Category Archives: Awakening

What is the Baptist’s Head?

Back in 2005, three chaos magicians decided to start a podcast, in part inspired by those other podcasting chaos magicians, the Viking Youth. A name was required, and coming across the automated prophetic magical head of St. John the Baptist in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, I wondered if the ‘Baptist’s Head’ might be appropriate, considering we would be talking about magical matters. Duncan and Shawn liked the name, and it stuck.

Five podcasts in and Shawn had left, and Duncan and I had found ourselves embarking upon an unexpected and marvellous magical journey. The Baptist’s Head became a record of our progress in completing the Great Work of Magick, sometimes known as awakening, realisation, liberation or enlightenment. Just over one year had passed and we had achieved the first traditional Big Step in reaching our goal (called Crossing the Abyss in the Western tradition, or ‘stream entry’ in Theravada Buddhism), we had generated enough material for our first book, and it was obvious that the end destination of the Baptist’s Head would be our respective awakenings. Traditionally, there is one more Big Step before full liberation, and I entertained myself with the absurd notion that we might produce another two books, one for each successive year, with the next step and final awakening conveniently occurring within that time frame.

I still can’t believe they did.

If you think that stretches credulity, consider the following: not only did both Duncan and I become enlightened within the same time frame (we really do have a strange relationship), but our awakenings were predicted a year before during a magical operation undertaken on a whim to contact the Great White Brotherhood, or the One True Body of Saints.

Early on in my magical progress, I had been identified as ‘The Camel’, which as far as I was aware simply indicated an animal in service to humanity, and the path of Gimel on the Tree of Life that leads to Kether the Crown (God). For me, it was also a symbol for Truth, the crux of my new definition of magick (hence the title of my little book The Camel Rides Again!, which re-introduced the concept of truth into magick after the extreme relativism of postmodern magick). ‘Camel’ also played upon Kamael, the name of my Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), and KIMIL, my ‘word’ (a personal magical formula traditionally revealed during the process of awakening) that incidentally led to my development of English Isopsephy (see the English Qabalah calculator in the side nav) and my adaptation of Centring Prayer for working with the HGA.

Up until my enlightenment, my practice had been heavily magical, as the above demonstrates. But with my final awakening, and as predicted by the Great White Brotherhood, I dropped the trappings of tradition and became concerned with the phenomenon of enlightenment as a human event, not a magical or religious one. My priority became presenting the unity of those traditions that all described the same natural, human experience of realisation, and I began the Open Enlightenment project. Isn’t it time we were honest about spirituality?

Subsequently, whilst travelling in America, I chanced upon a copy of The Sufis by Idries Shah. Turning its pages, everything was suddenly brought full circle:

[T]he Arab mystics, anciently known as the Near Ones (muqarribun), [...]believed that essentially there was a unity among the inner teachings of all faiths. Like John the Baptist, they wore camel’s wool, and may have been known as Sufis (People of Wool)…

So I was a ‘camel’ indeed! Was the original Baptist one too?! It is important to note that (according to Shah) the Sufi is not just an Islamic mystic (Shah even goes so far as to say Sufism predates Islam), but a true Sufi is anyone who has reached enlightenment, being beyond the confines of any one tradition or religion.

Shah had a lot more to reveal regarding the Head of the Baptist:

In Sufi terminology, ras el-fahmat (head of knowledge) means the mentation of man after undergoing refinement – the transmuted consciousness.

As legend has it, the Knights Templar was accused of worshipping a head, sometimes called a ‘Baphomet’ or ‘Bafomet’. Could this be a corruption of ras el-fahmat? Or perhaps bufihimat (Arabic abufihamat), the ‘Father’ or ‘chief seat of understanding’? It’s worth noting that the Arabic root for ‘knowledge’ or ‘understanding’ is FHM, the same root for the word ‘black’:

The Baphomet is none other than the symbol of the completed man. The black head, negro head or Turk’s head…is a crusader substitute word for this kind of knowledge.

The shield of Hugues de Payen, the co-founder of the Templars, carried three black human heads, and the ‘wondrous head’ theme recurs throughout medieval history. Pope Silvester II made a brazen head, and Albertus Magnus spent thirty years making his marvellous brass head.

However:

The artificial head is not made of brass. Artificial it is, in that it is the product of ‘work’ [the Great Work] in the Sufic sense. Ultimately, of course, it is the head of the individual himself.

In Arabic, ‘brass’ is spelled SuFR, connected with the concept of ‘yellowness’. The ‘head of brass’ is a rhyming homonym for ‘head of gold’, which is spelled in exactly the same way. The Golden Head (sar-i-tilai) is a Sufi phrase used to refer to a person whose inner consciousness has been ‘transmuted into gold’ by means of Sufic study and activity…

The phrase, ‘I am making a head,’ used by dervishes to indicate their Sufic dedication in certain exercises, could very well have been used by Albertus Magnus or Pope Silvester, and transmitted in the literal sense, believed to refer to some sort of artefact.

So right from the beginning, and oblivious to our ignorant minds, the Baptist’s Head was literally a hidden Western symbol for enlightenment, and our ‘building’ of the site with the exploits of our magical progress was none other than the making of our own ‘heads’!

The final synchronicity here is the fact that the magical organisation that introduced me to Duncan, and thereby inadvertently led to the Baptist’s Head project, has as its patron the ‘spirit of the life energy of our planet’, depicted in a composite form of man/mammal/reptile (sometimes known as the Sabbatic Goat), and called Baphomet.

I’m at a loss to describe exactly how all of this occurred, but ultimately it doesn’t matter; what matter is: when are you going to make a Baptist’s Head of your own?

Understanding Actual Freedom: a magical perspective

In the Western tradition of enlightenment, known as magick, there is a conceptual tool called the Great Chain of Being that can be used for ascertaining the nature or aims of a teaching or tradition.

The Great Chain of Being can be described as a series of levels of experience that constitute the totality of reality. This is a simple version: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, non-dual.

With each successive stage (or holon as Wilber prefers to call them, as they transcend but include the previous stage) there is a growth in awareness. For instance, a beginner in meditation may at first become aware of the frantic activity of the mind for the first time, and with continued practice will eventually begin to experience spiritual events, such as states and stages. Eventually the growth in awareness will reach the Non-dual, and enlightenment occurs.

This growth or climb up the stages, from the gross to the subtle to the unconditioned, is called initiation by magicians, as well as by many other genuine enlightenment traditions.

But not all teachings are really initiatory; some teachings are presented by people who have no experience of real initiation. The symbols, terms and culture of genuine traditions are appropriated by pseudo-initiates for whatever purpose (fame, delusions of grandeur, escapism, etc). The new age scene is a great example of a pseudo-initiatory movement.

Pseudo-initiates are easily spotted because they cannot help ‘confusing the planes’. ‘Confusing the planes’ simply means confusing one level of experience (say the mental) with another (say the non-dual). When someone thinks an intellectual insight is enlightenment, they have confused the planes.  When someone thinks happiness is enlightenment, they have confused the emotional level with the non-dual level. I’m sure you can find many more examples.

Pseudo-initiates are prone to confusing the planes, because having no experience of initiation they can only use terms reserved for the spiritual and non-dual levels to refer to their own limited experience of physical, emotional and mental events.

However, there is something a lot worse than the pseudo-initiate, and it is called a counter-initiate.

If genuine initiation is a growth upwards towards the higher levels, and pseudo-initiation is no movement at all – usually stalling at the imagination or mental level – the counter-initiation is actually a movement downwards.

The counter-initiation first denies the spiritual, then the mental, then the emotional, eventually reaching just the physical alone. Counter-initiation is pure reductionism, and its goal is unconscious oblivion, with the eventual denial of the physical itself.

Why would anyone desire oblivion? Because it is the imagined ultimate escape from fear. Fear of the world, each other, reality, and death.

The counter-initiation is a parody of genuine initiation, and confusion of the planes occurs for the counter-initiate as a complete reversal of the levels: the physical becomes the non-dual. Note how closely this resembles ‘emptiness is form’ and other non-dual teachings; but the difference here is that the counter-tradition is based on confusion, not clarity; separation, not Wholeness.

Some members of the Dharma Overground – a site dedicated to honest, practical enlightenment – have become proponents of a movement called Actual Freedom. To cut a long story short, some of their comments have not been received well by some of their peers, and so I thought it might be a good idea to examine the facts in light of the above model of initiation.

So where does Actual Freedom fit into this model?

From the Actual Freedom website:

Actual Freedom offers a third alternative to either remaining ‘normal’ or transcending the normal by practicing an awareness of an ‘inner’ world to rise ‘above it all’. Actual Freedom is an alternative that offers not only the elimination of the self, that lost, lonely, frightened and very, very cunning entity, but the elimination of the Self, that superior God-like spiritual entity as well.

Actual Freedom is to be free to constantly delight in the physical universe, its immediacy, its infinitude and its purity. To be this sensate, sensual body with awareness freed of any psychological entity whatsoever, enabling one to fully live this moment of being alive. At last to be a free autonomous human being, one emerges into this paradisiacal fairy-tale physical world where a veritable smorgasbord of sensual pleasures become apparent. With heightened senses one is able to see and experience the actual world as it is without the grey-coloured glasses of ‘normal reality’ or the rose-coloured glasses of the ‘spiritual’. Then and only then one is able to realize one’s destiny. Then one is able to be the universe experiencing itself as a sensate human being.

Already made your mind up? There’s a lot more.

Richard, the founder of this movement, actually states ‘Everybody has got it 180* wrong’. So instead of aiming up – as in the usual spiritual quest – we need to turn around and go in the other direction: towards the physical.

Actual Freedom actively denies the spiritual, while attributing the usual descriptions of the benefits of spirituality to the physical level of experience alone. We are told that a purely physical existence will bring freedom, peace, harmony, happiness and compassion (although Richard prefers the term ‘harmlessness’). These are all things promised by enlightenment, or realisation of the non-dual.

Furthermore, a moment of being aware of the physical alone is described as a PCE, or Pure Consciousness Experience. Richard is equating the physical with Consciousness itself! This is another parody of non-dual experience.

Here Richard describes the ego and the soul:

Given that the instinctual animal ‘self’ in humans has morphed into a sophisticated and cunning psychological and psychic identity that appears to live within the flesh and blood body, it is obvious that the instinctual animal passions can only be eradicated by eliminating both the psychological ‘self’ and the instinctual ‘self’.

The elimination of one’s ‘self’ needs to be total – both ‘who’ you think you are as a social identity and ‘who’ blind nature has programmed you to instinctively feel you are … in spiritual terms, both the ‘ego’ and the ‘soul’. The good news is that with the extinction of who you think and feel you are what you are will emerge – a flesh and blood human being, free of malice and sorrow and free of any metaphysical delusions whatsoever.

