Of Chalices and Chariots – Part III: En Oino Aletheia

I used to sit and look at lists of Qabbalistic correspondences and wonder at the relevance of at least half of the pieces of information I was looking at. What was I supposed to actually do with all of these connections? You’re telling me all of these things correspond with one another, and I’m quick enough on the uptake to realize these are all symbolic elements that I could potentially use in magical work to get certain results, but what about any deeper meaning? Was there one?

The way this leg of my journey has unfolded is humorous and also immensely satisfying. I can honestly say that I’m finally at a place where I can appreciate all that I’ve been through in my life as meaningfully headed somewhere worth going. I feel vindicated because there were many, many times of doubt when I thought that either I was just completely deluding myself (and worse, by sharing my ideas and story, possibly deluding others as well), making up spiritual and esoteric excuses to just do what I inherently wanted to do anyway, rationalizing my bullshit, etc. Now I am coming to understand that I was right all along to trust in my path for what it was, and what it is.

I would not recommend anyone imitate the spiritual work I’ve done, that’s the thing; in no way am I sharing any of this as a means of suggesting that I’m some kind of example for other people to follow. That’s not the point. I think the essence of what my path shows is that there is no one right way for everyone and that when doing spiritual work, our needs are so very highly individual and can also appear counter-intuitive. There are spiritual systems–vehicles for the transmission of knowledge and wisdom–and then there is the wisdom itself. There are prescribed steps for the processes of inner transformation or Initiation and they do exist for a reason, but also, everyone has their own starting point; within the context of any given system, one may be a beginner, and yet one may inwardly embody a level of development more aligned with later stages of that system.

That is a dilemma in great need of resolution in our age.

I have been taught by my guides for many years about the difference between inner/true and outer/merely apparent levels of Initiation; it is not only possible, but rather quite common, for us to have experienced a given occult Mystery without necessarily knowing what that Mystery happens to be called in Thelema or what practices lead to that Mystery’s realization in Tibetan Buddhism. This is something I’ve been through a lot on my path (in fact, I’ve come to realize it’s pretty much the reason my path has gone the way it has): Having the experience first, then later finding out, “Oh, there’s a name for that. People are out there specifically chasing down the experience that I had spontaneously. Groovy.” It has been so easy to doubt myself because I always feel like I am doing everything backwards.

The attentive might notice a rather iconoclastic streak in my work, the general pattern being that I’ll seriously study a system for a while, but then not practice it at all as prescribed, and instead cobble together some stripped-down, “punk” version of the work that at times almost looks like an overt mockery of the work I’m supposed to be taking a stab at. I’m thumbing my nose at the same people from whom I’m taking much-needed cues. Having been exposed to chaos magic at a fairly young age and given my idiosyncratic magical “upbringing,” I think what I have been testing all along is, “To what extent are established systems necessary for spiritual and occult development?” A chaos magic paradigm would say the established systems may work, but that they are mere constructs. I knew chaos magic worked at a pragmatic level, i.e., casting a spell to manifest an intention, or as a form of sorcery; but could it also be a valid Initiatory path?

The great irony I’ve been assimilating of late is that despite going off the rails so often, ignoring conventional advice, and following my own hunches, I eventually wound up completely wrapped up in the correspondences associated with The Chariot card in traditional systems of Hermetic and Qabbalistic correspondence. The experience of this is possibly the best proof one could ask for that yes, all valid paths do eventually lead to pretty much the same place as long as we persevere in the work.

In an earlier series, “Hermekate as Sigil,” I described how there are basically two separate “strands” of meaning when it comes to Hermekate; there was a self-Initiatory operation I performed which was a kind of “summoning,” “catalyst” or “invitation” to the Universe (or whomever was out there, including my Higher Self), and it resulted in a personal sigil. At the time, I was married and living in Norway, but soon my wife and I separated and I went home. I had felt that Hekate responded to this call, and within a year I was living with a Priestess of Hekate and learning a lot from her about devotional cultic practices involving deities. “Hermekate” emerged through this partnership (I can’t deny it, as much as I wish I could) and one of the very first meanings I came to associate with that word was something along the lines of synthesizing what are currently two very different paths that are in many ways at odds with one another (see the post “Hermekate As A Call for Occult Solidarity” for more details). I started this work in a Ceremonial Magic context, then it shifted into a Neopagan context as I began to work with my ex-wife; for those familiar with Crowley’s model of the Aeons, one could say that the work started in the Aeon of Osiris and then moved into the Aeon of Isis, and that in truth, this was all leading eventually to a synthesis of the two, which diligent students will recognize as the Aeon of Horus. Although I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on it this time around, any readers from past versions of my blog will know what came next: My Priestess partner introduced me to the Left Hand Path, and as our relationship disintegrated, the name of the game became drawing strong personal boundaries, reclaiming what is mine, building sovereignty, and bringing Hermekate into the Aeon of Set by adapting it to a more individual paradigm rooted more firmly in my own Subjective Universe. In other words, after spending so much time in a sort of “read mode” of opening myself to understand Hermekate as an external object, I got comfortable moving into “write mode,” wherein I let my creativity take over and develop the meaning of Hermekate along lines having nothing to do with historical facts. The result, funnily enough, was that I came to realize that Hermekate falls very much in line with existing ideas, systems, and processes out there in the Objective Universe.

