Translated by Smaragd, Polyhymnia & Silvaeon
In previous ‘New Path’ articles presenting the grading system of Graal, I have expounded that one important purpose of the new way of work is to help a student of the Star of Azazel in an otherwise, almost characteristically difficult, “trial by air”. Thus the grades aim to add posture and rooting to the process, the openness of which can turn from freedom to shackles and from energetic demeanor to downheartedness of spirits. I have presented that to achieve this purpose, a more emphasised utilising of linearity (grades), formal practices, and cycles of times (like the quarter and semiannual periods) is used. In this fourth article on Graal, I delve into the social dimension of the Work.
Graal’s relation to the social aspect can be condensed into the following key points:
1 – The journey over the mountain (or beneath it)
2 – Karma yoga
3 – Teacher-student relationship
I The Journey Over the Mountain
As presented in the extensive ‘Symbolism of the Mountain Temple’ (A New Path II), the esoteric journey of a grade member of Graal symbolically goes through three phases: to the mountain in the first grade, to the temple of the mountain peak in the second, and through the temple to “the inverted mountain” in the third. In these three grades, a living and insightful contact to the idealism of ascending esotericism, which realizes living and meaningful soul as a dynamism operating through “virtues”, is strived towards. A human being doesn’t live solely, perhaps not even primarily, for himself; rather, the idea of ascending esotericism is inner power through the means of outer Work. As I have expounded in the writing ‘Trials of the Neophyte‘, Work and Path are synonymous for all occultists; and for a neophyte of Graal, the Path to the mountain leads upwards in an emphasised way, towards the aspiration of overcoming and elevating the Self.
This “pilgrimage to the mountain” can be, and in a certain way, is inevitably made together, but the inner experience is inevitably inner. The inner nature of an occult experience is almost self-evident, but it has become specifically emphasised in a form of spiritual striving of the Left-Hand Path’s Satanic and Luciferian orientation, which the Star of Azazel represents. Although an esotericist strives to help the whole structure, her experience, her angle of approach, is inherently her own. Her responsibility for herself, in the end, can only be in her own hands. In Satanic spiritual striving, a social element is not primary, but the last form of religious and spiritual experience, and despite the Rosicrucian positioning, such (valiant) tragedy also pierces the work of Graal. The student is helped, not carried; he is guided, not moved; he is inevitably left alone in the practical adaptation of his practice, for only in solitude can a human being truly find his power from the self. The pilgrim is the sole witness of her star, for it shines from within herself.
Out of the many different types of lodges in the Star of Azazel, Graal places the least emphasis on the social element. If its students meet on social occasions, such meetings are left for themselves to ponder: the lodge seldom arranges actual outer meetings, and on these occasions, the emphasis is not on comparing experiences or relaxed socializing. Graal’s focus is not in conversing nor in democracy. These kinds of sympathetic communal work forms must be sought from the circles of other lodges. Graal’s practices, which have been contrived for the empowerment of the individual’s search, set the emphasis on consistency and individual approach to the shared basis of the Work. In other lodges, work can be done partially or foremostly in meetings or different kinds of communicative pondering and peer support. In Graal, there is no actual peer support group.
It should be noted that the teacher-student relationship and linear progress, i.e., hierarchical (graded) structure, is made possible only for students who already have an existing possibility for brotherhood’s social aspect in another lodge. 1 Especially for me as one of the guides of Lucifer lodge, it is easy to see the mutual complementarity of Graal emphasising the intrinsic, and the other lodge work of the Star of Azazel (here Lucifer lodge): the former emphasising practice, the latter, dialogue; the former increasing stability, while the latter is social; the former is closed, while the latter is free in form. It is good to keep these work methods somewhat separate in esoteric work, for it is very few of the aspirants who otherwise would be capable of keeping pragmatic 2 difference between “the sacred” and “the profane”. The esoteric nucleus vanishes extremely easily amid social lightness and the inner demand of the work laxes as just one component of day-to-day life. This is the other end of danger in the trial by air, whereas the opposite end is vanishing into the obscure space of esotericism, in which case the meaningfulness of life is not reached via the touch of sacredness in the living of everyday life. Both of these falls are possible and, in some regard, commonly experienced together.
II Karma Yoga
Although this is “a new path”, it is not a new way. The WAY is one: in the occultism of the Star of Azazel, the ascending way of oneness, where prohibitions are few but important: no to violence, lying, selfishness, and separatism. All these practical, as well as idealistic prohibitions, come clear already in the constitution of the brotherhood. They map out the spiritual practice, the forms of which may be variegated, but the objective of which is positive and meaningful, constructive oneness. As already represented at the beginning of Polyharmonia, the philosophy of the Star of Azazel doesn’t accept as meaningful (or even possible) the striving separate from the whole: escape to “another universe” or “to another planet”, “separate from God”, “as noble human animal”, or other similar, common Western forms of the Left-Hand Path that exalt the individual will against the surroundings. People carrying such ideals can occasionally or consistently use similar or even identical practices, for example, used within Graal lodge’s circle. Still, the most essential, that is the intention – and thus the whole idea of Work – is divergent and goes against the brotherhood’s ascending principles.