He equates the ego with the psychological self, but instead of the usual understanding of the soul as a spiritual entity, he claims the soul is nothing but the ‘instinctual self’. Here the soul is reduced to the lower emotional/higher physical level of experience. Again, a complete reversal of the planes.

There are many more examples to be found, but let’s skip to the final and ultimate parody of enlightenment itself. What can we expect when the ‘social identity has been disempowered’ and we are ‘actually free’?

One can apperceive prime characteristics that actual freedom factually shows. In psychiatric terms, for example, these are called:

1. ‘depersonalisation’ (selflessness … the absence of an entity that is called ego and Soul or self and Self).

2. ‘ale
xithymia’ (the absence of the affective faculty … no emotions, passions or calentures whatsoever).

3. ‘derealisation’ (the condition of having lost one’s grip on reality … the ‘real world’ is nowhere to be found).

4. ‘anhedonia’ (the inability to affectively feel pleasure … no hormonal secretions means hedonism is not possible).

Depersonalisation is a psychotic parody of no-self.

Alexithymia is a psychotic parody of equanimity.

Derealisation is a psychotic parody of emptiness.

Anhedonia is a psychotic parody of non-attachment.

This is as close to living oblivion as one could hope for: feel nothing, desire nothing, think nothing, imagine nothing.

Survey says…

Actual Freedom is a counter-tradition.

Richard is a counter-initiate.

If you are a practitioner of Actual Freedom, you have been seduced by a parody, and your spiritual development is literally heading in the wrong direction.

Psychosis is not enlightenment.

My advice (like you need it!): drop it now, and get back to the good stuff. Theravada, Magick, Sufism, whatever; anything but this crazy shit!

The Great Work Accomplished

I arrived in India with great expectations. The Tempe Working had predicted – amongst other things – that I would meet a member of the Great White Brotherhood somewhere around the Bay of Bengal, who would somehow take my magical development in a new direction. In addition, the same man had appeared within an Enochian vision as a gnome, carrying a pineapple, who directed me down the throat of a dragon or beast. English Qaballah revealed the pineapple as a symbol for the Supreme Ritual, which led me to expect the Brother to teach me a new method of insight that might eventually lead me to attain the grade of Ipssisimus, or arahatship as it is known to the Buddhists.

Shiva

18th January

My wife and I landed in Mumbai, which is without doubt the worst place I've ever been in my life. Starving millions, abused and emaciated animals, rubbish everywhere, defecation in the streets, pollution equivalent to smoking two and a half packets of cigarettes a day, con men and women on every corner, countless beeping cars clogging the roads, and no mattresses or running water in our hostel. I'm not going to mention the toilets.

21st January

Decided to visit Elephanta Island just off the coast of Mumbai. The boat ride is only an hour or so, but looking back you can't see Mumbai due to the pollution. This part of the Arabian Sea is so polluted it can no longer support marine life.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the island was a moored boat with 'AA' painted on the side, the name of my particular tradition. The island is home to a number of fifteen-hundred year old cave temples, all dedicated to Shiva, with a huge and glorious three headed statue of Shiva as its centre piece. Would Shiva be playing a role in my magical development? I certainly found the main temple to be a very sacred place, especially around the central lingam.

A few weeks before I set off travelling, I asked Tempe to clarify a portion of the prophecy he had made about my travels. Tempe had said there was 'something nasty at the end of the tunnel', and this troubled me. Exactly what was this 'nasty' thing? I received the image of an oriental dragon, and a man in black robes whose face was hidden in shadow. Was this the Adversary, and a Black Brother, respectively?

After returning from Elephanta Island, we caught a sleeper coach to Goa (we were ripped off for the tickets and we didn't get a wink of sleep during the fourteen hours due to the driver's insane driving). It occurred to me during this journey that perhaps the man in black robes was me. My recent visionary work with Enochian magick had presented my magical development in terms of the dragon slayer myth. Doesn't every hero become the monster he slays by virtue of acquiring its skin or pelt, such as Heracles and the lion? Is the monster not the source of the hero's power?

Was I to meet and slay the Adversary?

22nd January

Arrived in Anjuna, Goa. A car drove past with 'AA' painted on the side. Took a shower and got electrocuted.

That night I had a very vivid and terrifying dream of small cobras trying to burrow under my skin, which I frantically tried to pull out.

23rd January

Pondering the night's dream, I passed a statue of a cobra on a stall near the beach. What was the significance of the cobra?

That evening we watched the film Kill Bill at a bar. Two permanently brain damaged ravers who had taken one too many pills were sat behind us, occasionally shouting nonsense at the screen. At one point, one of the losers began to repeat 'a five pointed star' (the symbol of my tradition), like some kind of delirious human oracular machine.

24th January

Saw 'AA' on both a menu at a cafe, and on the grills above my apartment window.

25th January

A little investigation on the internet revealed that Shiva is one of 3 manifestations of Buddhi, the other two being Vishnu and Brahma. In other words, Shiva is the embodiment of the Supreme Truth, or enlightenment.

As I passed a sculptor's stall, I noticed a three headed statue similar to the one at Elephanta Island. The reverse of the statue was a cobra. The sculptor confirmed that indeed, Shiva sometimes appeared as the King Cobra, the largest snake in India.

Had my dream about resisting the cobras entering my body revealed a fear of enlightenment?

Was the Adversary what my separate self perceived as death? Or better yet, was the Adversary the embodiment of fear based on ignorance? (Isn't all fear based on ignorance?)

27th January

On this day I met Shiva on the beach, where he tried to sell me stickers of Ganesha and the rest of the family. Ok, not the actual god, but an Indian bum who just happened to be named Shiva. After buying the stickers (I do love Ganesha), Shiva told us we should travel to Gujarat. Not being people who ignore the advice of a god, we spent the next few hours revising our route. Now we would take in the south coast all the way up to Chennai, where we would catch a flight to the Andaman Islands, before heading back to Kalcotta, then west to Bodhgaya, Varanasi, and eventually Gujurat.

30th January

We had left Goa and arrived in Panaji the day before. I had been slack on the magick front, so I decided to do a tarot reading. It told me I had been slack on the magick front. Here I began a daily routine of core HGA practice and tarot, which I recorded in my magical diary.

5th February

By now we were in Mysore. It dawned on me that perhaps I should have planned our route to include as many opportunities to meet enlightened people as possible, instead of leaving it up to chance. So I looked up Ramana Maharshi's ashram in the Lonely Plane India guide. It just so happened that his ashram was already on our route. In addition, the guide told of how Maharshi's favourite mountain, Arunachala, was apparently where Shiva first appeared as a flaming lingam.

Who needs planning when you've got prophecy?

6th February

Arrived in the small mountain town of Ooty.

At night I dreamt of a guru, venerated by Hindus and Buddhists alike, who was actually a demon. His teachings were empty proverbs. Despite his incredibly violent and unpredictable nature, I felt no fear and greeted him politely. Surprisingly, he responded in kind.

15th February

A fortnight had passed with many an adventure, but none of them magical. When we arrived in Verkala, I was beginning to despair at India. Nothing was safe to eat, everyone was a liar and my wife and I we
re exhausted.

In our room I found a copy of Vivekananda's The Law of Success, which can be summarised as:  'Don't think you can change the world, but always serve others'.

It seemed as if the ignorant view that life was something that happens to me, almost as if I were a victim, had crept back into my life. Was I losing faith? Should I ask the AA for a sign?

The Gnome?

16th February

We visited a restaurant overlooking a cliff near the beach, and sat at a table next to a man on is own. Within seconds he was talking to us: He was Lance Vickers, a rich Canadian construction entrepreneur. He had been in Verkala for 5 weeks, but was planning to visit the Andaman islands in the near future. This set off alarm bells: was Lance the prophesied gnome?

My interpretation of the Tempe Working had led me to expect the gnome to own a boat, but Lance didn't like boats (he was flying to the Andaman Islands), let alone own one. Tempe had also mentioned a tattoo, and although Lance had none, the first thing I heard him say was a comment about tattoos to a passer by. Lance was also interested in Buddhism.

However, what caused me and wife to look at each other wide eyed was when Lance said the following: 'You know the video to Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall, where every now and then a gnome falls off the conveyor belt? Well I asked my brother who they were, and he said they must be those people that end up in jail. I said 'No, they're the entrepreneurs!''

If ever there was an indication that Lance was the gnome, surely this was it? He had actually identified himself as such! It looked like the AA had given me my sign after the doubts of the night before.

Lance then suggested that when we visit the states we should drive up into Canada from Boulder. It appeared as if we were being given new travel plans again, this time to ensure I would visit Vincent Horn of Buddhist Geeks fame.

We would bump into Lance a few more times over the coming week, but eventually we parted ways due to individual travel plans. I was left puzzled as to what the apparently missing details (such as a boat and a tattoo) meant in terms of Tempe's prediction.

Aurobindo

24th February

We arrived in Puducherry to discover (to my surprise) that it was home to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's ashram. We inquired about staying at an ashram hostel, but the receptionist (I think she was French) was conceited, arrogant and unhelpful.

25th February

I visited the Aurobindo information centre to see if I could learn more about the guru. Had he left any enlightened students behind, and if so, could I meet them? The nice man behind the desk informed me that Aurobindo left no lineage and that in order to get enlightened one need simply read his writing. I found this very lame, so I asked if there was anyone around who was actually enlightened. The man told me that 'things' happen at the ashram, and he knew people that these 'things' had happened to. It sounded like an injunction to me!

26th February

Over the weeks I had been progressively ill with food poisoning and acute diarrhea, and on this particular morning I was feeling very pissed off with the beeping of car horns, the mosquito bites and the sewage smell. Whilst scowling and swearing to myself ('India is a dirty shit hole full of ignorant superstitious people intent on ripping me off') as I walked down the street, I looked at an old Indian lady going about her business, and suddenly saw that even here, in this god forsaken country, the Absolute was here.

It was very quiet and serene at the Aurobindo ashram. There were many devotees shuffling through the grounds, taking it in turns to pay their respects at the samadhi (the mausoleum). When it was my turn I copied the devotees and rested my head, with eyes closed, on the stone samadhi. At first, the samadhi felt as if it were physically moving under me. Then I saw a light, and the vision of an old Indian man with flowing white hair (can't say it really looked like Aurobindo though). I retired to a wall around the courtyard and meditated, feeling full and at peace. Just as I had experienced it with Andrew Cohen, and then with Nuit during the Gnostic Mass, the Divine was definitely coming from and located at a point in space/time, in this case the samadhi. How the hell did it do that?

