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by Cysylltiwr Stormmarchog
In his History and Practice of Magic,1 Paul Christian relates the tale of Louis Ennius, a soldier of fortune who found God in a cave in the middle of a lake in Ireland. Saint Patrick, so Christian tells us, died in the late fifth century A.D., shortly after God had appeared to him in a dream. In the dream, God himself led Patrick to a small island in Lough Derg, six miles from Donegal, where the saint was shown a cave and told that whoever confessed his sins and entered into the cave would be shown visions of Heaven and Hell. For the next few centuries, the cave was open to anyone who wished to attempt a pilgrimage to the next world and--hopefully--back.
In the twelfth century, a monastery of Augustinians was established on the island, and a door was built across the entrance to the cave. From then on, no one gained entrance without bringing letters of recommendation from his bishop, and without being examined personally by the prior. If the postulant was courageous enough to persist, he was shut up for eight days in a narrow cell, where he spent his time in fasting and prayer. On the evening of the eighth day, he was led into another cell built in the form of a vertical coffin, in which he passed the night without being able to move, alone with his thoughts. On the morning of the ninth day, he received the sacrament, and prayers for the dead were said for him. He was then led in a solemn procession to the mouth of the cave. Once he was inside the cave, the door was locked behind him, and would not be opened again for twenty-four hours.
When the prior opened the door a day later, if the postulant was there--which didnt always happen--and alive, he was carried off in triumph, as if he were a saint come back to life. The account of his visions was then duly recorded for public consumption. If, however, the postulant did not appear at the door, or if he was found dead, it was taken as a sign from God that the person was not worthy. Prayers were said for the dead man, but there would be no further mention of the incident.
Louis Ennius was a native of Ireland who had traveled throughout the known world earning his keep as a mercenary when the opportunity presented itself, and as a common criminal when it didnt. Eventually, having squandered all of his possessions, and being one step ahead of the law, Ennius found it expedient to find God. His original intention was to end his days in some lonely hermitage, but when he heard about St. Patricks cave, he couldnt resist one last adventure.
While Ennius was locked in the cave, he saw the visions he was expecting to see. He interpreted the physiological changes in his body that were caused by the fasting, lack of sleep, and sensory deprivation in terms of the Christian symbols he had been concentrating on during his eight days of prayer. After eight days of concentrating on God and the afterlife, his mind was full of images that were prestaged to appear in his visions. Hell appeared as a burnt out landscape where grotesque looking demons relentlessly tortured the souls of the damned. And Heaven appeared as a lush green countryside dotted with golden cities and white-robed saints. Ennius used much the same imagery that Dante would use in his famous descriptions of Heaven and Hell,2 or that Hieronymus Bosch would use in his paintings,3 images from the Medieval Christian interpretation of Church dogma.
Since the days of Ennius, we have learned that eight days of fasting, a night without sleep, and twenty-four hours of sensory deprivation is considerably more than is necessary to induce a trance. In fact, the requirements are so minimal that occasionally people experience such a trance without realizing that they were ever in a trance state. For thousands of years, practitioners of all forms of magic from shamanism to witchcraft to ceremonial magic have used self-induced trances such as the one experienced by Ennius to attain an altered state of consciousness. Within that state, the flood of information reaching the mind from the senses, as well as the ceaseless chatter of the internal dialog we all continually engage in, are essentially turned off. This enforced quietude frees the mind to sense the plethora of more subtle forces that permeate the universe, to interpret those forces in terms of common symbols and metaphors, and to eventually learn how to manipulate those forces in a useful manner. More simply stated, trance is the tool by which a practitioner of magic can tap into and control a limitless supply of energy.
In Earth Exercise Two, you will find a minimalist re-creation of Enniuss descent to the nether world, with suggestions on how to make the exercise as plain or elaborate as you decide is most effective for you. Instead of nine days of prayer, however, you can perform Earth Exercise One. In Earth Exercise One, you will relive your life from different perspectives, first as a person of the other gender, and then as a member of a different primate species. The exercise is accompanied by suggestions on how to use the exercise to relive your life as someone of a different race, ethnic group, religion, economic class, or regional background. By doing Earth Exercise One, you will be preparing to experience the trance in Earth Exercise Two from a new perspective, there-by allowing you to gain more benefit from the experience than Ennius could possibly have gained. The reason for this added benefit is that because Ennius spent nine days concentrating on the cultural symbols he had been taught since childhood, he focused his attention on the things that he already believed. The result was a vision that confirmed those beliefs. By reliving your life from different perspectives, you acquire a broader set of cultural symbols and concentrate on the things that are not part of your entrenched beliefs. Thus, when you do Earth Exercise Two, instead of having your current beliefs confirmed by the experience, you will be open to the transformative effects of an experience you are not expecting.
