Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Druidic Mystical Practice Pt 2

So, I know that "Grounding and Centering" is a pretty New Agey sort of term. Nevertheless it seems to me a useful one. Almost all systems of ritual meditation use some form that places the meditator at the center of a balnced flow of energies and/or symbols. Hermetics is full of such things, from the Middle Pillar (one of the primary sources for Neopagan exercises) to the famous LBRP. Both Hindu and Buddhist systems employ four-directions centerings.

I feel like I witnessed quite a large segment of the evolution of 'Grounding and Centering' as a part of Neopagan ritual. When I began working Pagan and magical rites we really had no such practice, and Wiccan groups before, say, 1980 seldom had any formal moment of 'induction' of energy flows (or trance) as part of their ritual outline. Of course the classic Circle Casting is itself a detailed centering rite - if approached with any heightened awareness at all it is a solid spiritual ritual. The problem was that the system had no guaranteed way of producing that heightened awareness. That began to change as Pagans adapted techniques from western and eastern systems.

By the middle of the 1980s some form of formal trance induction, usually involving personal empowerment and/or attunement to 'spiritual energies' was standard in neopagan rites. Regardie's Middle Pillar exercise, in which the light from the spiritual 'heavens' is brought down literally into the body through a series of energy-points along a center line from head to heart to loins to feet. The Hermetic Qabalah provides a convenient 3-tiered (or 3+1) model that has been taken up by many systems. The other core method of 'grounding' is the Tree Meditation (which I first used out of Starhawk's work) which involves envisioning 'earth energy' rising into the body through roots, and flowing out like leaves to circulate into the earth. In my neck o' the woods Selena Fox played a large role in introducing 'energy work' meditation as part of ritual, especially public rites. I began my own practice with Regardie, well before my formal Wiccan work, but really got a charge out of the Tree when I started using it. however it lacked a connection with the bright energy of the Sky, and the tree metaphor just made me want sun on my leaves.

ADF's "Two Powers" model grows from these sources, on a practical level. It combines the Waters and the Fire into one seething juice that connects the self deep and high with the cosmos. Fortunately for us, this model conforms well enough to the symbolic complexes of Indo-European Paganism, which often begins with a primal duality. We use the Two Powers mostly as a technique of ritual trance induction, preparing the minds of our often diverse public congregations for the work. However the technique has more personal applications in practical magic and as a spiritual exercise. The exercises presented below begin with the Two Powers and then add a simple four-directions centering. After years of avoiding quartered symbolism as 'too Wiccan' (sigh) it just seems time to admit that it's an Indo-European universal with plenty of Celtic context.
Here are some excerpts from the chapter on Grounding and Centering from the new project. Incidentally, it presently looks like the first wave of the new project will be a chapbook on the big spiritual exercise of which this is stage 2, combined with an article examining various mystical techniques as they might be applicable to a Druidic Pagan system. I expect to have that out by summer, and to post material from each stage here.

Training ­­­the Mind for Druidry - Pt 2
Grounding & Centering, and Contemplation Meditation

The second stage of training the mind begins with the work called ‘grounding and centering”. In that technique we make ourselves aware of a flow of “spiritual energies” in the cosmos, and balance those energies in our own bodies and spirits. We ‘ground’ ourselves by connecting personal reality with a much larger system that can both empower and backup our own work and we ‘center’ ourselves by organizing the flow of energies in ourselves in a symmetrical and balanced way.

There is a serious discussion to be had about how the ancients might have viewed this concept of ‘spiritual energy’, and whether it occurred at all among the Celts. We see a clear model of it in yogic systems from India, and techniques from that cultural range had a wide distribution among the Wise. There are traces in Irish vocabulary that are suggestive, but we must plainly say that we are adapting a modern magical technique to our Druidic cosmology when we use the Two Powers as ‘energies in the body’.

In the work of ADF’s Dedicant Path (and in many other Pagan basic training systems) we address these energies as the Light of the Heavens and the Waters of the Underworld. The Underworld Power is envisioned as the Waters Under the Earth, in which all the wisdom of the past is dissolved. The Power of the heavens is seen as the Light of the Turning Sky, which brings order, pattern and growth. This duality corresponds to cosmic principles, poles of cosmic structure between which the manifest world appears. They reflect a core Celtic cosmological division of the cosmos into two – Fire and Water, Summer and Winter, Day and Night. Of course such a duality is not a moral opposition – summer and winter are lovers as well as warring knights. This work, like all of the work that follows, is in one way a contemplation of the powers and components of our cosmology. By making the macrocosm of the Sacred Cosmos real in our own spirits we hope to gain in personal understanding, and in the spiritual authority that allows us to interact with the Gods as beings of worth.

Working with the Fire and Water is a core technique of Druidic practical magic, but it also serves as a method of spiritual development. Contemplation of the Two Powers begins the process of expanding the personal mind into transpersonal mythic spaces. The Fire and Water are the primal powers of creation. When we take conscious control of the Two Powers, through imagination and will, we are doing in the microcosm what the Gods and Spirits do in the greater cosmos.

The pattern of symbolic meditation based on the Two Powers begins the recapitulation of the mythic cosmos. In the work of Open Meditation we begin with the Unformed, the Chaos from which order arises. With the Two Powers energy-work we begin the process of manifestation, with the appearance of the core Indo-European duality of Fire and Water.

The practical goal of this stage of energy-work (which was begun, we hope, in the Dedicant’s work) is to learn to bring (awareness of) the Two Powers into the self quickly and surely. In our Dedicant training we provided a detailed text induction. In this phase we learn to establish the flow of the Powers with a will and a few breaths. The goal is to create a state in which the Light and the Shadow are flowing and shining in and through the body in a balanced but free-flowing way. From that base any number of specialized forms and applications of the energies can be devised.