Two yellow flowers fell out of the sky and hit me as I sat there. Did these represent Aurobindo and the Mother? Looking around bemused, I saw that they had actually fallen from the central tree of the ashram.

I was struck by the fact so many from so far had travelled here in order to worship the ideal of  enlightenment. It is often cited how in the West we have no lineages and our learning is book based, and yet here we had an Indian sage who actively promoted this approach.

I returned to the samadhi. I saw light again, experienced REM, and then a vision of a triangle, followed by the alien egg from the film Species.

28th February

I awoke at 3.30am in order to watch a bonfire being held at Auroville in honour of its inauguration. Returned after breakfast feeling very inspired, so I booked an appointment to meditate in the spectacular Matrimandir.

I had been reading Guenon's Man and his Becoming around this time, particularly about the Hiranyagarbha, or World Egg, which represents the possibility of all life, also known as the subtle manifestation. As I booked the appointment for the Matrimandir, I discovered that it too represents the World Egg.

Would I be 're-born' after entering it?

1st March

I visited the ashram again at 6.16pm, after a beer or two. Still felt the peace and fullness.

Arriving back at the hotel, I turned on the TV to find the film Species just starting. Was the vision of the egg at the ashram linked to the Matrimandir?

2nd March

A certain sadness had begun to take hold; I was craving the peace of Truth. What was I doing chasing after it? But why was I still not enlightened? I wondered if this was how disappointed Duncan felt during the loss of the transmission from Cohen. I consulted the tarot as to what to do, and got the Magus. So I put together a little practice for an ashram visit.

Meditation in the ashram took the form of surrender to the samadhi/Aurobindo/Mother, and then I explored how the emptiness actually manifests. The Divine was simply not there, and yet still it radiated from the samadhi. Was it a result of my subjective viewpoint of the samadhi? After all, at this stage in the process of enlightenment I could experience emptiness in any phenomena simply by reflecting upon it. And yet the phenomenon occurred in the ashram before I'd even sat down to perform the injunction. Could it simply be that ignorance still dominates the Magus's perception of
an object without a willed investigation, and so those phenomenon that are 'closer' to, or less ignorant of, the Truth appear to 'give off' emptiness or the Divine? Hence the appearance that emptiness is located in space/time, when it is actually above and beyond all phenomena, and so located everywhere and nowhere.

I had been having doubts about just how willing I was to authentically surrender myself to the lying fantasist that was the Mother. That night I dreamed of my step mother standing in a field and holding a child's hand. The child was Ramana Maharshi. She told me 'Do not go looking for the Supreme Lord in the fields'.

I came to conclude that my step mother was the Mother (a mother that is not my mother), Maharshi was the supreme realisation, and that I had a false belief that my final realisation rested upon a sincere approach to the Mother; or, in other words, the Mother cannot stop me becoming enlightened. Exactly what was I concerned about?

3rd March

The Matrimandir appointment was at 9am. It's a fantastic building, and the central chamber reminded me of an Enochian vision, with the world's largest man-made crystal set up in a very Enochian fashion (resting on 4 sided Aurobindo star, on a marble sign of the mother).

And the instructions for the 'concentration' within the Matrimandir? No talking, coughing, resting heads against walls, or chanting. I pressed the guide for an actual instruction. He talked about two kinds of 'concentration' that we could do: static (on a fixed idea like love) and dynamic (such as listening to a piece of music or exploring a theory). In other words, we were to have a good long think! I asked that if the crystal is the focus, are we supposed to think about what it represents? The answer: it was up to us!

The guide told us that the Mother had seen Auroville in a number of visions, and that it was only a matter of time before the vision descended the various levels of manifestation and reached the material world. It occurred to me that this is the very meaning of the World Egg.

Apparently the Mother saw no money, no police, and a united human race (perhaps she just had a vision of Burning Man?).

I am always surprised by the amount of people who are unable to sit still and silent for 2 minutes. Many were resting their heads against the walls. One man looked as if he had been there for days: legs spread out, head back against a pillar, arms outstretched and facing upwards, as if begging for relief. The fat bastard was actually part of my group and had only been sat down for 5 minutes.

Disappointingly, there were no immediate effects from the world egg. Was the result still to come?

Arunachala Ramana

We left the same day for the small, hardcore Hindu town of Tiruvannamalai (sic), once home of Ramana Maharshi, and arrived at 7pm. I was excited to be there. Surely there would be an enlightened devotee of Ramana who might be able to 'finish me off' as it were, and end the process of enlightenment that had begun three years previous? After all, Maharshi's technique goes straight for the centre point, the last barrier between the self and the Absolute.

Next door to the hostel was the Manna cafe, and on the noticeboard was a number notices for instruction in self enquiry, reiki, bamboo flute tuition, dance and other assorted New Age guff. Amongst the adverts for spiritual instruction, one stood out due to the claim that the teacher was spiritually awakened. His name: Arunachala Ramana. This just happened to be the same name of the hostel where we were staying. He is an american who claims to have become enlightened in 1973 through seeing a picture of Ramana Maharshi in a bookshop. His satsang was invite only, so I took his number to give him a call.

In bed at about 10 pm, a subtle 'transmission' effect, very similar to the Cohen event, began to occur. Bliss, a feeling of coming home, and the realisation that I've been enlightened before, were all in attendance. Was this because I was near the mountain Arunachala, which Ramana claimed was his guru? Was it a result of the Matrimandir? Or was there an enlightened devotee in the building?

4th March

During the morning my wife and I saw a corpse in the street. Later, I found out that the Maharshi ashram was actually a few hundred meters from where we were staying. 'This may explain the vibes!', I thought.

Visiting the Maharshi ashram, we discovered something very different from the tranquility of Aurobindo's ashram. Maharshi is venerated as a traditional Hindu saint, with the burning of copious amounts of incense, the singing of the Vedas, and the 'feeding' of the samadhis (Ramana's, his mother's, his dog's, his cow's, etc) with milk; self enquiry, along with any enlightened devotees or lineage, were completely absent. This was very disappointing, especially as I experienced no vibes whatsoever.

What happened next was frankly bonkers and quite embarrassing. To cut a long story short, we were convinced to walk a part of the way up the mountain with no shoes on (we had to take them off to visit the ashram) by a man (it later transpired) pretending to be an official guide at the ashram. He took us to a secluded spot, joked that we should have sex, and disappeared. We thought he was clearly insane, rested our sore feet for a minute, and began to leave. As we did, the guide came running out of the bushes, red faced and sweaty (he had obviously been masturbating), as (it later transpired) two of his young friends turned up to 'join in'. He then did his best to convince us to get drunk with him, as we hobbled back to the ashram. I reported the man, and the manager of the ashram found it hilarious.

You couldn't make this shit up, but that's India for you.

We returned to the hall to meditate; but I was overwhelmed with disappointment. This was certainly not the experience I was expecting at Ramana Maharshi's ashram.

Later I called the Arunachala Ramana ashram to book myself in for the satsang. We were required to visit the day before the satsang to undergo an orientation and registration.

5th March

I was determined that today was not going to be like yesterday. We decided to get some bananas to hand out to the poor and the stoner sadhus, and we planned to give away our cigarettes and our modest amount of cannabis too.

We bought some flowers for a puja to Ganesha at the main Hindu temple. If anyone can help, Ganesha can. As we were buying some bananas, a sadhu approached me with a golden spear. I suddenly remembered the weed in my pocket, and gave it to him. Without unwrapping the packet, he looked at me as if he already knew what it was, and thanked me sincerely. The sadhu then handed me a lemon, saying it was 'very good''. He had obviously just lifted it from the bowl of lemons next to him on the fruit stand.

The temple was magnificent and sprawling. We visited the lingam that Maharshi visited as a child, and burned some incense to Shiva. A guide approached us outside in the courtyard. We told him we had no money, but he could have some cigarettes if he took us to Ganesha. The guide led us to a large orange statue of the elephant-headed god, and led a very minimalist puja. We placed the flowers on the ground with two bananas, and burned an incense stick. I didn't feel as if I had connected with Ganesha properly, so as we parted company with the guide, I remembered the lemon, and went back to Ganesha to make the offering. Standing there in silence, I suddenly felt Ganesha's presence manifest in the statue and a great love welled up inside me. Om Ganapati!

We returned to the Maharshi a
shram to meditate in the grand hall, where we bumped into the manager of the ashram who asked, rather sincerely, if we were OK today. Om Ganapati!

After the meditation, my wife told me how she felt inspired, like she was ready to begin something new, perhaps a vocation, which she later investigated on the net. Om Ganapati!

Later that day it was time for 'orientation' at Arunachala Ramana's AHAM ashram. Lovely big grounds, very peaceful. We went up to the roof top where we met Vivian, a long serving staff member of the organisation. She told us a little bit about AHAM, before our one-to-one questions would begin. What followed was a good hour of conversation and debate.

She told me I was already awakened, just like everyone else. So I asked her why AHAM existed. She replied 'Why not?'. I asked her if she could give me any pointers on teaching enlightenment as I wished to set up a similar organisation in the future, to which she replied 'The future doesn't exist, only the present, so why does it matter?'. I asked her if she planned to wear clothes tomorrow or eat any food. I put it to her that if I wanted to build a roof like the one above us, could she not tell me how they have done it and what problems I might encounter? Why was it not the same with an organisation? To try a different tac, I asked her if it was possible for two fully awakened people to talk about how best to make a roof. She replied I'd have to ask them. She then told me there have been no problems, there is nothing to relate. Why couldn't she have just said that in the first place?

She asked me what questions I'd like to put to Arunachala. I started with 'In your opinion', but she cut me off to say, 'He doesn't have opinions. He doesn't have a mind, or thoughts'. I could hardly hide my incredulity. I suggested that maybe he has thoughts, but he is not attached to them. She concedes that yes, he probably does have thoughts. Phew!

When I related my interest in maps, stages and recognisbale features leading up to enlightenment – stating very clearly that I have experienced some of these stages prior to my knowledge of any maps or models and that some people seem to get enlightened in very different ways – she dismissed the very idea and stated that they have nothing to do with 'that' at AHAM.

Vivian then talked about their 8 day graduate program, where the student gets a buddy who has already graduated, in order to help them through. I asked her if a graduate is actually enlightened. Bizarrely, this completely threw her, and she eventually blurted out 'Well I don't know!'.

I was convinced that Vivian was clearly not enlightened, even after 30 years of working in an organisation that supposedly facilitates such a thing, nor was she even aware if the program has actually enlightened anyone. And she had the audacity to spout pseudo-advaita at me as if she actually knew what she was talking about.

It was made clear that any questions about teaching enlightenment from a practical point of view, running an organisation or the process of enlightenment that Arunachala may have gone through prior to his enlightenment would be answered with 'But who is this 'I' that wants to know?'.

