Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Weighing of the Heart....or...How Not to Get Eaten by Ammit

The Weighing of the Heart
"Forgiveness and love, cannot be earned, deserved, bought, sold, won, or forced. They are a gift and should never be taken for granted or expected. Only accepted."

-Hussein Nishah

The "Weighing of the Heart" ritual seen in the Book of Coming forth by Day is, for me, like most spiritual teachings, reflective of something deeper than a plain reading would otherwise indicate. On it's face, the Weighing of the Heart appears to be simple "be good or get punished" morality teaching not unlike the Annihilationist view of Hell espoused by some members of the Christian faith. Sure, it's more merciful than the eternal torment motif presented by traditional Christian theology, but it's still a simplistic "be good, get rewarded" "be bad, get punished" morality the likes of which I, admittedly have little time for. Like most sacred concepts, I think that the key to the reality beyond the metaphor is to be found, not in a simplistic "be good and don't do bad things" morality (which is inarguably a wise manner in which to comport one's self), but in a deeper reading of what the *Weighing of the Heart actually implies.

How does one, even metaphorically, place one's heart and it's burdens against a feather and expect it to weight less? It seems impossible because, on its face, it is. But, like most moral dictates reflective of spiritual mastery, the imagery, the metaphor, is extreme so as to make a stark point. Not unlike Christ's command that those who would choose to follow him  must (according to Luke 14:26) hate their families and even their lives in order to be his disciple, the imagery of the weighing of the heart poses a difficult or even impossible dilemma for the soul about to face judgment.

 The heart's weight is, mythically, judged against the 42 Negative Confessions, which are a set of precepts in alignment with Ma'at who is both the goddess of Divine Law and the personification of that Law. Upon reading the Negative Confessions, the reader, if honest, will certainly come to the inescapable conclusion that Ammit awaits and his or her soul is doomed to be devoured by the great beast. The challenge of the Negative Confessions is that it is effectively, in my opinion (and experience of Divinity), impossible to have failed to violate any number of Divine Principles over the course of one's lifetime (many times). The 42 Negative Confessions are a blind, or in other words, a smokescreen through which the uninitiated cannot see. A literal approach to the Weighing of the Soul leads to a decidedly fatalistic conclusion because all humans stumble, fall and fail from time to time. It's part and parcel of the human condition. Fortunately, the 42 Negative Confessions are a symbol that point the way to the truth. When the wise present an impossibility (a hyperbolic spiritual teaching in this case) it is in order to cause the initiate to look at the problem from different perspective. No spiritual challenge is insurmountable because such challenges are corrective, educational or initiatory in nature and not sadistic or punitive.

In the case of the Weighing of the Heart and the 42 Negative Confessions, one cannot get around the law, one must transcend it, finding the law behind the written law.

The fact is that we will all do things, even unintentionally, that are ethically/morally questionable at best or cruel and destructive at worst. Such unintentional "sins" against ourselves, others and the gods are unavoidable, though such missteps should sharply diminish in frequency as one gains wisdom. To have a heavy heart, a heart heavier than a feather,  is to bear, unto one's death, the guilt of unforgiven regret. This is the weight of one's sins. Not that we won't feel regret, we will from time to time, but we needn't be crushed under it's weight and we certainly do not need to carry until our last breath.

How then  do we transcend the guilt fed by regret and cause our heart to be weightless?

One lifts the burdens from one's heart through forgiveness, authentic self-forgiveness. Many methods of forgiveness of self and others have been proposed and, depending on the individual, they can work, however, the type of forgiveness I am going to propose dovetails with the bigger picture of the soul's evolution.

To forgive in such a way as to have a heart lighter than a feather is to do more than try to let go of the pain and emotional charge of one's regrets, but to instead see the necessary letting go as a side effect of a fundamental shift in consciousness. I am referring to a shift in consciousness that allows one to see the thread of one's life from a broader perspective, a perspective more akin to that of one's HGA, Higher Self, or the gods themselves. This is the perspective of clarity and wisdom undimmed by the ignorance of the ego-self, through its selfishness and thoughtlessness, that sinned against the gods and one's fellow man in the first place. The key is getting off the game board entirely.

Albert Einstein once said, "“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them," and he is correct. One's paradigm must shift so as to become more expansive, to see more broadly than we have before. The most elegant way, the way most attuned to our evolution as magicians, mystics and the wise is to actively and dedicatedly commit to our spiritual growth. The change in perspective I'm referring to is the natural outgrowth, the reward if you will, of fundamentally transforming the way in in which you view both yourself and life in general.

Seeking the face of the Divine whether one calls this the quest for god-realization, self-realization, enlightenment, nirvikalpa samadhi, apotheosis, becoming one of the ancestors, etc. is the method by which one develops the necessary lightness of heart the gods require. Consciously attending to one's spiritual evolution through practices in tune with your personal path, practices such as meditation, qigong, yoga, theurgic ritual, devotional rites, or those means that most suit you is the key to the door that grants access to the understanding of  the law at work behind the 42 Negative Confessions. With this attainment, you may see yourself as the gods see you, the being that wears the face you wore before incarnation, the being whose essence never left their side and who is essentially of one substance with them.

