Of Chalices and Chariots — Part I: A Quixotic Quest’s Commencement

Note: More than an analysis of a Self-Initiatory working and its long-term unfoldment, this post is as much an intrinsic part of finishing that work and is thus something I consider to be a magical working in and of itself. I am writing and publishing it now as a matter of timing, both magical and divine–one might call it “conscious kairos.” Because the content of this post links so many different parts of my life, new readers unfamiliar with my past work or my story may not have the necessary context to see all that comes together here, and this post will make much more sense once I have edited and re-published a number of posts that I have planned. Nonetheless, now is the time. That being said, I think there is just enough content available at the moment to make some sense of this all.

I recently had occasion to return to the spot where I performed the “Saturn Ritual” in 2013 that constituted the “second half” of a Self-Initiatory operation I had begun in the previous year. The landscape had changed so much that I was frankly disoriented; I had to text my friend, one of the witnesses of the Saturn ritual, to confirm that I had the right spot. In short, the Saturn ritual had taken place in a small “grove” or clearing almost completely surrounded by brush, save for an opening to the geographic west(ish). When I revisited the spot, the brush was mostly cleared and some of the trees completely gone. A small shrine to Mary, once nestled in the eastern face of that same grove (it stood roughly between me and the teens I had inadvertently and synchronistically “banished” during the 2013 ritual) now stands out as the most prominent object in the vicinity.

Google Earth map of the site with trees still intact, as it was in 2013.
The site as it is now.

For reasons I am still digesting, seeing this abrupt change in the landscape–especially insofar as the change itself is symbolically relevant to the ritual that took place there about 9 years ago–was unsettling to me. It stands to reason; the ritual I performed there was not done lightly, it wasn’t some simple witch’s charm or hex. It was very deep magic meant to change things at a “radical” or root level, and its site means absolutely everything where the ritual’s intent is concerned. I had spent years there previously, in what felt even in 2013 like a “past life;” and indeed, it was that life (and the one I had lived after leaving there) that I was symbolically laying to rest. What I had failed to take into account at the time was the fact that performing the ritual in that spot would only strengthen my connection to that spot in certain ways. Saturn has to do with limitation and boundaries, and the Saturn ritual had successfully incorporated the symbolism of setting personal boundaries where I had previously allowed them to be overridden; the fact that the ritual took place virtually encircled by trees was a part of that symbolism. I should not be surprised, then, that when I returned to the site to find that those same trees had literally been removed by their roots–thus, in a sense, overwriting that symbolic element of my ritual–I felt it viscerally. It meant something. It beckoned me to look deeper in reflection on everything that has unfolded since I did the ritual, to ask myself: What has been pulled out by the root as a result of the ritual? What were its tangible results or consequences? This post will attempt to capture the essence of what I found: The “medicine” produced by this ritual of transmutation. In a true Saturnian nod, the best way to approach this will be chronologically and in summary, but with enough detail to serve as the “skeleton” for the reader’s body of understanding.

Prologue: Lead-up to The Saturn Ritual

I have covered much of this material in previous posts, so I will try not to be too repetitive in recapping here to set the stage for the rest of this post. In the post When They Talk Back, I introduce three entities who, for most of my adolescence, were “spirit guides.” In posts to come, I will tell further stories about them, including the ways in which my understanding of them has evolved over time. To provide a bit of a sneak peek into what is to come, the one named Ilyas is one that I eventually came to understand as a manifestation of my Higher Self or Holy Guardian Angel. My guides had always maintained that they were there to prepare me for work I was born to do, and when I found my way to The Theosophical Society, I knew it was to be an important part of my work. At first, I volunteered in the Membership department, which earned me admission to Thursday night lectures. The Theosophical Society’s library held the kind of books I had only dreamed of, and within its walls, I found the first in-person discussion groups where I could openly talk about spiritual ideas in the realm of the unusual, occult or esoteric with like-minded individuals.

The Three Objects of The Theosophical Society were close to my heart then, and remain so today:

Source: https://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine/9-about-us-sp-709/introduction/1043-three-objects

At the time, I was working at a nearby movie theater, attending College of DuPage located not far away in Glen Ellyn, and was growing close once more with an old flame from my past: A girl I had met in an occult chatroom called “White Magic” as a teen, she lived in Norway and we had ourselves a long-distance relationship for some months before realizing it wasn’t likely to last given our distance from one another. We had remained friends for years, but in our adulthood, were feeling a flame kindling between us once more. She had come to visit me and we had grown close, and I began to plan a trip to Norway to see her homeland as she had seen mine.

All was seemingly harmonious; rather serendipitously, the man who managed the mail for the Theosophical Society–along with the warehouse and all related shipping logistics for Quest Books, the Theosophical Society’s publishing arm–was preparing for an annual 3-month trip back to his homeland of Ghana. Someone was needed to fill in for him in his absence, and it just so happened that the role was set to conclude the very day before I was to depart for Norway. I took the job and I did well.