We finished off with a little pointing out exercise. Before coming, I had done a tarot reading on how best to proceed with AHAM, and I had been told 'to be open'. I think I was quite courteous and tolerant during the conversation, and I did bite my tongue a number of times. So I mustered up some interest and did my best to try out the exercise. I was told to think of a problem. I picked enlightenment. I was then instructed to write the various emotions and thoughts surrounding this problem as a web diagram, with 'I am' in the middle. Surprisingly, fear came up as part of the problem. When I had finished, Vivian asked me to consider what all of these elements had in common. The answer, of course, was 'I am'. Whenever I have a problem, I was told, I could perform this exercise to realise that I am none of these emotions and thoughts, only pure being, and that the negative emotions would then 'dissolve' in awareness.

Back in the town, we were stopped by a German woman for holding hands. Apparently this causes rape to occur in the town, as it frequently does on the mountain, especially to foreigners. I said a lot of things to this woman, and a lot of those things were swear words.

We booked our flight to the andaman islands that night.

6th March

It was time for my satsang with Arunachala Ramana. On the way to the ashram, I actually felt ready to give the whole enlightenment thing up. I was sick of it!

'The Sanctuary', where the satsang would take place, was a nice room with two large pictures of Jesus and Ramana Maharshi. Comfy seats, and a large throne for Arunachala. There were about nine people already sat in silence, most of them meditating with their eyes closed, in a classical pose or holding a mudra.

I had brought questions to ask Arunachala. Vivian announced no note taking; we were beyond academic or intellectual learning now.

I had a sense of excitement, anticipation. This was the first time I would be interacting with an enlightened person. How should act? And what about the Supreme Realisation itself? I felt some fear at what the experience of that realisation might be like, and my heart raced. Going with the flow, I employed the 'I am' technique from the day before, in order to calm down.

Arunachala Ramana entered: a tall, bulky fat man with cropped white beard and hair. His shorts were humongous in order to cover his overhanging gut. He had two very bad tattoos, one on each forearm: an outline of the state of Texas, and a scroll saying 'Mother'. It seemed like an effort for him to walk; but he looked nothing like an 80 year old. His bulk explained the size of the chair. He sat and pulled up a foot rest, sighed a bit, and looked round the room.

Suddenly my conceit around what it meant to be enlightened was apparent. I closed my eyes. I had held an unacknowledged conceit around process and practice too; they had no bearing on enlightenment whatsoever. How could they?! I was in a strong absorption state; but this too was obviously unrelated. And finally: a stupendous fruition, with white light and a feeling of expansion. And with this I acquired knowledge of the Supreme Truth. Even emptiness or the non-dual had nothing whatsoever to do with enlightenment! A vision appeared of Arunachala holding a scroll, that when unfurled had only two words written on it: 'I AM'. Vajras made up the ends of the scroll, and the phrase 'The Path and Purpose are One' was heard.

I opened my eyes. What had just happened? I wasn't completely sure, but the meditations, poses and mudras of the sangha were patently absurd. Just exactly what did they think this behaviour would achieve? Why were they here looking to Arunachala for something he could not possibly give them?

By the end of the preliminary hour of silence (9-10am), Arunachala began the question and answer portion of the session. Vivian must have provided the questions we told her we might pose Arunachala the day before, because he picked up a piece of paper and began with 'So we have two questions from Alan and Ruth.' He started to read out the first question, when I interrupted him. 'I no longer have any questions', I said. Arunachala asked me if I then understood what it means to be enlightened. I replied 'Yes!'. He then moved on to answer the next question.

It occurred to me that I had just awakened; and funnily enough, at the exact point when all the maps and models predicted I would. I felt finished, complete, whole. This was a knowledge, not a state or trance. Most peculiarly, I saw tha
t my future was not concerned with magick per se, or with any tradition for that matter. My destiny lay not at the hands of the authors of The Book of the Law; the ultimate, absolute truth, and so myself, was beyond it all. It would take me a week or so before my new vision would begin to take shape.

For the next hour, Arunachala held forth, without once resorting to the pseudo-advaita crap Vivian had come out with the day before. However, Arunachala seemed to believe that the initial results of the self enquiry technique – mastered within 8 days – is the same thing as awakening. Perhaps this is because Arunachala – just like Ramana – was already enlightened when he first tried such a technique, therefore leading him to conclude that it must lead directly to awakening for everyone.

Outside, during the informal 'fellowship' period, both myself and Ruth were disappointed in the fact that no one spoke. They remained as if still in the satsang: silent, some with eyes closed, some even laughing to themselves as if privy to some incredible cosmic joke. I got the impression that Vivian really didn't like me, especially after interrupting Arunachala. Sadly, no one even mentioned the fact that I had publicly announced I had just become enlightened not half an hour before. Was this because they simply assumed I had just understood self-enquiry? Did they believe themselves enlightened because they had taken part in an 8 day program? Or could they not entertain the idea simply because I was obviously nothing like Arunachala, who at one point even said that he had no answers, it was only the being that spoke through him that did?

I bought a DVD of the session just to get my enlightenment on film, and noticed the large Ganesha statue in the garden. Ganesha was there at the beginning (my first magical act to kick start the process) and at the end! Om Ganapati!

On the way back to the hotel we agreed to discuss what had happened for both of us and what we got out of the experience at a nearby cafe. Ruth was to be the first person I would tell I was enlightened, and it seemed like such a ridiculous thing to say. However, Ruth suspected what had happened (which isn't a surprise considering I announced it at the satsanga; what is more of a surprise is that no one else did) and told me that she got very excited on the way to the cafe. At this point I felt very lucky indeed; not many people would act so appropriately (one ex of mine would have been absolutely disgusted at such an announcement). To have a partner who can understand what it means to be enlightened and back you all the way is a blessing indeed.

It now seemed obvious that Arunachala Ramana was the prophesied hierophantic 'king' or 'caesar', with a tattoo, who would provide the 'supreme ritual'. He had led me down the throat of the adversary – the 'something nasty at the end of the tunnel' – and I had 'slain the dragon'. And the whole experience was to take me in a completely new direction.

However, the fact that I encountered the gnome symbolism prior to this whole experience suggested that myself and Duncan had perhaps made the error of amalgamating many of the predictions or symbols provided by Tempe into a description of just one event. Future experiences, such as encountering the boat and the 'swallow' symbolism, would corroborate this (see The Tempe Working Explained (coming very soon) for more).

Latitude and Longitude

My first day as an awakened person was to last 36 hours, as we travelled non-stop to the Andaman Islands: the very co-ordinates supplied by Tempe during the second working. I saw the trip as a well deserved holiday from the task of getting enlightened, before my life's real work could begin.

As we travelled, every now and again Ruth would ask me if I felt the same. I would check and I always did. However, old habits die hard, and I found myself trying to hold on to awakening (even though it was way beyond such a notion) and fretting that it might go (again, which was impossible). The conceited nature of these two actions were abundantly clear to me, but I cannot say I suffered from them.

A million questions now sprang up to replace the hundreds I had before awakening, and I would spend the coming days developing new ideas about enlightenment, whilst wrestling with the old, useless habits and perspectives based on chasing it.

16th March

I received news of Duncan's enlightenment, and I was surprised at my own surprise that it would occur just then. However, after considering everything else that had happened with The Baptist's Head, it made perfect sense.

I couldn't wait for what we were going to do next!

You Can’t Be Serious!

Are Alan and myself really claiming to be enlightened?

Yes, we are.

Are we serious?

Completely.

But we're also up for answering queries and criticisms from anyone who's interested enough to have any. In fact, I've taken the liberty of answering a couple that no one has even put to us yet. (But I bet they're thinking them!)

Why do you claim to be enlightened when everyone knows that's impossible?

The Buddha got shirty sometimes when people asked him this. He would reply with similes of blind men presuming to tell sighted people there's no such thing as colour. A declaration that enlightenment is impossible from someone who hasn't made the proper efforts to see for themselves carries no authority, of course. But the general question whether enlightenment is possible is completely valid and deserves a considered response.

Enlightenment entails an encounter with something that lies beyond experience: the Absolute. The assumption that enlightenment is impossible arises from the contradiction in the proposition that this unknowable can be known, or that that which is not a part of experience can somehow be sensed.

I used to hold this view myself, and no one was ever more astonished than me to discover that the confrontation with the Absolute simply makes this everyday logic of 'this or that' redundant.

If we wonder that something outside our experience can be available to our experience it's because we have identified a particular range of our awareness as 'us', as 'our experience'. Yet, in reality, we are simply not what we appear to ourselves to be. When we take the trouble to look, the self cannot be found in any sensation, idea, feeling or thought, but is something beyond all of these. The self, therefore, is already not any part of experience. The encounter with the Absolute, then, does not bring us into contact with anything alien to or in contradiction with the true self. Enlightenment is the moment when we realise that this everyday logic of 'this or that', 'self or other', does not apply to our true identity.

Buddhism teaches that there are six realms of existence: hell realms, hungry ghosts, the animal kingdom, the human world, the realm of the warring gods, and the heavenly gods. But it states that to be born in the human world is the most fortunate of births, because only in the human world is there the possibility of enlightenment. Clearly, there is something special about being human with regard to the process of awakening.

I've started to wonder whether this special human attribute isn't something specifically to do with our cognition, something to do with how we can know and react to truth. Because the attainment of enlightenment turns on realisation: the truth we arrive at through our understanding doesn't remain at the level of ideas, but enters into experience, into our existence. At the moment of realisation all of our efforts to get enlightened are finalised into a new relationship with reality. We become the fruit of our efforts.

If we understand magick as the art of experiencing truth, it might be said that human beings can become enlightened because they have the ability to practise magick.

You've simply deluded yourself by meditating too much!

This one, I imagine, is likely to be levelled at us by the green meme, postmodern crew. If you believe you're enlightened, they might say, then that's how it will seem to you; it's 'true' from your perspective. They might even add: And that's okay, because there's nothing worse about that reality tunnel than any other, as long as it's the one you've chosen to go down.

Unfortunately, the critic who assumes that being enlightened simply entails believing yourself to be so is probably going to be the least inclined or able to grapple seriously with the practices that actually lead to enlightenment, and thus unlikely to gain a direct understanding for themselves that this is not how things stand.

It took me three and a half years to arrive at that moment of awakening which occurred last month. Three and a half years spent meditating every day, or going off on retreats. During those sessions I looked closely at my moment-to-moment experience and disciplined my mind away from fantasies, speculation, idle philosophising, to concentrate exclusively on what was there in front of me, in immediate awareness. And the rest of the time, when I wasn't sitting in meditation, I was trying to do exactly the same thing in my daily life.

