Beyond Revolution: Symbol and Mystery in Eric Voegelin’s Philosophy of Magic

“What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.”

–Wittgenstein,

Tractatus Logico-Philsophicus

Abstract: Eric Voegelin’s search for truth ends where it begins—in mystery. This paper suggests that at its center is Eric Voegelin’s philosophy of magic. I argue Voegelin’s emphasis on magic and its role in gnostic revolution further places it as a cornerstone for his larger body of work; Moreover, this study of magic must be situated in its traditional context in order to articulate a common framework for any future study of magic to draw from.

Keywords: Magic, Gnosis, Sorcery, Revolution, God, Symbol, Time, Divinity, Mystery

 

Introduction: On the Crisis of Existence

This section locates Eric Voegelin’s work as focused initially on the symbol as cosmion, or named order, of an existing world, evoked and reified in language and performative utterance. The implications of the misplaced fallacy of political doctrine were made relevant to Voegelin when he narrowly escaped National Socialism’s system of science with his life, a system rooted in what Voegelin defines as an outburst in the “magic imagination”: the “magic dream.”

Early on, Voegelin articulated the problem inherent in political ideas, e.g. the national economy: A linguistic symbol to create and call into existence a world through the power of naming it as such. On the potency of this performative utterance, with the ability to speak reality into existence, we have only to think of Parmenides’ dictum, “by being, it is.”

Because symbols have no meaning apart from the experience they express, any symbol of history means nothing apart from what it is—its own nature. It’s nature, reborn in each moment, becomes the very meaning of the symbol itself, offering an ideal image for meaning: it stabilizes meaning by controlling the term’s “purpose,” or intent. Voegelin understood this as the attempt “to enclose a temporal process in the rigidity of a spatial construct, an attempt that, being in its essence unrealizable, must not lead to truths, but always to further unsolved problems.”[1]

That is to say, the objectification and reification of “spirit” as a term deforms the truth of reality into a doctrinal truth about reality. This misplaced concreteness is nowhere more relevant than in the self-organization of political religions, where political will constitutes and self-directs the nature and form of its own political process. Admitting knowledge of phenomena as a key to utilitarian mastery, Voegelin states that understanding human substance does not provide a similar key to society and history:

“The expansion of the will to power from the realm of phenomena to that of substance, or the attempt to operate in the realm of substance pragmatically as if were the realm of phenomena—that is the definition of magic.”[2]

With this definition of magic at hand, we can now begin to understand the relevance magic would hold both for Voegelin and us today. To restate the issue in Voegelin’s words,

“We have ventured the age of science will appear as the greatest power orgy in the history of mankind; we now venture the suggestion that at the bottom of this orgy the historian will find a gigantic outburst of magic imagination after the breakdown of the intellectual and spiritual form of medieval high-civilization. The climax of this outburst is the magic dream of creating the Superman, the man-made Being that will succeed the sorry creature of God’s making. This is the great dream that appears first imaginatively in the works of Condorcet, Comte, Marx, and Nietzsche, and later pragmatically in the Communist and National Socialist movements.”

 

Voegelin’s Magical Thesis: Pure and Simple

This section follows Voegelin’s initial inquiry into the “magic cosmion of order,” from its evocative constitution to repetitive objectification and the systematic murder of alternatives. The deformative potential of the “magic of the word” implies the active divergence in the “magic imagination” between dream and reality. Thus “magicians” use “grimoires” and “magic operations” for a “magic effect.” The “magic trick” does not work however, so Voegelin can diagnose the “magic program,” and in particular the “magic act of violence” as a symptom stemming from the rejection of reason, a spiritual disease seeking to realize its utopian dream by transfiguring reality.

Identified as the outburst of magic imagination, the magic dream is deliberatively used to control or influence factors, intending its images as the archetypal symbols of divine power, whose evocative power of language, “the primitive magic relation between a name and the object it denotes,” transforms the field of human forces into an ordered unit in the evocative act—what Voegelin calls the “magic cosmion of a constituted order.”[1]

Voegelin main concern with these “magic evocations—that is, historical articulations of experience constitutive or regulative of political order”—is due to the “power of magic evocation,” the function of the immanent psychological language that evokes the presumption that any term refers to an objective reality, facilitated by a persuasive “symbol of the magic unit,” whereby the power of name to evoke a political unit is described “as something not magically but empirically and objectively real.”[2]

The privileging of utilitarian mastery of reality becomes an idolatry of sorts, where science is held as the key to curing evil and transform humanity. For Voegelin, “the interrelation of science and power, and the consequent cancerous growth of the utilitarian segment of existence, has injected a strong element of magic culture into modern civilization.” It is for this reason, the attempt to “create an absolute cosmos out of the finite forces of human desire and will” that Voegelin is able to tell us the process “may be called magic.”[3] Voegelin explains:

“By accident, studying other problems, I found for instance that the term magic, in the sense of the magic of the word, appears for the first time in a production by Gorgias the sophist, in the fifth century, in the Encomion Helenes, where he speaks of the magic of the power of Paris in persuading Helen to come along with him. That’s where the magic of the word appears. And he compares that magic of the word to the magic of addiction to drugs. So you have two main sources for getting drugged: either the magic of words or chemical drugs.” 382

Such structuring power in the form and function of language implies its close connection with divinity and the many names attributed to the eternal, self-existent nature of God. Voegelin’s concern with the legalese that transfers power to the sovereign, through which a group transforms itself into a person with distinctive political force in history, is apparent: Throughout history, this “magic function of kingship” creates political order by symbolizing it through a unity of human personality, imposing a conceptual framework in which speech assumes itself as a function of God, bestowed to man by God, for example to Adam in the Old Testament, or Thoth, interpreting the will of God in words, through which all things are made, coming into being through an act of speech. This power of naming divinity becomes the symbol of infinite perfection, a royal art, emphasizing human power and will in the “reascension” toward spiritual enlightenment to accomplish marvelous actions.[4] The difference between the magic dream and reality is therefore, for Voegelin, the “activist’s faith in his power to transfigure the structure of reality. He must imagine himself to be a magician…”[5]

Voegelin recognizes this “magic opus” as a System of Science, a second reality intending itself as an operation in first reality, attempting to escape control and judgment by the criteria of First Reality: the System’s “magic program” intends human transformation as a technical “magic effect,” not through gradual moral reformation, but via “total revolution” and the “orgy of destruction” it offers.[6] The dream denotes a self-generating reality that disposes actual reality through speech acts and language, purely imaginative acts with no basis in reality whatsoever.

