Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
In my first post in this blog, I shared my working definition for the term path. In brief, a person’s path is the synthesis and the summation of their spiritual, religious, and magickal undertakings. If you have not read the first blog, I hope that you take time to read it.
I’d like to say a few things about magickal religions and what the adjective “magickal” means in this context. All religions have an exoteric and an esoteric component though they vary in the proportions of each and how they are expressed. One of the simplest examples of this is the idea that sacred teachings can be taken to have a literal exoteric meaning and also a hidden teaching that is only found through an esoteric understanding of the same words. The exoteric portion of religion tends to be normative (about how we should live) while the esoteric portion of a religion tends to be transformative. Magickal religions have a larger proportion of the esoteric than the exoteric. Magickal religions tend to have fewer restrictions on gaining access to esoteric teachings or experiences than mainstream/non-magickal religions. Another important distinction about the nature of magickal religions is that their members are more likely to be practitioners of some esoteric art or science. Although on the surface it may appear that prayer, faith healing, and similar practices are comparable to ritual or operative magick there are substantial differences. Magickal practitioners have a more active engagement and understanding of the process that they use to access the powers and forces that they are a part of their religion.
Devotion in both exoteric and esoteric religion is an expression of a loving connection to the Divine; however its manifestations are different. Examples of exoteric devotion include studying sacred texts, doing good works, the repetition of prayers, etc. Examples of esoteric devotion include ecstatic practices, divine possession, and magickal rituals (not to be confused with teaching based services). In both exoteric and esoteric religious actions, a person’s relationship to devotion informs both their style of action and the type of assistance they receive in their pursuits. In magickal religions, the test for what constitutes devotion is determined more by a person’s spiritual reality than external teachings. In non-magickal religions, what constitutes devotion is more determined by external authority. This in turn results in divergent approaches to both theurgy and mysticism that I’ll explore at some other time.
You may have heard of magick being described as black and white, as the seven colors of the rainbow rays, and more schemes. Let me suggest a threefold arrangement for the describing the flavors of magick that is compatible with most of the other tags in common usage. Many traditions acknowledge the value of the three-fold division of the Lower Self, Middle Self, and Higher Self though variant terms are used to name these divisions. For those unfamiliar with these terms, you can think of the Lower Self as the elemental dreaming self, the Middle Self as the waking talking self, and the Higher Self as the eternal divine self. By extension, magick can be thought of as Low, Middle, or High magick depending upon which part of self is the most dynamic. Most magick uses all three in varying combinations but usually one is predominant. The use of the terms High and Low magick are routinely described by the intention and the outcome of the working. Instead, I propose that a three-fold division is more useful and that the parts of self that are engaged in the work determine the category that is applied. I believe that it is the norm in Paganism to use Low, Middle, and High magick.
Names and labels have power in the the Low, Middle, and High domains. In my next blog I’ll explore the use of names and labels such as Pagan, Wiccan, etc. as exoteric and esoteric constructs. This may clarify and/or create more controversy about their usage.
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