Monday, May 30, 2016

Part 4: The Stele of Jeu. Emanation, Self-Actualization, and the Ladder of the Spheres

Phanes and the Ladder of the Spheres digital photomanipulation 14 x 16

A friend passed along a YouTube (see below) of Israel Regardie reciting the Bornless Ritual. The friend, a Brit, mentioned that Regardie’s voice was kind of quaint—“like an old relative with that cockney” as he put it. I’m guessing that the equivalent would be me listening to my now long-past grandpa with his East Side Bowery New York accent. I had imagined that Regardie’s voice and delivery would be more elegant. I searched YouTube for a clip of someone orating the Stele of Jeu in original Greek but came up empty handed. (If anyone can direct me to such a video, I’d luv it). 

I was thinking that the most potent way to orate the Stele of Jeu would be in original Greek, with intonation of barbaric words and vowel sounds in proper ancient Greek pronunciation. After all, as explained in Part 3, the letters and sounds of the Greek alphabet were thought to have special mystical efficacy in perhaps much the same way that the Sanskrit and Hebrew alphabets were and still are thought to. On that note, scholar Judith Dillon, who has been in contact with me regarding my posts about the Stele of Jeu, explained that both the structure of and mysticism surrounding the Hebrew and Greek alphabets can be traced to the Phoenicians. Joscelyn Godwin, in his book The Seven Vowel Sounds explains that Hebrew sound mysticism was adapted from Egyptian mysticism, particularly in regard to intonation of vowel sounds, and this mystery was preserved in Graeco-Egyptian Gnosticism.1

In taking closer look at Marsanes (Codex X of the Nag Hammadi texts), we see that the fragmentary text is talking about sound combinations in relation to the “shapes” of the soul, qualities of angels, and the process of emanation from the Monad (“God” as the transcendent Absolute) to gross material existence.

On Emanation

A number of mystical ideologies operate under the premise that existence as we know it was not created by a primordial, self-caused personality, popularly called God. Rather, they operate under the premise that material existence is an “emanation” in which the “thing” that is Existence itself inscrutably divides and transforms Itself through a series of progressively denser stages until the physical world as we know it comes into being. This idea is found in Neoplatonic, Gnostic, Hermetic, Qabalist, Vedantist, and Tantric systems to name only those I’m somewhat familiar with.

Verse 35 from an esoteric Tantric meditation manual called the Saundarya-Lahari, which is the text-accompaniment of a famous Tantric image called Śri Chakra, explains it nicely:

You are the mind, you are space, and you also are fire.
You are water and earth, too.
When you have transformed yourself into the universe in this way,
There is nothing that exists in relation to you.
To transform yourself into the universe,
You assume the aspects of consciousness and bliss2 in the form of the power of Śiva.

It is important to understand the idea of emanation because this is the real rationale for chakra lore and for its Western parallels found in the Qabalist Tree of Life and the alchemical/hermetic ladder of the planets and Hermetic and Gnostic cosmogony.

Magical texts such as the Stele of Jeu may incorporate vowel or “barbarous” sounds as a way to work with the processes of emanation in a “path of return.” Writers, such as Godwin,1 have pointed out that the vowel sounds can correspond with the classical planets, which correspond with elements and with the psychic centers in the body in a way similar to “chakras” of Eastern Tantric lore. Like chakras, they are seen as forming a ladder of evolution and involution in the human psyche. Understanding and passing through their mysteries becomes a path of liberation and self-actualization.

A Visionary Experience with the Stele of Jeu

So, here is where I segue from being a nerd to begin discussion about how the practice of reciting the Stele of Jeu is going for me. How it’s been revealing itself, possibly playing out in my life.

I began doing the practice on May 15th and intend to complete a 40-day course. I begin the ritual with an opening that acknowledges spiritual ideals I take refuge in and also includes rituals of self-purification and casting of ritual space. I chant the ritual (a bit more mellifluously than Regardie orating the Bornless Rite) and conclude the ritual with a few minutes of meditation. With the exception of the second time I did the ritual, visionary content has been minimal. Frankly, at this point in my life, that is a good thing. The practice is mostly making me more “mindful,” which I will elaborate on in my next blog entry.

In any case, on the second day that I conducted the ritual, I had an interesting experience—the kind that people who do this sort of thing generally aim to have happen. During the preparatory part of my ritual, which involved chanting that was unrelated to Stele of Jeu text, I experienced some dynamic phenomena related to my foundations in yogic and Tantric Buddhist practices. Upon completion of the oration of the Stele of Jeu, I “heard” the statement “I am the seed of Atum.” At this point, I had not yet gathered information or made the leap about possible inferences to Ra in the text. The statement was a kind of foreshadowing--something I had experienced frequently while working with the Arbatel years ago. 

When I sat for meditation, which was actually more an exercise in cogitation that day, I was met by the inner vision of an erstwhile “spirit guide” who first emerged when I was doing astral temple/inner plane work with a Dione Fortune lineage years ago. The same character showed up again while doing Arbatel work. I entertained some disjointed images that “he” was “showing” me. When I “got” that a geometric shape I was seeing had something to do with the orphic egg, as if in response, a flood of images came into my mind, which I made a digital illustration of later that day.

I don’t give the same weight to visionary experiences as I once had. I see them as 1. dreamlike insights or ways of seeing that my subconscious mind commandeers and my conscious mind artificially spins into something intelligible or 2. epiphenomena (byproducts/symptoms) of a change in brain structure that can occur when we experience something new or break a pattern or habit—a change that manifests in thinking and behavior.

In any case, I got the idea that the image above represented the ladder of the spheres—a path of emanation—from Chaos to Cosmos to self-actualization.

Reference and a note
1. Joscelyn Godwin. The Seven Vowel Sounds in Theory and Practice. Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1991.

2. The word ananda, which translates as “bliss” means “experience.” The power (Shakti) is the world as we know/experience it projecting from hypostasis (Shiva).

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