Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Invoking the Holy Guardian Angel

Last year, a comment on my post about the Middle Pillar Ritual led me to write a short essay on the process of invoking the Holy Guardian Angel. I recently reread it and thought that I would make a post out it.
Presented below is my essay with some minor modifications. The impetus for writing it was a question about whether the Holy Guardian Angel (or HGA) is an external being or not. As I state in the essay, this question is explored very thoroughly by Erwin Hessle's excellent essay on the subject, which concludes that the HGA is most definitely not an external being. Interested readers may also want to peruse this link and this link and this link for more details about what is meant by True Self and True Will.

Read on for more.
Crowley’s writings state very clearly that the “Holy Guardian Angel” is merely a convention, a symbol for the True Self of the magician. When we speak of invoking the Holy Guardian Angel, we mean “invocation” in the sense of what Crowley says in Magick in Theory and Practice: “The mind is the great enemy; so, by invoking enthusiastically a person whom we know not to exist, we are rebuking that mind.”

This occurs in the text, by the way, immediately after Crowley explains why he selected the phrase “Holy Guardian Angel”: “because the theory implied in these words is so patently absurd that only simpletons would waste much time in analysing it. It would be accepted as a convention, and no one would incur the grave danger of building a philosophical system upon it.”

The HGA is thus most emphatically not some kind of external being. It is a symbol for the True Self of the individual, the dynamic part of which is the True Will. If you haven’t already, you should read Erwin Hessle's essay on the Holy Guardian Angel, which traces every substantial reference to the HGA in Crowley’s published prose and demonstrates that it precisely is such a symbol.

So the HGA is a symbol for the True Self, but a magician is certainly free to come up with an image to represent his True Self and names to give his True Self. Visualizing the image of the HGA appearing and flooding the working space with golden light might work far better for some individuals than the “standard” banishings. Or inserting a personalized name for one’s HGA into the Qabalistic Cross (instead of “Aiwass” or “IAO” at the heart) might be very effective for some.

But at the same time, as much as you need to “lose yourself” in the performance of ceremonial magick, it’s equally important when developing your practice to keep in mind what it is that you’re doing and what your goals are. If you use images associated with your “HGA” to help you shift out of your normal mode of consciousness, then great. If you’re constructing the rough equivalent of an imaginary friend and getting advice from said friend and then telling yourself that it’s just as “valid” as any other experience, then you’ve gone off the deep end.

A big part of getting good at magick is figuring out the kinds of images and ideas that “enflame” your individual mind. This is necessarily going to be very, very different for each person. Not everybody is going to respond to “angels” or to “ceremonial magick” or even necessarily to images. If you’re a musician, maybe it’s some holy sound that signifies your True Self to you. If you’re an athlete, maybe it’s some kind of physical activity.
The “invocation of the HGA” consists of saturating your consciousness with those things that excite and exalt you. The goal is actually to achieve something of a “spasm” or “burst” in the veils that maintain the illusion of separateness (physical orgasm makes a useful analogy). Once this happens, you have to discard any images or names you’ve come up with because all of those images and names are on the level of thought, and your HGA is “beneath” thought.

What you’re trying to do with “magical” practice is to ease your way in to working yourself up to the point where these sorts of “spasms” start occurring naturally and, from there, can be repeated. This may not sound incredibly useful, but trust me: you’ll know when it happens. Some people define “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” as the first occurrence of this “trance.” Others define it as the ability to bring on this trance more or less at will, and I think that’s a more useful definition. One who has achieved KCHGA is aware of this “other” perspective on things that he’s discovered, and it’s just a matter of switching focus, which gets easier and easier to do with time and familiarity.

What I just said above might sound kind of like religious crackpottery: “I meditated and the truth was revealed to me!” And, in fact, it would be religious crackpottery, except for a number of important differences:

1) Nobody’s claiming anything metaphysical about the experience called “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.” There’s no reason to think that the experience gives access to any kind of “deeper” or “truer” reality: it’s just a feeling. Now granted, it might be argued that this feeling arises because one is perceiving reality with fewer “distorting lenses” than usual, but the feeling is not indicative of any kind of access to metaphysical realms.
2) The experience itself isn’t important – what’s important is what it enables you to do: to follow your True Will uninhibited, as if you had opened flood gates and let the light pour through. In other words, Knowledge and Conversation is important only insofar as it enables the individual to make specific and actual changes in his or her day-to-day life; to the extent that it becomes the basis for fantasies that distract from day-to-day life, the experience might even be detrimental.

3) The experience doesn’t negate or devalue the world we normally interact with – it just puts it in a new context.

This last point requires a bit of explanation. If you talk to some mystics – if you really must -- they claim that their spiritual fantasies are the “real reality” and that the physical world is some kind of “lesser” realm that’s only a “fraction” of the “real reality.” All of that is complete bullshit. The KCHGA experience I’m talking about just wakes you up to the fact that, for example, the vast majority of the things that preoccupy your time and attention are mental clutter, not reality. So you might, for example, catch yourself worrying about what your coworkers think about you or about how many bills you have to pay – and then you remember that those are just thoughts and that there’s this “other” way of looking at the universe, outside of that narrow little collection of stories between your ears. If you’re advanced enough in the practice of magick, you might even be able to “shift over” into that other way of looking at things right then and there – without any of the paraphernalia that you required in the beginning to get into that psychological space. That is to say, you might “invoke the HGA” in the blink of an eye, with nothing more than your willpower.

And, in fact, I’d say that you’re not *really* at KCHGA unless you’re able to consistently make the leap from “normal” mode to KCHGA mode at will, in ways that have practical benefits on the way you live your day to day life (note: “consistently” does not mean “always instantly”). In the above example, stopping your preoccupation with mental chatter and listening to your Will in the moment is an enormous practical benefit.
But going off into a fantasy world where you polish your self image as a “wise enlightened one” and pretend like your daydreams are the “real reality” is a way of getting lost further in your mind.

As ever, the advice is “invoke often.” The more often you identify with your True Self, the more easily you see through the nonsense with which your mind wraps that Self. And then it becomes second nature to just operate like that.
But anyway, all of what I’ve been saying has been said before, by other spiritual traditions. Once you’ve had the experience – or even way before, if you have a little bit of imagination and have done some wide reading – you can look back and see that all these spiritual traditions are different ways of talking a specific, concrete experience, and all the different dogmas and such are different explanations that people attached to the experience. Maybe you don’t respond to talk like “magick” or “angels” or “invoking.” Maybe you prefer the Buddhist or Hindu terms or symbols. It doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that they’re all symbols, not fairytales for you to get lost in.


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  2. Thank you for the great article and links. The true will article was excellent also. Best