, the ultimate unity. I suspect that you are called to magick, and at least for a time, must do the balancing act between Sorcery and Illumination. 

Of course. I could be wrong. I talk out of my ass a lot. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More on Lines of Transmission

In Response to my post yesterday, JM wrote the following: 

"How does this work? It would seem to me that a valid transmission would transform each carrier of the message to at least a semblance of an enlightened or illuminated presence, sufficient to preclude behaviors like nail-gunning babies to anything. If not, and if we cannot look to the results of the carriers as indicators of the quality of their spiritual payloads, then how can we evaluate the value of the transmission?

In other words - I typically would dismiss any habitual baby-nail-gunner as spiritually corrupt to a point that I would limit my learnings from them to "what not to do". If I shouldn't do that, if doing that somehow limits me from noticing other value that qualifies them as legitimate carriers of a powerful spiritual current, then how should I look for that value? What qualities, characteristics or results could indicate possible value enough that I ought to overlook what I otherwise consider clear spiritual deficits?"

Excellent points, so excellent that I thought that they should form the basis of another post rather than remain in the comments section. It exposes a couple issue. 

The first is that of over expectation. There is no transmission that will transform the carrier into an "enlightened or illuminated presence" in and of itself. If there were we would just give it out like pills and all would be well with the world. The types of transmission that I was speaking of do change you for sure, but they do not make you enlightened, or even better. Just different. 

The transmission forms the base from which one would begin ones path. That is all. 

It is entirely possible that someone possesses this transmission and does absolutely nothing with it spiritually. Or, more likely, screws it all up and fails at the work. Or even more likely, makes some progress but still remains a flawed being, and therefore someone who commits errors. In either of these three cases they are still in possession of thing and able to pass it on because the working is in the work, not the worker. 

It would be as if I got initiated into the best most kick ass magickal order on the planet by a complete dullard or shithead. I received the initiation one way or the other. I might have receieved some additional benefit from being initiated by a great magus, but the essence of it was still transmitted. What I do with it from that point on is up to me and is not determined by how good or bad my initiator was. 

My Minerval initation was REALLY lame. It was poorly performed in a shitty space. It effected my time in the OTO not one iota. 

Now, as to eavluating the worth of the transmission, there you are completely correct. If people that have the transmission and work it are not producing results than I wouldnt want it. But that is a totally separate issue than the mechanics of how a line is transmitted. 

In the case of Cliff questioning the integrity of a Christian transmission, I submit that for every person of intolerance and ignorance that I have met within the tradition, I have met 10 more who are moved to extreme acts of courage, compassion, and charity. For every Pat Robertson, there is a Sister Helen Prejean. I also submit that they are no worse than other religions of similar size. Its easy to point to how little violence there is in a tradition that is just over 100 years old and has less adherants worldwide than a small town. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lines of Transmission

A couple weekends ago when Cliff and Misha were over, Cliff and I got to talking about lineage, and my ordination as a priest. He in particular was curious about how I could take ordination as a Christian because in his eyes, the line would be so polluted with the Karma of various inquisitions and such.

I promised him that once I had a chance I would write a post about how I view lineage and lines of transmission. So, now that the book is done, here we go. 

Before we deal with the issue of the integrity of a line of transmission, we should first discuss why one would want to possess such a line. I am not speaking only of Christian lines of transmission here, but of all lines claiming to pass on not only spiritual knowlege, but a direct transferance of power. These exist in Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and other paths as well.

In some cases it is taught that only those who possess these lines have access to the highest states of realization. I flatly reject such notions. To quote Krishnamurti, "Truth is a pathless land". While I do believe the gates of truth can be approached through various religious paths, they are not the only way in which it is approached. Furthermore, I am a strong believer that the "ism" you approach the truth by, must eventually be abandoned if you are to enter into the Chapel fully. 

You can no more take your religion into the chapel of truth, than you can take your car into your living room.  

All, that said, paths and religions exist for a reason, as do lines of transmission. In general it works like this: A great Saint (Jesus, Padmasambhava, Ibn Arabi, whoever) either attains or is born with a special connection to the ultimate. They attempt to teach their students as best they can when they were alive, so that those students can pass those teachings on. In addition to those teachings they transmit a psycho-spiritual power that acts as a catalyst in co-operation with the teachings that they pass on. In the case os a Sufi Master like Ibn Arabi this is Baraka. In the case of a Tantric Master like Padmasambhava, this is Samaya transmitted through Empowerments. In the case of Jesus this is the Apostolic line of Holy Orders. 

These are lineages are catalysts that enable one to do certain things in the name of the person who started the lineage. In the case of Padmasambhava, you can enter certain mandalas and generate yourself as those Yidams, and practice the associated Yogas and so on. In the case of Christ you are given the power to transmit the sacraments. I happen to enjoy both of these transmissions, and value them highly, but they are not the only way to the truth. Just a way.

Now, as far as the integrity of these lineages goes, there is some debate. Do the lines of transmission actually pass through each person that gives it, going back to the originator? Or, does each person have a direct link back to the fountainhead of the lineage? 

In the case of the former we have a situation where the line can deteriorate over time, just like a message deteriorates from person to person when playing the game "telephone". This is why in Tibetan Buddhism there is a good deal of emphasis on keeping ones Samaya pure. In the Nyingma school this idea has led to Termas (hidden teachings revealed by later treasure revealers) to be more valued than Kama (teachings actually given by Padmasambhava when he was alive) because the lineage is shorter. For instance, the lineage that I recieved the Dudjom Tersar Kilaya through only has a couple jumps from me to Padmasamhava (me, Kunzang Dorje, Dudjom Rinpoche, Dudjom Lingpa, Padmasambhava). The line that I received the Kama through has dozens of people going back to the 8th century within it. Therefore the line can be damaged by being passed through people who broke vows and generally had poor spiritual worth. 

Of course, not every school of Tibetan Buddhism feels this way. All the Sarma schools seem to value a teaching more the closer it is to a Sanscrit original. Thus, they value the age more than the Nyingma do. An irony, since the Nyingma are the oldest school. 

In the case of Christianity this issue of whether a lineage can be corrupted is played out in the Heresy of Donatism. Donatus taught that the efficacy of a sacrament is dependant upon the moral character of the person giving the sacrament. Thus any sacrament given by a Priest who commits a serious enough sin can be considered invalid. This includes the sacrament of Holy Orders. 

The Church declaired this a heresy and established a doctrine of Opere Ex Operato, or working because of the work, as opposed to Opere Ex Operantis, or working because of the worker. It is because of this rule that wandering Priests and Bishops can exist, with orders that are "Valid but Illicit". They operate outside of the doctrines of the Roman Chuch, yet possess spiritual validity. 

So, in other words, even if you get the Jesus Juice from a Priest who enjoys taking the lords name in vane while nail gunning babies to trees and coveting his neighbors wife on the Sabbath, the Lineage you receieve is ultimately between you and the fountainhead of the lineage, not every person it passes through. 

This is how I view it. Even in the case of the Buddhist lineages. I have worked both Kama and Terma and have found no difference between the two as far as quality of transmission. I have found Lamas who feel the same way about it as well.