EARTH EXERCISE ONE
This exercise begins by reading the first four books on the Exercise Reading List. The first book is Anthony Rob-binss Unlimited Power. Robbins has taken the essence of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and produced a set of exercises for changing your mental state. He combines the exercises with a good deal of motivational hype directed toward helping people achieve the goals of wealth, power, and success. Strip away the hype and replace the secular goals with magical ones, and the exercises prove to be effective and valuable. Chapters VI through IX, and XIV through XVI in particular contain a series of useful exercises to enhance your skill at creative visualization. As you read these chapters, keep in mind that the reason you are reading this book is to learn techniques to enhance your skill at creative visualization, or, to be more precise, creative imagination. You are learning ways to create memories of imagined events that will soon become indistinguishable from memories of real events. By doing this, you will in effect be expanding your concept of the reality of your own life experiences. You will be learning to distinguish the essential part of what is you from the parts of your personality that were created by biological and social factors. And in so doing, you will be learning just how many of the choices you make in life are not really your own choices, but are the result of biological and social conditioning. You will, in short, be learning how to exercise your own free will.
The other three books provide the specific information you will use in conjunction with the creative visualization exercises to relive your life from a different perspective. Taken together, these three books provide a synopsis of the psychological, physiological, and societal differences between the two genders.4
Once you have read the exercises in Unlimited Power at least once, find a quiet place to meditate, make yourself comfortable, and review your life in as much detail as you can. Dont try to force any structure on your thoughts. Its not important that you review your life sequentially from your earliest memories forward or from the present backward. Let your thoughts flow. This way you will be certain to cover the most formative and symbolic episodes of your life. Try to visualize the events that you are reliving in as much detail as you can. Picture everything in color. Step into the events you are remembering and place yourself in the action as a participant. Focus on the smells, tastes, and feel of each episode as well as the sights and sounds; make each episode appear as realistic and complete as you can, as if you actually were reliving the events. If you feel like you need to have more than one review session, by all means take as many sessions as you need. The point of this part of the exercise is to provide the reference base that you will use in the next part of the exercise. The reference base is the life you actually led.
Now that you have a reference base, review your life again as someone of the other gender. The first thing you should do is to visualize your body. Close your eyes and try to feel what your body would feel like if you were the other sex. If you are female, feel what it would be like with a bigger, more muscular body. Feel what it would be like to have male genitalia. Remember that for the most part, men identify with their genitalia in a way women dont. If you are male, feel what it would be like with a smaller, more round-ed body. Feel what it would be like to have female genitalia. Remember that women experience a monthly cycle. Again, review each episode in as much detail as possible, using all your senses to relive the events. As you relive an event, ask yourself in what way you would act differently if you had been born the other gender. How would people have acted differently toward you? What opportunities would have been open to you or denied to you? What duties and obligations would you have that you wouldnt have had as someone of the other gender. This part of the exercise is a real challenge because it demands that you be totally honest with yourself and admit that you would not have acted then the same way your instincts would lead you to act now. Remember, the point is to relive your life as what you are not.
And finally, I strongly recommend that you try the exercise several times: once freeform with no imposed structure, once directing events back through time from the present, and once from your earliest memories forward in time. The reason for this is that if you really could relive your life as someone of the other gender, the earliest events in your life, being different, would direct the subsequent events in your life down completely different courses than they did take. The point of this part of the exercise is not really to construct exactly what your life would have been. After all, even the best experts could only give a vague sketch of what might have been. The object is to dissociate the essence of what is you from a part of yourself that is the result of physiological processes and social conditioning. Remember, the point of Earth Exercise One is to ensure that the visions you experience in trance do not simply confirm the things you believe right now. This is accomplished by challenging those beliefs through the creation of alternate experiences of equal validity.
