A topic which deeply concerns many occultists is the "Magickal Memory." To Crowley, the magickal memory was an important part of occultism. And, like many aspects of occultism, under another name it has become a popular topic with the general public. Thus, it becomes hard today to discover anyone who is not familiar with some theory of reincarnation and past lives.
Sooner or later you will have a past life experience as a result of your occult work. It may be in the form of a vision during meditation. Or, perhaps in thé midst of a group ritual the appearances of the hall wherein you are working, the clothes and even the faces of the people with whom you are working will alter. You will have the impression that you are in another location and working with other people. These are all signs of a returning magickal memory.
Before discussing the Kabalistic theory of reincarnation, I want to make clear the importance of past life experiences. To be quite frank, I am not convinced that reincarnation is a reality. The scientific evidence for it is too scant and at times silly to take the whole thing seriously. I have met several dozen people who have told me that they were Jesus' disciples in a past life. I do not know where they were hiding in the New Testament accounts wherein only twelve are mentioned. One lady told me in all seriousness that she and I had "studied Kabalah together at Jesus' feet" I found that very interesting as I had done some past life regressions to that time and further back, and according to my experiences had never even been to the Middle East I even knew two ladies who were lovers, one of whom thought she was an incarnation of Jesus, the other of whom thought she had been Judas! This certainly tells more of a story of their present-day psyches than their past lives. In fact, their present-day relationship resulted in them almost destroying each other mentally and spiritually.
I also know of several people who claim to be the current incarnation of Aleister Crowley. I have a letter from one of these self-avowed incarnations which shows a total lack of knowledge of Crowley's philosophy and an even smaller knowledge of the English language. Even if you think little of Crowley, his mastery of English is beyond question. On the other hand, I have a friend who insists that all of the many people claiming to be Crowley actually may be Crowley. He says there must be at least 33 people making the claim to be Crowley, and they each have about l/33rd of Crowley's intelligence, talent, skill and wit. Dion Fortune, in her book Sane Occultism (which should be required reading for all occultists), says: "To claim greatness in the past does not so much cast reflected glory on a mediocre present life as suspicion on the intervening lives... "
Past life experiences are one of three things:
1. They may be real experiences of actual past lives.
2. They may be fantasies to glamorize a currently bland lifetime.
3. They may be messages which your subconscious needs to give to your conscious, but which your conscious refuses to hear. Thus, the subconscious presents it in a way that can be accepted by the conscious: as a symbolic past life.
The truth is that it does not matter which is the cause of a past life experience. What matters is what you get out of it now, in your current lifetime. If you re-read the section on the soul or personality in an earlier lesson, you will see that the memory is mortal; it ends with the body at the change known as death. Thus, if we do have a past life experience, not only does it tend to be short and incomplete, but it also must be important enough to have made an impression on one of the immortal aspects of our being. And whether it is an important message from our subconscious or an ego-building fantasy, the message of past-life experiences is the same: What can I get from it now?
Frequently, the answer to this question deals with allowing us to learn some way of living better in the present. Sometimes they give cathartic experiences which can free us from phobias and neuroses which are no longer valuable to our mental well-being. Sometimes they tell us more about our inner make-up and desires.
Past life experiences are, always have been, and ever must be very personal in nature. To be of any value at all, we must personally experience them. Sooner or later, as a result of doing the Great Work, experience them you will. Once experienced they can make drastic, positive changes in your life. They can also improve your magickal talents by freeing you from problems which might be holding you back.
Unfortunately, whenever there is something of true value, it seems that there is also either a cold-blooded opportunist trying to make a fast buck or a self-deluded believer who must help everyone ... and make a few bucks in the process. These people can be found at "psychic fairs" and giving classes or lectures, the main part of which consists in the telling you of your past lives. If you accept these people as entertainers you will get your money's worth. They may actually be tapping into and informing you of real past lives (if such exist). But for magickal purposes they are useless. As I said, you must experience your past lives, not just "hear" about them for them to be of any value to you whatsoever. Luckily, there are now teachers who are helping people to relive their past lives, and your participation in such a class is encouraged. There are also many fine books on the market which tell you how to experience past lives. And as I have already mentioned, the magickal work you are doing will probably result at one time or another in a past life experience.
However, our real interest here is the Kabalistic theory of reincarnation. The Kabalah, remember, is not a static, unchanging theory, but an evolving metaphysical philosophy. The Kabalah has several theories of reincarnation which have evolved over time. None, however, are as simplistic as W. W. Westcott, a founder of the Golden Dawn, expressed when he said that according to the Kabalah people are limited to three incarnations. This has been copied by some authors who were members of the Golden Dawn and by other writers who don't give their sources credit. Before going on, I must add that in another work Westcott does talk about a more advanced Kabalistic theory of reincarnation. This is the Lurianic theory of metempsychosis, the Kabalistic theory of incarnating as a higher or lower life form.
There are two prime Kabalistic theories of reincarnation. The first relates to the Four Worlds. This theory sees four levels (relating to the Worlds), each of which has a series of lessons to be learned. If you do not learn them in one lifetime you must reincarnate until you do. Once you have learned all of the lessons in the lowest level, becoming as spiritual as possible in the lowest World, in your next incarnation you will find yourself at the most unspiritual place of the next of the Four Worlds. As you may have guessed, the lessons and experiences are associated with the Tree of Life, and thus have ten basic areas of concern, although there may be many more sub-categories. It can be seen that according to this system there can be innumerable incarnations.
