Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Astral Temple and You! (Part One)

The Astral Temple and You!
By: Jack Faust
“Want to know the secret of magic? Any cunt could do it.”
- John Constantine (to a very frightened Alan Moore).

A Proper Discodian Introduction

Every so often someone tells me, “I can't astral project. It's just, like, impossible man!”
At which point I retort: “Do you know how to day dream?” This normally leads to them staring at me as if I'm utterly insane (and it can be argued that I am, but that's a topic for another day) because the two things are obviously not the same thing. Which is entirely correct. They are not; however, if you can day dream, you can also project astrally.
All that matters if applying a few techniques to the same process. The most basic of these – not to mention the easiest to use – that can lead to being Astral Badass of Doom (© St. Jack Faust, all royalties may be paid never) has been called variously: the Astral Temple, the Spiritual Temple, Method of Loci, the Memory Palace, and so forth.Yes, I can already imagine a few of you just took a step back and screamed: “Wait, wait, ! Method of Loci?! The Memory Palace?! Those are memory techniques!”
Why yes, my fine friends, they are! Indeed: it's the exact same technique with two different names and two different goals. And with that I can dispense with the humor and attempt a more serious tone...
A Few Background Details Never Hurt, Right?
What we've come to call the Astral Temple has its primary shape in the Golden Dawn System of Ceremonial Magick (hereafter Golden Dawn), even if its roots go much deeper. For at least the last forty years the Golden Dawn has required its initiates to create an astral temple at every new elemental grade. (I am actually unsure if the original Golden Dawn maintained that requirement; but its really neither here nor there if they did.) The reason for this was to assimilate the psychological processes of advancing through elemental grades, and we can thank Israel Regardie for that, as well as rendering the practitioner with an easy-to-use tool for various magical techniques and processes.
Of course: I had no idea of that when I stumbled upon the technique. At the tender age of sixteen I read Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal and was struck by something I realized was quite novel immediately. In the novel the monstrous Hannibal Lecter is depicted going into his mind and playing around with what Harris calls The Memory Palace. The reason for this is that Harris had, as he wrote the novel, recently read a book of the same name by Francis Yates.
Yates spent a good deal of time studying the works of Gordiano Bruno, the Renaissance-era Hermetic scholar who was burned at the stake for writing about banned topics openly, and began assimilating ars memoria (“the art of memory”) into what would become a major non-fiction work. As early as 1 BCE the techniques were spread throughout Greece, and the later Roman Empire that replaced it, and proliferated throughout the magical, scientific, and religious (quite a few Catholic priests and theologians practiced it) communities.
Incidentally, and ironically for those of you who plan to use this primer for occult dealings, it was often associated with logical and rational processes. The most basic process involves chaining ideas to locations or images and following them along a path. An example is when someone says: “in the first place (such and such), in the second place (such and such).”
However the techniques of ars memoria – which will become the Astral Temple shortly – also have a central, much deeper process. But before I get to that, I'm going to digress a bit and discuss a bare bones view of the astral plane so that I can clear up any confusion which may be created before such a thing can come to pass.
A (Hopefully) Very Brief Discourse on the so-called Astral Plane
During my time on the now defunct, in the days before it collapsed (may it rise again in new forms!), a fellow named Siv made a comment that to this day I still love: “the astral is the greatest MMO ever played.”
Having given due credit, I shall explain: the acronym MMO stands for massively multi-player online game. This analogy leads to a slightly better one: let us assume, for just a moment, that the mind is indeed like a computer. And if that comparison holds, then the astral plane is like a network of minds. In this view, then, day dreaming and working in the astral temple is like playing a game or using one's computer in single player mode. Whereas day dreaming is like playing a single-player only game; using the astral temple is like playing a single-player game that also supports multi-player platforms.
So if you know how to day dream, then you can build an astral temple. And if you can build an astral temple you can certainly astrally project by selecting the multi-player options. Furthermore: if you build an astral temple, you can also fully utilize some of the basic techniques of ars memoria to increase your ability to memorize things!
