Of Chalices and Chariots — Part II: The Oracle of the Bottle

In Part I of this series, I spent more time than I’d originally intended describing my experience as a worker for The Theosophical Society and how it informed the Saturn Ritual I performed in 2013. Basically, I’d compromised my spiritual health by trying to force myself to fit in with a spiritual culture that simply wasn’t right for me, and the result wasn’t pretty; I crashed and burned and flew off to Norway in hopes that my marriage might work better there than it had been working here. The intention of this post is to focus on the years following the Saturn ritual, but a few words about my time in Norway are in order first.

Coming to sever myself from what one might fruitfully call the Theosophical “current” or “egregore,” even after I had sullied my reputation with the organization at an administrative level, was a process. During my time working there, I had founded an official social network and I continued to moderate it for a while before giving that up and recommending they shut the network down if no one was going to look after it (typical of organizations, even spiritual ones–when I eventually returned to the U.S., I was told before even looking for a job there, “We don’t have any work for you here,” but free social network moderation services were alright even after my proverbial name was mud).

I began my magical practice again–I had begun practicing the LBRP in private while still working for the T.S.–and studying Hermetics via Builders of the Adytum’s correspondence course and Paul Foster Case’s other published works (essentially the same curricula in different presentations). It’s interesting to look back from my current position given my magical development over the ensuing years, but I was practicing magic that was still not too far removed from the Theosophical paradigm (Blavatsky had her “Masters,” and in like manner, Paul Foster Case claimed to be in contact with his own “Master,” who he claimed was actually Saint Germain). Aside from whatever the daily tarot meditation was from BOTA on a given day, my daily routine began at 4:30am with 30 minutes of meditation, followed by Qabbalistic Cross/LBRP/Middle Pillar practice. I worked long days in an industrial laundry, which was hard but immensely satisfying physical labor, and I’d go to the gym three nights a week after that. A bit of studying here, a bit of gaming there, for the most part. I felt naturally good on a consistent basis and did no drugs. It was one of the happiest and most vibrant times in my life.

Owing to events I will recount again soon, I was not in contact with the spirits I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Inwardly–secretly–it was my hope that the practices I was doing would help me get back in touch at least with Ilyas. As far as explaining him to myself, at the time, I was on the fence between thinking he must be my Higher Self/Daemon/Holy Guardian Angel or whatever you want to call it and considering that he might be a human entity not unlike Blavatsky’s Morya and Koot Hoomi. The culmination point was the ritual I describe in this post, which I do believe was successful in its aims–even more so than I imagined it could be. So my approach was weird, and I have to admit that it was also what many would consider to be undisciplined in spite of the daily rigor I did undergo; I practiced a Golden Dawn-based routine and studied the Self-Initiation manual by the Ciceros for months, but in the end I wound up writing my own ritual and never doing any of the grade-specific self-initiations described in the book. My ritual reflected some parts of the Neophyte ceremony but was otherwise of a rather “chaos magic” aesthetic and structure, and yet I question whether it would have worked the way it did for me without all of that ancillary study; all of that knowledge was there in my head for the ceremony to react with. That being said, I felt for myself that if I couldn’t participate in a physical lodge and would have to do my initiation in my head, I might as well do my own initiation and, assuming it worked, probably learn a lot more about myself than if I had chosen to yoke myself to the Golden Dawn system.

Within months, my marriage would be over and I would find myself back in the United States, performing The Saturn Ritual. What ended my marriage? We always did fight quite a bit, but if I’m being honest, the straw that broke the camel’s back was alcohol. Despite substance abuse problems throughout my life to which I’ve alluded already, I never really was much of a drinker until I went to Norway, where I was completely sober from everything else, but began to indulge in beer initially as a means of making it easier for me to socialize. I was not yet drinking extensively or even on a consistent basis, but when I did drink, the fights were even worse. My wife wanted me to be completely sober and it was my unwillingness to commit to sobriety that did us in.

I wish I could say that the Saturn Ritual constituted some kind of neat turning point after which things got better, but despite the intention of self-transformation written into the symbolism, an honest assessment would suggest it intensified things. However, this is one of the mysteries of Self-Initiation and it will become more clear by the time I finish this series: If we’re doing the work correctly, our magic will draw into our lives the circumstances that we need for our growth; there is no promise that they will be pretty. In fact, when do we grow the most?

When times are tough.

Outcome of the Saturn Ritual

Before I describe how the Saturn ritual unfolded in my life and in my psyche, I want to draw specific attention to certain symbolic elements that leapt out at me recently when I went back to visit the place where the ritual was set because I almost had to laugh to myself at how they might be said to have expressed themselves in the ensuing years.

Firstly, I look back and snicker at how I used alcohol to fuel the fire that consumed the effigy I burned, and even at how I had to do it twice, because that turned out to be almost prophetic (perhaps in a self-fulfilling way). The intention of the ceremony involved self-transformation, but the form I chose was pretty severe, more characteristic of self-destruction; we’re not running the gentle cycle here. What unfolded could in some ways be described as alcohol-fueled self-destruction; I even quit and then went back to drinking again because I hadn’t “sufficiently burned” the first time. You can’t make this shit up!

