The Next Step – Mindfulness and Goal Setting
Alfred DeStefano, the editor of all of our publications here at the Institute for Hermetic Studies and one of the finest occultists that I know, mentioned that last week’s article very much resembled “an excellent and simple variant of the ‘Examination of Conscience’ used by Ignatius [of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order].” He further commented that it starts “the process towards mahasatipatthana.” For those unfamiliar with this latter term, “mahasatipatthana” has two possible translations; for the practitioner, it can be understood as the preliminary work or foundation for the practice of mindfulness meditation. We define “mindfulness” as keeping our attention on what we are doing and minimizing – eventually eliminating – the reactive consciousness that dominates day-to-day experience for the majority of people. Of course, reactiveness, or habituation if you will, is learned. It does not exist in itself, but as a function of repeated experiences and pattern building. Knowing how to tie your shoelaces without having to think about it is a useful habit. Responding identically to everyone who says “Hello” to you may not be. Habits in themselves are neutral even if their effects are not. Therefore it is important for us to recognize the contents of our own mind, their origin and effects on us, and to assess if these are things we wish to keep or get rid of.
Regardless, they all serve a purpose: to keep us on track towards a specific goal. This means that we need to be clear on our goals, our deepest heartfelt desires. Some of them will be easier to achieve than others, and some will have to be achieved before others can be realized. One does not build a house starting with the roof any more than one builds a life without an aim in mind. One can wander through life, leaving everything to chance, but not create without a vision that one wants to see brought into reality.
To help each of you in this manner, we have previously published a series of articles entitled “Order Out of Chaos.” This three-part series has been very useful to many of our readers in organizing their life around themes represented by the energies of the seven ancient planets. Just like our previous exercise in identifying individuals who have been teachers for you and their relationship to the classical Elemental scheme, this practice will help you better realize and actualize the energies of the planets in your life.
Order Out of Chaos – Life Mapping, Planetary Magic, and Why Matter Matters
“I am a child of the earth and of the starry heaven, but my race is of the heavens…give me cold water from the Lake of Memory. They will give you water from the sacred spring and you will live a lord among heroes.” – “Soul Ladder,” The Hymns of Orpheus/Mutations by R. C. Hogart
There is a Masonic adage used as the motto of Scottish Rite: “Order Out of Chaos.” While there are a variety of meanings to this phrase, one in particular is of importance to us in our daily lives: creating, tangibly and in the world, the life we want.
The key to this, we are told, lies in our subconscious, in the ability to reach deep into its waters and focus its powers of attraction and concretization to bring about in material form the thing or condition we desire. This is nothing new to most who are reading this post. Unfortunately, what is new for many is success – regular, reliable, dependable, predictable success in making things happen in life. To be clear, this is not a success defined by others, but by ourselves – by achieving the goals we set for ourselves, and being happy with the results. This happiness is not a partial happiness born of only partial return, but total happiness of a job consciously chosen, undertaken, and completed as we see fit. This is mastery of life; this is mastery of the material world; this is how spiritual consciousness unfolds and gods are born.
This is the sole – or rather the soul’s – purpose for living in the physical world.
To quote Psellus, “It [theurgy’s] function is to initiate or perfect the human soul [consciousness] by powers of materials here on earth, for the supreme faculty of the soul [consciousness] cannot by its own guidance aspire to the sublimest intuitions, and to the comprehension of divinity.”
To quote the Emerald Tablet: “As above, so below; as below so above.”
Or, as can be read in the writings of Harvey Spencer Lewis’s Rosicrucian Manual:
“It may seem strange to the unthinking reader that the study of the law of vibration, with its seemingly endless ramifications, should give us the knowledge whereby we learn to solve economic, social, ethical, and religious problems, yet it does do precisely that. For universal laws are operative in like manner and degree throughout all planes of creation, in all conditions. It may seem stranger yet that by studying the universal and natural laws, as they manifest and apply in the purely material world, mankind should know how they operate in the spiritual world, yet such study does just that. By studying about the SEEN world, by recognizing the laws that apply to them, by learning how to make use of those laws that apply to them, by putting them into operation, if altruism is the motive actuating the purpose, the UNSEEN world becomes not only intelligible but as intimately known, contacted, and associated with as the SEEN. By learning how to use natural, universal laws in transmuting material, physical conditions and things, can mankind learn to transmute unfavorable conditions of whatever kind.
Through mastery of the finite we express our infinite mastery.
Man is God and Son of God, and there is no other God but Man.”
To paraphrase Jean Dubuis: we must learn what we have come here to learn, and take it back with us.
What we have come here to learn is mastery of matter, of time and space, and through this process develop or realize awareness of self. This is the work of Becoming, and is expressed in the Egyptian text formula, “Khepera, Kheper, Kheperu,” or:
“I became the creator of what came into being. I came into being in the forms of Khepera [Being]. I became the creator of what came into being, that is to say, I produced myself from primeval matter which I made.”
We are self-created beings, and our becoming is here, in this world, as only through the mastery of matter and the world of duality can we find our true place in the invisible and experience unity.
In Hermetic practices symbolism is of prime importance, as it is the manner whereby we begin to communicate ideas to and from our subconscious (and through it to the greater collective unconscious mind). Of all possible symbol sets, geometric forms are given the greatest power and importance, as they represent both abstract ideas as well as very concrete things – such as crystal formations – and are free of the usual cultural, religious, or superstitious accretions that more specialized symbol sets acquire over time.
In Freemasonry: Rituals, Symbols, and History of the Secret Society, it is noted that in the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, attributed to Agrippa, it states:
“Now we come to speak of the holy and sacred Pentacles and Sigils. Now these pentacles, are as it were certain holy signes preserving us from evil chances and events, and helping and assisting us to binde, exterminate, and drive away evil spirits, and alluring the good spirits, and reconciling them to us. And these pentacles do consist either of Characters of the good spirits of the superior order, or of pictures of holy letters or revelations, with apt and fit verses, which are composed either of Geometrical figures and holy names of God, according to the course and manner of many of them; or they are compounded of all of them, or very many of them mixt.” (Henry Cornelius Agrippa (edited with commentary by Stephen Skinner), The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy [Berwick, ME: Ibis Press, 2005] 34-35.)
The author of The Fourth Book further adds: “And if we draw about him any angular figure, according to the manner of his numbers, that also shall be lawful to be done.”
This emphasis on geometric shapes and forms is not unique to Medieval and Renaissance European magic but is also found in earlier Middle Eastern practices upon which they drew, as well as Oriental designs or mandalas. These mandalas (geometric images designed to present cosmological views in symbolic form) were not limited to paper, stone, or cloth. Tibetan sand paintings as well as the three-dimensional constructions of a stupa (similar in some ways to the old “herms” or road markers of the Classical period) demonstrate the vital importance of putting archetypal patterns into material form to allow them to transform and enhance our lives.
Two of the most important geometric forms used to harmonize and integrate the planetary energies that flow across our day are the hexagram and the heptagram, and next week we will explore how to apply them as goal setting tools.