In turn, new evocative orders are self-interpreted by utopian activist dreamers who expect the first reality to conform to the second reality of the dream, distinguished by a “trick action” from ordinary action that results in a “transfigured reality”— The magic, Voegelin shows, does not work but rather “reveals the terror at the core of the magic dream.”[7]

The elimination of an essential feature of human nature defines the dream as a utopia, whose disenchantment gives rise to spirited revolt against the injustice of such an act. Voegelin reiterates the disconnect between the means and end inherent to the process, explaining how most “ideologies” are in fact “magic operations in the same sense that Malinowski uses magic of the Trobriand Islanders,” beliefs and rudimentary rites standardized into permanent traditional forms that enable man to carry out with confidence important tasks—“the sublime folly of hope,” which, if used carelessly, becomes dangerous blasphemy.[8]

In a sense, Voegelin defines magic, especially the “magic of violence,” by its inefficacy for transforming reality into its intended object. His point that “magical activism” has been catastrophic for the process of history is vindicated in his analysis of Hegel, the “master magician” of the 19th century.[9] Hegel attempts to conjure an image of history, using it as an instrument of power, so that the “grimoire of the magician…will evoke for everybody the shape and the reconciliation that for himself he cannot achieve in the reality of his existence.” Knowledge of this system of science allows one to learn the “magic words that will evoke the shape of things to come.” Thus Hegel’s Science of Spirit is a search for the “magic words” and the “magic force” “that will determine the future course of history by raising ‘consciousness’ to its state of perfection.”[10]

Voegelin offers the only true test there is: “The effectiveness of the grimoire depends on the transformation of First into Second reality as a fait accompli.”[11] Hegel’s does not. The scientism invoked by Hegel is a magic attempt to achieve mastery over history and reality, and ultimately fails.  Here, Voegelin traces the magician’s dream to its origin in the “activist’s passion of transforming the truth of divinely created order into the terror of humanly created nontruth, if not antitruth.” By making the imaginary results of the magic operation acceptable as real resolutions to real problems in reality—whether changing the nature of man by writing a book or resorting to violence; the judgment embedded in the utopian imagination is realized as a formative social force in the world. For in substituting phenomenal for substantial reality, the atrocity does indeed change reality in the manifestation of the “magic act of substitution.”[12] As Voegelin explains,

Magic means the attempt to realize a desired end that cannot be realized if one takes into account the structure of reality. You cannot by magic operations jump out the window and fly up—even if you so desire. If you try such things—for instance, producing a change in the nature of man by the dictatorship of the proletariat—you are engaged in a magical operation. There you have the problem of disease and the magic.”[13]

Voegelin diagnoses the act of violence as a symptom of a disease of the mind, prompting his concern for its pathogenesis and the structure of consciousness that both confuses dream and reality and makes it a real force in society and history.[14] Yet in pursuing the surface motivations for resistance “to the extreme of their expression in magic operations,” Voegelin’s analysis

“could not be conducted without constantly touching on the deeper stratum of resistance, i.e., on its source in the structure of questioning consciousness itself. In the depth of the quest, formative truth and deformative untruth are more closely related than the language of ‘truth’ and ‘resistance’ would suggest.”[15]

Voegelin names this rejection of reason, in which one believes themselves possessed of a magical power to transfigure reality, and where the two images rival each other for the claim of reality, a “spiritual disease,” or “pneumapathology,” his analysis of which emerges in his most mature works, as in the “key to all his other works,” where he specifically identifies the magical dream to abolish the reality we participate in: [16]

“At the extreme of this revolt in consciousness, ‘reality’ and the ‘Beyond’ become two separate entities, two ‘things,’ to be magically manipulated by suffering man for the purpose of either abolishing ‘reality’ altogether and escaping into the ‘Beyond,’ or of forcing the order of the ‘Beyond’ into ‘reality’…The first of the magic alternatives is preferred by the Gnostics of antiquity, the second one by the modern gnostic thinkers.” [17]

To summarize what has just occurred in this last section, research indicates that from Voegelin’s first encounter of the magic cosmion of order, his in-depth analysis of the magic of word, magically evoked by those claiming divine inspiration, precipitated a theory of active divergence in the magic imagination of dream and reality: self-described magicians use magic operations whose magical effects—the system of science, grimoire, and magic program—are found to not work; Moreover, the active rejection of reality is no more apparent than in the attempt to transfigure it through the magic of violence, which collapses into pneumapathology.

 —

In the next sections, we explore the relationship between gnostic revolution and revolutionary gnosis, the various disciplines of chronology, chorology, and cosmology in understanding the nature of space-time and the expression of its order, as well as the movement of a divine presence as it is contextualized by the silence it is birthed from, and its potential for ecstasy, a stepping out of ordinary states of consciousness for the sake of moving toward wholeness…

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Magic, Mysticism, and the Redirection of Energy

“By Being, It is.” -Parmenides

There is hardly a subject more elusive than magic, a word conjuring paradoxical images, illusions, and impossible happenings—phenomena that explode the known parameters of ordinary reality. Magic forces a reconsideration of the nature of existence in the acknowledged failure to grasp the causal mechanism that lays hidden behind the mystery of any performed trickery.

