I am young, and at a point of indecision perhaps characteristic of young people. I’ve dabbled in several spiritual traditions, most notably Protestantism (Baptism), Western mysticism centered around the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, a la Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Buddhism, particularly Dzogchen but also some other schools, Taoism and Neidan a la Liu Yiming. By this I mean only that I have some basic degree of familiarity with the idioms of these traditions, because these are the persons I have conversed with and the texts I have read; I have not committed to any path of practice, which brings me to my point of indecision now.
Additionally, I’ve had brief exposure to several other spiritual idioms and traditions, mainly through the perspective of anthropology. I am also continually learning new things and making new connections between various idioms and between my own experience, mainly through reading, conversation, and meditation. My own spiritual experience is scattered, perhaps exactly because I have not been guided by a traditional Path; yet I want to say some things, and here is my attempt to tell an understandable story amid the chaos.
A view on my current thoughts, a dilemma if you will: I’ve been considering committing, actively and completely, to a particular mystical system and attaining a certain level of spiritual maturity within it before spending much time pursuing eclectic methods and teachings. I would at least like to achieve a level of spiritual attainment roughly equivalent to A:.A:.’s 7°=4□ grade, Adeptus Exemptus1See James Eshelman’s The Mystical and Magical System of the A:.A:. for a pretty clear picture of the process of spiritual growth I’m thinking of here.
I like that structured paths of spiritual pursuit, such as those based on the Tree of Life, have a clear progression towards increasing spiritual maturity, with signs and assessments along the way to ensure one’s honesty with oneself. Yet committing to any such pursuit, even including the yogic practices of the East, would be a huge commitment of effort and time, and I would want to be quite confident in my selection, that it fits my personal temperament, and that it be productive and worthwhile.
Particularly, I notice that in Taoism, there is the idea of a distinction between upper de and lower de2see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Yiming#Neidan_(Internal_Alchemy). Few persons are able to practice the way of upper de, but these persons need not follow an active, “doing” Path of spiritual practice, rather making the dao itself their Path—a Path of “non-doing”; a teacher is still required, however. I see parallels between this idea and Nyingma’s distinction between the lower eight yanas and Dzogchen or atiyoga3see https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Nine_yanas, where Dzogchen is quite like the Path of upper de.
Personally, I have often gained much from meditating on “primary” materials like the I Ching, the Bible, or even symbols like the Ouroborous or the Cross, without much prior structured study or instruction or exposure to commentary. I often find that I gain understandings quite suddenly, resonating with what are commonly described as “higher” understandings, without passing through common intermediary processes, though I am able to understand the intermediary discourse in conversation or in reading. These experiences, along with certain others, have persuaded me that I am more apt to walk the path of upper de, and indeed I’ve always felt more Drawn to Dzogchen and its analogs than any of the other yanas. Yet a subtle feeling does linger that I may be deceiving myself, and for this reason, I very much seek a teacher.
There is also that question of a teacher. In the yanas according to Nyingma, the fourth through ninth yanas in particular absolutely require a teacher to perform an initiatory empowerment. In all other spiritual traditions I know of as well, Western, Eastern, or eclectic, a reliable teacher or master is at least highly recommended, if not absolutely required.
The one person I’ve ever met who I’m quite sure is a legitimately qualified Taoist teacher told me through his disciple to 立 (establish, erect) de, which comes from a verse “太上有立德，其次有立功，其次有立言” In the highest antiquity, there was establishing de, then was establishing work/action, then was establishing speech. This was in response to his disciple asking him about me pursuing a magical path, because I had told him before that I was considering committing to a Western magical tradition (about the same things of which I’m writing now).
But the Taoist master was very explicit that he was not my teacher, and made no hint that he would accept me as a disciple. His words reinforce to me my conviction that I am to walk the path of upper de—this master was a teacher of lower de. I wonder if the path from 1°=10□ to 7°=4□ is necessarily a path of lower de, and also what happens if someone who naturally, by the cycles of reincarnation or whatever, is able to use the higher vehicle/Path, pursues a lower one. I’m also thinking, therefore, that perhaps the Third Order of A:.A:. is analogous to upper de.
I have been told that Crowley himself establishes, with regards to the Path, certain correspondences between the Kabbalistic idiom of the Golden Dawn and certain Eastern idioms4In particular, I was pointed to Liber 777, but also that these correspondences may be quite dubious. I have also been told that discourse and literature about anything above 8°=3□, above the Abyss, is quite confused and difficult to navigate at best, even pointless.
So here I am now at this point of indecision, and here is my intention in the short term:
I know very little about the Kabbalah, so I shall study that and meditate on it, with particular emphasis (this is more of a mid-term idea) on the portion of BINAH, CHOKMAH, and KETHER. I hope thereby to see clearer connections with what else I associate with the paths of upper de and Dzogchen. I may also try to find commentary on 8°=3□ through 10°=1□, to see if I can intuitively thresh the trash from the golden elixir; I have been told though that this would take a lot of time, for there is a lot of trash, indeed infinite seas thereof.
I will also continue to focus my research on the question of what happens when someone capable of taking the higher vehicle instead pursues a lower one, or whether that is even possible. And if you, reader, have any clues towards this inquiry, please do inform me, for I am quite without even an initial lead.
Finally, I am seeking a teacher. It is often said that when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear. So may my pursuit be test and testament of my readiness, and may I receive the reward appointed to me, and of which I am deserving, whatever it may be.
God’s Will be done, I in it.