Monday, June 01, 2009

Conduct Unbecoming a Magician

HERMES, the God who presides over language, was formerly very properly considered as common to all priests; and the power who presides over the true science concerning the Gods is one and the same in the whole of things. - Iamblichus, On the Mysteries

I'm guilty of a terrible crime. If I belonged to an Order, a militaristic organization of magicians with a hierarchy of supervising rank and file to whom I would be accountable, I'm sure I'd frequently be demoted for Conduct Unbecoming a Magician.

Fortunately, I belong to no such Order. There's no person who has been through more initiations in charge of me. There is no committee of flesh and blood to which someone can report me. There is no chain of command that I must obey.

There is no code of conduct.

People have these rather stupid ideas of what someone who is "into magic" should look like. They have these ignorant expectations of how Adepts, Masters, and Illuminated Saints ought to behave. They think we should all be like Jesus, turning the other cheek, striving to be gentle and kind, never cursing, never harsh, never subject to raw emotion. As a result of the refinement of the process of the great Work, we're supposed to be Heroes, with the powers of the Gods and the approachability of mortals.

I've met some really powerful magicians, folks who are incredibly illuminated. You can feel the power of their spheres radiating outward from them into the universe around them. Talking to them leaves the weak-willed fawning and gibbering like tweens at a Jonas Brothers concert.

They get angry, depressed, and violent like anyone else. When they do, the world has suddenly collapsed for these dweebs, and they're left looking like the little girl dressed up like Princess Padme-Amidalla in the Natalie Portman interview video I posted a while back.

Now don't be all thinking I'm bitching about people that I think I'm better than. I'm not. I have these stupid pedestals in my heart and mind that I put people on too. I'm no better. I've learned to take it in stride when my heroes turn out to be human, though. I've lowered my expectations. I try to remember some basic things when I meet people I think are really cool:
  • Jesus took a shit. Daily. Even his digestive system was perfect.
  • Siddartha farted in his hand and sniffed it.
  • Penor Rinpoche declared Steven Seagal a tulku.

These three little precious jewels serve to remind me not to set unrealistic expectations on people that they can't live up to.

WTF does any of this have to do with Iamblichus?

It has a lot to do with the opening he made in his refutation to Porphyry: HERMES, the God who presides over language, was formerly very properly considered as common to all priests.

Hermes, the god who presides over language. Patrick Dunn has provided a better explanation than I can about the role of language and symbol in magic in Magic, Power, Language, Symbol: A Magicians Exploration of Linguistics. If you haven't read it, you should. We who are Hermetic Magicians are priests of the god of Language. As a Christian, a believer in the Word of God made flesh, I am even more aware of my role as priest to this god in my magical practice.*

Language is symbolic of something else. There's a difference between the words we use and the things we refer to, the meanings of the words. Different people have different meanings for the same words.

It's important that we understand that words and our interpretations of them are not the things they represent. Hierophants, for example, are simply "interpretors of the Mysteries." They aren't perfect ascended masters, wizened and ready to do everything perfectly in every interaction with every person. There is no job description for Hierophant that includes "having reached my idea of what a Hierophant should be." Anyone who can interpret the mysteries in a way that provides initiation into the mystery to those seeking his or her advice is qualified. If you expect your Hierophant to be perfect, you're in for a shock.

The same is true for any spiritual mentor. If the person you're learning from is in the flesh, they are capable of being wrong about things. Don't deceive yourself, or you'll be running head first, full speed towards disappointment. Keep your definitons real, your expectations managed, and at the same time strive for the ideal, knowing that the words, symbols, and entities we interact with are representative of the ideal, not the ideal itself.

* No, I don't have Hermes as a god before God. That's against the Law.