Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daily Life As Ritual


It is man's fundamental destiny to be sent out into danger and risk. Failure harms him less than what he imagines to be safety. God does not want us to look for metaphysical emergency exits but to contribute to the completion of mankind in all its aspects, from the sensual to the transcendental.

  • Herbert Fritsche

JUST AS SIMPLICITY must follow multiplicity, so we must now attempt to bring together all our observations in many different areas, in order to obtain an overall view of the path we have been following. At the beginning I pointed out that esotericism is a path and that this path must be followed if we are to reach our goal.
After all our theoretical explorations the question again arises: what must we do if we are not to remain inert observers but are actually to follow the esoteric path? Anyone who expects an easy answer to this question will be deeply disappointed, but the person who is content with certain hints will soon find more material than he can work through. For in fact there is nothing that is not a hint pointing towards the goal.
Just as a small child cannot assimilate written information until it has learned to read, so we must first learn the alphabet of reality before we can understand that everything visible is but a symbol, a sigil representing a higher idea. This way of thinking and perceiving has to be learned just like ordinary reading and writing.
The aim of this book has been to familiarize the reader a little with this way of looking at reality. As it deals only with the early steps, it does not attempt to present all esoteric systems, for to understand the whole range of such disciplines would demand a vast specialized terminology.
Fate has been the sole object of our considerations – fate, the partner of all human beings, a partner with whom they are forced to deal. A person's own fate is the most individual, made-to-measure esoteric system that one could ever find. This is why we begin our path by confronting our own fate. The aim of this confrontation is not to gain riches, happiness and success in the usual sense, but to achieve a deeper understanding of reality, an extension of consciousness, an encounter with the authority that man calls God.
The esoteric path does not promise outward fame, glamour and honour but rather work, loneliness and ceaseless striving for truth. This path is narrow and stony, but unfortunately the only one that leads to the strait gate of liberation. It is a steep path, and the danger of stumbling and falling is great. According to the law of polarity, danger increases in proportion to usefulness. With a knife one can both cut bread and kill someone. If one shapes the knife in such a way that one can no longer use it to kill it will also no longer be suitable for cutting bread. A small battery is harmless but it is also useless for supplying a town with electricity. The higher one climbs up a mountain the further one can see and the further one can fall. It is safer to stay down below on the plain crawling about on all fours – but the view form there is commensurate. The esoteric path leads to the highest peaks and is therefore mortally dangerous. Redemption and failure lie as close to one another as genius and madness.
By biting the apple in Paradise, humanity has chosen the path of knowledge and must follow it to the end if it wishes to find the way home again. It is the path traced out by Christ, which leads even further downwards until “the great work” is completed and the light of redemption shines from the depths.
At this point let me mention one of the stages on the esoteric path of initiation, a stage that is reached by anyone who follows this path, namely loneliness. Loneliness is a necessary phase that has to be passed through; in the Tarot it is symbolized by the ninth card, the Hermit. This loneliness is not connected with one's outward activity; it is an inner experience which goes together with not being understood by the world. A deep gulf of incomprehension and alienation opens up between the individual and the world around him. He becomes a hermit, even if he is surrounded by a hundred people. Just as this phase must be lived through, so, with equal certainty, will it give way to other phases. Loneliness is only a transitional stage which, among other things, is there to teach us how to listen and keep silent.
Before setting out on the path one should cast aside all illusions. All too many people become involved in occult activity out of a wish to acquire abilities that will raise them above others and make them more powerful. But where – overtly or covertly – the desire for power provides the motivation, the way leads undeviatingly to the pole that is called “black magic”. Black magic is simply any action that serves selfish or egotistical purposes. The essence of so-called “white magic” is to illuminate the darkness, to transmute “lead” into “gold”, to participate in the process of redeeming our planet, to serve the light. But as Fritsche puts it: “Only the enlightened can give out light. Only the reborn can awaken others.” True power is power that is possessed but not deployed. The infinite power of Christ revealed itself when he refused to take up the challenge to descend from the cross. As long as we deploy power we remain the slaves of power – and powerless.
As the public does not understand this principle it continually challenges occultists to prove their claims and expects visible demonstration of miracles. True esotericism, however, will never meet these expectations. The man in the street concludes from the refusal to produce miracle that such things do not exist – but this is a reflection of his own shortsightedness and we should not share in his limitation. When Jesus was in the wilderness the devil demanded visible proofs of his power, but Jesus withheld them. (Luke 4, 1-13)
Here again we see the great difference between esotericism and parapsychology. As long as man is motivated by mere curiosity the portal of initiation remains closed to him.
Once we have examined our true motivation and made sure that we are impelled neither by curiosity nor by the desire for power, then we can begin to take the first steps on the new path. We are soon given another warning: avoid haste! Many a traveler, in his enthusiasm over the newly discovered territory of esotericism, tries to pursue its secrets at top speed. But knowledge and development cannot be forced; they have their own rhythm and elude all coercion.
For many years the warning words of Frater Albertus have stayed with me: “when seeking becomes addiction”. Unfortunately it is all too easy to find people who insatiably consume new systems and ideas without digesting or assimilating them. The path turns into a “trip”. Fanaticism and intolerance are the hallmarks of those who try in their zeal to force God into giving favours. Development requires stillness, but not the stillness of inactivity. Stillness grows from the confidence that everything which is to happen will happen at the right time. Just as the farmer must allow his seed to rest in the ground, so must we learn to wait until the time is ripe. The motto “hasten slowly” reminds us of the golden mean between the extremes.
I do not consider it of prime importance to look around for esoteric societies and groups, or to go to India in search of a guru. There is at present a constantly growing number of groups, varying in size, aim and traditional background. If one includes all the small clubs and circles the number becomes astronomical. It is therefore impossible to arrive at a general judgement as to their value or otherwise. Nevertheless it is worth making a few fundamental observations on this subject.
Every group has its justification and can provide the individual seeker, at the appropriate time, with a certain kind of impulse and stimulus. This impulse can be quite independent of the inherent quality of the group itself. Nothing in this world is so bad that it cannot transmit certain valuable information to a person who has learned to see consciously. The value of a system or a group is hard to determine; it depends on the seeker's level of consciousness at the time. If a person feels an affinity for a particular group, this obviously shows that he can profit from its teachings. As long as he can do this the group is valuable to him.
Only in the rarest cases, however can this situation remain; for all groups, when they reach a certain size, acquire a sluggishness that usually makes their own development slower than that of the individual. Thus one day inevitably comes when the group has fulfilled its purpose for the individual. He then feels a new affinity drawing him on, impelling him to take a further step and to progress to a more advanced level of understanding.
The danger inherent in almost any group is the tendency to present its own teaching – which of course can only represent a small section of reality – as the only truth that will bring salvation. Thus a group's energies, instead of being devoted to its own development, are frequently diverted into power struggles, proselytizing and rivalry with groups of other persuasions. A system tends to become an end in itself and to take on an inert quality, instead of bringing freedom from inertia. The group becomes a vehicle for mutual self-affirmation. A coterie develops, consisting of disciples whose esoteric path goes no further than consuming the Master's every utterance. In other words the path becomes a cul-de-sac.
Apart from this general danger which goes with all larger associations, it is possible to divide groups qualitatively into three categories, corresponding to three basic tendencies:

