Enter the Realm of the High Priestess (pt 1)

The Autumn Equinox marks a time when the veil thins, when the boundary between seen and unseen, conscious and unconscious becomes wispy and penetrable.

It’s also a time of equilibrium, when the Sun enters Libra, sign of the scales, so it’s a fab opportunity to look at your current relationship to balance.

In particular, I want to look at the balance between inner and outer work, because when this is out of whack, we twist our ankle in predictable potholes, like people pleasing and un-lived creative dreams.

Here to guide our explorations is the High Priestess, and she’s going to take us on a journey through the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

Notice that she sits on her throne (meaning, she is rooted in her power) between two pillars–one black, one white.

These pillars have been likened to the pillars of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, known as Mercy and Severity, with Mildness or Equilibrium in the center.

Why does this matter? Well, another name for these pillars is Form and Force, the primal ingredients of life and the drivers of magic.

In other words, if we want to practice magic (i.e. create the life our soul yearns for)…

…we must learn to master Form and Force.

To understand the connection between these pillars and magic, we need to take a nerdy detour, drawing on the work of occultist Dion Fortune.

There are different ways to travel on the Tree of Life, and the path you choose will yield a very different result.

Fortune names two possible paths: The Way of Illumination and the Way of Initiation.

One is not better than the other; it all depends on what you seek.

Let’s look at a diagram, so we can wrap our minds around this.

The Way of Illumination is an arrow shot up the center of the tree.

Fortune calls this the way of the mystic, which is “swift and direct, and free from the danger of unbalanced force…but it confers no magical powers save those of sacrifice…and psychism.” (The Mystical Qabalah, p. 52-53)

There’s more here to unpack than we have time for today, but in short, Fortune is referring to the qualities of Yesod (psychism) and Tiphareth (sacrifice; think: sacrificing the ego)…

…which are the spheres you must pass through as your arrow of consciousness shoots up the middle pillar.

But what does she mean when she says that it’s “free from the danger of unbalanced force”?

That sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

Well, again, it depends on what you’re after. I think each of us is drawn to a different flavor of experience, based on what we most need in this life in order to expand into the fullest expression of Self.

In my 20s, I tried to walk the Way of Illumination.

I was heavily into yoga and Buddhism, and my meditation practice was solely about emptying the mind, shedding the ego, and freeing myself from the “chains” of worldly existence.

This path works beautifully for some, but I was fighting mightily against the tides of my nature and the lessons of this lifetime.

What I can see now, only with hindsight, is that I was attempting to sand away the sharp edges of my life and my Self…

…trying to avoid the “danger of unbalanced forces,” because I felt torn between raging opposites.

Growing up in a volatile home, one that generated a lot of psychic splitting (everything, including people, were either seen as VERY AMAZING or VERY HORRIBLE)…

…my lesson in this lifetime was to learn how to integrate those splits, to find equilibrium between opposites, not by eradicating them, but by learning how to use the enormous tension they create in a productive, rather than destructive, manner.

To soar along the Way of Illumination wasn’t what my soul was after this go round. So, life continued to urge me toward the Way of Initiation by continually thwarting my attempts to arrow-shot up the center.

If this is true for you, too, you might find that the Way of Illumination leaves you feeling deeply unsettled…

…like there’s this ideal of peaceful equanimity you’re forever trying to attain, but you keep spilling over the edges. Your feelings, your desires–all of it–doesn’t seem to fit into the box of this ideal.

You might sometimes fear that you’re “too much.”

Another clue is if it’s hard for you to tend to the daily practice of “mundane” life.

The mystic who’s meant to be a magician (or who is simply an unbalanced mystic)…

…might struggle to pay the bills, show up on time, support their physical health, etc. The devil is well and truly in the details for these folks.

Rather than learning how to live in the here and now, there’s an attempt to transcend worldly affairs entirely.

Finally, addiction can be a red flag of a mismatched path.

And we’ll pick up this thread in tomorrow’s post


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