In Israel Regardie’s Tree of Life, magic and yoga form two distinct branches (techniques) of Mysticism, the sacred art of ecstatic union of self and universe, in comprehensive consciousness adjusting to “larger, more harmonious ends.” (Regardie 1932) In this sense, magic deliberately intends the exaltation of the imagination and soul to transcend the normal plane of thought, providing the foundational event of mystical psychology: the experience of transcendence that induces a “disturbance of consciousness.” (Voegelin 2000) In its movement toward transcendence, the soul’s spiritual outbursts become ontic events that manifest the social fields constituting an evolutionary history.

Yggdrasil

Here, transcendence originates in the tension between spiritual and mundane orders, reorienting one to a primal experience invoking the complex network of cosmic analogies, rooted in a common source. Any hermeneutics of transcendence will subsequently radiate symbols to communicate this primal tension, harmonizing spirit and matter through symbolic concepts to effect corresponding physical effects; and it is this process that differentiates magic from mysticism. For whereas mysticism is a method of changing one’s perception and experience of reality by empowering one’s mind, magic, by contrast, changes reality itself. (Garb 2014)

In her landmark text Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill holds that mysticism in its pure form is the “science of union with the absolute,” an “approach to the Unitive Life” that is “freely beyond doctrine”—the art of establishing conscious relation with the Absolute to lead a spiritual life. (Underhill 1911) She explores the relation of the mystic tradition to vitalism, psychology, theology, symbolism, and magic, detailing the “Mystic Way” as the process of awakening, purification, and illumination of the self, drawing from such mystics as St. Teresa, Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, and many more…

This mystic path is contrasted from the path of magic, in which “the will unites with the intellect in an impassioned desire for supersensible knowledge.” (Underhill, pg. 71) Magic thus becomes the “antithesis” to a mysticism in which “the will is united with the emotions in an impassioned desire to transcend the sense-world, in order that the self may be joined by love to the one eternal and ultimate Object of love; whose existence is intuitively perceived by that which we used to call the soul…” (ibid) The difference between mysticism and magic is, for Underhill, described as the difference between love as an instinct of the heart, on the one hand, and the deliberate exaltation of will as an activity of the intellect on the other.

Mystic union is the fulfillment of mystic love, a total dedication, desire, and tendency of the soul towards its source, annihilating the illusion of separation: “By the surrender of her selfhood in its wholeness, the perfecting of her love, she slid from Becoming to Being, and found her true life hidden in God.” (Underhill, pg. 449) Magic, distinguished from ecstatic union with this Source, reaffirms the material plane yet denies the freedom of Reality by extending, rather than escaping, the boundaries of the material world, effecting a desired end by a forced realization of will through knowledge. For “in this hard-earned acquirement of power over the Many, he tends to forget the One,” seeking instead control over the world instead by the disciplined mastery of the human will.  (Underhill pg. 162)

Yet does the reconstitution of the human mind not inevitably change the very nature of the world itself? The psychoactive mediation of a deeper sense is instructive, indeed formative; any re-presentation of transcendent experience symbolizes a sacred integration of the hidden, unconscious articulation and will of the Source, whereby new potentiality in the development of consciousness and activity is released into the planetary organism, engendering a zone of vibrational frequencies. (Runhyar 1982) The order of energy shifts as patterns of resonance to transcendent attractors, recombining essential (archetypal) frequencies as cultural structures resonate to new vibrations in tune with natural rhythms that reflect the creative activity of the “divine order” of the “gods.”

In this way we can understand the cosmic whole as a harmony integrating its differentiated tones into the music of the spheres, releasing a vibrancy of spiritual tone whose psychic resonance impacts the human psyche, individually and collectively. Through “divine love,” the mystic mind of wholeness harmonizes this universal plenum of vibratory energy, whose melody is ensouled in vibrating psycho-mental space. As other members of culture resonate, vibrant with this new, creative tone, their entire being becomes attuned to the rhythms and the fundamental vibration of the cultural reality.

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Enchanting new forms of vibration, the sympathetic relation between inner and outer dimensions of an interconnected whole can perhaps now be described as “magical,” bridging the Spiritual and Physical planes in the experience and delivery of one’s full potential in a mysterious and universal energy field. Our cells, DNA, and emotional process directly effect the physical world we contact, influencing matter through instantaneous communication in an interconnected field. The archetypal resonance of magic redirects energy to the original movement of a species, whose intelligences inform the whole-bodied awareness of an instinct evolving physically and consciously to purposely affect relations towards its continued survival. Perhaps in this way we can more ably recover our place as fractal expressions of a common energy and forge cosmic fire as it flares forth from our own lives, lessening its distortion by according to a divine harmony in touch with its natural rhythm; hoping, dreaming, and acting to remember our truest nature, rooted in the phylogenetic Tree of Life. 

Outside Sources:

Garb, Jonathan (2014) Lecture 1.2 “Magic, Mysticism, and Psychology.” In Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought. Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved 2/2/14 from Coursera (https://class.coursera.org/mysticthought)

Regardie, Israel (1932) The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic. Llewellyn Publishers: St. Paul, MN

Rudhyar, Dane (1982) The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music. Shambhala: Boulder, CO

Underhill, Evelyn (1911) Mysticism: The Preeminent Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. Doubleday: New York, NY

Voegelin, Eric. (2000) Order and History: In Search of Order. (Ed. Ellis Sandoz) In the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. University of Missouri Press: Columbia, MO

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Occult Science and the Hermetic Arts

Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?

-Carl Jung

The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows.

-A. N. Whitehead

Truth is a perspective of reality, arising from man’s participation, with his conscious existence, in the reality of which he is a part. Hence, the consciousness of a reality intended as its object by the desire to know is accompanied by the consciousness of the quest as an event within the reality intended: the human intentionality of the quest is surrounded by the divine mystery of the reality in which it occurs…

-Eric Voegelin

The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.