In the second part of Earth Exercise One, you will take the exercise to our very primate foundations. For part two you will need to read How Monkeys See the World and Through a Window. This time, you are going to relive your life as a non-human primate. The most thoroughly documented non-human primates are chimps, gorillas, and baboons. You will get the best results by choosing one of them as the primate you will become. Keep in mind that non-human primates are more hairy than humans, lack the manual dexterity of humans, and have a much smaller vocabulary. You will, therefore, be hairier, clumsier, and able to communicate at only the most basic level, although you will probably be surprised at just how human our non-human relatives can be.
The books on the Suggested Reading List have been selected to provide the information you will need to relive your life as someone of a different race, religion, ethnic background, economic background, or region. While it is not strictly speaking necessary that you do all of these parts of the exercise, the more different lives you relive, the better the effect will be when you do Earth Exercise Two. Once you have done at least the first two parts of Earth Exercise One (gender and species differences), you will be ready to proceed to Earth Exercise Two.
EARTH EXERCISE TWO
Before attempting Earth Exercise Two, you should have had a complete physical checkup. If your doctor says you should not fast, dont. Instead, double the amount of time that you spend in your substitute cave, and spend the time you would otherwise be fasting working on the creative visualization exercises. The results of doing Earth Exercise Two this way will be more variable in quality, but with effort, the same result can be achieved.
Earth Exercise Two is best done someplace that is as dark, quiet, and cavelike as possible. For most of you, that would be a cellar. Cover any windows with aluminum foil, plywood, paint, or anything else that will block out all outside light. You will also need to clear out a space for yourself. If possible, you should put down a mattress or several rugs in the cleared out space so that you will have a spot to sit or lie in quietly. If your cellar is unheated or cold, use a lot of blankets and pillows so that you will not experience hypothermia (loss of body heat). If the cellar has its own heat source, or even if there is a furnace down there that can help take the chill off the cellar, use it. The time you spend in your substitute cave should not be spent in the cold. Youre not, after all, trying to mortify the flesh.
Eight days before you will go into your cave, you will begin preparing yourself to do Earth Exercise Two by taking the first step to ease yourself into a three-day fast. Keep in mind that proper fasting involves more than just not putting food in your mouth. The way to prepare for the fast is to systematically eliminate different foods from your diet, starting with the foods that are the hardest to digest. On the first day of the exercise, you will eliminate all meat in any form from your diet. This includes not just red meat, but also fish and poultry. You will also eliminate all alcoholic beverages and caffeine including coffee, tea, and chocolate. On the second day, you will eliminate all dairy products including milk, cheese, and eggs. You will also eliminate tofu, if it is a part of your diet, and all liquids except fruit juice, vegetable juice, and water. On the third day, you will eliminate fats and oils, and beans and legumes. On the fourth day, you will eliminate all grains. On the fifth day, you will eliminate everything but fruit, vegetables, and water. And on the sixth day, you will eliminate all solid food and eat only soups made without solids. By the seventh day, you will be fasting.
During your fast, drink plenty of water at room temperature. Drinking cold water might feel refreshing, but it can stress the stomach in particular and your body in general, something you want to avoid while fasting. On the seventh day, you will be feeling hungry, but by the eighth day you will be ravenous. This feeling of hunger should disappear on the ninth day when you will recreate being shut up in a cave.
During this nine-day period while you are working into a complete fast, you should also be doing Earth Exercise One in as many different ways as you can. While easing into the fast, and on the first day of the fast, get plenty of sleep. On the evening of the eighth day, you will spend the night awake doing Earth Exercise One for the final time. On the morning of the ninth day, retire to your prepared spot in the cellar, get comfortable, and let your mind wander where it will. Here, in complete darkness and silence, you should experience a vision within no more than a half an hour or so. The length of the vision will vary from person to person, but should take no more than three or four hours. Although over the centuries many people have performed this same exercise by themselves, you should not attempt it without the aid of an assistant. After a prespecified period of time, not to exceed four hours, your assistant should enter the cellar and terminate the exercise.
Like Louis Ennius, you will have had a magical experience. The fasting, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation will have induced an altered state. Earth Exercise One will have provided a unique vision. As soon as you feel ready, write down everything that you can remember about the experience. Include your feelings and attitudes, and dont forget any smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. The more detailed your written account, the better. Also, once the exercise is completed, break your fast by adding foods to your diet in the reverse order in which you eliminated them. Begin by eating soups and broths, and make meat the last food you reintroduce into your diet. You dont need to take nine days to reintroduce these foods, but you should take at least three.
