in difficulty, creativity and development are effective if correct. Do not use. There is a place to go. It is beneficial to set up a ruler. – the Taoist I ching
I’ve incorporated some aspects of the I ching here because it’s a good map of this whole process from a non western perspective. I’ll be switching metaphors liberally however to give a multi faceted overview of this thing filtered through many systems.
Anyway. One of the big movements of occultism in the last century was to shed a lot of what was seen as ‘trappings’. Certainly even up to the Golden Dawn or OTO there were rather a lot of formal declarations, applications and sponsorship, oaths of various kinds and involved induction rituals before instruction would begin. These practices still survive in many forms mind you, but they are increasingly seen as archaic holdovers from an uptight and self important elitist practice that have no place in an egalitarian democracy which professes freedom and equal opportunity. Certainly the best example is the chaos magick current which prides itself on the complete absence of extraneous trappings.
Why the hell should I have to make all these binding promises and jump through hoops to learn this shit? Put up or shut up, guys!
The big problem with this mentality is that it promotes the same kind of crippling thinking that infests capitalism and consumerism ie; if I am prepared to pay the market price for something and show up, I should be entitled to have the product on a silver platter, at no personal cost to myself. I worked for my money already, so why should I do anything else?
This may work for buying a pimped-out ride or some fly new sneakers, but when it comes to inner cultivation, that shit won’t fly. This is not a market transaction. This is not a democracy. This is your inner world. Is your inner world subject to the constitution, to egalitarian social mores? Is your inner life subject to market forces? It is not. If you think it is, then you have my sympathy.
What unfortunately gets overlooked is that while a lot of those trappings seem unnecessary, they fulfill a very important function: they make you work for it. If you aren’t prepared to face some difficulties and perservere through some obscure rituals, if you aren’t willing to make some personal sacrifices and bind yourself with some commitments to your teachers, your fellow students and yourself, then you haven’t got the fortitude to do anything with the teachings anyway, so you might as well save everyone the time and the hassle and go home. Think of a buddhist temple, or old school martial arts. Go chop wood for a few years, or dig me a well, or stand out in the cold for a couple days, then you’ll be ready.
If you look at this thing from the perspective of cultivating intent, it starts to make sense, yes? You’re already learning something before you get in the door.
So before you run off half cocked looking to secure power and obscure knowledge, ask yourself this; what am I prepared to do? What am I prepared to give up? Am I willing to wait, to endure discomfort? Am I willing to let things slide in other areas? Are you correct in your intentions, or are you looking for a free lunch?
If you think you’re going to learn a new skill without making some room in your life, and cutting some things loose, you’re probably kidding yourself.
The other aspect to this, which I’m sad to say has gotten lost to a large extent these days is what the description of the hexigram calls setting up a ruler. Meaning, the willing submission to a larger principle. Be it a teacher, a religion, an overarching ideal, or a relationship. Where’s your compass? What will bring you through the difficulties of the path? Most people get by on the weak nourishment of an ego fattened on consumer culture and unearned luxuries.
If this seems too harsh or confrontational, I assure you it is in your best interest. The couch is always there if you get too uncomfortable. Your next assignment, should you choose to overlook your bruised sense of entitlement, is twofold:
Examining our list, ask yourself what you are prepared to do to meet that goal. How far are you willing to go? Will you do whatever it takes , or are you hoping it will land in your lap? Are there some things on that list you will give up to get other things? Are there items, that once you’ve thought about it, aren’t really worth the hassle? What’s the one thing you must have on that list above all others?
answer and revise your list accordingly. If you’ve dropped some things, add more using your new criteria. If you can, rank the things on the list in terms of importance.
Once you’ve done that, you probably have a good idea of how to set up a ruler. What’s the overriding principle? What unifies your life? What is your purpose? Who or what do you serve? If you don’t know, then put it on the back burner for now.
next time: how to banish demons!