-Thomas Berry

 ParadisoCanto31

How do spiritual masters manifest a lived understanding? And how can we rethink education in light of an integral consciousness? It is in this context that the human creature embarks upon an esoteric method for healing by restoring spiritual balance, with occult science offering empirical evidence for the hidden forces that aid such healing.

In Clymer’s Occult Science, or Hidden Forces (The republication, completely revised, and reinterpretation of L.H. Anderson’s Occult Science and Encausse’s (Papus) Science Occulte), the voice of the Divine Oracle / Arcane Philosophy teaches that “[wo]man is a creature possessing God-like powers and potentialities; with unlimited possibilities; that [s]he may become a creator, not the victim of circumstances, and has within himself[/herself] the power to shape his[/her] environments according to his[/her] Will…”

Paraphrasing, when these powers and forces are properly understood and intelligently developed they indicate a newer and better mode of living. Those with high ideals who study the Occult or Arcane forces of mind and Spirit, the control of matter, and the use of these forces toward achievement in the realm of various fields of human benefit, accomplish seeming miracles, especially in the elimination of vicious habits by influencing these former victims toward a better course in life. It is thus entirely possible to attract, direct and redeem by the thoughts we hold in the mind, those who are inclined to follow destructive tendencies.

“We become, by desire and effort, the receiver and the redirector of any and all forces, powers and energies in the Macrocosm of which we are a replica, and to which we correspond, as we harmonize ourselves with the operating Law…The center of all permanent power is in the Soul, the Spiritual self, but this Center is non-existent until such time as [wo]man awakens to [her/]his possibilities and makes an active effort to awaken this center; bring it into activity and become receptive to the forces powers and energies which are both material and Spiritual, therefore permanent. ”

Our thoughts become magnets, continually attracting to us those things and people toward which our thoughts are turned, so that the nature and quality of  thoughts become the ruling power in a life; the desire-thoughts REbirth us after another higher pattern. Occult truths are absorbed into the thought, to become desires, ultimately permeating the whole of being. When love enters life’s activity, the Soul’s Desire to feel the Willingness to make Efforts necessary activates hidden powers and forces to achieve one’s aim—these inner forces of power providing the experience of rapport with divine presence (experienced intellectually, emotionally, and physically).

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Brian Swimme writes in his chapter “The Art of Forging Cosmic Fire” (from The Universe is a Green Dragon): “The universe gives fire—real fire, the fire of the heavens…Let’s start with your present moments of experience: this involves sensations, thoughts, feelings, expectations, and hopes, the whole subjectivity that defines your now. We think of this as the psychic manifestation of body’s neurophysiological processes. Electricity flows through your nervous system in physical correlation to your subjective experiences…So from a physical point of view, the movement of ions in your brain corresponds to your subjective experience. Different ion flows would give you qualitatively different experiences; or equally true, a qualitatively different mood would manifest as a different movement of ions in your nervous system…right now, this moment, ions are flowing this way and that because of the manner in which you have organized energy from the Sun…what you are thinking and feeling this very moment is possible only through the cosmic fire…we have the power to forge [to shape and discharge in a manner worthy of its numinous origins] cosmic fire. What can compare with that?”

By attuning to a universe operating in harmony with exact laws (“habits”), the cosmic human can become an agent for its application, with health, well-being, and success becoming a magnetic/attracting force of a power which, as one comes into contact with it, transmutes or spiritualizes the Soul, activating its potential through desired effort to bring material and spiritual forces, powers, and energies into cultural permanence. If mind governs energy/information flow, and the deliberate use of attention governs the mind—whose behavior (energy, force, power) irrupts into nature—then by redirecting one’s Soul/Life-Force towards Love (the “supreme emotion”), one can experience successful living by intentionally emanating its divine presence.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his Teachings on Love, “Happiness is only possible with true love. True love has the power to heal and transform the situation around us and bring deep meaning to our lives…Love, compassion, joy and equanimity are the very nature of an enlightened person. They are the four aspects of true love within us and within everyone and everything.”  (The Buddha tells that whoever practices the Four Immeasurable Minds together with the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path will arrive deeply at enlightenment.)

This is especially reminding of the hermetic arts, with magic, alchemy, astrology, and divination deriving from a common source, a relation binding opposites into the very spiritualized material the Emerald Tablet of Hermes calls “the power of powers” that “overcomes all subtle things and penetrates all solid things,” forged in the space where Heaven descends and Earth ascends to create the world. Alchemy is the sacred science of subtle states of human and cosmos, following nature’s mode of operation, beginning with the unity or wholeness of opposites, to realize their reality in the experience of the world.

“This primal energy, which is associated with fire, order, light, and even being, may also be identified with the Archetypal Image of the soul itself, but also with the imaginal organ that will transform the world itself into soul, that is, effect its transfiguration into the radiant body of incorruptible luminous fire that is its true nature (Green Hermeticism, pg. 151)

Treeoflife0

Hildegard understood that once the soul was so purified it became Wisdom and Love, those who were purified were perfected in the three realms of Sophia that are, traditionally, the perfection of the human state—Trismegistus—master of the three realms of the Cosmic Tree of Life: heaven, earth, and the underworld. Here we are reminded of Sophocles’s exclamation in his Fragments,

“O thrice-blessed they

That ere they pass to Hades have beheld

These Mysteries; for them only, in that world,

Is life; the rest have utter misery.”

Indeed it is through the hermetic arts that the entire corpus of Western esoteric philosophy and occult practices can be synthesized, understood, and effectively applied. In this way do the alchemist and magus become a living “philosophical stone,” the mind/brain (mercury) bridging self-consciousness (sulphur) and the body (salt).

