I was reading Jung and the Lost Gospels ( S.A. Hoeller) the other night, chapter 6, Errant Wisdom~The Myth of Sophia ; Introduction: Gnosis,Metaphor and Myth.
I had one of those 'moments'. You know, the type that cause an almost audible 'click' of recognition.
In the craft we did rituals to celebrate the Sabbats, and there are rituals to bring about desires/magic, but it just really didn't work for me. It felt more like dress up. It was fun, and sometimes I got a real feeling of energy (possibly from dancing in circles while chanting... kind of a head rush), but because I did not feel a real call to a particular pair of deities, I had a hard time visualizing who it was I was invoking and why.
When I decided to find out where our rituals came from, I realized that much of what we do is from the origin of hermetic societies. In fact, it is so similar that I would say it's in many ways like a 'Reader's Digest Condensed Version'.
I had always wondered why we had the female represented on the left of the altar, usually by a black candle (north side when altar faces east) and the male represented on the right side of the altar, usually by a white candle (south side when altar faces east). Then, saw some Golden Dawn and O.T.O temple pictures in a book that showed two pillars. One mainly black to the North of the altar, and one mainly white to the South of the altar. And I learned that the Pillar of Severity was Feminine, North, Black.... and learned that the Pillar of Mercy was Masculine, South, White. Hmm... as a friend of mine pointed out, the Wiccan altar is akin to a 'Temple on a Table' (Hermetic Temple). Also interesting is that in Wicca we are instructed always to do a banishing earth pentagram . Is this why it was called 'Earth Based?' Anyone can read an abundance of literature on ceremonial magic, and see that the Banishing and Invoking Earth pentagram is in part the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. But rather than calling on the Angelic Beings of the Higher Realms, and invoking the different names of the Divine, we call upon the earthly elements, and their earthly-realm gaurdians...It's like all Craft rituals were done in the realm of Malkuth. It makes sense when one realizes that many of the things witches do in ritual is material based magic. Love, money, health, etc. All things on an earthly plane. Celebration of the seasons – also earth based. I understand now why I felt that I was not transcending. I was rooting myself in only an earthly realm, using earthly symbols and literal interpretation of those symbols.
At one point, about a year or two ago, I started to see the wheel of the year as reflections of my inner self. I no longer saw myself as looking at the elements in a literal sense, but rather instead how they triggered the reaction of those aspects of me which they related to.It was just something not really taught in the books I read as a beginner, and for some reason, although we are TAUGHT (and I understood) the correspondences, I really did not internalize it as an 'as above so below'. If you look at how the Craft is taught to people, it really lacks the structure of the same Hermetic Societies who originally constructed these things into the rituals they are. Perhaps because Gardner had this information as 'fragmented', in his own words. Bits from here, other bits from there. It LOOKED nice, it was FUN, and even provided an arena for personal exploration in a possibly more relaxed atmosphere than the Hermetic societies. A Ceremonial Magic 'Light'..... so to speak. But also lacking was a real sense of 'WHAT is this for?'
Even at Hermetic.com in fact, it lists Gardnerian Witchcraft as an offshoot of the Golden Dawn. G.D. and other Hermetic Societies look at these rituals as a way of Trascendence. A way of connecting oneself to their higher-self , becoming 'More human than human' (much more than that really, but I don't have the knowledge or time at the moment to really get into what it's all about) Much has been written about how much or how little of Gardnerian Wicca was based on information from Crowley, and from Gardner's association with the O.T.O. So it makes sense that so much of Gardner's rituals sound like a simpler version of Ceremonial Magic However, at the time of starting my Witch's path, I didn't know this. I had no knowledge of Ceremonial Magic, and instead thought I was following a Religion of Olde. A Goddess Religion. Love, and Peace, and Gaia etc etc....
When I found that I needed more than that path could provide, and started looking into Gnosticism, I found two deities that I had 'known' all along, but was not aware of in a concious sense. Sophia and Jesus. And when they are given a place on my altar, in my 'Temple on a Table', and I love them within myself, as well as in the realm in which they dwell (as within, so without), it brings about a WHOLE new relationship with the Divine.
Wow, what a ramble this has turned into. I have no idea if it will even make it off my wordpad and onto the blog.
Anyhow... to sum it up. I fell in love with the ritual of the Craft, but wasn't sure why. I knew there was something deeper in it calling me. I could not identify with the Pagan deities, but I knew there was a meaning behind it all. I felt like I was playing dress up and role playing, without realizing why (other than celebration of the seasons) we were really making such a big deal of it all. A nice ritual without a real understanding of why things were the way they were.
Then I learned about Gnosticism, and then I began reading about Qabalah, and hermetics.... the Pillars of Severity and Mercy, the Inner as the Outer. And finally, about WHY ritual plays such an import and profound part of becoming one with the Divine. With Gnosis. It's not just about paying homage to your Goddess and God on the altar. It is about reliving an experience. As so wonderfully put (in my opinion) below, by +Stephan A. Hoeller:
“Experience turned into myth and myth turned inward as psychological self-knowledge: such is the grand movement of Gnosis on the plane of psychic reality. Yet, there is still a third component, which allows the myth to descend from the purely psychological to the material level of manifestation where it may impress not only the intuitive, thinking and feeling functions but also the function of sensation. This third element is valid ritual, possessing true meaning, which becomes the dramatization or “playing out” of the myth in plain view of the senses. The considerable concern of the Gnostics with sacramental ritual attests to the important role played by the ritualization of myth in the above-noted movement of Gnosis. It is also here in the nature of this movement of Gnosis that we may graphically apprehend the great difference separating such mainstream traditions as Judaism, non-Gnostic Christianity, and Islam, on the one hand from the alternative tradition of Gnosticism on the other.
The tendency of the mainstream traditions is to turn the initial experience into dogma and commandment through the intermediary agency of historically interpreted holy scriptures, which usually appear as stories with a moral. The tendency of the alternative tradition is to move from initial experience to an expression of the experience in myth, and from there to the ritual playing out of the myth into fully perceptible physical manifestation, from whence proceeds the withdrawal of the images into the Self, thus opening the way to original and primal experience once more.”
-+Stephan A. Hoeller:Jung and the Lost Gospels , p102-103.
Well, that's about enough writing for today!