1 Groups whose aims conform to white magic
2 Those with a tendency towards black magic
3 Those of an innocuous character which lead neither in one direction nor the other.

Leaving aside the third category, which is of no interest esoterically, we are left with the question: how is it possible to distinguish between the white and the black path? Note that we use the terms “white magic” and “black magic” here merely to denote a basic polarity, regardless of whether any particular group actually uses the term “magic”.
The same polarity can be expressed by the terms “right-hand” and “left-hand” path. Each path forms a pole to the other, and each has its justification. Thus is is not our intention here to condemn the left-hand path as devilish; this path is necessary as a counterbalance and in order to make the brightness of the right-hand path truly visible. Still, the individual who wishes to set out on a path has to decide which path to choose, the dark or the light. Each person is free to decide one way or the other, but, by the same token, each must bear – and endure – the full consequences of his or her choice. The left-hand path lures with the promise of power. The right-hand one demands sacrifice. To many, the decision seems to come easily.
One should remember, however, that everything was born from the light and therefore must return to the light. Darkness is absence of light. Therefore the left-hand or dark path leads to no genuine goal of its own. It is merely a wide detour which ultimately leads back to the light. It is not for nothing that since time immemorial truth, understanding, redemption and enlightenment have been associated with light, whereas lying, deceit, falsehood, illness and suffering have been linked with darkness. Each person must decide for himself, but it must be emphasized here that when we talk about the esoteric path we mean the path of light, for the dark path is ultimately not a path at all but merely the shadow of one.
There are many organizations and societies that serve the dark path, yet very few acknowledge this officially. Before joining any group, therefore, one should check certain points. Typical characteristics of the dark, left-hand path are: all striving for power – whether through expansion, proselytizing or whatever; any attempt to tie a person to the organization and make it difficult or impossible for him to leave; any form of drug-taking.
True esotericism, in so far as this exists in organized form, aims solely to help the seeker and remains at his disposal as long as he needs its help and advice. True esotericism points the way to freedom and never leads to dependence. True esotericism is not easy to organize, which is why one should not look for it in large organizations. In the last resort each person must go his or her own way alone. But if, along the path, he or she needs help, then this help will come without the person having to ask. In order to receive help, all that is necessary is to have a genuine need for it.

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