Does looking at what's right in front of you seem likely to lead to delusion? Does it seem likely that someone who has dedicated him or herself to this practice for a number of years and continues to do so will be more 'deluded' than someone who, on the basis of no experience whatsoever (because, according to him or her, there couldn't be any authoritative experience) has simply assumed they know better?

You decide!

Enlightenment

On March 6th, 2009, a Twitter message from Alan in India lit up my screen at work: It is finished.

This could mean only one thing: he'd attained arahatship, that degree of understanding traditionally described as 'enlightenment'.

Wonderful news. But now what? One of us getting enlightened meant The Baptist's Head had fulfilled its aim. So what would follow? And strongest of all were the feelings about how this impacted upon me: envy, frustration, fear that I might never achieve the same level understanding.

Bodhi svaha! I tweeted back to Alan, at the same time resolving to bring myself to the same level as soon as possible.

The Powers That Be

The last couple of fruitions in my meditation practice had been biggies. I'd sensed I was close, and had even wondered whether I might get there before Alan. (That would have been sweet! I'm pretty sure I beat him to stream-entry, by the way, but I've been trailing ever since.) It was time to obtain some heavy-duty guidance so, that same afternoon, I lit some incense of Abramelin, banished the temple, and invoked my Holy Guardian Angel.

The presence of the angel came through very strong. In answer to my question 'How can I make the grade of arahat as quickly as possible?' it gave me three runes: TYR (reversed), BEORC and WUNJO.

TYR (reversed) BEORC WUNJO

WUNJO was easy enough to decipher. It symbolises joy. In all communications my angel has used it to represent fruition or enlightenment. The outcome seemed assured, then, but how to make it happen quickly?

TYR reversed, according to the book I consulted, symbolised impatience and effort incorrectly applied. I had stepped up my practice recently in a bid to precipitate a final breakthrough. This was worrying; it was evidently the wrong approach. BEORC, however, was more positive: it represented a birth or coming into being. 'Any schemes in the works should be implemented right away', the commentary advised me.

I asked for a sign from my angel. The sky outside the window, which had been empty, instantly filled with birds.

Arahat Weekend

For the weekend of March 14-15th I'd reserved a place on two workshops with dharma teacher Christopher Titmuss who, I imagine, is no stranger to enlightenment. I'd also booked a two-week residential retreat at the beginning of April at a Buddhist centre. These would form the elements of a new plan: I would ease up on my meditation practice and try to relax into enlightenment, rather than forcing it through; and I would try to use the retreat and the contact with Titmuss as catalysts.

Yet even before deciding this – in fact, right from the moment I'd received Alan's message, a softening in my practice had already begun to set in. It had already begun to seem absurd to attempt to 'pressure' Emptiness into a conclusion. But after only a couple of sittings, this softening itself also became problematic.

I was confident that I was well-established at the level of realisation before enlightenment, known as 'third path' or anagami. This stage is characterised by the appearance of Emptiness to the meditator over extended periods, or 'in real time'. The apprehension of Emptiness, however, was limited to a particular point in my field of awareness, specifically associated with with my brow (ajna) chakra. Emptiness always gave a strong impression of being on one side, with me on the other side, set against it, although there was a paradoxical awareness that both were actually on the same continuum, as if situated at different points along a mobius strip. There had also been experiences – usually at or approaching fruition – when me and Emptiness would flip places, sometimes with Emptiness seeming 'over here' and me on the 'other side'. From my reading and my contact with highly-realised practitioners, I'd been led to believe that enlightenment comes when 'me' is completely identified with Emptiness, or – in other words – the process of identifying the self with sensations comes to an end through its having been seen for what it is.

So how was I to make that final jump from identifying with sensations to identifying with Emptiness? The softening tendency had already led to my abandonment of formal vipassana practice. It simply seemed more natural just to sit with Emptiness. But what was I supposed to do with it? If I focused my awareness on Emptiness, it solidified into an object of concentration, and I would find myself moving up and down through the various concentration states, or jhanas, which was pleasant enough but wasn't leading to any new insights. Yet if I left Emptiness alone and just sat, this seemed to go nowhere either, except into increasingly more contentless states that at times seemed to slip into that almost utter cessation known as nerodhi samapatti.

When in doubt, ask someone who's been there and done it! The workshops with Christopher Titmuss synchronistically rolled around. Titmuss doesn't teach meditation on these dayschools; instead he talks, and encourages people to talk to each other. Probably he's learnt the hard way that people don't themselves tend to like to learn the hard way, but talking about psychological stuff is the most likely inroad to the dharma that most modern westerners would be willing to follow. His themes for the weekend were: 'Does Anything Really Matter?' and 'The Powerlessness of Now'. Titmuss is a compassionate and lovely man who oozes realisation from every pore. By the end of the weekend I was so calm and focused on the dharma that in itself this seemed to have an effect. At the end of the first workshop, I asked if he would listen to a question about my practice. I briefly described where I'd got to. Instead of the struggle I'd had explaining myself to teachers in the past, he seemed to know exactly what I was talking about and what I needed.

'You don't need to practise anything,' he said. 'Just attend to that which is not Emptiness.'

That was it. I was confident this advice would prove correct. It was Saturday evening, and I sat two further sittings in which I put Titmuss's advice into practice. I noticed no particularly unusual states during these, except the feeling that my practice was moving forwards again. It felt 'right'.

The Eye in the Pyramid

A few days earlier, at the beginning of the week, I'd had a vision during my morning sitting. First, I'd seen an eye: unblinking, persistent and staring. Then I'd felt myself picked up and moved. My 'soul' was being transported. It was taken to a pyramid and ushered directly through the walls into the innermost chamber. Radiant white light filled my being as I entered. Inside, also bathed in white light, Alan's soul was waiting.

It was so cheesy it made me chuckle, but there was no denying the unusual power of the vision. Success seemed assured, but there's no oracle I've ever come across that seems able to put accurate timescales on its predictions. It might be years before I joined Alan in our gay Egyptian hideaway.

The timescale that Destiny was working to turned out to be far different from anything I'd expected.

Completely Unexpected

On Monday 16th March I woke at 2.50am wondering if someone in the building had put their washing machine on maximum spin. There was a sensation of heat and a strong, fast vibration in my solar plexus. It was a moment before I grasped the cause of the feeling was internal. And then, a moment afterwards, I noticed consciousness had changed in some strange way. There was a feeling of collapse and relaxation. A peculiar absence of striving.

I waited for a few minutes. If this were a dream or trance, then it would pass. But although the vibrations faded, the alteration in consciousness remained; in fact, it grew, and a sense of utter certainty established itself.

I knew it was done.

I got out of bed to meditate. Looking inward, I saw the configuration of the mind had changed to a degree I'd only experienced before after gaining a new path. When I tried to resume the practice that Titmuss had given me – 'attend to that which is not Emptiness' – I couldn't, because the practice had become redundant. Emptiness was apparent, but it was no longer set against or beside anything. The structure of my mind had shifted so that now, wherever I looked, everything was Emptiness.

My personality being the thing it is, I was gripped with doubt, anxiety, fear. Was this what it seemed? Would it last? But the doubts, anxieties and fears were arising against the background of this new configuration, where there was no sense of a separate me set against anything. So although my personality was doing the kind of thing it usually does, its products were seen through effortlessly as soon as they arose, or with the merest reflection.

Often, indeed, there are still things I experience that include a sense of 'me'. But under the new configuration these have become just that – i.e. they are experienced not as 'me', but as sensations giving rise to that. The whole, entire field of awareness is shot-through with Emptiness, which seems the most salient aspect of the new understanding. It is this that prevents 'me' from setting itself up in opposition to anything, as it used to. The old solid and separate 'me' has been stifled at its very root, and seems unlikely to return. This domination of the field of awareness by Emptiness is what is meant – I assume – by the saying 'Emptiness is Form', which is the realisation upon which arahatship depends. There is, then, a sense that all phenomena (including the sense of a perceiver) arise against a background of Emptiness. It might be described as seeming as if phenomena were 'blocking the view' of Emptiness; as if true seeing would occur if it weren't for all these impressions of objects in the way. From this perspective I understand the saying 'in the seeing, just the seen; in the hearing, just the heard', etc., which supposedly describes the moment-to-moment consciousness of the arahat.

A few minutes after 4am I returned to bed and slept. I dreamt that someone brought me a selection of nice PVC trousers to try on. I chose my favourites, then stood and performed the song 'Bombers' by Tubeway Army. I was aware that probably I looked absurd, but I enjoyed the song and the singing anyway. Why hadn't I done this sooner? I wondered.

I woke again at 6am and everything was in the same new state. I got up, meditated, and my observations were again the same.

The teaching and the workshops with Titmuss had created the space for the most unexpected thing to occur. I'd never expected it to come so soon, nor for it to be like this – which is a good indication that it really has occurred, because I still remember how third path (anagami) was completely beyond my wildest expectations. As this is too, with its bizarre mix of the ordinary and the strange. Of all the paths this one bears the strongest resemblance to no path at all.

Nothing has ceased of its own accord. Rather, an understanding has been arrived at that enables a view through and beyond everything that continues to arise same as it ever was.

I can't pretend the last week has been a blissful joy-fest. There is a lot of integration to be done. My obsession with enlightenment is unfortunately still in place: I catch myself obsessively scanning my inner processes for traces of unenlightened behaviour, checking I still 'have it', even though this makes no sense. The habits and obsessions are seen through as they arise, yet the tendencies that give rise to them are still fully active. My mind gives the impression of a flywheel mechanism that's no longer needed to carry the strain it used to, and now it's spinning super-fast, out of control, because there's nothing else for it to do.

On the two nights following awakening I was again disturbed by vibrations and heat in the solar plexus. Each night was weaker than the last, and there has been no recurrence since. I've also been bothered by headaches and migraine-like symptoms for a few days. These, too, seem to be passing. What remains at the moment are anxiety-dreams, which, I'm hoping, are a means for all the obsessive tendencies and unhelpful impulses that have grown up around my dogged pursuit of enlightenment over the years to blow off some steam and perhaps one day cease.

In the meantime, I intend to get on with things, just as I've always tried. I'd be untruthful if I said there's absolutely no change to everyday awareness. This path seems to have a very subtle background sensation, like the mental equivalent of constantly falling backwards. It reminds me of looking up into a colourless sky and watching snowflakes come tumbling down.

Magick and Enlightenment: A Recap

During the introduction to some dharma workshops I attended at the weekend, everyone was invited to say something about their practice and their connection with Buddhism. Explaining myself to a Buddhist group was an interesting exercise in making clear the relationship between magick and the dharma.