Then, just a week or two before I was to leave, it was announced that the Membership Coordinator, whom I had been assisting as a volunteer, would be leaving the organization. Practically everyone told me I should apply for that role–who better than someone who already knew so much of the ropes? I thought it would never happen because I would be in Norway for months, but I applied for the position anyway and it was given to me. I would be trained once I came back from my trip. I thought this was the best thing that could possibly happen to me at the time, a dream come true: Not only had I found this fertile environment for spiritual and philosophical discourse and development that fit so well with my own path, but I could get paid to be involved. What could possibly go wrong?

I returned to the U.S. engaged–a turn of events that simply would not have come to pass if I had not known that the job at the T.S. was waiting for me when I got back. It would pay enough for me to sponsor my new fiance’s immigration; it was literally the only reason I was able to make this all happen.

Tension began to arise when lines began to blur between my professional duties and my spiritual development. Naturally, I was involved in various spiritual “extracurricular” activities connected with but not officially part of the Theosophical Society–including Co-Masonry–and meanwhile, in school I was getting very good grades and had been sent to a conference by the Illinois Regional Honors program to give a speech I had developed for class. The leadership of the T.S. connected all of these dots and proposed that I begin giving talks on esoteric subjects as an adjunct to my Membership work. It seemed a natural fit. Before long, an official mentorship program called Partners in Theosophy was formed to groom future leadership of the Society, and I was invited to be a part of it. I accepted–which cinched certain tensions I had already begun to feel between my own path and the emerging role of Theosophical leader that was being laid out for me.

To make a long story short, while there is a relatively wide general occult appeal to The Theosophical Society in the form of its stated mission, The Three Objects, the broadness of those stated aims is in conflict with the fact that effectively, the organization has always remained under the “wise guidance” of members of the Esoteric School, a spiritual organization claiming direct descent from Madame Blavatsky’s inner circle of students. In short, there are different rules for “The Outer Court” or the “hoi polloi” members who needed only pay dues and express sympathy with The Three Objects to enjoy membership and those who were involved with the organization at the level of governance.

I started to notice this division the more deeply-involved I got in the organizational side of things; most of the conflict here is largely irrelevant to the typical member and has no impact on what they’re trying to get out of membership. For me, being financially dependent on the organization for the life I had created for myself while walking a spiritual path that began to diverge from the principles held dear by the E.S. (and thus, by extension, T.S. leadership) was an increasing source of tension and cognitive dissonance. As an example of what I mean, the bookshop would sell books all about auras, astral projection and such, and the public programs would cover equally compelling material; but from the more “elevated” spiritual perspective of the E.S. and more “serious” Theosophical students, such things were distractions and anyone who showed too much interest in them was looked upon with suspicion; E.S. practices are strict and quite ascetic in their nature. Basically, the whole game here was to dangle such relatively sensationalistic public programming like a carrot to attract people who might be receptive to the deeper esoteric work being done–but there was an element of “bait-and-switch” involved here wherein people who didn’t fit in with the “Inner Court” would be treated differently and largely kept outside of things. Again, if you just want to check out books, attend lectures, and get the magazine, who cares? But it wasn’t a healthy situation for me.

Aside from these tensions, there was some tension within my relationship between my level of commitment to my Theosophical work and the work I was putting into the relationship. Also, to be completely honest, I eventually began to turn back to substance abuse to cope with the growing tension between my personal work and the role in which I was beginning to feel very “stuck.” I was giving five-week classes and hour-long talks on spirituality for this organization, but I could not speak with my authentic spiritual voice and still maintain my position.

Soon, the pressure in my relationship grew out of control and my wife decided to move back to Norway. I was slated to give a big talk at the Summer National Gathering the year she left, but in light of the growing inner conflict I was feeling, I made the decision to leave the T.S. and my home country to take up residence in Norway and start a new life there. It was all I could do to maintain and live up to public image I had created. I would try to live by the puritanical ascetic standards of my Theosophical elders, then snap back into “hedonistic” indulgement in sacramental substances and the like; when I gave what came to be regarded as my best talk for the T.S. at the Summer National Gathering, I was high at the podium. I wrote my talk the way I did on purpose. The subject I was given was, “Why Am I a Theosophist?” and in my talk, I made it a special point to place The Three Objects–and NOT the spiritual work of the E.S.–at the center:

Though I tried my best to hold things together, I am also positive that part of me felt the need to spectacularly burn my bridges with the T.S. on my way out. I simply did not have it within me to firmly advocate for my own beliefs and ideas and simply face the likely consequences; instead, I decided to destroy the false reputation I had come to resent. I burned it all down and ran away. I managed to keep my public nose relatively clean, but those closer to the situation know that I struggled to remain stable and sober in my final months before leaving.

On Halloween of 2010–a date I chose very much on purpose as a nod to the step toward magical sovereignty I was taking by leaving–I departed for Norway.

In Part II of this series, I’ll connect the dots by telling the middle part of this story; this entry has explained much of the “Why?” behind the Saturn Ritual. Part II will explore more of the “What?” in terms of all that has flowed from the ritual, before concluding in Part III with an emphasis on “where”–as in “where is this all going?”

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