| up a level
from the east-meets-beast dept.
[Portions of this article previously appeared in the Thelema Lodge Calendar.]
I first became aware of the works of Sam Webster when I read an article in Gnosis magazine called "Pagan Dharma." In it, he draws parallels between the Pagan (which for him appears to include the Magical and Hermetic) worldviews on one hand, and the traditions of the East, particularly Dzogchen and Tibetan Tantra, on the other.
...the Dzogchen practitioner seeks the inherent purity in all things, and integrates with the experience while not seeking to change anything about it. This is in accord with the Pagan contra-gnostic view of the immediate goodness of the here and now.
With these similarities in mind, he observes the persistent problems that crop up in western magical practice, and suggests that we might look toward these eastern schools for potential remedies. In this article, and a follow-up essay published in Pangaia, he outlines three techniques adapted from the East that have proven effective in guiding and grounding practitioners in ritual work, Taking Refuge, Generating Boddhichitta, and Dedicating Merit. Taking Refuge involves strengthening contact with the Enlightened aspect within us. By Generating Boddhichitta, we bind our practice to the innate perfection within the moment. In Dedicating Merit, we offer the results of our work to the benefit of all beings, grounding our magick in compassion.
Looking back over our history, I suspect that in the frightful need to transmit the how the Western Magical Tradition lost the why. In the face of oppression and ridicule the practice of magick was nearly, but not successfully, exterminated... Yet by generating compassion we can invoke the inherent power of the entire Universe driving us all toward our inherent enlightenment to strengthen and fulfill our magick.
I found this perspective to be one of the most exhilarating approaches to magick that I had ever read. When the opportunity came a few years later to attend one of his ritual events, I jumped in immediately, and found the experience every bit as rewarding as I had hoped.
An adaptation from eastern techniques that felt particularly useful to me was the practice of Tibetan Deity Yoga. Sam borrowed this elaborate method to use in association with Ra-Hoor-Khuit to form an original ritual that I feel is destined to become a mainstay in future Thelemic tradition. In brief, Deity Yoga involves visualizing the approach of a deity, making offerings and praise to it, visualizing the deity with the greatest possible clarity, becoming identified with it, and meditating upon its aspects. Then various yogic practices are employed, including mantra and the visualization of the Wheel of Dharma. Finally, the images are dissolved and a ceremonial closing takes place.
In practice, I found this to be the most powerful magical technique I had ever experienced. So when it came time for me to adapt my Liber Arcanorum workings for a group setting, the first thing I did was to drop the underlying structure (based on the Golden Dawn Z documents) like a hot potato in favor of this exciting technology.
Most recently, I've discovered the Thelemic Sangha, meeting monthly in nearby San Francisco to perform their stirring devotional ritual The Diamond Sapphire, a unique blending of Thelemic and Buddhist archetypes and ritual forms.
The underlying symbolism of the entire ritual is that of the union of the human and the divine, the opening up of enlightenment or cosmic consciousness, or the opening of the ruach to Briatic consciousness. The ritual is centered around the symbolism of the Hexagram as the union of Fire and Water, and the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
-- Gregory Peters, Rivers of Fire, Water and Air, a commentary on The Diamond Sapphire
The author of The Diamond Sapphire, Gregory Peters, includes among his affiliations initiations into Shingon, Pure Land, and Kagyu Tibetan Buddhism.
To subscribe to their sangha93 mailing list, send a message to email@example.com with the word "subsingle" in the message body (or the word "subscribe" to receive the digest).
No doubt there exist further examples of the influence of Buddhism on Thelemic thought. Many people, for instance, have been struck by the resemblance between The Angels' Message to Humanity by Gerald and Betty Schueler (a very good book marred by an appalling title) and the Kalachakra initiation. But this synthesis of Buddhism and Thelema suggests a host of questions, including:
May the merit accumulated by this group be dedicated to the liberation of all sentient beings, under the radiant kiss that is Nuit, Hadit, and Heru-Ra-Ha.
"I take refuge in the Three Jewels. I will liberate all beings and lead them to enlightenment. Thus, I will perfectly generate the mind dedicated to attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings."
"This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart & my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss."
-- From the sanga93 mailing list welcome message
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