The aim of the Western Magickal Tradition – I explained – is the same as that of Buddhism: enlightenment. The specific act of magick that fulfils this aim is known as The Great Work. The magician achieves The Great Work through the invocation of an entity known as The Holy Guardian Angel. The angel leads the magician across the Abyss, which is the gap between our ordinary perception and metaphysical experience. This culminates in the magician's first awakening, a temporary experience of enlightenment. By engaging in further work with the angel, eventually the magician achieves union with it – which is equivalent to 'full' or 'final' enlightenment.

In Buddhist terms, the angel is a representation of Emptiness. Angel and Emptiness are the same thing. Magick is the art of experiencing Truth, so the Western magician uses the angel as a dualistic representation of non-dual, unrepresentable Emptiness in order to bring about a direct experience of Emptiness through magical means. Because it employs magick, the Western Tradition often proves the most direct and fastest route to the realisation of enlightenment, but it is not without certain risks to the ignorant and unwary.

Where the Western Tradition has fallen down, however, is in the clarity of its teachings. The Buddhist teachings are more straightforward, whereas western occultism has been subject to vigorous suppression by exoteric religion, and has also been corrupted and misunderstood by its own supposed practitioners.

The most common corruption of the Western Magical Tradition is the practitioner's inability or refusal to use magick in the realisation of The Great Work, but instead to limit its use to sorcery or 'low' magic. The Buddhists texts on meditation accept the development of psychic powers or siddhis as a corollary to awakening, and include similar warnings on the dangers of mistaking these powers as an end in themselves or a substitute for enlightenment.

In the Western Tradition, however, competency in magick is an absolute prerequisite for The Great Work. The reason for this is simple: to summon the angel, one must be familiar with the technique of invocation; to communicate with the angel, one must know how to work with spirits; to make decisions about directions to be taken, divination is essential, etc. In short, The Great Work demands proficiency in all areas of magick.

When properly understood as a genuine tradition, the Western Magical Tradition places magick in the service of enlightenment. As the magician moves surely and swiftly towards the realisation of the aim (which is inevitably successful because it is the expression of a magical act) then his or her magical abilities are developed and perfected at the same time.

It is for this reason that the Holy Guardian Angel is often described as 'the future magical self'. Union with the angel – let us remember – is the realisation of Emptiness, and so magick placed at the service of enlightenment bootstraps the magician into awakening to his or her ultimate nature.

Intersubjective Enlightenment: Case No. 3

At approximately 1.30pm on 13th April 2008, travelling south between Kings Cross and London Bridge on the Northen Line of the London Underground, I suddenly found myself experiencing non-duality or emptiness. At first, I thought this was one of the periodic plateau experiences of non-duality characteristic of the grade of Magus, or the Third Path of Theravada known as Anagami, until I began feeling as though I were ‘coming up’ on a strong entheogen. I’ve experienced this twice before, both times in the company of Andrew Cohen. Sat across from me was a small Indian man in an oversized suit, purple tie, with a thick black ‘tache and hair do. He was staring at me. 

He continued to stare at me for a good five minutes, before turning his attention elsewhere – but wherever he looked, he maintained an expression of complete detachment. 

I got off the tube, and before I could tell my girlfriend what had occurred (she had sat a few seats away from me), she said she had noticed a strange Indian man staring at me. The awareness of non-duality began to fade a few minutes later.

This event has led me to reconsider both mine and Duncan’s experiences with Cohen. At the time, I considered the experience a transmission of enlightenment – something passed from one person to another, a bestowing of the same level of development to someone less advanced, through physical proximity.

However, considering both Duncan and myself were not permanently enlightened as a result of our meetings with Cohen, the fact I’ve experienced a number of Fruitions when in Duncan’s company, and in light of the event recorded above, I am now inclined to believe that enlightenment, or non-duality, is experienced intersubjectively between individuals sufficiently advanced within the metaphysical process, through any kind of sensate contact (i.e. by sight, physical proximity, sound, etc).

Rather than positing some absurd ‘field’ or substance that is ‘transmitted’, I prefer to entertain the idea that what happens during intersubjective enlightenment is nothing more than recognition. The Absolute Self within one person recognises itself in the other, and God sees himself in a mirror.

The non-dual is not a unit, nor is it divided; but duality is the illusion that it is so. Hence the manifestation (as a result of the process of enlightenment) of the non-dual through two individuals must necessarily be expressed as a shared experience (the non-dual being undivided) from each individual perspective – in other words, enlightenment becomes intersubjective.

This means that although someone less advanced in the realisation of enlightenment might have a profound experience of inetrsubjective enlightenment due to the presence of a more advanced practitioner; it does not shortcut the metaphysical process, nor does it bestow enlightenment as a permanent adaptation. 

I wonder if Duncan is getting intersubjective at his retreat…

No Room for Me in the Universe

It's time to log a progress report on my meditation practice, as it's been a while. I sit on weekdays for two hours per day: an early-morning sitting and an evening session. At week-ends I generally manage one hour per day. Mostly, I'm doing straightforward vipassana: choiceless awareness of sensations in the body; but I do occasionally go for some centred prayer, or a little bit of Ramana-Maharshi-style self-investigation.

The last fruition was a few weeks ago. They're getting more subtle, but again I reached non-dual awareness as a peak experience, for several minutes.

During this episode there were very clearly two ways of being: one involved identifying with stuff; the other didn't. I decided not to identify with stuff for a while, but then switched back and forward a few times, so I could gain a better understanding of what the difference was. It was all perfectly clear at the time.

Previously, I've puzzled over 'that thing' which made an appearance in my consciousness after what Alan and I now refer to as 'The Cohen Event'. It's still interesting, but my attitude toward it has shifted: it has nothing to do with enlightenment. I had a good look at it whilst non-duality was still available, and I saw how it originates from the ajna chakra ('thrd eye'), whereas the non-dual state proper 'belongs to' sahasrara (the chakra above the crown of the head). The non-dual state does indeed 'feel' like shifting the centre of consciousness 'above the head', just as the yogis say; or 'thinking without using your brain', as Steiner put it. (Bless him.) At least, this chakra-talk is one way of describing it.

It wasn't as long or as intense as the last fruition I logged, but it was more stable.

As the fruitions have become subtler, the dark nights are getting tougher. Even before fruition, I had begun to doubt the importance of 'the thing' after an experience in the dark night of it morphing from all that's perfect and good into a persecutory lump of absolute evil!

This was indescribably unpleasant and difficult to sit through. When it finally passed it was, however, clear to me that something capable of switching sides so rapidly – or that possesses such diverse facets, simply depending on viewpoint – couldn't possibly fall into the non-dual category.

The dark night of my current cycle was also pretty tough. I noticed myself becoming fearful and depressed every time I came home from work. Instead of offering safety and relaxation, my home was making me feel threatened and vulnerable. There was no real reason for this. After my similarly edgy meditation sessions suddenly released into ease, these feelings abruptly passed also.

Uniquely, the breakthrough into equanimity came with another taste of the non-dual. I'm currently re-reading Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. (It's probably fair to say that I'm always re-reading it.) A passage on noticing the difference between physical sensations and their mental representations caught my attention. I've never really nailed that, I realised, so I decided to apply myself.

A dog barks

There was a dog barking in the park nearby. I took the opportunity to investigate the auditory sensation of 'barking dog', and watch it give way to the arising mental representation of 'a barking dog'. It was subtler and harder than I expected, but finally I seemed to be getting there. And then I saw how indescribably stupid I had been!

For a long time, I've been confusing the mental representation of sensations with the idea that there's an 'I' having the sensation. In other words, I had taken the way sensations arise mentally as entailing there is an 'I' that 'contains' them.

This is so stupid, it's embarrassing to admit! In fact, I don't understand how I've managed to get even as far as I have, given this gross and inept mistake.

Ah, well. That's the way it works. Even though I've now recognised the mistake, I still keep making it. Sad to say, I'm still mostly incapable of seeing through the illusion that mental sensations are more 'me' than physical ones. But when I heard that dog bark, and (for once) accurately experienced the arising of the idea of the dog barking as simply another sensation, in no way different from its physical counterpart (except in its content), that was enough to throw me instantaneously into the non-dual, because between sensations and just more sensations there was no room for a 'me' anywhere in the universe.

Woof-woof. Kapow.

Nothing beyond that realisation was new to me, however; I'd been there before, which once again confronts us with the fact that progress through the stages of enlightenment is attained through Grace at least as much as effort and intelligence. Sweetest of all, this wasn't a fruition. It wasn't even an 'arising and passing away event', as far as I can determine. It was a bog standard insight, a moment of understanding. I had just 'worked it out'.

I'm disappointed that this realisation hasn't granted me a foolproof ladder into the non-dual whenever I fancy it, but that's a 'disappointed' in the special sense that vipassana has taught me – i.e. a simple demonstration that that's not how it is.

I've got a two-week retreat coming up shortly and I'm looking forward to being disappointed a lot more.

The Secrets of Kundalini Yoga

The shaman was not the first great mystic sage… he was simply the first master of kundalini / hatha yoga. – Ken Wilber [1]

Friday Night

It was Yogi Bhajan [2] who exported the secrets of kundalini yoga to the West, and turned it into a movement. The tantric basis of kundalini yoga dates back many centuries. [3] Yogi Bhajan himself was a Sikh, which is the reason western kundalinis often sport turbans and rename themselves Singh or Kaur. There are a lot of kundalinis in Brighton. None of the yoga halls, alternative health venues or community halls in the town is without its kundalini yoga class.

Since Yogi Bhajan died, no clear leader of the movement has emerged, but Karta Singh [4] must come close. When I heard he was coming to Brighton, and that – perhaps worried the number of Brighton kundalinis-in-training wasn't high enough – the organisers had decided to open the event to the public, I took the opportunity to attend. Now, I'm no stranger to a bit of kundalini. It's good stuff, and I recommend you give it a try. But I wasn't prepared for the effects of four solid hours under the tutelary auspices of a master.

Karta Singh's plane was delayed, so Ishwara Kaur, Brighton's foremost yogini, got us started. After ninety minutes it became apparent she's no fluffy bunny either.

The aim of kundalini is to awaken the energy that slumbers in the form of a snake coiled at the base of the spine. Exercises are grouped together in sets, known as kriyas, which are designed to fulfill specific purposes – for example: to strengthen the spine, stimulate the immune system, or cleanse the aura. The exercises themselves consist of yoga poses or short sequences of movement, mantras, breath-patterns, hand gestures (mudras) and body-locks (bandhs) served up in various combinations and sustained for longer or shorter periods. 'Shorter' is preferable, because keeping the exercises going is challenging and often painful. That's the whole point. Kundalini works on the ego as welll as the body, breaking down the ego's hold over the mind in remarkably short order. Frustration, anger, tears, despair, trembling, cramps, exhaustion: these are sure signs that it's working. As US Marines are reportedly wont to say: 'Pain is weakness leaving the body.' Kundalinis would probably replace 'weakness' with 'ego'.

