I stood before my unused sewing table, where I was to build my first ancestor altar. I thought of what I might put there: a photo of my birth parents, certainly, and two metal Peruvian figurines, a man and a woman, to honour my karmic roots to Peru. What else held meaning for my ancestors; what might make them feel at home? For my birth parents, two treasured old compasses that belonged to my father and a favourite hamsa necklace of my mother’s. For the Peruvian folk, an offering of corn meal and tobacco, and palo santo, a Peruvian wood incense. To symbolize the ancestral wisdom I wanted to access, two small plastic skulls; and to honour my shamanic path, pieces of wood from a tree struck by lightning on the property of one of my shaman-sisters (being struck by lightning three times is believed to be a call to that path).
In shamanism you learn fairly quickly about the constant presence and influence of the ancestors, their legacies — both gifts and wounds — and why it behoves you to pay your respects and enlist their help. Yet no matter what path you’re on, a relationship with your ancestors can benefit you. Continue reading
A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred site. It can demonstrate the depth of your devotion, be it to your deity, your community or to yourself and your practice. It is a key feature in many religions, such as Islam, which mandates that everyone of able body conduct a pilgrimage to Mecca.
In this technological age, there are few places that cannot be reached in relative ease and comfort. For a pilgrimage, however, the journey is as important as the destination. Continue reading
Let’s get something straight. Thelema is most certainly satanic, but it is not in any way, whatsoever, Satanism. Now, I am sure many reading this statement will ask, what’s the difference? The answer lies in the role Satan plays. Continue reading
“No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience,” claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, “Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path.” I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.
I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were “wired” for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.
I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Continue reading
I have always liked the motto Aleister Crowley gave to his journal The Equinox: The Method of Science—The Aim of Religion. The first part in particular. Today science is something that many people connect with technology. In some sense, science and technology are inseparable. The beginning of the twentieth century was not without its technologies either. The Equinox began to be published in 1909 and by then, early versions of today’s ubiquitous technologies were emerging. The escalator, air conditioner, neon lights, gas-motor powered airplanes, vacuum diode, sonar, instant coffee, and even the theory of relativity all came to life in the first decade of the twentieth century. But when Crowley stated “The Method of Science…,” he was not talking about any of these technologies, nor ones to come. Instead he was referring to the way science is approached and practiced. Science has a method and at the centre of that method are questions.
When Crowley advanced the method of science it was, more than anything else, an attitude or an approach to reality. It is one of curiosity, open mindedness, and discovery. It was a method that elevates the question and only sees answers as doorways to other questions. Continue reading