| up a level
from the priest-and-quiet dept.
I’ve always been attracted to the figure of Miguel de Molinos and the Spiritual Guide, not only because some blurry and fainted memories from a past life as a monk, but for the way this book shook my mind and soul when I read it. My formation was Catholic, and somehow this style and background is familiar to me, but similarities end here. Nothing that I’ve read from the Catholic Church was as clear and practical as this book.
Molinos tells us that the common man is blind and deaf to spiritual secrets. For him to be able to comprehend, he should have to transform himself. But the path is narrow and full of obstacles, obstacles placed by our own hand! The purpose of this book is to help us in this important process and to weed out the way.
Also, Molinos makes very clear that mystical knowledge proceeds from experience, not from the continual reading of books, but by "the free infusion of the Holy Ghost." We have to accept that reason is very limited, and that it can explain very little, for experience surpasses any attempt of explanation.
Then, it is vital to acknowledge that there are two ways to God: the first by meditation and the second one by contemplation.
Molinos explains that meditation is for beginners and the contemplation for proficients, because the first is sensible and material and the second one internal. The change has to come from within.
Now, this transformation is a jump of faith. The soul will be stripped down naked from ratiocination, and be taken therefrom. As long as any sense of reason prevails, the soul will be prevented from being united with God (or for Thelemic purposes, the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel or HGA). Only love will guide this naked soul.
So if the soul rests in contemplation, resigning from reason, and resting quietly with amorous attention towards God, she will find ecstasy and the ultimate achievement which is the union to God. It has to be understood that the search for God is not on the outside but inside. Therefore, the soul will rest in its pure and profound center, where the image of God/HGA is.
As Molinos points out, "Meditation sows, contemplation reaps, meditation seeks, contemplation finds, meditation chews the food and contemplation tastes and feeds on it."
Molinos then continues explaining that there are two ways of contemplation: one is imperfect, Active and acquired; the other one infused and Passive.
The Active is that in which we gather together our faculties and senses and prepare ourselves for divine guidance. The second one is a gift from God, and there’s nothing we can do but to rest in Active contemplation and let the divine act through us.
If we are to achieve this mystical state, the signs are as follows: The inability to meditate and pray, since these are just tools to seek God. The next sign is the wish to be alone and to avoid conversation. The third is loosing interest in reading the godly books, because they speak not of internal sweetness that is in its heart; the fourth, that though it find itself destitute of ratiocination, yet it hath a firm purpose in prayer. The next is experiencing a sense of itself and attaining a higher esteem of God.
The soul should find her center, where God dwells. In this place, there are no desires, affections nor thoughts; neither temptations nor tribulations. But achieving this will not be easy. In fact this is one of the most difficult things to accomplish, but if one persists, at the end the ultimate attainment will be achieved.
The soul will be assaulted with many doubts and confusions, and at some point she may feel abandoned. This is the hard path the soul has to take to purge herself from many internal obstacles and be cleansed and consecrated before she even dare approach the presence of God.
Now, this purging is sacred, and it’s what Molinos refers as "dryness." It is a step in which darkness covers the entire soul and she is left alone.
But this is just in appearance, as the soul is never alone, since she is always surrounded by the divine.
But from this loneliness comes understanding, for the soul has to realize that beyond apparent duality there’s unity, as it is written in the Book of the Law:
O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!
To me, it is almost like trying to explain a 3 dimensional model with 2 dimensions, since we are surrounded by something so unsurpassable that the only way to understand is by division. We dwell and live divided, oblivious to our divine center.
Molinos proceeds to enlist the two sorts of prayer. He describes the first one as "tender delightful, amicable and full of sentiments; the other obscure, dry desolate, tempted and darksome." Once again, the first one is for beginners and the second for proficients, and then he explains: the first is to gain souls and the second to purify them.
This purification through prayer has many stages, but at the end the soul will find its way with the help of God and of the "dry prayer."
At this point, the two sorts of devotions are disclosed. One is essential and true and the other accidental and sensible. The essential is a promptitude of mind to do well even knowing that by doing so, one may suffer temptation, darkness, and dryness. The accidental, on the other hand, is pleasant, tender, and sensible. Since in this kind of devotion nothing is at stake, progress is not accomplished; therefore it should be avoided. It is a trap for the soul.