The most important touchstone of all is the adaptation of the Threefold Key, the last and most essential of our seven principles https://www.azazel.fi/en/article/the-sevenfold-basis-of-the-star-of-azazel/. Its challenge is of the inner sort. The same practice brought to the outer, contemplative made to practical, is the idea of karma yoga. Karma yoga roughly translates to “the yoke of deeds”, which means the ascending path student’s requirement to work for the good of the whole. 3 Not only, nor even foremostly for the good of his own spiritual or other group, but specifically and foremostly for the whole. This perspective of karma yoga has always been important, and in a certain way, the most important part of the Star of Azazel’s esotericism. Whereas outside the fraternity and in its exoteric groups, students can and are encouraged to enjoy the fruit of the work 4 of their brethren, in the inner circle of the brotherhood, there has never been, and there will never be a chance to develop without Work done for others.
By “the work done for others”, I don’t mean a Tolstoyan idealization of physical striving, the meaning of which is quite different, and the way I see it, it is relatively insignificant and a foremostly temperamental way of practice. Truly meaningful Work done for others shares only the idea of defeating self(ishness), with such thought of “work granting you freedom”. Thus karma yoga cannot be practiced too far into the depth axis by doing only the Work congenial to oneself, of which others also benefit but only as if a bonus. For example, art cannot always be a form of striving in karma yoga because the artists might be incapable of creating art without a personal need for creating. In karma yoga, the artist is more an artisan than an artist.
Karma yoga as “breaking at the altar of common good” (relating symbolically to the idea of “breaking the bread” and thus indirectly to the Eucharist interpreted esoterically) does not mean none of the religious self-denying in fanatic inspiration, for also that kind of mystic inspiration is from the point of view of this spiritual practice – selfish. 5 The student must learn to work for the whole: paradoxically, she must learn to find joy from where joy is absent and to find himself outside of the most natural self-expression, from work done for others. Many forms for such work exists, and every sister or brother who has been an active worker in any brotherhood work knows several of those forms. A member partaking in the Graal practices will inevitably come to some degree face in his practices this element of “breaking at the altar”, and social connection in the meaning of work done for others will be expected of her. Its forms are many, and the student is not required any of the practice types that go against his temperament. Some truly and “breakingly” giving form of work must still be assumed, for the principal ideas of the philosophy of the Star of Azazel include the thought that no human can proceed in esotericism by striving to help oneself solely, nor can no one help the whole without inevitably developing herself. These two are always intertwined. The individual and the broad communal structure, from lodge work to biosphere and further, are always and absolutely one. To this axiom directs the constitution https://www.azazel.fi/en/article/constitution-7-7-2006/, Polyharmonia, as well as early classics of esoteric teachings the likes of Tabula Smaragdina.
III Teacher-Student Relationship
A student of Graal must be able to open up socially not only on the horizontal axis (karma yoga) but also on the vertical axis (guru yoga). In Graal’s hierarchical system, the student’s hope for development comes – what an atrocity in today’s Western thought! – from above, the guide and the upward developing powers, the advocate or a channel as of which the guide hopefully works. Unless the student believes in such a possibility, it is questionable whether the whole working of Graal is meaningful. The student’s experience of the guide may and is allowed to fluctuate, but trust must be found for the teacher’s will and ability to help unselfishly. In theory, such engagement is not overly challenging because Graal, as with other structures of the Star of Azazel, can be joined, be part of, and resigned from for free and without sanctions. In practice, such freedom only adds to the challenge of the “trial by air” for students of these days: he himself must first defeat his need for independence to the extent a guide can be accepted, and to hold on to the instructions given by the guide – i.e., the system, an occult school, the guide represents.
Thus, accepting a guide can already help a Left-Hand Path student in a similar way as giving up a guiding relationship can help a student of a traditional Right-Hand Path. 6
IV The Way Under the Mountain
In the article ‘Symbolism of the Mountain Temple’, I briefly mentioned the possibility for “the journey under the mountain”, which differs from the normal undertaking of the Graal grades. With certain reservation, we can say that whereas the time and again branching path of practices 7 represents the White and Red aspects’ Venus-Mars connection, the third path withdraws separate to Saturnian work under the Black aspect. 8
This path, “the path of the dragon”, is an independent practice model, where the student has the will to follow the practice structure of the Graal mountain on his own terms. It is a version of the pratyeka path. A student on this “path under the mountain” is for some reason not adaptable to the structure, but never-the-less stays within its close proximity. As an analogy, we can think, for example, of the lone desert ascetics of different religions, who assume the doctrine but not its ecclesia, the outer group, in any existing form.