According to this system, the goal is to traverse all Four Worlds and perfect yourself so that you can reunite with the Divine. However, it is claimed that most people only get to the Tiferet level of B'ri-yah. At this point a person has evolved to such a high state that further incarnations are no longer necessary for evolvement.
The second basic theory is the above-mentioned one of Isaac Luria. Luria was a famous Kabalist who never wrote anything, but whose student's writings make him the father of modern Jewish Kabalism. His system has two basic features which would today be called metempsychosis and Karma.
Metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, is the idea that we can incarnate as a lower life form if our current life is not in tune with the working of the universe. But the Lurianic theory goes much further than other theories of this type. In this system you are not punished for evil by becoming a cow. Rather, your next incarnation is dependent upon what you need to learn. Thus, if you need to learn stealth you might incarnate in your next life as a thief or as that thieving bird, the magpie. As you can see, the reason for incarnating into a "lower" life form is very logical.
The Lurianic system not only features this high level of logic, it also features greater depth. If you need to learn patience, for example, you may incarnate as a rock! If you need to learn flexibility you may come back as a reed by a river.
The ideas which come out of this are fascinating. The implication is that plants, rocks, animals are alive and have souls. This also implies that all planets and asteroids are teeming with some form of life. In fact, it means that the entire universe is wonderfully alive, and that we are but a small part of it.
According to this system, we stay in a "lower" form until we have learned the necessary lesson and we have been of some use to a "higher" life form. Thus, in the example given above, you could stay a rock until you learned patience and until you had become useful, perhaps by providing shade to a snake or an insect, or serving as a stool for a human hiker. It is possible that your stay as a stone could last a relatively short time, or it could last for thousands of years. Likewise, you might stay a reed until you learn flexibility and become the food of an animal or perhaps part of a reed boat. As a side note,
Dion Fortune urges non-vegetarianism for Western occultists because giving up animal products in the diet may cause a psychic opening too quickly and bring about psychic or physical damage. Those who believe in the Lurianic theory of metempsychosis would argue that you should eat meat as it will help those who have incarnated as animals move up the evolutionary scale. Actually, you should do what's right for you. If you force yourself to do otherwise you will be uncomfortable and unhappy, which is a handicap for psychic development. If you don't want to eat meat, don't; if you do, do. Personally, I choose not to eat meat, fish or fowl. However, if necessity arises, I would eat any of those items without guilt.
The Lurianic system also features a notion of Karma. In Hebrew it is called tee-koon. In English and other Romance languages, words tend to have a specific meaning. In Sanskrit this is not so. In fact, some of the earliest works in Sanskrit, the Tantras, frequently use what is called "twilight language" and are filled with hidden meanings that required a key to understand the twilight language code. Hebrew and other Semitic languages are similar in frequently having broad or imprecise meanings for words. Thus, although tee-koon means "correct," it implies the restoring of the soul to its true identity. Therefore, the reason we reincarnate in other life forms is to correct errors we have made in previous lives. The reason we experience bad in our lives for no apparent reason is for the working out of this tee-koon process. There is a passage in the Bible which says that God punishes a person for his sins unto the third generation. If you do not believe in reincarnation, this implies an incredibly vicious and vindictive deity. If, on the other hand, you believe that this is a type of twilight language and really means that you many have to spend up to three incarnations to learn to "correct" past behavior, it becomes a reasonable and logical statement. This may be the source of Westcott's "three incarnations" error.
Let us assume that you have gone through many, many lifetimes and have achieved as much spiritual perfection as is possible for a person to achieve. You have been corrected. What, then, is the result? To answer this question we must first answer the question of where souls come from.
Simply, the Divine created all of the souls before their first incarnation. Thus, unrecognized, we are all imperfect parts of the Divine Source of all. Many have not incarnated as yet. It is possible that some may never do so. These proto-human souls are referred to as "sparks"
in Kabalistic literature. These sparks are androgynous. When the soul is ready to incarnate it is split in two. Each half will go to a member of a different sex. Each soul half watches over the forming fetus, but does not join with it until the first breath is taken. Also, note that according to this system you do not start as a lower life form and work your way up. Rather, you start as a human and can work yourself up or down.
Once you have achieved as spiritual a state as possible in each lifetime, the next step in the tee-koon process is for you to find the other half of your soul. The other half will also have gone through a series of experiences and will be waiting to join with you. It may be that one of you achieves the state of being ready to re-unify sooner than the other and will have to wait several lifetimes for the arrival of the missing half. When the time is right you will be united with your "Soul Mate." This is the Kabalistic understanding of the term. In the interim you should love, marry and have children. When the time is right your Soul Mate will appear. And please do not swallow the "Hey, baby. Don't you know I'm your soul mate?" line. Anyone who says it, isn't
Once you meet and unite with your Soul Mate, your divided soul will also unify during the time you spend together. This uniting is especially important during sex; however, that is a topic to be discussed later in these lessons. Once your soul is back in one piece, as a result of the tee-koon process, you are fit to reunite with your creator.
Who works in silence,
And naught but silence can express.
—Golden Dawn Neophyte Initiation Ritual
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