For those that fail to achieve the necessary lightness of heart, being found wanting by the gods, the slavering jaws of Ammit await. Ammit's jaws are not the end, they do however represent the catabolic spiritual process by which the personality is scrubbed from the soul in question, leaving in it's place only forgetfulness, basic patterns of consciousness and, usually, mere echoes (at most) of one's prior existence before being "eaten." Thus is the soul again set to reincarnate into the physical world with all of its learnings and lessons. This is the death offered by Ammit, the annihilation of the personality you know, in this incarnation, as you. For most, this is a terrifying proposition.

The continuation of the personality intact, enlightened, and knowingly part of a far greater whole is true immortality beyond the Wheel of Return This is the gift of the heart which is lighter than a feather. Each of us, metaphorically speaking, has been devoured by Ammit over and over again lifetime after lifetime and most of us will be devoured again. However, those of us who choose to cultivate the awareness that will allow us to stand tall amongst the Shining Ones in the Hall of Osiris will see and know ourselves as they know us.....

As Divine.

(* Note that what is contained herein is a modern Pagan theological perspective on the Weighing of the Heart, the Laws of Ma'at, the 42 Negative Confessions and what they represent. This is not an attempt to recreate ancient Egyptian models of thought and no claim is made to that effect by the author. This article is the result of the author's personal gnosis, study and understanding and is not for those of a reconstructionist mindset.)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Antinomianism in Modern Pagan Witchcraft Part 1 (The Witch's Antinomian Aesthetic)

“Never the spirit was born;
the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not;
End and Beginning are dreams!
Birth-less and deathless and
changeless remaineth the spirit forever.
Death hath not touched it all,
dead though the house of it seems!”
- Sir Edwin Arnold

A lot of Pagans love the darkly mysterious paraphernalia, imagery and settings of what I'll call the "Witch's Antinomian Aesthetic." (just Witch's Aesthetic from here on in) Who isn't drawn to that which represents mystery, antiquity, substance, and power? Animal bones or horns on the altar, half-melted candles on authentic appearing human skulls (imagery that represent mortality and the world of spirits), shadowy d├ęcor as often as not bathed in the smoke of burning incense, old leather-bound grimoires, fearful (to non-witches anyway) images of gods like Hekate, Cernunnos, Morrigan, colors such as black and red (death and blood, shadows and passion/power), ravens (Pagans seem to love ravens about as much as we love wolves), the moon (naturally), and night in general are part and parcel of the Witch's Aesthetic.

I admit it, I love this stuff. Sure, it can be kitschy if overdone, but I love the aesthetic and find it more compelling than other potential aesthetic sensibilities. For me, as an issue of personal taste, the Witch's Aesthetic is simply more appealing than, for example, a New Age aesthetic with its bright, sunny, rainbow-kissed sensibility. However, because I have great respect for the power of symbol and metaphor, especially in a psycho-spiritual/magickal context, I don't casually embrace the Witch's Aesthetic in either my life or my practice. In my experience, to surround one's self with symbols not invested with purpose is to diminish their potency should one choose to eventually use them with purpose. In other words, anything of the Witch's Aesthetic that is on my altar or in my personal space is always placed there with a full awareness of its purpose and meaning. Even I feel it looks "cool" and witchy, those qualities are far and away of less importance than the deep meaning of the object(s) in question.

It cannot come as a surprise that the Witch's Aesthetic embraces a "darker" sensibility when one considers the fact that witchcraft is essentially an antinomian path. There is an inherent rebellious spirit within the essence of witchcraft, even if that rebellion is, for many, unspoken, unrealized and largely unfocused. To be a witch is to firstly, embrace and reclaim terms (witch and witchcraft) that have, historically speaking, been defined as that which is inherently malevolent. Secondly, to be a witch is to, by varying degrees, stand outside of Western culture and the normative spiritual and religious dynamics of that culture and to be, at least internally, perpetually "other" outside of the Pagan/Witchcraft community.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, the Witch's Aesthetic embraces what I would term "Sacred Darkness." Sacred Darkness is the holy ground where much of what is fundamental, sacred, and powerful in the human experience has been relegated . Within this Sacred Darkness are all of those things our ever-increasingly post-Christian society still, as a matter of course, rejects due to effect of the stranglehold moral dualism has had on the Western psyche for nearly 2000 years. Christianity, as practiced by the masses (ie. exoterically), is a moralistic, solar faith. All that is sinful, according to exoteric Christianity, has been relegated to the shadows. Much of that which is most powerful in the human experience, that which can be overwhelming, transformative, and dangerous, such as, for example, the natural process of death, has been made to seem an aberration not of this world. Death itself has been sealed away into the Sacred Darkness, demonized and turned into the work of The Enemy to be defeated once and for all when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Can it be any surprise that death, darkness and the seemingly macabre play a role in the Witch's Aesthetic?

That which is culturally repressed will eventually find voice and the Witch's Aesthetic provides one such voice to a greater or lesser extent. To a greater extent when the aesthetic is consciously adopted to knowingly express/reflect the repressed realities in the context of one's spiritual path and to a lesser extent when one is merely the unconscious voice of Western Society's collective neurosis.

To consciously choose one's aesthetic and approach is to be empowered and powerful, while to serve as the unwitting voice of the damaged Western Psyche is to be disempowered no matter how "Darkly Powerful" one believes one appears. To be unconscious is, in my opinion, to reflect a kind of angst ridden spiritual adolescence, a rebel without a cause, or as it has been termed, "Dark Fluffy."

To be continued....