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Archive for August, 2009

Review – “Spiritual Cleansing” by Draja Mickaharic

Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Self-Protection
Draja Mickaharic
2003 (Expanded Edition) 1982 (Original Edition), Weiser Books
10 out of 10

Draja Mickaharic is among the best living occult authors, and is one of the last remaining genuine professional magicians. He keeps things simple, without bogging his books down in a ton of theory. His work is all written with the assumption that the reader has access to a spiritual worker or a teacher who can answer such questions one-on-one. Even so, his material is useful right out of the gate.

He moved to the US from Bosnia in 1939 and has spent much of his life working as a magician (though he calls himself a “witchdoctor”), collecting the lore of natural magic from around the world, and writing it down in manuals like Spiritual Cleansing, and collections of notes and short essays like Magical Techniques.

The present book, Spiritual Cleansing, is the single best book I’ve seen on the topic of practical psychic self-defense. Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense is, of course, an unrivaled classic, but it is mostly a collection of anecdotes and theories with only a handful of immediately applicable techniques. Mickaharic, on the other hand, provides what may be described as a companion volume to Fortune full of baths, spells and herbal treatments suitable for the cleansing of oneself, one’s friends and family, and one’s home. Included also are programs for “basic maintenance” which anyone can implement to improve their own spiritual, mental and emotional lives.

Mickaharic himself admits that his book is more of a “first aid” manual than anything, and is not intended to take the place of either one’s regular spiritual and religious practice, nor of professional magicians and spiritual workers who can go into much greater depth than an untrained individual could do for him- or herself. Still, first aid and basic hygiene are as important spiritually and psychically as they are physically and this is the perfect manual for it.

There is still a lot of useful material in Spiritual Cleansing for even the experienced magician. It can be extremely useful, for example, to have a pre-mixed herbal preparation to quickly and simply accomplish the same goals one would normally leave for a complex cleansing ritual. Such tools also make it very much simpler to prescribe “treatments” to your friends, family and coreligionists when they ask for help with a specific problem. Instead of having them to teach them a ritual, all that is required is to give them a pouch of a bath mixture and send them on their way. Above all this, the “recommended treatment” program given at the end of the book is very good, and will serve even the most practiced of magicians well in their daily lives.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book enough to just about everybody. Magician and layman alike will find a lot of use in these pages for their own general psycho-spiritual wellbeing.

Christian Hermetics – An Introduction

[Excerpt from an upcoming book. Title as yet undecided.]

This is, therefore, how Hermeticism differs from religious mysticism and metaphysical philosophy. Hermeticism as the aspiration to the totality of things is neither a school, nor a sect, nor a community. It is the destiny of a certain class or group of souls. For there are souls who must necessarily aspire to the “totality of things”, and who are impelled by the river current of thought, which never stops, flowing always forward and always further on, without cease… There is no stopping for these souls; they cannot, without renouncing their own lives, leave this river of thought, which pours without cease—equally during youth, mature age and old age—without halting, from one darkness needing to be illuminated to another darkness needing to be penetrated. Such was, is, and will be my destiny. And in addressing these Letters to the Unknown Friend, I address myself to he who shares this destiny with me.” (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, author anonymous, revised English translation 2002 Robert Powell, 2002 Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, pp. 264-265, emphasis in the original)

So wrote one of the great Hermetic writers of all time, an anonymous man equally devoted to Hermetics and Christianity. For him, a person could be a Christian without being a Hermetic, but Hermetics is not complete without Christ.

In the opening quotation, our Unknown Friend also goes a long way toward telling us what Christian Hermeticism is. It is not a special sect of Christianity, nothing like a school or religious order. Instead, it is the God-given destiny of a certain group of individuals who are called to a greater, more direct understanding of the “totality of things”, or the workshop of God, during this life.

