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Correspondences, culture and truth

Much of the new mysticism and spirituality that I'm seeing these days is based strongly on drawing parallels between different practices, ritual or otherwise, and symbols. This seems particularly common in hermetic approaches where correspondences are enshrined in the belief system as having special significance. But then I guess this is nothing new, religion and spirituality have always operated in this shadow realm between the thought, the word and the world.

This seems to be fine to me, on an intellectual side, if you enter in this aware that you are building a personal symbolic system. I'm happy also to extend this symbolism beyond the personal to the group although, from what I've seen of chilledchimp and others' esoteric interactions, beyond small groups of like-minded people you start to have problems because you really do need everyone to be committed to a common symbolism and ritual practice.

Most new age religions seem to be fairly liberal but once you get beyond a small group, you need strong leadership to keep everyone on message - which is possibly why in Bitchcraft and Bicca there is so much splintering. Practice and symbolism have yet to be established as it is, say, in the Catholic Church. And even then, it's clear that as long as the belief system remains fairly loose it's possible to gather a multitude of faiths under one umbrella but as soon as you start to get differences of opinion the whole thing looks pretty shaky. You need rather major threats to stop the whole edifice from crumbling, and you probably need a good 1,000 years to make the whole practice seem natural.

Whilst I'm as happy as the next writer to draw on Diana symbolism, the Earth Mother and Shub-niggurath, for example, I'm not positing and kind of actual link, influence or exchange of "energies". I'm aware that practitioners of magic and religion do feel that they have exchanged "energy" but I'm firmly in the camp that this is a subjective experience. It may be a subjective experience shared by many people who hold similar symbolic systems but I'm not convinced of any external objective reality.

treadwells got me thinking about this when she talked of Dion Fortune's choice of Christianity as the proper religious base for Western Mysticism. You can probably only share symbolic systems and ritual practice with someone who has a similar culture.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
I may be mis-remembering, but I think that Isaac Bonewitz views all this stuff as offering a way to access and manipulate energy of the collective unconscious -- the "deities" are actually human mental constructs (he regards psychic abilities and magic as being the same thing), and borrowing the symbolism makes said manipulation easier. Hence, it doesn't matter what symbols you emply, provided that you find them useful, if not actually meaningful. Thus the pick and mix approach common to hermeticism: you go with what you like.

One thing that came across powerfully while researching the doomed and never to see print "Victorian Gothic: Occult Magic" was that many of the C19 practioners were fairly devout Christians and biblical scholars -- a facility with Hebrew was a prerequisite for Golden Dawn membership, IIRC, and most of the "Western Tradition" was rooted in Judeo-Christian practice. I suspect that this helped them tap into medieval grimoires, which seem to have been written with cerebral priests in mind...
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