The path under the mountain can be heroic and sacrificial if it is assumed out of necessity: if the guides can not receive the student in the traditional form of teaching or if the student, for his own reasons, cannot commit to guided teaching. On the other hand, it offers the possibility for personal stiffness and falling into hubris if chosen by reasons too light. Because Graal’s work allows quite a lot of freedom already, even under the guide, and its practises are not too excessive for anybody, the will to withdraw from these can be quite hard to validate unless the driving force is a necessity. Still, it is characteristical to the dharma of the Star of Azazel that an exception is found from everything. Thus, such a way for practice has been made possible for – and only for – the students applicable for such a path.
The journey under the mountain minimizes the connection between the student of Graal and his teacher, practically making it one-sided: from time to time, the student reports (less often than the others) of his practices and receives no feedback from the teacher other than a short message that he can either continue the work under Graal or must give it up. After treading his path through the grades in complete independence, in theory, the student has gone through his journey to the same point – although with different emphases – as the others, but unlike the fellow students who have done the work guided, his possible continuation to the hermetic grades is questionable. 9 It is possible precisely because of the process taken in solitude that the practitioner of the Graal path going under the mountain can bring to the shared practice a deep perspective that helps others. It is similarly possible that she has remained in solipsism with her attainments, deceived by “spiritual egoism”.
Thus journeying alone either with the help of a guide or in special circumstances, without the help, as well as doing work for others, are fundamental practicalities of the socially sparse work method of Graal. Actual social communion belongs to other lodges. An extroverted student must arrange his practice as concentric according to other lodge activity or social connections outside the fraternity. The inner and outer journey as battling each other will soon become impossible – and then it’s almost always the inner which is abandoned for the benefit of the outer. Despite the right to cease the Graal work in any given moment, halting, slacking, and cancellations always have a negative impact on our work, the danger of which should be paid attention to before stepping in the circle of practice.
- Requirements for Graal membership include a minimum of one-year membership in another lodge. ↩
- In the esotericism of the Star of Azazel, the sacred and the profane, spirit and matter, that which belongs to the Work and that which belongs to the day-to-day, initiation and worldly have no cosmological borderline between them. The unifying occultism of the brotherhood, based on the Satanic philosophy, is always also tantric in the meaning that it operates from spirit within matter and matter within spirit. But this seeming fusion requires notable precision and inner posture so that the Work is done from the perspective of spirit and not that of matter, for the realization of the higher Self and not that of personal ambitions. ↩
- “The model of eight paths”, as published in many writings, represents the connection and difference of the Star of Azazel’s ascending occultism to other ways of living and methods of practice. The intention of a human being makes a choice (at every moment) between these ways and proceeds towards one of them. An occultist can develop greatly in power and knowledge, but simultaneously be further away from the ideal the philosophy of the Star of Azazel sees as the most meaningful, and in the end the only meaningful cause for action: the ascending, spiritual development for the help of all beings. The practical difference between Graal and “abandoners of the planet”, “gray magicians”, and “fallen sorcerers” (non-ascending left-hand paths) is more significant than in other lodges of the Star of Azazel. ↩
- By freely and with individual consideration drawing from literature, etc. of the others. ↩
- It opens to God/gods or spirits, which can, in fact, be the outcome of an extremely uncompromising practice. For most temperaments, it would be much harder (and much more important) to have the ability to serve people rather than spirits and gods, who the human being himself could have chosen, and additionally and possibly without knowing, created as “images of oneself” or as an agreeable complementary character of the image. Of these two quite different practice methods, the Great Commandment known from Christianity is formed. ↩
- If the temperamental need of a human being moves towards a social, hierarchically emphasised direction, he must sooner or later be capable of a psychological “patricide”, i.e., detaching from authorities by whom he has been supported. It is only on rare occasions that life does not offer possibilities for such cuttings of the umbilical cord towards skewed structures, such as a spiritual practice that goes against the spirit or to a socially oppressive practice group. ↩
- As the student several times chooses the more satisfactory one between two possible practices. ↩
- The three aspects of emphasis and their connections to the celestial powers are represented in The Book of Paths. ↩
- The students who have gone through the three Graal grades “over the mountain and through the temple” can automatically move on to the Hermetic Circle of Graal; for through their consistent work in Graal, they have practically proven to be capable of the disciplined work of the Hermetic side, where personal balance and the loving handling of several aspects together is essential. ↩