Furthermore, there are two sorts of darkness, one happy and the other unhappy. The second comes from "sin" or not doing your True Will. With the first one, your HGA basically strengthens the soul and rejoices in the fact that she is being dedicated to the Great Work. God made darkness his secret place (Psalm 18), but this darkness is in reality an infinite light perceived as dark, for it is too bright to be understood.
In this path, we have to clean and prepare our souls to let the divine essence descend on us, and this accomplishment will cost us sorrow, internal, and external pain. This won't be easy, so the best we can do is to get rid of our fears, our stupid opposition to the divine current, and sail the vast ocean of the unknown.
It is also noted in this book that we have to remember our basic nature. We are still full of appetites and basic instincts, and if we do not have total control over them, they will ultimately become a huge obstacle in our way. Looking for the help of somebody experienced in these matters is highly recommended. We should pass through the rugged path of temptation.
Among the most useful things disclosed in this book is how to meditate. It may sound simplistic, but even though the mechanics are very easy, the practice of this is hard. One has to shut up the senses, and instead of resisting thoughts, one should "sweetly despise them." This practice has to be done constantly -- and it will be a constant wrestling -- but we should endure, for the fruit of this practice is perseverance. Again, our basic nature will make things very difficult: distracting us, tormenting us, tempting us, and putting all sorts of obstacles in our path. But if we can endure this, we will reach the quiet point in our selves.
There will be many people attracted to this path of internal recollection, but as soon as things get a little difficult, or when no sensible reward is in sight, they withdraw. This is an error, for they are looking to satisfy their own personal tastes and therefore the quest for God is abandoned. If one looks closer, the truth will become apparent. They were never after God but after themselves.
Now, remember that God refers to the Holy Guardian Angel or HGA.
The way to our HGA is not through external sacrifices, but internal. Fifteen minutes of internal recollection does more good to the soul than days of penitential exercises. Our aim has to be maintained, and we have to dedicate ourselves entirely, so that the soul will acquire the habit of internal recollection.
Molinos writes: "O how few are the souls, that attain to this perfect way of praying, because they penetrate not enough into this internal recollection, and mystical silence, and because they strip not themselves of imperfect reflection, and sensible pleasure." Cleaning the Nephesh is a key part in the spiritual advancement, where the images of the subconscious have to be brought to the light of the consciousness and be assimilated and processed. Failing to do so will only create ghosts and errors in perception, for the images are not recognized, and we are being deceived. We have to venture in this path and be able to walk our way to the center of ourselves. It is not a mistake that sandals are the magical weapon of Yesod.
It will become easier when we realize that every act we do is an act of magick. Molinos explains this in the following paragraph: "This doctrine serves not only for the time of prayer, but also after it is over, by night and by day, at all hours, and in all daily functions of thy calling, thy duty and condition. And if you tell me that many times you forgettest during a whole day, to renew thy resignation, I answer, that though it seem to thee, that thou are diverted from it, by attending the daily occupations of thy vocation [vocation = voice of your HGA], as studying, reading, preaching, eating, drinking, doing business, and the like; thou art mistaken; for the one destroys nor the other, nor by so doing dost thou neglect to the will of God, nor to proceed in virtual prayer, as St. Thomas says."
So we see how important it is to get the clear and clean light from our HGA and to think that every act counts and has to be aimed to the same goal. The path is narrow so only the most fit will pass through.
"It belongs to God alone and not to the spiritual guide to promote the soul from meditation to contemplation; because, if God through his special grace, call it not to this state of prayer; the guide can do nothing with all his wisdom," Molinos explains. This tells us that only the HGA will pick the right moment and place to proceed and not to the spiritual guide or guru. Since the HGA has a complete view of what the real state the mystic is in, he is the only one that can promote us from one stage to the next.
Furthermore, there are three kinds of silence according to Molinos: the first of words, the second of desires and the third of thoughts, where the first is close to be perfect, the second, closer to perfection, and with the last one, perfection is achieved. In the first one virtue is acquired, in the second, quietness is attained, and in the third one, internal recollection is gained. By not speaking, not desiring, and not thinking, one arrives at the true and perfect mystical silence.