The association between “Hermekate” and the Chariot card may seem arbitrary at first: It was an intuitive hunch I followed, stemming from the knowledge that the one historical appearance of the name “Hermekate” was as part of a spell for a chariot race to go in favor of the magus casting the spell. This constitutes one strand of Hermekate’s meaning.

However, the very first meaning I ever associated with Hermekate–pretty much from the starting line–has been the concept of hieros gamos, or “sacred marriage;” there happens to be one myth that has been interpreted as depicting the sexual coupling of Hekate and Hermes, and given what I knew about the Initiatory nature of both deities, it seems like a no-brainer to interpret this as a symbol for sex magic as well as a symbol of sacred union (which can be the same thing, though they aren’t always). The conflict, once I made this connection, arose when I shared it with my partner. A big aspect of our relationship was shared esoteric work. So far, so good–but the issue was that my partner seemed laser-focused on the literal sex magic interpretation, and also looking at Hermekate as being applicable to our relationship. Still; so far, so good.

She saw this hieros gamos mainly in the context of the relationship between Priest/Priestess or ritual partners. She didn’t seem at all concerned with what is arguably the more important aspect of hieros gamos: The internal one that each human being must enact for oneself. No outward Sacred Marriage between two people who have not sufficiently enacted their individual Sacred Marriage is going to work as intended because it will not be built on a solid foundation. Without reconciling this, we were simply working at cross-purposes the entire time we were together.

Given my background in Ceremonial Magic, once I had hypothesized a connection between Hermekate and the Chariot card, the next obvious step would be to look up the correspondences of that card and its path on the Tree of Life to see what insights this might yield; in fact, I am pretty sure I did that at some point, took one look at what it was indicating, then looked at my marriage, then realized the two were never going to be compatible. I was probably drunk while I did it, and I probably read the relevant chapter of a book before casting the book aside in frustration at my predicament. Honestly, my partner and I had gone to bother Lon Milo DuQuette every time he came to town; here he is, signing the very book that held the answers I was looking for all along (“Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World’s Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Cards“):

The coolest thing about this situation is that I’m pretty sure any diligent student and practitioner of Thelema or a similar path, who really knows their Liber 777 from all angles including the theoretical/factual and the practical, could probably read my blog without my ever mentioning The Chariot and say, “Oh yeah, this is totally Path 18 stuff.” I’m almost stunned at how neatly and succinctly this card and its path can serve as a “key” to Hermekate. Every single post I have written on this and even all past versions of this blog can be tied to the Chariot, Path 18, and what it means. This includes elements that I had no idea were so directly related, but which I thought were simply things that coincided in my life. For that very reason, I’m not going to get anywhere near as detailed in this post as I had originally planned. I just have this weird feeling that certain people who had been following my misadventures here may have long made these connections ahead of me, and may have just been waiting to see if I ever settled down and cracked the books long enough to find them for myself.

I could beat myself up for putting that step off for so long, but I am “Wyrdly” glad I took the path of hard knocks because of the satisfying way everything has turned out. With these connections having been established and cemented, I could spend the rest of my life riffing on the themes that unfold from here. From this post forward, the focus of this blog will be shifting toward exploring all the uncanny connections, twists, and turns I can think of that relate this path and my personal experiences. In the posts to come, I will be zooming in on different correspondences and aspects one-by-one. The next few will explain why I took a detour in this midst of this series to start going back and posting some of my older stories; it’s really all one saga anyhow.

After all these years of toil and effort–three different incarnations of the blog, endless pages of attempts at explaining and understanding my path and purpose, I can now sum the whole fucking thing up in one sentence:

I am on this planet now to work with Path 18–and tell you all about it.

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