Within such a framework we can regard the resonance of cosmic ecology, culture, personal magnetism (“soul-force”), and language, to anticipate an archetypal calculus whose subject includes knowledge to catalyze the rate of spiritual change and better recognize how space can increasingly be held for divinity to incarnate into various bodies. These come down to us through forms like Steiner’s Occult Science and Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, which further communicate and change the structure of the cognitive mind by embodying a fuller relation to the One’s Self and Cosmic Psyche. This is how Antoine Faivre can point to four fundamental characteristics intrinsic to the esoteric approach to Divine Wisdom: 1) correspondences, 2) living nature, 3) imagination and mediation, and 4) the experience of transmutation (with two other relative/non-intrinsic aspects that frequently appear in such study, 5) concordance and 6) transmission).

If physical action reflects a state of mind, then mental transmutation must have a transformative effect; if one knows the “magical” procedures to induce divine transformation, healing can take place through the restoration of spiritual balance to resolve any crisis. As one Hermetic Axiom of The Kybalion discloses, “If the Universe is Mental, then Mind must be the highest power affecting its phenomena. If this be understood then all the so-called “miracles” and “wonder-workings” are seen plainly for what they are. The ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental.”

Writing “curricula” (that gets practitioners to a state of eco-spiritual harmony by understanding the principles, patterns, strange attractors, dissipative structures, etc. that exist in our minds as they have been concentrated in alignment to a numinous fire radiating Goodness into a living culture) might be a hubristic case of overreach. But with the future of life on earth hanging in the balance, we need (to know how to effect) a miracle.

The originating  power that conditions our present moment offers a creative intensity, permeating the evolution of an archetypal process to consciously participate in the psychophysical order of the emerging Earth community. By altering the mode of consciousness to assist in the mutual enhancement of a life-force made manifest, humans can begin to take our place in a primal, sacred, and divine state of  co-creative enactivity.

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The Nobility of Karmic Resonance

“The ecological and social crises we face are inflamed by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.”

-Joanna Macy

A power larger than ourselves may be needed to discipline our behavior, govern our boundaries, act as a reminder to restrict our actions, and call us to moral maturity. In many cultures, karma acts as a force more powerful than humans—an intertwining of existence—establishing reciprocal relations between human and non-human nature: between humans and gods, via glaciers.

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Our inability to protect the natural world indicates an insufficient reverence, where climate change is generated as a moral rebuke: Glaciers in Asia feed its greatest rivers, acting as the lifelines for two billion people. When the ice and snow are diminished by changing weather patterns exacerbated by human activity, then to upset the natural order is to induce punishment from the gods that maintain the energy cycles that allow for that same human activity.

At the moment, our planning processes are inefficient (ignorant? wicked? evil?): they overlook the multivalent aspects inherent in the necessary mitigation and adaptation to current crises and future scenarios, arising from an incomplete understanding of our own interrelatedness, and leading ultimately to a collective suffering.

Our lives reflect the practiced art of imagining, grasping the qualitative relations of a wholeness—the essence of a beauty we can only strive to make sense of. Applying an activist epistemology to ethical and political realms offers insight into the matter of the nature of reality: the kind of world process in which we pursue a common destiny. Becoming conscious of our relation to the earth through spiritual life-place learning, we nurture the psychogeographies of our souls. Perhaps then this perfect moral storm that transcends disciplines can enthuse a new ethics to hasten new cultural forms imbued with moral and spiritual positions to emphasize non-materialist values.

Our experience reveals the physical operation of a cosmic organism. Pure generativity concentrates to attract inspiration, infinitely transcending stabilized values that maintain the creative destruction of a mutually enhancing process, changing us to respond to the needs of a greater whole as it communicates its beauty through our own lives. A collapsing civilization is nothing but the decrepit activity of a broken earth system’s diseased power as it expresses the universal essence of an omnipresent struggle to survive. Yet if all powers are one and seamlessly pervasive in a self-display of radiant energy, certain cultural practices can make it easier to resonate with “goodness,” or right relation, as embodied in a given life-place

karma

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

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A Cognitive Theory of Magic

Unauthorized magic is judged as a hindrance for the correct unfolding of an overlying event-frame—the salvation of the soul.

A final summary of the relation between established religion and unauthorized magical action: Magic in general can be seen as an innovative force in three ways.

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First, magical rituals can effect the emergence of new religious systems through the process of ritualization leading to symbolic interpretation. This is strongest in cases of non-formalized, agent-based magical agency involving the construction of brand new constitutive rules of ritual action, but it can also be found in possible reinterpretations of known symbolic elements. Through their employment in magical rituals, known symbols are stripped of conventional relations to other symbols, a process which facilitates transformation of meaning.

Second, magic is focused on ritual efficacy and is therefore open for import of foreign ritual elements and structures believed to enhance this efficacy. This tendency is strengthened by the de-symbolizing aspects of magical actions in which iconic and indexical properties of objects are utilized at the expense of symbolic relations, thus facilitating import of efficacious elements and structures independent of their symbolic embedding. In this respect, magic can be described as a ‘syncretistic engine’ that brings about exchange of ritual elements and structures between religious traditions and ethnic groups. The de-symbolizing aspect of magical actions enhances this, as ‘exotic’ signs seem to be ascribed extraordinary power.

Finally, magic is indirectly innovative by effecting a reaction in established religions against competition from unauthorized magical rituals. Thus, non-institutionalized ritual actions indirectly affect the form and structure of established and insitutionalized religious rituals, at least in cases where these are confronted.