In order to be able to spend working time on actual goals, rather than on inductions, the student must learn to find the balanced poise of the Two Powers in a swift and easy way. If you have worked with the Nine Breaths technique, you will be prepared to move to the Three Breaths method. The Kindling Charm is meant to train the body/mind to bring the Powers into balance with the simple recitation of a charm, accompanied by gesture. As you learn the method you may choose to speak the charm slowly, to the rhythm of three breaths. As you gain experience you will be able to bring the desired balanced energy-state with even a quick recitation of the charm, or with an act of will alone.

Three Worlds and Four Quarters
The next phase of the exercise – expressed very simply in a short charm – is the establishment in the mind of the pattern of the manifest world – the Three Worlds and Four Directions. The Two Powers are the ‘vertical axis’ – rooted deep and crowned high. Around this spindle of light and shadow the Wheel of the World turns.
In our Celtic system we see the ‘horizontal axis’ – the plane of the Middle World – as divided both three-fold and four-fold. First we see the manifest world divided into Land, Sea and Sky. These are the primal Celtic (and IndoEuropean) division of the manifest world. In this pattern the land is the world-island on which our lives are grounded. Surrounding the Land is the Ocean-Sea, the all-encompasing saltwaters, and over all the dome of the Sky holds the turning lights.

In this vision you stand in the center of this mythic triad, in the center of the Land in the Center of the Worlds, as it were. The Land itself is further divided with the cross of the Four Directions. While many systems use a quartered circle, ours does not employ the hermetic ‘elements’ of fire, water, air and earth. In this work we use the symbolism of the four Irish provinces, the various paths and stations of human life, distilled into simple terms in the charm.

The ritual text presented below conjures the vision of the vertical axis in just a few words. We also provide some more detailed exercises . If possible it is best to get out under the sky, to stand or sit perhaps upon a hilltop or a rise and work the exercises in a place where the real horizon and forms of the Land can be seen. The impressions and memories from those exercises will bring depth when you work the quick version of the charm.

Contemplation Meditation
In parallel with Two Powers energy-work we begin the next stage of training and focusing the attention and will. In Open Meditation we focus on an essentially empty symbol, such as the breath, and allow thought to flow by without attachment. In Contemplation Meditation you choose a specific pattern or symbol as the focus of your attention. In many cases the symbol – such as the Hallows, or the image of a God – may be physically present. It is also common to contemplate a mental construct image. You visualize, imagine or conceive the symbol in your mind, and observe it as if it were in front of you.

In this exercise the goal is similar to Open Meditation. You intend to keep the symbol always the entire focus of your attention. You may find your mind ‘thinking about’ the symbol – your task is to return attention directly to the object of Contemplation, without attachment to the flow of consideration about it. In this way we hope to allow the reality of the symbol to enter our awareness directly, and deeply. There is always time to think about these matters – meditation is a time set aside for other mental goals.

The technique of Contemplation is core to most of the higher-end of ritual and magical trance. As you work your way through ritual the ability to address each action with a whole and focused mind, to experience each thing for its unique power, is key to effective results. You learn to be in the presence of the Gods themselves, while maintaining the Peace and Power of your own Center. However, we can begin with much more modest goals

Stage 2 Practice: The Shrine, Meditation & the Two
The Druid seats himself in her seat, facing east if possible. If there can be hallowed Fire and Water, so much the better. Begin your breathing pattern. Find your peace, perhaps using the Bone, Breath and Blood method.
Bless the Water and Fire, as you say:

The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, Below and on High,
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.

When you are ready, dip your hand in the Water and sprinkle or lave yourself, then pass your hands through the incense or Fire and bring it onto yourself, as you say:

By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky
As you cleanse and bless yourself, feel the Water and Fire washing and searing away all that’s not in your true pattern of being.
Resume your center and bring the Two Powers into yourself, swiftly allowing the Waters to rise, followed by the descent of the Light, as you do the Kindling Charm:
Cross your hands on your chest and say:

Powers of the Earth and Sky
Rooted deep and crowned high

Place fingers on forehead, chest and loins in turn, bringing the Two Powers smoothly into each, saying:

Flow and kindle in my head
Flow and kindle in my heart
Flow and kindle in my loins

Cross your hands on your chest, feeling the balanced flow of the Two, and say:

Flow and shine in every part.

Remain with hands crossed on the chest or, if you prefer, extend your arms straight from your shoulders. With the Two rising and falling in you, open yourself to the horizontal plane, to the Three Realms of the world, to the Four Provinces of human power. See the Isle of the land on which you stand, the misty Sea that surrounds on all sides, the dome of the Sky overhead. See the signs of the Four Quarters, if you like – the Wand in the West, the Sword in the North, the Plow in the East, the Harp in the South. Hold this contemplation as you say:

The Land upholds me, the Sea surrounds me, the Sky above me.
Before me bounty, behind me wisdom
On my right hand magic, on my left hand strength
Cross hands again on the chest
For the Cauldron is in me.
And I am seated in the Center of Worlds.

At this time you may wish to pause in a Contemplation Meditation in which you compose yourself seating in the center of the Worlds and Realms, with all the Powers at your hand. This meditation can be maintained as long as you wish, simply experiencing the feel of the Pattern of the Worlds around you, with the Fire and Water in you. When you have finished your meditation practice you should make a simple offering to the Spirits. Light an additional offering of incense, and open your heart in welcome to all the Holy Beings. Say:

Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea
By Fire and Well, by Sacred Tree
Offering I give to ye.

Take time to return your awareness fully and completely to your body and material senses. Even as you remember what you may have gained or learned, allow your awareness to return to common life and breath. Before you rise from your seat, pause for a moment and return to your center in peace. Cross your hands on your chest and say:

The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

on to pt 3

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