The Earth Ritual should be performed after the Earth Exercises have been completed, and after you have had several days to recover from the fast. Dont even attempt the ritual until at least four days have passed. But once four days have passed, the ritual should be performed as soon as is practical.
Before actually performing the Earth Ritual, you should prepare your ritual garb. This is where you will use the tables that you filled out in Part I of this series. Use the entries in the Earth rows on the tables, including any subtables you might have created, to design your Earth Ritual garb. Your garb could consist of something as simple as a brown robe with a cord and a few pieces of magical jewelry, or it could be as complex as a multicolored outfit that carries all the colors and symbolism of a particular deity. I have seen variations that range from a Cernunnos outfit, complete with antlers and bare chest, to a multilayered Magus outfit with symbols embroidered on every square inch of each layer. You dont have to make everything yourself, but you should make at least part of the outfit with your own hands.
The Earth Ritual is best performed out of doors in the midst of, or near, some trees, and near the site you have chosen for your next photographic session. The ritual should be performed on the appropriate day and time as indicated on your table. In keeping with the symbolism of the cave as a place of retreat, your face should be shadowed or covered during this ritual.
Begin by casting the circle and calling the elements. Smudge yourself or have your assistant smudge you. Use the creative imagination exercises from the first book to create a link to the cave experience in Earth Exercise Two. By creating this link, you will be making it possible to tap into the power of the original experience. Imagine yourself back in the midst of whatever you experienced in Earth Exercise Two. Only this time, place yourself in the experience wearing your magical garb and having the self-assured manner of an accomplished magician. Allow the energy of the experience to flow through your body as you direct it toward becoming one with the element Earth. Feel what it is like to be the element Earth. When you are ready, make a door in the circle, exit, and close the circle behind you. Although you have physically left the circle, you can remain within it by mentally expanding it to encompass the spot where you will hold the photographic session. Go to the spot you have previously chosen to do the photographic session. You will use two of the photographs in constructing the mandala as described in Part V, so take enough photographs to allow you to choose which ones you will use. The stance you take, the symbolism in the background, your orientation, and the like were all determined when you filled out the Earth rows of the tables.
Once the photographs have been taken, return to the circle. Disconnect from Earth Exercise Two by allowing the energy to return through your feet to the Earth. Dismiss the elements, take down the circle, and ground yourself. To ground, place the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet directly on the Earth and feel the energy return to its source. Eating bread or chocolate is a pleasant and effective way to complete the grounding.
At this point you may wish to take a day or two and go someplace where you can be by yourself in a setting that is free from distractions. Even if you dont think you need to get away, you should do it anyway. For most people, the Earth Exercises provide a transformative experience that demands to be addressed, and ignoring it will diminish the quality of the results.
AIR AND SPIRIT PREPARATION
After some time has passed and you have had a chance to meditate on the exercises, you will need to begin preparation for the rituals and exercises in Part III of this series.
Air is the element that is usually associated with reason and logic. But reason and logic form only one way of acquiring knowledge. The Air Exercises in Part III of this series will help you to gain more complete understanding of yourself and the world by adding new ways to acquire knowledge to the mundane ways taught in the public school system that the majority of you will have been through. Begin your preparation by creating your Air outfit, using as a guide the entries on the Air rows of the tables you filled in Part I of this series.
The Spirit Ritual marks the halfway point in this practi-cum. There is no Spirit Exercise per se, but by marking the halfway point in this practicum, the Summer Solstice, you will be acknowledging and enhancing all of the other exercises. You should begin work on your Spirit outfit, using as a guide the entries on the Spirit rows of the tables from Part I.
In Part III of this series, you will work on expanding your ability to acquire knowledge from the world around you. And you will work on integrating those skills with the results of the Earth Exercises.
CYSYLLTIWR STORMMARCHOG likes to practice magic outdoors at a sacred site in New England. According to Cysylltiwr, there are more sacred sites waiting to be rediscovered and reused than most people imagine. Many are on public land and are in no danger of being destroyed, but most are on private land and could be bulldozed at any time. Except for the lucky few that have already been found, these sites are all awaiting rediscovery by someone who can recognize them for what they are and treat them accordingly. Cysylltiwr Stormmarchog may be contacted by writing care of Obsidian.
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