Instead of understanding magic and religion as two equal systems opposing each other, I propose a more dynamic explanation. Magic is a general mode of ritual behavior that, when appearing outside established, authorized and institutionalized religious rituals, prompts the creation of either new systems of beliefs and religious institutions, or provoke a re-evaluation, reflection and possibly change of already established ritual structures. Utilizing very basic cognitive processes, magic is a permanent force in the historical development of institutionalized religion. It constantly challenges established religions’ abstract and context-distant symbolic interpretations by directing attention to concrete, context-near and goal-directed understandings of ritual action. Due to the very structure of our cognitive system, the disenchantment of the world proposed by Weber is always followed by a re-enchantment, creating new ways of infusing our everyday world with magical agency.  (190-191, Jesper Sörensen)

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Love Actually: Reflections on Steiner’s Anthroposophy and Whitehead’s Philosophy in “American Philosophy and Rudolf Steiner”

“When a hybrid physical feeling occurs, the eternal object that was previously felt only with appetition is now felt physically, so that it is unrestrictedly realized. It now does confer definitenesss upon the individual. The novel possibility is no longer simply felt appetitively as a possibility; it now actually characterizes the experience. It is the difference, for example, between wanting to love all sentient beings and actually loving them.”

David Ray Griffin, pg. 177-178, in American Philosophy and Rudolf Steiner

In American Philosophy, Griffin’s chapter devotes space to an otherwise neglected aspect of Steiner’s philosophy, namely his “esoteric disclosures on such topics as the evolution of consciousness, karma and rebirth, diverse sciences and arts, and the inner life of the child (which forms the basis of the Waldorf approach to education).” (pg. xxvii) Steiner’s “all-embracing interpretations of the universe” that “have been out of fashion for most of this century,” (xvi) are, as with Whitehead’s, intended to overcome the duality between nature and spirit to gain insight into those “occult” forces otherwise hidden to sense perception.

Here, Griffin’s insight into the overlap between Whitehead’s account of this process and Steiner’s “spiritual discipline” is helpful to understand reality in a more inclusive way. Steiner’s Anthroposophy and Whitehead’s philosophy similarly seeks to provide a framework to understand the power of ideas and their effect on reality, as well as the implications of such ideas.

Griffin details a number of agreements between Whitehead and Steiner’s project to 1) reconcile science and religion, 2) provide an inclusive scheme of thought, 3) articulate the relevance of immediate experience to a worldview, 4) understand the existence of genuine freedom, 5) define pan-experientialism (“interiority”), 6) point out correspondences and interdependence between the macrocosm and microcosm, 7) overcoming the subject/object divide, 8) engender ontological romanticism 9) describe the evolution of consciousness (the idea that cultural evolution involves actual changes in the intra-psychic structure of existence) 10) recognize a divine influence, with Christ as revelation of nature of God, whose essence operates as love; 11) place God in relation to the world, 12) understand the reality of nonsensory perception, 13) recognize that knowledge of objects is not impossible, and 14) define an epistemological monism through which reality can be directly perceived.

Whitehead’s support for some of Steiner’s “occult” notions is similarly given, emphasizing A) Occult qualities and powers, in which creativity is recognized in the human mind in sensory perception, B) Extrasensory Perception, and ways objects rise to the level of conscious perception through perceptual modes, C) The Akashic Record, in which the distance between moments are erased so that knowledge of the past is possible through spiritual perception of the consequent nature of God, D) Divine Influence, or the subjective aim of a finite occasion with the power of self-determination even in relation to God, and E) Life after Death, and the unity of experience that is not dependent on the body.

I’d first like to draw attention to the hidden transference of conscious memory to the Oversoul as it reincarnates throughout time as soul. In this way, the spiritual discipline of Anthroposophy relates to the process philosophy of organism in the relation of esoteric wisdom to divine source, or the ground of conscious creativity. As self-determined novelty is felt mentally and then physically (hybrid), the “life” that exists becomes the personality of the living hybrid’s physical prehensions over time. This makes for a possible way in which the soul can survive bodily death, in that the conscious remnants of soul might be integrated in the Akashic record or the “mental” aspect of the physical cosmos.

Whitehead defines the human soul in terms of its relationship to novelty—a relation of intensity. Life is intensely felt as a “hybrid physical feeling,” the self-determining novelty as it is felt mentally and intensely experienced in an actual occasion of experience. Novelty as hybrid physical feeling is the way “progressive evolution” and the “transformation of the human soul” occurs. This is how living prehensions connecting occasion to occasions are understood as hybrid physical prehensions, transformed by the novelty that was felt mentally in the prehended occasion and felt physically by the prehending occasion. That is, if a form or eternal object [i.e. soul] is a pure possibility, to feel it mentally is to feel it as a possibility; consequently, when the eternal object is felt physically, it is unrestrictedly realized, conferring definiteness upon the individual and characterizing the experience.

Griffin explains this as the difference “between wanting to love all sentient beings and actually loving them.” (pg. 178) It is the character that is experienced and intensely felt in those hybrid occasions that live into each new moment through the intensity of thought, feeling, and desire: “It is when the novel possibility for one’s own existence is felt with sufficient desire or appetition that a hybrid physical feeling can occur.” 178

Steiner ideas of reverence is similar to Whitehead in this regard, which “awakens in the soul a sympathetic power through which we attract qualities in the beings around us, which would otherwise remain concealed.” As the soul feeds on feelings, each occasion of the soul’s life acts as the creative synthesis of a multitude of feelings. Sympathy, then, provides the feeling of the feeling in another, to feel conformally with that other. This devotion of souls for others thus opens one to receiving more intense feeling and become conscious of their feelings. Griffin thus opens up the question of whether Steiner’s reverence allows for extrasensory conscious perception: “Love is a tie that binds; in this case it would bind souls together telepathically.” 179

By connecting Steiner’s method of intuitive thought and feeling and Whitehead’s divine aim directed towards the intensification of experience, we are provided an occasion by which love opens us to conscious knowledge of qualities of beings of which we had previously no conscious knowledge. The deepest mysteries are hidden, perceived, and attained in one’s personal world of thought and feeling:

Act of Will V4The “occasion of experience arises out of whole past universe and is a microcosm, containing that universe, including God, within itself. If we could become fully conscious of the feelings at the base of our experience in each moment, we would indeed know “the deepest mysteries.” The way to deeper knowledge is through, not around, our feelings.”