Secondly, with the heart of the effigy consisting of a pine cone from the Northern California redwoods, we have elements that come together in Return of the Jedi, filmed largely in those same woods and which depicted the funerary cremation of Vader’s body at the end. I would go on to write in The Personal Myth, the writing of which can also be consequentially traced back to this ritual, that my own personal myth held Vader as a prominent figure. All of these things are, in my mind, connected.

Anyhow, not long after performing the ritual, I would find myself starting a blog and deciding to write about the Saturn Ritual. I sent a copy to a friend of mine to review because I figured it would resonate with her. This would kick off a correspondence that developed into a romantic relationship. I would go on to marry her in 2017.

Being a fellow Co-Mason from my home lodge, she was aware of my work with the T.S., and being a trained Gardnerian Priestess doing public rituals and workshops, she was excited about the prospect of our collaborating in a similar context. I have to say that I learned quite a bit from her in the time that we were together and that I probably wouldn’t be writing this if our relationship had never happened. However, it was no better a relationship than my first marriage had been. In fact, my first marriage was a lot better in most qualitative respects. We were one of those couples that kept breaking up, but just couldn’t stay apart for long. What had truly been holding us together, I will never know, but I promise that it wasn’t love and that we were both kidding ourselves that it was.

One thing that becomes thematically important to this series and the overall working is how what was going on between my second wife and I mirrored what had occurred between myself and the T.S.: Once again, I was trying far too hard to fit into a spiritual paradigm and its attendant program when I was a square peg in a round hole. Once again, I was applying my talents for communicating spiritual ideas, but still according to standards that weren’t strictly my own (as I have mentioned in another post, our spiritual and philosophical views were somewhat incompatible; she, being devout, was rather fiercely defensive of hers and I eventually learned that was not a boat worth rocking). Once again, I made all of these compromises of my spiritual selfhood for the sake of what I felt we might be able to accomplish. The difference was merely that the context had shifted from that of an international organization to that of an interpersonal relationship; first I was in an unbalanced relationship with a group, and then with a person.

I coped accordingly; the alcohol always having been identified as a problem in our relationship and myself having great difficulty setting healthy boundaries and just leaving, I eventually started hitting the bottle all that much harder, once more, in a “self-destruct” mode. I think I hoped in the back of my head that she would decide I really was a worthless drunk and finally wash her hands of me.

The absolute debacle that was our wedding and the fact that we spent most of our married life living separately is a topic for another post, but by the time that marriage ended, I refused to live in the same home with her. I initiated divorce proceedings within 6 months. Then–I cannot for the life of me remember why–we canceled them and I went back to her.

This is where things get really weird in what seemed like a culmination point that, you will see, ties back synchronistically to the Saturn Ritual.

Sometimes I get down on myself and think that I’ve made too much of the differences between my practices and the Theosophical ones I left, that I was being overdramatic in going to the lengths I did ritually to express it all, but it wasn’t really all in my head; while I was once a “golden boy” known internationally for my Theosophical activities, nowadays half the folks I knew won’t even speak to me, and my friend who attended the Saturn ritual had been essentially forbidden by his wife to hang out with me by the time this happened.

One day, I was at home day drinking all day long. Then, for some reason, I got the idea in my head that that night was the time to go give a book back to my friend, who still lived on the grounds at the T.S. headquarters.

The book was Dr. Robert Svoboda’s Aghora: At the Left Hand of God, which has a picture of the goddess Kali on the front cover–a goddess of Saturn, among other things. It drips with irony. I also cringe at this because there was a time during one of our breakups when my second wife allegedly had a vision (mushroom-induced, it so happens) of me being devoured and then re-birthed by Kali.

Who knows?

I drove out to Wheaton drunk sometime around 2:30am, parked my car, got out of it just long enough to go drop the book on my friend’s doorstep and get back in the car. Because I had happened to park in a No Parking Zone, a police officer sitting in a squad car just down the block had all the excuse he needed to pull me over. I got a DUI and lost my driver’s license…and wouldn’t you know it, within weeks, my ex-wife suddenly decided to file for divorce. I am sure the DUI was what pushed her to it.

It’s quite likely that this post doesn’t quite convey all of the ways in which my entire second marriage can be framed as a Saturnian Initiation, because I have not gone into great detail. One reason for this is that I’ve been slapped with no fewer than two false restraining orders by said partner in the past (and how Saturnian is that? Perhaps that shall suffice to make my point) and it’s not worth all that just to set the record straight. It took tremendous adversity and suffering for me to finally let go of the outcome and rest assured in the knowledge of who I am regardless of what my former partner’s friends and sycophants might think of me. It’s ironic in a way that she so often liked to coin the metaphor of a”Crucible of Transformation” for what our relationship was, for truer words were never spoken.

That’s the aspect of Initiation practically no one wants to talk about. We will expound all day about meditations, visualizing letters of light and humming divine names to invite and usher in the forces of self-transformation, but when they come, in all their terrible solidity, what then?

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