And if you're a neo-pagan or occultist, chances are you've already done it and just failed to realize that this handy tool has so many utilities that you can never exhaust them all!
So how the Hell do we build an Astral Temple?
Building an astral temple is like making a house (“memory palace”), or if that seems to be too much for you just a room. The first thing you need is a blueprint. So pull out your handy occult journal and begin the writing or drawing the following:
    • You need an exterior and interior.
Pick an aesthetic that you can easily remember: do you love Victorian mansions? How about castles? Do gabled archways do it for you? The aesthetic that sticks in your mind the best is the one to make use of the first time you begin constructing it. Let your mind go wild, just not too wild. Once you've constructed the outer area of the temple (and once again, it need not be a temple; for my Temple of Fire I have a pyramid amidst burning sands, for my Temple of Earth I have a Victorian manor that I visit, and so forth) you should begin on the interior. Map out every room from the entrance on and fill the space. You may find, however, that as time goes on it seems to take on added elements of its own and the interior may eventually be 'larger' than the exterior because the astral temple is a virtual construct. But for the first time: keep it simple. Unless you're artsy and really need to go haywire. You'll want at least two things to make full use of this primer: a room for evocation/invocation, a library for ars memoriatechniques, and a room with a doorway or archway that goes nowhere for astral projection. The last aspect can be included in the evocation/invocation room if you want to keep it really, really simple.
    • You need to define a route.
Once you've completed drawing or writing your memory palace you can start using it. However, and this is the only issue with the technique, you'll need to drop into trance and be prepared to fully utilize visualization techniques to get into it and really have fun. For this you want to write out a series of steps (“a landscape”) that you cross to get there. It's best to use between ten and twenty imaginal steps to get there.
Example: to get to my temple of earth/Victorian Manor, at least initially, I'd begin at a creaky and old wooden bridge over a small creek. Around me were sprawling, green hills with rich and dark earth. I'd step over the bridge (step one) and reach the first hill. I always glanced up at the sky and looked at the clouds right after that, keeping the visualized details up as high as I could. (If you have problems with this level of visualization, I will get to that in the next section.) I'd then follow a dirt path to the right past two more hills that faced one another (step two) and come into view of my temple for the first time. From there I crossed a twisted wrought-iron gate that was heavily rusted. It always made a deep and powerful groan/creak as I opened it (step three). I would then enter the gardens of my temple, where the hedged path led to a large statue of Pan (step four). From that point I'd arrive at the entrance of my temple: sitting directly in front of it were two guardians (protective servitors [step five]) and stood before two large, cherry, double-doors with curving brass handles. I'd then open the doors and step onto marble tiles. Before me would be a large spiraling staircase on the right side that led up to my library; on the left was the 'living room/ballroom'. (Step six.) Entering that area (step seven) I could see a hall leading to the evocation chamber. And so I was fully within my fully realized astral space.
    • Use it every single day for at least three weeks.
If you want it to remain fresh in your memory for utilization, that means committing it to memory perfectly.
    • The devil is in the details.
If you add witchy or alien glyphs around the entrances and exits, and before the rooms to signify them, it helps the process of what they are and what they do stick in your mind. Later, after you've used it quite a bit, you'll be able to enter specific spaces inside it just by visualizing those glyphs and taking a short day-dream trip directly there. At first, however, it may be hard to render all those details every time you visit. If that occurs you'll notice that the glyphs and other aspects are 'hazy'. So spend some time focusing on things like sight, scent, and smell as best as you can imagine them. Tying all of these together with your visits means that you'll be able to do it easier. It will also mean that projection, later, is easier.
(Next: visualization building techniques, magical uses inside the astral temple (evocation/invocation, charging sigils, making thoughtforms), ars memoriatechniques inside the library, and finally astral projection, as well as a brief discourse of how to maintain trance while you do things in real time and access the astral temple, not to mention credits and book references for things I forgot to cover.)


Nate Emmons said...

Thanks for posting this, it drew me to your blog and is a really helpful introduction. Can't wait for part 2!

Anonymous said...

Where's part 2?