This provides the impetus to craft “contemplative practices” with which to form right kind of thoughts and through these thoughts develop certain kinds of feeling: “thoughts entertained with intensity are seen to be capable of making a difference for the better.” 180-181 Whitehead too sees religion as a system of general truths, intensely apprehended to effectively transform character. Here, thought is intensely felt over time to bore itself into the soul, to produce real change. As one can only attain something by desiring it, one should thus not try to eliminate the desire for spiritual knowledge and self-transformation, but rather educate the desires. Steiner believes “desire will always tend to fulfillment if backed by a particular force,” so that we can learn to cherish and foster a particular desire to bring with it its own fulfillment.

3 levels integrated

What force fulfills life? Esoteric cosmologies like that of Sri Aurobindo suggest the subjective experience of Brahman offers insight into the nature of reality. The soul is incarnate in the illusion of material space-time, though it maintains an ongoing and eternal relation (one-ness) with divinity. This incarnating aspect, the soul or psychic being, is the essence of the energetic quality that reincarnates from life to life. Aurobindo holds that there exists a supreme power, the Supermind, which is the first emanation and can be brought into play through the practice of yoga to yoke life, mind and matter with sublime states of consciousness, being, delight and power and thereby manifest more of our inherent divinity.

The point of the soul is to live in relation to the nature of god. The life of the soul marks the distance between living occasions of novelty, creatively expressing itself as the conscious concrescence of ConsciousBlissForce (Sachichananda, the subjective experience of Brahman). As each individual occasion culminates in this larger process, Nature Alive emerges in the culminating organism, the Everpresent Now of Time.

In each moment (each actual occasion) the self-consciousness of divine presence acts as the process of organic becoming—Life—a microcosm containing God within itself. ConsciousBlissForce integrally enacts itself as the life of the soul, reincarnating in those masters and doctors healing the world (overcoming separation) to actualize loving force in Time.

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Holotropy, Synchronicity, and the Akashic Field (with a little Astrology thrown in for good measure)

Our dominant culture’s fragmented worldview is contrasted with emerging “new paradigm” sciences that point to the unbroken wholeness of a total existence. David Bohm suggests consciousness and matter are of one order, where “the movements of both are the outcome of related projections of a common higher-dimensional ground.” (Bohm 1980, pg. 209) Here, time is conceived as the manifestation of this ground into a sequence of movements that connect matter and consciousness in a living process. As cell assemblies form neural circuits, cognitive processes manifest “a synchronization of diverse, rhythmically oscillating neural circuits” to provide for the primary conscious experience. (Capra 1996, pg. 293) Ken Wilber  proposes  mind is thus not reducible to the brain, but rather is the interiority of awareness, phenomenally experienced “from within.” (Wilber 1996 pg. 127)

In a similar fashion, Gregory Bateson indicates that patterns of configuration emerge in those units whose completed circuits “show mental characteristics,” where mind is “immanent in the circuitry.” (Bateson 1991, pg. 261) He emphasizes the circuitry extends past the limitations of the isolated individual, depending instead upon a larger ecological network. Conscious systems, therefore, can be understood as organized (meta) patterns of living communication. As the quantum vacuum generates the reality from which life (as embodied mind) emerges, the patterns of neural connectivity project processes of a deeper order, perceiving from within the cosmic energy circuits that exist in the evolution of an original primeval fireball– what we might call the “Big Bang,” or “Great Flaring Forth.” Put otherwise, mind and material are entangled aspects connected a-causally as the phylogenetic “tree of life” becomes consciously self-aware in its human form.

Ervin Laszlo articulates this cosmology as a self-referential process in which we interpret the frequencies of a deeper order. As the quantum vacuum generates a holographic field accessible to the human mind—what he calls the Akashic Field (A-Field)—information is recorded in the ensuing interference patterns and act as the memory of the universe.

“The waves propagate in the vacuum and interfere with the waves created by the bodies and brains of other people, giving rise to complex holograms. Generations after generations of humans have left their holographic traces in the A-field. These individual holograms integrate in a superhologram, which is the encompassing hologram of a tribe, community, or culture. The collective holograms interface and integrate in turn with the super-superhologram of all people. This is the collective information pool of humankind.” (Laszlo 2004, pg. 150)

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By registering these patterns as they emerge from a primordial energy, supersensitive living organisms embedded in the dynamic creativity of the universe activate and bring these archetypal energies into conscious self-awareness. Moreover, the identification of individual consciousness with the greater “cosmic consciousness” underpins the experience of each great spiritual tradition, in which one becomes Self-conscious of the “mysterious and primordial emptiness and nothingness that is conscious of itself and is the ultimate cradle of all existence.” (Grof 2006b, pg. 139)  The whole universal co-creative process thus incarnates in the human in this way, expressing its fractal nature in the subtle reflection of a deeper order that remains self-similar across scale.