By the time Karta Singh showed, I was already in an altered state. No other form of yoga I've tried gets me as high in the same way. My vishuddha and ajna chakras were glowing and spinning, and my ether body buzzing like a neon display sign.

'Good evening,' said a voice.

I opened my eyes, and there was Singh in his guru's robes, turbaned, bearded, every inch the spiritual mentor. (Apart from the French accent.)

Although I didn't receive an 'enlightenment vibe' from Singh (in the way I did from Andrew Cohen) he struck me as serene and wise, far more approachable than photos of him on the web suggest. He's fond of laughter, and has a habit of making wacky remarks – during one of the exercises assuring us our hands were being kissed by angels. This reminded me of passages I'd read from Yogi Bhajan's lectures.

Karta Singh began his discourse. It concerned pranayama. Great, I thought, we're just going to sit and breathe. Little did I realise the gruelling hours that lay ahead. It was billed to finish at 9pm, but gurus seem to make up their own timetable as it suits. We simply kept going and going. As I lay on my back, legs widely parted in the air, describing circles in opposite directions whilst obeying Singh's injunction to 'breathe through the feet', I finally realised that 'a little bit of pranayama' had never been on the agenda.

My memory of those hours is a haze of pain and ecstasy, but one exercise sticks out: I was standing, legs apart and knees bent, leaning forwards straight-backed, hands on knees, performing a version of 'breath of fire', where the focus of the breath was higher up than usual – at the top of the stomach. At first, I couldn't work out how to do this breath. Suddenly, I stopped thinking and my body took over. It started panting violently through the nose, every breath as strong as a sneeze. I shook all over. And then I realised this wasn't even the half of it: I was holding onto something. Cautiously I let go, and the panting grew more violent, as if an energy in my stomach were trying to vent itself. An energy so limitless, it felt as if it would've reduced my body to jelly long before it exhausted itself. But even then, I knew I wasn't being totally honest with myself: a tiny part of me was still holding on.

No doubting it, kundalini yoga has powerful and interesting effects. Yet I haven't donned a turban and joined the crew, and here's why: I find it a tease. It breaks down the ego and splits you wide apart, so you leave behind mundane awareness and become hypersensitive to your body and the transpersonal.

But then you stop. Time to go home.

Kundalini sets me up – like nothing else – for some serious meditation. It supplies rocket fuel, and a solid launch-pad that a subsequent hour of vipassana meditation would've ridden to the centre of the cosmos. But once they're cleared for take-off, the kundalinis seem to call it a day.

My personal inclination upon finding ecstasy is to take it apart. That's what vipassana meditation does. But for the kundalinis, with their tantric leanings, ecstasy on its own will do just fine. They know what they want and they know how to get there quickly.

My experience concurs with Wilber's suggestion at the head of this article – that kundalini yoga can't get you enlightened, because it doesn't press beyond ecstasy. But it will transport you with ease into those subtle, shamanic, transpersonal, psychic realms.

At the end of the session with Karta Singh that familiar frustration was waiting: I was all jizzed up, but denied my money-shot. Just like tantric sex, there was a definite climax, but it was something more subtle. It was as if, before I'd started, I'd been like a bottle of salad dressing, all shaken up and cloudy. In the serene place to which Singh had taken me, the constituents of my being had separated out. For a while, I perceived acutely – in a way like never before – the distinct differences between my physical, ether and astral bodies. There was the physical body, mute and dark; the etheric, also localised, but buzzing with sensate energy; and the astral, vehicle of thoughts and consciousness, which belongs to no place.

Maybe it's high time that instead of pointing out the shortcomings of kundalini I simply incorporated it into my practice, combined with vipassana. It's certainly a technique I intend to keep on using – more than ever, considering the powerful reminder I received the next morning of the sorts of experience and powers kundalini confers.

Saturday Morning

I woke at about 7am, full of energy and raring to go. My girlfriend was fast asleep, and her response to my suggestion that we might get up made it clear we wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. Fine, I thought, wrapping her in my arms and settling down. I'll meditate for a bit. Ken Wilber meditates in bed. Why shouldn't I?

All was going well. Lying in bed presented
me with a different set of sensations from usual, and I was investigating these, until suddenly I heard myself breathing heavily, on the verge of snoring. This surprised me, because my mind was clear and I'd assumed I was awake. I realised, however, that I'd entered the lucid dreaming state.

Excellent, I thought, abandoning meditation and turning my intention toward an interesting lucid dream. I found myself outside a Co-op, in Brighton town centre at night. The police had arrived, called by a woman being hassled by a man in the checkout queue. The queue was long, and tempers were becoming frayed.

I floated up and down the pavement with delight, overjoyed at lucid-dreaming again. But unfortunately my excitement spoiled the concentration, and I felt the dream-state slipping beyond my grasp. I clung on, but the decay was unstoppable. After I'd woken, I tried to get back in again. I lay awake, then hit on the technique of imagining I was spinning around and around. This brought me to the threshold of another lucid dream, but didn't quite take me in. Then I became aware of an intense buzzing sensation spreading all over my body, which I'd experienced before, and recognised as the tell-tale sign of an oncoming out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, this also failed to get off the ground. But I had entered some kind of interesting state nonetheless. I found I was capable of putting my 'body' in a different position from my physical body. At one point, I was even standing by the side of the bed, aware that my physical body was lying in the bed. (Maybe this counts as a 'full' out-of-body experience. What holds me back from declaring it so is that I wasn't able to perceive my physical body from the other body. I only felt my other body, whilst retaining the knowledge of what my physical body was doing.)

That's when it happened. I gradually became aware of voices and sensations crowding around. They were spirits, all talking at once, some closer than others. The way they chattered compulsively about mundane things convinced me these were voices of the dead. One of them talked about Margaret Thatcher, in a way that made me assume she (the voice) had died during Thatcher's premiership. Another was the voice of a woman from Brighton. Some of her children had been taken into care. Someone had died: whether it was the owner of the voice, or one of the children, wasn't obvious. What was clear was that the voices – all of them – belonged to very unpleasant people. The woman who had lost her children talked insistently about her right to have them back. She didn't recognise it was her cruelty that had resulted in them being taken away in the first place.

The voices crowded closer and multiplied. I grew scared, and realised this is what true mediums must experience and deal with all of the time. These spirits were using me, feeding on my energy. It was like logging onto the astral internet, and every evil hacker had seen I had no spiritual firewall and was trying to hijack my equipment. I felt the spirits begin to 'penetrate' me. It was horrible; a sensation like cold fingers reaching into the back of my head.

My first inclination was to make a noise, in the hope my girlfriend would hear and wake me. But, as is often the case when trapped in sleep paralysis, all I could muster was a feeble: mmmm mmmm! I heard my girlfriend's sleepy breathing, and knew it hadn't worked. So I opted for the novice's favourite; the thing they teach you in Magick 101; a Phil Hine special [5]: I visualised a pentacle.

The spirits didn't vanish in a satisfying flash of octarine, but they stood back. They quickly regrouped at the perimeter of my mind, from where I heard them still, but they couldn't penetrate me any longer. When they started to scream at me that the pentacle was pathetic, that I was a useless magician and they would break through again, I knew I'd got them beaten. So I woke up gently, at my leisure.

I lay this experience solely at the door of Karta Singh. Kundalini yoga might not get me enlightened, but it seems a sure-fire way to make me psychic! The experience of being able to discriminate between my physical, etheric and astral bodies seemed to provide the platform for what happened the next morning. Those spirit-voices were so strong and clear, I didn't doubt for a second their authenticity, or that I hadn't – for a moment – tuned into a level of consciousness that genuine mediums are receiving twenty-four seven.

Some confirmatory synchronicites – as if any were needed – showed up after I'd turned on the radio, and immediately heard a news report about Margaret Thatcher being taken into hospital.

I commented to my girlfriend that it seemed especially odd, how all the voices I'd heard were female.

'Is it March 8th today?' she asked.

I did the calculation: 'Yes.'

'It's International Women's Day,' she grinned.

Notes

[1] Ken Wilber, Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution (Varanasi: Pilgrims Publishing, 2004), p.87.

[2] For a biography of Yogi Bhajan, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogi_Bhajan.

[3] See Julius Evola, The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way (Rochester VT: Inner Traditions, 1992).

[4] For a web biography of Karta Singh, see the website of his kundalini yoga school: http://www.amritnam.com.

[5] See: Phil Hine, Permutations, p.9. This is an eBook available at: http://www.philhine.org.uk/writings/pdfs/perm13.pdf.

Crossing the Abyss: How to do it and what to expect

This is transcript of Alan's solo podcast Crossing the Abyss Part 1: How to do it and what to expect.

In the Western Sacred Tradition of Magick there is an event known as ‘Crossing the Abyss’, which marks a certain milestone in the magician’s magical career.

Due to the histrionics of Aleister Crowley and the general degeneration of the Western Magical Tradition since his death, many contemporary magicians usually regard the abyss as a metaphor for going through a period of depression, losing a job or significant other, as a catch all term for any kind of initiatory crises whatsoever, or as nothing more than a fictitious magical attainment dreamed up by Crowley as a device for inflating his ego.

However, based on my own personal experience and that of others, I can tell you that crossing the abyss is only a metaphor in so far as it describes a specific, unique, one-off, personally verifiable magical event peculiar to the tradition of magick, although there are equivalents found in other traditions.

What is the Abyss?

The abyss is that which divides the relative from the absolute. Any experience whatsoever is relative, being an expression of a relationship between one thing and another. Quantum physics, Transactional psychology and postmodern thought all tell us that we are born relative creatures in a relative world, with our everyday reality being a unique construction based on our own peculiar conditioning, habits, biology and environment.

Sadly, it appears as though this realisation is as far as most magicians get in terms of understanding the world, hence their attitude to crossing the abyss as just another arbitrary metaphor for just another relative and subjective experience, because after all, aren’t all magical techniques, traditions and experiences of equal value?

Well, no, and this is what crossing the abyss is all about. One plane of relative experience is the mystical or profound. The language used to describe mystical or profound experience is known as metaphysics, and crossing the abyss is part of the metaphysic of magick. Just like every other plane, the metaphysical is dynamic – our experience of it is progressive, and we can grow and develop at the metaphysical just as our bodies grow and develop at the physical level of experience from foetus to adult.

To cross the abyss is to begin a metaphysical process that will lead from a reality composed solely of relative experience to one that includes the absolute for the first time. It is the beginning of magical maturity.

