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Companions of the Stone - Lesson 8

Companions of the Stone - Lesson 8

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Published by: Ivan Yerzin on Apr 26, 2009
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COMPANIONS OF THE STONECorrespondence Course in The Elements ofTraditional Western Esotericism Lesson 8
Above the gateway of the great oracular shrine at Delphi,perhaps the holiest place in ancient Greece, were carved thewords Gnothi Seauton -- "know yourself." From the standpoint ofthe Western esoteric tradition, this inscription might well beplaced on the gateway to every kind of magical and spiritualpractice. This complex structure we each call "I" is theprimary tool for this, as for every other pursuit in life, andits potentials and powers -- not all of them obvious -- need tobe understood if they are to be developed and used.A significant part of this self-knowledge is wordless andincommunicable, and can be learned only through experience andintrospection. Another part, however, is less evasive. TheWestern esoteric tradition contains a great deal of material onthe nature and structure of the human microcosm, tracing out thedetails of an "anatomy" that does not stop at the borders ofmatter. Part of this material, dealing with different levels ofthe self, has already been covered in this course. Interactingwith these levels, though, are a series of structures orfunctions of the self. These relate to the levels as givenearlier, but in places the fit is not exact; there are overlapsand interconnections not obvious to a first glance.The physical body, called the guph by Qabalists, correspondsclosely to the material level of existence discussed in earlierlessons. Similarly, the vital body, called the nephesh,corresponds to the etheric level, although here there is aslight overlap; the nephesh reaches into the subtler aspects ofthe physical body, affecting among other things the endocrineglands. On the Tree of Life, these two correspond to Malkuthand Yesod, respectively.It is with the next level, the ruach or personality, that thingsbecome more complicated. The ruach includes the astral level ofconcrete consciousness, and to some extent -- an extent whichvaries from person to person, depending on the state of innerdevelopment -- the mental level of abstract consciousness aswell. The five aspects of ordinary human consciousness --intellect, emotion, imagination, will, and memory -- are-#-
 
assigned to the ruach, and correspond to the five Sephiroth Hod,Netzach, Tiphareth, Geburah, and Chesed, in that order. (Thesefive aspects are not quite all on the same level; as we willshow in a later lesson, some of them are present in ordinaryhuman consciousness in a more direct sense than are others. Forthe time being, though, the difference is not of greatimportance.)Above the ruach, in the place of the Supernal Triad, are thethree spiritual aspects of the self: the neshamah or spiritualunderstanding, corresponding to Binah; the chiah or spiritualwill, corresponding to Chokmah; and the yechidah or essentialspiritual being, corresponding to Kether. These three areusually treated together as the spiritual self, and the one termneshamah is used for all.To some extent, this classification can be understood as merelyanother set of correspondences to the Tree of Life, to be usedin meditation and study as one might use, say, the astrologicalcorrespondences. Here, though, further potentials exist aswell. In the work of coming to self-knowledge, it can be highlyuseful at times to distinguish between different parts of theself, to recognize the source or location of particular problemsor issues, and to identify the factors involved in innerconflicts. In such situations, this sort of anatomy of the selfis as useful -- indeed, as necessary -- as ordinary anatomy isto a physician. For this reason, you will want to becomefamiliar with the classification given here, and explore theways in which it relates to your own experience of yourself. 
Chesed: Theory, Order, Correspondence
 Theory has a rather problematic place in esotericism. Sometimesit seems, especially to people who look at esotericism from theoutside, that theory is the only point of esotericism. An"occultist", in fact, is generally taken to be someone committedto a theory of what the world is like that is profoundlycontrary both to science and common sense. Some aspects ofesoteric thought do make claims about what kind of world we livein, claims that can be examined in the same way that scientificor philosophical claims can be. Certain important aspects ofesoteric theory, however, are more akin to music theory: lessabout what is the case, and more about how to achieve certainresults. Like music theory, this sort of esoteric theory hasthe double effect of both making results possible, and limitingthe range of results that can be achieved.Someone who encounters certain aspects of esoteric theory for-#-
 
the first time will often misunderstand what the theory is for.One good example of this is the theory of correspondences, whichseems like a highly implausible set of claims about the worlduntil one begins to see how it is used. That the sun"corresponds" to gold, for example, makes at best an arbitraryand conventional sense, until one begins to see that thestatement must be interpreted to mean something more like "thesun, among the traditional seven planets, is like gold among themetals". This is one reason why the same thing will havedifferent traditional correspondences depending on the contextin which it occurs.It is not only sets of objects that correspond to other sets ofobjects: processes also exist in correspondence with eachother. Thus, among the elements, fire can be taken as theinitiating spark, and water the reflective, sustaining reactionor response. Their interaction generates vapor, the balance ofthe two -- that is, air. The three then stabilize into a solidtriangular structure, a unity, which can then serve as theinitiating trigger for a new development. Alternatively, acycle can be taken to start with air, the tentative hints ofdawn, and progress through the fire of noon and the fluidity ofdusk into the deep, solid obscurity of midnight. Neither ofthese structures is exclusively true; either can serve as thekey to other corespondences.In certain states of delusion or delirium, the deep-rootednessof the theory of correspondences in the human mind becomes veryclear. Most people have had the experience of seeing somethingin a dream and immedaietly knowing what it is, how it fits intothe ongoing dream, and so on. A similar thing happens indelirium, when a hallucination, triggered by some stimulus,carries with it a complete organizing story that overlays andoverrides other perceptions. Thus, someone may see the form ofsomeone who died long ago, and have a long conversation withthat form without any surprise or sense of incongruity, losingtrack of the surroundings to hand in the course of responding tothe field of associations and images that has crystallizedaround one perceived form. Many experiences, especiallymeditative or magical experiences, are like emblems or icons:they are perceived as a whole, perhaps in a flash, and decodedgradually through a process of examination and attention. Thisis one reason that work with the Tarot keys is so valuable forstudents of magic.When correspondences and their key structures have beenassimilated, they achieve a certain autonomy: they begin tospeak for themselves, so to speak, and to provide intuitive keysto a vast range of situations. There are times when certaincorrespondences, or rather their structures or formulae, can-#-

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