To help us in our understanding, Molinos also remind us that "Love consists in works, and not in fair discourses." What a simple truth! We came to this world to work and change ourselves through learning, constant meditation (if we are beginners), and internal recollection (if we are advanced), for this is the real meaning of Magick. "Do" is the first word in "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," so work is the only way to express love and not words.
Now, if we embark on this journey, a Spiritual Master is recommended. He will act as an anchor in times of doubt. The function of this guru is to help us project our divinity and then have room for our transformation. Also, the help from an experienced spiritual guide will prove invaluable, since he/she will provide the right direction in times of trouble. Molinos says that a mystic under such blessing will advance more in one year than in a thousand otherwise.
The way this works is by submitting yourself to the will and judgement of a "ghostly father" or guru. By doing so, you will avoid making decisions and will entrust entirely to this guide. Now here is obvious how important it is to choose the right person for this. The way to recognize a true guru or "confessor" according to Molinos is disclosed in this paragraph: "Though there are abundance of confessors (gurus, spiritual teachers), yet they are not all good ones, because some of them know but little; others are very ignorant; others betake themselves to the applause of the gentry; some seek favors of their penitents; some presents; some are full of spiritual ambition and seek credit and fame, getting a multitude of spiritual children to themselves; others affect their mastership and command; other affect the visions and revelations of their spiritual children and instead of despising them (the visions & revelations), the only way of securing them to humility, they commend them that they may not leave them off, and make them write them that they may show them abroad for ostentation: all this is self-love and vanity in these guides, and a great prejudice to the spiritual profit of souls . . ." He continues: "other confessors there are, which with ease and lightness of heart, do believe, and approve and commend all spirits: others failing into the vicious extreme, do condemn without any reserve, all visions and revelations; such things are neither to be believed all, nor condemned all: others also there are who are enamored of the spirit of their spiritual daughters, that whatever they dream, let them be never so much deceit, they reverence them as sacred mysteries! O what a world of miseries are known in the church by these means!"
A false spiritual guide can do a lot of damage to the soul, therefore we have to keep our eyes open and choose well.
Obviously the spiritual guide has passed through tribulation, temptation and purgation, and therefore he’s able to give insights and direction. The soul has to be obedient and quick to be submitted to its spiritual guide, because at this point, the HGA will be talking through him/her. This is the best way to burn our self-pride and self-love and surrender them to the divine will of the HGA. Our judgment is always deceiving. This is why we need to use an external representation or projection of our own HGA to continue in this path.
Next, Molinos talks about things necessary to get perfection and internal peace, and these are: prayer, obedience, frequent communion and internal mortification.
My take on this is the following: prayer quiets the mind, while obedience helps us to avoid self-love and self-importance; this being a key part in this formula, since Molinos considers this a great obstacle in our development. Frequent communion functions in a subtle way to nourish our astral body and helps it stabilize the operation since it reinforces the idea of union with your HGA, and internal mortification is the ultimate surrendering to the divine. This combined is a powerful formula that will transform our soul. But this transformation will take its toll on the physical and subtle bodies, therefore we should ease our physical penances, since there is no necessity to mortify the body and soul at the same time. Molinos recommends to consult your spiritual director to make sure you are taking the correct steps and that you are balancing the operation properly. I have to mention that to mortify the body by means of the spirit is an easy task but not the other way around.
Another very useful tool in this path is the method of dealing with errors. We are prone to fall and commit mistakes, but it is important to know that this will happen many times. We have to conduct ourselves in a cool-headed manner, trying not to afflict and trouble ourselves more than is necessary. We have to learn to love our errors, for without them we will be pompous and arrogant (even more than we already are). Molinos tells us that whenever you find yourself in error or fault, "ask for pardon heartly [I will interpret this as a sincere acknowledge of your basic nature] and without noise of words" continue your practice "as if you have not sinned," not bothering if you’ve been "forgiven." In other words, do not waste your energy, because you will need it.
Since there are two types of spiritual persons -– the External and the Internal -- we have to make sure we are not pursuing the outward way; thus, external mortification of the body and mortification of the senses. Also, the external mystic goes after the "rewards" of a spiritual life. This is for people that have not advanced a lot in these matters. But the soul will learn the real meaning of this Work at some point, if she endures. Following the external way will lead her to nothing, and she will end up empty handed. This is a blessing in disguise, for it is necessary to learn error.