It should be noted that crossing the abyss has sometimes been equated with the destruction of the ego, but this is misleading. Yes, metaphysical experience transcends the relative self, but it is inclusive, not destructive or dismissive. If we first consider the hand and then the body, would it be correct to say the hand is destroyed by such a growth in awareness? The same is true of the growth in awareness from ego to absolute, and this is no more illustrated in those magicians, gurus or holy men who attain to enlightenment or the completion of the Great Work and yet still remain egotistical, sociopathic shit heads.

What is the Absolute?

It’s important to understand that there are many metaphysical events besides the absolute, such as various trances, states of absorption caused by concentration exercises, visions, psychic and magical experiences. None of these events, including those experiences that result from the absolute, are the absolute itself. If it comes and then goes, it is most assuredly relative.

Being beyond the relative and subjective, the absolute is not really an experience as such, as there is no experience or experiencer so to speak, but to refuse to talk about it on these grounds is firstly to risk failing to recognise there are techniques and an identifiable process that can lead to the absolute, and secondly, to reduce the Great Work or enlightenment to nothing but the intellectual realisation that words are inadequate for accounting for reality. I will therefore be referring to the absolute as an experience for convenience sake.

The absolute occurs as part of the metaphysical process, which proceeds in stages, and it isn’t something that can be practiced like a trance state and experienced at the whim of the ego. At first, the absolute will occur during the process as a peak experience, or as a momentary ‘blip’ in reality. As stated earlier, what happens during the ‘blip’ cannot really be accounted for with language, but the most useful term I’ve found to describe it is the Buddhist Theravada concept of emptiness, although the experience really isn’t anything like an absence, a negation, a void or a nothingness. I urge you to go and experience it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

The results of experiencing the absolute may include but are not limited to: overwhelming bliss, a sense of coming home, an increase in compassion, the realisation of the Truth, perfect happiness and all round good times. If that isn’t reason enough to want to cross the abyss then I don’t know what is.

Eventually the magical developmental process will lead to the occurrence of emptiness as a plateau experience, when emptiness becomes progressively more obvious during real-time, fading in and out of the 'background' of reality, regardless of whether you are in the temple meditating or eating your lunch in the canteen at work.

The final stage of the process is the occurrence of emptiness as a permanent adaptation i.e. instead of identifying with an unknown, the self know finds its centre of gravity with emptiness. The divide between the relative and the absolute is abolished and the Great Work is accomplished.

In the metaphysic of magick there are three grades that designate the three stages of the process. After crossing the abyss and the occurrence of emptiness as a peak experience, the magician becomes a Magister Templi, or a Master of the Temple. When emptiness occurs as a plateau experience, the magician attains the grade of Magus; and with the permanent adaptation of emptiness, and the accomplishment of the Great Work, the magician assumes the final grade of Ipsissimus.

How do you cross the abyss?

There is only one act a magician can do to the cross the abyss, and that is to gain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Holy Guardian Angel is the embodiment of the absolute. The Holy Guardian Angel is a means by which the relative self or ego can interact on its own terms with that which is above the abyss.

Once the knowledge and conversation is attained, or the magician has entered into a dialogue via vision and synchronicity with the angel, the magician will be led through the developmental process, which occurs as a cycle with stages, with the angel providing the right teachings and techniques at the right time. This usually means a daily meditational practice, but when I crossed the abyss I went through the first cycle using a daily ritual of sun worship. As a relative entity, it follows that there will be methods relative in their usefulness for each magician at each stage. In other words, it's different strokes for different folks.

So
how do we actually gain the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel?

Being the absolute, it doesn’t follow that the relative self or ego can command the angel to appear or make contact; rather, it is the angel that must initiate the conversation, for the angel transcends but includes the magician. The correct attitude to be adopted then is one of surrender – the magician must open himself up to the absolute, to give up all he has, has been or will ever be in favour of the knowledge and conversation of his angel. The relative self or ego must take a back seat if it is to begin the process of union with the absolute.

A devotional ritual involving the surrender of the self to the angel should therefore be constructed and performed daily, for the rest of your life, or until instructed otherwise. Note that the surrender must be genuine – if the relative self or ego doesn’t really want to let go then you are wasting your time. Of course, for most people this does take practice, hence the rather lengthy traditional invocations of the angel such as the one given in the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.

It may be that the relative self has a number of issues preventing the correct practice of surrender, and these will need to be addressed before success in the work can be expected. Similarly, if the magician has no real magical skill or experience, how is the angel to affect communication?

Before attempting to gain the knowledge and conversation the magician should have a good solid grounding in the basics, especially divinatory methods, dream and visionary work, plus a degree of intimacy with synchronicity.

In Crowley’s order of the A.’.A.’., we find a magical syllabus for practicing magick peculiar to each plane of experience in order to prepare the magician, and grades are conferred based on the acquisition of competency at each level.

However, it should be made explicit that these grades do not describe the metaphysical process as the three grades above the abyss do. The grades below the abyss are simply designations of magical competency within certain areas, and are only ever conferred by man; those grades above the abyss describe a process independent of the accomplishments of the relative self or ego, and can only be given, as it were, by the absolute.

In other words, you do not need to engage with Crowley’s A.’.A.’. grading system, or attain each of the grades below the abyss, before attempting to gain the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The absolute and the metaphysical process are not a system, and they are not dependent on any syllabus or on any one’s opinion of it or you. If you want to join the A.’.A.’. proper, you need only gain the Knowledge and Conversation.

Since Crowley’s day practical magick has moved on somewhat, and if you want a good solid practical magical education in order to prepare yourself you could do a lot worse than taking up the pseudo-tradition of chaos magick for a few years.

How do I know I’m crossing the abyss?

To recap, crossing the abyss is going through a metaphysical process, starting with the acquisition of the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and ending with the occurrence of the absolute, or emptiness, as a peak experience for the first time.

The division, or the abyss, between the relative and the absolute will have been crossed for the first time, and as this can only ever be said to occur once, the crossing of the abyss is necessarily a one off event. While it is true that the metaphysical process doesn’t end there, and that the magician will cycle through the same process again and again, the attainment of the experience of the absolute is akin to losing your virginity – you can never go back, nor can you say you lose your virginity each time you have sex thereafter.

If it helps, you can consider crossing the abyss as being deflowered by God.

The metaphysical process is made up of a three-part cycle, consisting of a plateau, a trough and a peak. It is the successful completion of the first cycle that constitutes crossing the abyss, and you can expect the following:

The plateau is a period of novelty, where magical practice is interesting and progress is steady. Insights come easy, and the plateau culminates in an event I like to call Naïve Enlightenment. Naïve Enlightenment can include, but is not limited to, the following phenomena: trance states, dissolution of boundaries, visions of bright light, feelings of bliss, oneness, vibration, love, great enthusiasm for Non-dualism, the belief you’ve experienced God/the Tao/the Truth, the belief enlightenment has occurred as a single event, as opposed to a process.

The trough quickly follows Naïve Enlightenment, and practice becomes difficult and unpleasant. The success enjoyed during the plateau is gone, and the magician can experience any number of negative emotions, at varying degrees of intensity, in regards to perception itself. The trough can include, but is not limited to, the following phenomena:  feelings of fear, disgust, and hate, desire for deliverance, psychosis, unpleasant bodily sensations, and sleepiness. The trough is sometimes referred to in other systems as the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, and can last anywhere from a few hours to a number of years, the latter usually as a result of buying into the Naïve Enlightenment event.

The Peak arrives with a gradual equanimity towards phenomena: peace is made with perception. Magick is no longer the slog it was during the trough, and a certain feeling of mastery prevails. The peak reaches a climax with the occurrence of the absolute as a peak experience, and this marks the attainment of a grade, being the grade of Magister Templi if it is the magicians first time through the cycle.

The cycle then begins again, and it usually takes a few more cycles with peak experiences before the absolute occurs as a plateau experience and the next grade is attained.

So far, so good. Everything I’ve said isn’t too dissimilar to many other developmental models, but what sets crossing the abyss apart is the fact that it is a magical event. As such, the cycle doesn’t just manifest in an emotional or perceptual way, but on many other planes of experience too. During the crossing you can expect all kinds of bizarre synchronicities, magical visions, manifestations and interactions with entities.

It goes without saying however that there will be one entity you will have to deal with during the crossing, and that is the denizen of the abyss, Choronzon.

Choronzon can be considered the embodiment of what is experienced during the trough: fear, disgust, and most especially confusion. How Choronzon will manifest, both as an entity and on other planes, is unique to each magician, but how to deal with him is the same for all. He should be met with silence and acceptance, and the same goes for the
fear, paranoia and confusion that will arise in his presence. Your angel will provide instruction in any specific rituals that might need to be performed.

For an account of my meeting with Choronzon, please see Crossing the Abyss Part 2: The Encounter with Choronzon.

It is often said that crossing the abyss is a terrifying event – but this isn’t necessarily the case. The trough can last anything from a few minutes to a number of years and can vary greatly in intensity with each individual. Apart from my encounter with Choronzon, crossing the abyss wasn’t really all that terrifying.

You might be wondering why, if you can achieve the Great Work or enlightenment through other much simpler, less poetic systems of attainment, such as vipassana or Zen, you might want to consider attempting the Great Work the magical way.

The answer is simple: the Holy Guardian Angel is the fastest, most efficient means of metaphysical development I have ever come across. Working with the angel means progress is no longer a question of conscious deliberation, and the angel is in the position of knowing your self better than you do. Who better then than the angel in providing instruction?

The fact that the magician undergoes transformation on the basis of magical vision does not mean the magician is any less engaged with fundamental insight, or simply dealing with the content of his mind – rather, the relative self is afforded the opportunity of dealing with the process of insight on its own terms in a dualistic fashion, being the complete antithesis of the life denying asceticism of most systems of purely meditative practice.

Conclusion

The abyss is the divide between the relative and the absolute. To cross the abyss, the relative self must engage with the absolute, by attaining the knowledge and conversation of the holy guardian angel through a habitual ritual of surrender. Once this is attained, the magician will begin the metaphysical process of union with the absolute, which occurs in cycles made up of three stages.

The first time through the cycle is known as crossing the abyss, and the magician can expect to go through a novel plateau with a trance event known as Naïve Enlightenment, a trough with an encounter with the denizen of the abyss Choronzon, and a peak with the occurrence of the absolute for the first time.

The magician will then have attained the grade of Magister Templi.

With repetition of the cycle, eventually the absolute will occur as a plateau experience, and the grade of Magus will be attained.

Further repetition will eventually lead to the occurrence of the absolute as a permanent adaptation, the Great Work will be completed and the magician will have attained the grade of Ipsissimus.

Obviously, there is a lot of work involved. So what are you waiting for? Go and get deflowered!