“Our true nature is divine—God, Cosmic Christ, Allah, Buddha, Brahma, the Tao, Great Spirit. Although the process of creation separates and alienates us from our source and our true identity, our awareness of this fact is never completely lost. The psyche’s deepest motivating force on all levels of consciousness evolution is the drive to return to the experience of divinity. However, the constraining conditions of the consecutive stages of development prevent a full experience of our own divinity and force us to search for various surrogates that are ultimately inadequate and unsatisfactory.” (Grof 2006a, pg. 296)

Such scientific developments point to the transformative power of non-ordinary states of consciousness in mobilizing healing potential to resolve spiritual crisis through energetic healing. Rick Tarnas writes, “Spirituality is now recognized as not only an important focus of psychological theory and research but an essential foundation of psychological health and healing.” (Tarnas 2001, pg. 65) Given as a major source of spiritual experience then, this “healing potential of ecstatic states suggests new orientation in psychiatric therapy.” (Stan Grof 2008, pg. 289)

For instance, Grof recognizes the psychological effects of LSD can “induce transpersonal experiences in which there is access to accurate new information about the universe through extrasensory channels[, making] it difficult to accept that such experiences are stored in the brain.” (Grof 2012, pg. 116) Rather than assuming the manifestation of consciousness to be the product of an individual human brain, we might more accurately describe  “subconscious domains [to] extend far beyond the confines of the subject’s brain and organism.” (Laszlo undated, pg. 27) Considering the universe holographically then, the brain as its holographic expression projects reality by participating in a deeper whole, “permanently recorded in an immaterial field to which each of us has under certain circumstances experiential access.” (Grof 2012, pg. 236)

By transcending personal boundaries and experiencing the healing field of an unconscious ordering principle, individuals can amplify their connection to a collective unconscious, catalyzing through spiritual attunement the mental process needed for conscious integration.  Grof writes, “Only the experience of one’s divinity in a holotropic state of consciousness can ever fulfill our deepest needs.” (Grof 2012, pg. 188) The experience of divinity  offers archetypal awareness of the psyche’s embedded nature, establishing a cellular awareness of an underlying unity that our true nature is divine. As archetypes resonate like strange attractors in a common field, new patterns in consciousness can emerge to effect new paradigms to institutionalize and systematize a renewed and intended reality.

From entheogenic tribes to today’s entheogenic raves, the morphic resonance of a divine essence is reflected experientially into the whole of human history, each world containing this divinity within its own unique self. The movement toward wholeness is facilitated through thoughts and feelings held intensely over time, fulfilling the desire to imaginally grasp an essential and sensual beauty that provides ecstatic  experiences through new forms of artistry. As each person more fully radiates such divinity, emanating and reverberating with the deeper order, we are each able to perceive, interact, and respond to a seamlessly omnipresent energy in cultural displays of archetypal resonance. Those rituals that positively reflect the sacred event of moral freedom catalyze participation in  wise relations needed to heal ourselves and overcome separation by actualizing the telesomatic effects of a sympathetic force. In this way do we become conscious of time as a living process of universal communion, enacting the sensual experiences necessary to become self-aware; and in doing so, address energy blockages (traumas) through conscious integration.

It is this inner exploration of human systems that is in synchrony with the conscious evolution of cosmic transformation, where external occurrences and internal states can be recognized as manifestations of the same archetypal complex. Stan Grof suggests confrontation of archetypal stages of consciousness regularly occurs during important transits of corresponding planets, offering a method in experiential psychotherapy able to clarify the archetypal nature and timing of nonordinary states of consciousness:

“While the correlations concerning past experiences are primarily of theoretical interest, examining current transits can be extremely useful in the work with individuals undergoing “spiritual emergencies,” and the possibility of making remarkably accurate predictions of the archetypal character of nonordinary states based on future transits is an invaluable tool in the planning of psychedelic and holotropic sessions.” (Grof 2009, pg. 61)

Here, finally, are we offered a way to resolve the crisis of our day, looking inside ourselves for the causal forces that initiate our own collective suffering. As the inner is reflected into the outer, we might more consciously assume the world before us to be the illusion we have constructed for ourselves. This gives us impetus to reconsider our own relations, to ourselves and each other, so we can in turn be called to manifest our most cherished experiences, realizing what was formerly left unconscious.

“The subtle signals are there to be heard. The Universe is singing all the time. If we learn how to listen, we can probably hear something new, like a harmony that resonates within our own Beings. If we then feel for the upbeat and breathe with the music, we have only to lift our arms like the dancing Shiva, stamp out a rhythm with our feet, and dance.” (North 1994, pg. 28)

Bateson, Gregory (1991) A Sacred Unity: further steps to an ecology of mind. HaperCollins Publishers: New York, NY

Bohm, David (1980) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge: New York, NY

Capra, Fritjof (1996) The Web of Life: a new scientific understanding of living systems. Anchor Books: New York, NY

Grof, Stanislav (2006a) The Ultimate Journey: consciousness and the mystery of death.  Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Substances: Santa Cruz, CA

Grof, Stanislav (2006b) “The Akashic Field and the Dilemmas of Modern Consciousness Research,” in Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos: the rise of the integral vision of reality. (Ed. Ervin Laszlo) Inner Traditions: Rochester, VT

Grof, Stanislav (2008) LSD Psychotherapy: the healing potential of psychedelic medicine. MAPS: Santa Cruz, CA

Grof, Stanislav (2009) “Holotropic Research and Archetypal Astrology,” In Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. Vol 1 no. 1 (Summer 2009) Accessed 7/27/13 http://www.archaijournal.org/05_Archai_Grof_Holotropic_Research.pdf

Grof, Stanislav (2012) Healing our Deepest Wounds: the holotropic paradigm shift. Stream of Experience Productions: Newcastle, WA

Laszlo, Ervin (2004) Science and the Akashic Field: an integral theory of everything. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT

Laszlo, Ervin (Undated) “Subtle Connections: Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum,” Retrieved 7/28/13 http://www.stanislavgrof.com/pdf/Laszlo-Grof_and_Jung.pdf

Tarnas, Richard (2001) “A New Birth in Freedom: a (P)Review of Jorge Ferrer’s Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: a participatory vision of human spirituality.” In The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Volume 33, No. 1 San Francisco, CA

Tarnas, Richard (2006) Cosmos and Psyche: intimations of a new world view. Penguin Group: New York, NY

North, Carolyn (1994) Synchronicity: the anatomy of coincidence. Regent Press: Berkeley, CA

Wilber, Ken (1996) A Brief History of Everything. Shambhala Publications: Boston, MA

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