I picture the Tower card, formerly named "The House of God." Crowley says about this card: ". . . the doctrine is that the ultimate reality (which is Perfection) is Nothingness. Hence all manifestations, however glorious, however delightful, are stains. To obtain perfection, all existing things must be annihilated. The destruction of the garrison may therefore be taken to mean their emancipation from the prison of organized life, which was confining them. It was their unwisdom to cling to them . . ." Therefore any pursuit in matters of this world will end up in failure.
This act of destruction is an act of love, because it will open our eyes to reality. This act of love is also an act of dissolution, for the soul should die so it can be reborn. It is my understanding that death is the ultimate initiation because it closes the chapter and opens a new one, being one aspect of the ancient formula "coagula/solve." Death can be frightening when we cling to things from this world. These can be persons, things, places, ideas, and the image of ourselves. Remember Chapter III from The Book of the Law: "Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms."
Patience is key in this process but also Will. We will need a lot of courage and strength to open our eyes and glance upon ourselves, and discover how full of pride and self-love we are. But also, avoid false humility. Molinos warns us against going this way: "These avoid esteem and honour, so that they may be took to be humble; they say of themselves, that they are evil, that they many be thought good; and though they know their own misery, yet they are loth that other folks should know it. This is dissembled humility, and feigned, and nothing but secret pride."
True humility is "not counsel of reason, but by the affection of the Will." In other words, never expect to be perceived as humble, keep quiet, and keep on with your business. This humility does not consist in external acts, but only in the "contempt of thyself." Now this may sound harsh, but remember that before we attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, we are just spiritual children.
So therefore, it is recommended to see the divine in all and in everybody. Molinos points out that the truly humble man, though everything falls contrary to him, is neither disquieted nor afflicted at all, because he is prepared, and thinks he deserves no less. It is beautiful to understand that, at this stage, we have nothing to lose, since we do not have pride that holds us back. Suddenly we are free to fly higher!
But in order to fly higher we have to drop the dead weight, learn detachment from things of this world as mentioned earlier, and conduct a solitary life. This doesn’t necessarily mean living alone, although this may help. What is meant here is spiritual solitude, or complete detachment, so we can put our energy into the Great Work. And here is meant all our energy, without seeking any other end or interest, within or without, but the Divine Will or our True Will.
When our HGA first gets our interest by giving us sensible pleasure while in contemplation, he is giving us the opportunity to explore the vast land now before us. But it depends on us to continue all the way, after things get a little rougher. If we continue, with enchantment at first and with courage later, the honey of contemplation will taste sweeter and be more desirable. We will get infused with the Divine Essence and feel satisfied for a short time. Then we will know that something has been missing in our life all along, and we will strive for more.
Now, you should know that the secret Love within has four effects: the first is Illumination, which is an experimental knowledge of the greatness of the HGA; the second is Inflammation, which is an intense desire to be burnt in the divine fire; the third is Sweetness, when we realize the joy of Life and Death; and the fourth is the "swallowing up of the Powers in God," which is basically an immersion in the essence of the HGA. And this signs will have two side-effects. The first one will be that our soul, being pushed to the limits, will know that any suffering is justified in order to be reunited with our HGA. The second side-effect will be the understanding that we in fact can never lose this unity, nor be separated from our HGA.
Remember that until the mind has been purged, the affection purified, the memory naked, the understanding brightened, and the "lower" will denied, the soul can never arrive to that Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA.
And what about Wisdom? It depends on what type of wisdom you are talking about, or more precisely, the intention behind the wisdom, since this will make a lot of difference. Ordinarily it is seen that, in the man with much scholastical and speculative knowledge/wisdom, Divine Wisdom does not predominate. But when they are together, it is an admirable thing to witness. Molinos also tells us that study which is not ordered for God’s glory only is but a short way to hell; not through the study, but the wind of pride which begets it. Many will seek the HGA and find it not, because the intention is to satisfy curiosity and not pure and upright intention.
So there is the paramount task: attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA. The path is narrow, full of horrors and temptations, but if we listen to our intuition, which is the voice of our HGA, it will guide us through the darkness into the Light, the unsurpassable Light In Extension that is our Angel, and only then will know the true meaning of our existence.
P.S. Beware of any "edited" copies of this book (the "SeedSowers" version is one of them). Unfortunately it is out of print, but there are copies available on the internet.
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