The first time I read that quotation, I wept. We are hermetics; as Christian Hermeticisms, we live in the world but are not of it. It is a wonderful thing to encounter, even through a book, the signature of a soul who travels the same path, whom God has blessed the same as ourselves. Yet, at the end of the day, the Christian Hermeticist is still a hermit.

Enough of the poetry! What is Christian Hermeticism in practical terms? This question has at least a four-part answer.

The first part, the essence, is mysticism. Mysticism is not an escape from the world, but the direct experience of God’s Presence while still in the world.

Next, the natural development of mysticism, comes gnosticism. This is not the escapist philosophy of the Greek Gnostic gospels, but the personal intellectual and emotional reflections of mystical experience.

Third, the Christian Hermetic practitioner expresses their gnosis (“knowledge”) through magic. Magic is not sorcery, but instead the liberating and healing power of God expressed through an intelligent agent. Much more will be said on the matter in Part 3, but it may suffice for now to state that magic is the channeling of the blessings sent in response to the prayers of mysticism.

All of these three phases finally find themselves written in the Book of the practitioner. That is, each individual Hermetic synthesizes the experiences, gnosis and blessings into her own life and makes use of them in blessing the lives of others. That synthesis is the fourth phase of Christian Hermeticism.

But is Christian Hermeticism actually Christian? That is a vital concern indeed! I will have more to say concerning specific aspects of Hermeticism, and their respective Christian orthodoxy, in later chapters. For now, I make recourse to my own story by way of an answer.

I had been involved in Hermetics in one form or another for years prior to becoming a Christian. Although I had many excuses, the main reason why I never explored Christianity in much depth was the Christian community itself. I felt prematurely judged by Christians and, by extension, by God. In response, I retreated first into atheism, and then into a philosophical form of Satanism. I believed in God, but did not have much understanding of Him, and so childishly rebelled against Him.* During this phase, I allowed myself to wallow in selfishness. At my lowest, I was actively invoking the Dragon of Dispersion, and making pacts with Lucifer and his cohort. In my foolishness and sinfulness, I committed abominable acts.

Hermetics rescued me. Or, rather, God rescued me through Hermetics. By a circuitous path, I came into the habit of performing a very intensive series of rituals and meditations each day which served to gradually increase my awareness of God, albeit in an abstract way, and to awaken my body, soul and spirit to cleaner things. Then, as if to bring the whole sequence to a climax, I suddenly began to suffer a series of dreams and waking visions. The archangel Michael came to me time and again and showed me my errors. He assigned me a few specific prayers and rituals for penance and baptism and, over the course of a very busy two days of uncharacteristic asceticism, I felt all of the weight of all of the guilt of all of my sins life from my heart. A final dream confirmed and strengthened my footing upon the narrow way. Still, I was not a Christian. That came a couple of more years down the line.

Having worked most of my way through a very intense Hermetic training system, I found myself living in an isolated mountain town in North Carolina. While at my place of employ reading a book on theosophy, a voice boomed in my head: “Who is your god?” I was shocked to hear my own inner voice immediately reply, “Jesus Christ!” Several days of meditation and prayer later, and I gave myself over to Christ.

And yet, I did not give up Hermetics. Why? Is there no conflict? Frankly, no. What does Jesus teach us? ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40 NRSV)

Hermetics replies: “I have come, divinely inspired by the truth. Wherefore, I give praise to God the Father with my whole soul and strength,” (Corpus Hermeticum 1:30) and “There is one way to worship God: be not evil.” (CH 12:23) Further, I was once told by a living Hermetic teacher, “The key to Hermetics is love. Trying to train in Hermetics without love is like trying to drive a hundred miles an hour on an empty gas tank.” (Imagine this quotation in a heavy German accent for full effect.)

So you see, the two are more than compatible: their message is identical.

*God is neither male nor female. For the sake of linguistic convention, I have chosen to use masculine pronouns when referring to God throughout this book. When referring to an anonymous human being, I will use feminine pronouns for balance and, once again, convenience.