It is often stated on our website that our school puts the greatest emphasis on actual practice and direct experience, instead of simply theoretical knowledge and the development of opinion. In the divine science of theurgy there is much to learn and study, it is true; but in the end, only direct experience can ever serve as the vehicle which carries the aspirant towards God. In order to create the proper conditions required to cause these experiences, spiritual practice (called “askesis”) is required.
Ideally, spiritual practices should be learned directly from a teacher who has accepted you as a student. Therefore, we must always strongly encourage our readers to seek tutelage under the guidance of an instructor, even if that guidance is not with us. No general course of instruction or list of techniques, no matter how great or thorough, is ever a replacement for a living teacher who can observe the progress of the student with spiritual eyes and the wisdom of personal experience. Even the basic course of practice to be given in this article is only a cornerstone, rough and unspecific. It is general enough that, for the majority of readers, it should work sufficiently. Each practice given here is foundational, and must be practiced in some form or another in any legitimate spiritual path. None the less there will be some who find it very difficult to pursue and maintain even so simple a routine without the direct guidance of a teacher.
The purpose of this article is not to replace a teacher. The purpose, instead, is to provide the reader with a beginning practice routine that will introduce him to the concept of daily meditation, and familiarize himself with the practices which are essential to any true path. That way, whether the reader should decide to pursue theurgy or some other system, the experience gained from these practices will assist him in producing results wherever he may go. In other words, these practices do not replace a teacher, but are meant instead to simply satisfy the would-be student and give him a valid means of making progress until a teacher can be obtained.
Preliminaries: The Altar and Meditation Seat
Before beginning the path of spiritual evolution, the earnest seeker should take the time to acquire what might be seen as the only two “preliminaries” to the practice of mysticism: an altar and a seat.
The altar, or “bomos,” is the “Place of Power.” It was traditionally also called the Hieron, or “Holy Place,” a term which could be applied to the altar, or to a place where meditation is done (the space surrounding the altar). The alter can be as small or large as one wishes, and as decorated or bare as is preferred. Upon it, the aspiring mystic will place a store of incense, some candles, and representations of the divine which synchronize with his understanding of God and the universe. If you are Christian, for example, a picture of Jesus should be put as the centerpiece of the altar, and should have the most prominent position (slightly raised above anything else on the altar, and with its view unobstructed). If you are Hindu, pictures of Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, etc, according to one’s sect. If Buddhist, then Gautama Buddha. Whatever the religion or theological preference, the main representative of divinity should be centered and raised. If one does not have a preferred name or image for God, then something considered a “formless” representation should be had, such as a lingam, an image of sacred geometry, the sun, etc. Something should be had, so that the mind can properly be trained. Without a depiction of some kind, the lower self will have a hard time following your will towards God.
Flanking the primary subject of the altar, one is at liberty to display what he pleases. Traditionally, images of saints and masters from one’s lineage would be upon the altar, in order to hone in on the evolutionary current which those adepts are still providing for mankind. Holy objects, relics, sacred offerings, and things which have been blessed can also be kept here, to help saturate the space with spiritualized energy. Take as much liberty with the creation and design of your altar as you want, and make it something meaningful to you, which is the most important thing. I might also add that any table or surface space can be made into an altar; there is no need to construct one from scratch.
With the bomos created, the student should see to setting up a kathedros or “seat of power.” Theurgists hold that this term has a double meaning, based on a hidden etymology. In the one sense, it is simply the place one sits down (“kata”) to take a seat (“hedros”). But by moving the “r” and introducing an “i” while still keeping the sound, it becomes the place where one purifies (“kathar”) his own spiritual image (“eidos”).
The kathedros will be the seat that the student will use for his meditations. It may be either a chair, or upon the floor; neither preference will make a great difference. Between the meditator and the chair or floor should be either cotton, linen, or silk cloth. If meditating in a chair, for example, drape silk over the seat and in front of it, so that while you are sitting in it, no part of you is directly touching the floor or chair. This will help insulate the energies of your meditations, which while not very relevant in the beginning, is a good habit to develop for later on. In time, just touching this piece of fabric will send a burst of spiritual energy into the body, putting the aspirant into a higher state of awareness. This cloth is, in truth, the kathedros itself. Wherever it is, the benefits of your past meditation will be also. Therefore keep it sacred, and out of the sight and reach of others. Those who are not practicing spirituality actively should neither see nor touch it. Those who are, may see it, but should not touch it.
The seat should be set up comfortably in front of the altar. The pictures or images of God and saints on the altar should be roughly head-level, neither too far low, nor high enough to obstruct your vision of it all. Do not worry about getting it all “perfect.” There is no single design which governs what the ideal altar should look like. From the most humble to the most elaborate, all are loved by God. What matters is, firstly, that the altar makes sense to you and your religious beliefs. Secondly, that you feel connected to it and what it represents.
The seat should be comfortable, but not so comfortable that it would encourage you to fall asleep. Ideally you should be supporting your own body weight as much as possible, meaning you are not sinking into a cushion or recliner or the likes. Having back support is perfectly fine, as long as you do not slouch significantly against it. The spine does not have to be perfectly straight, but good posture should be maintained as far as is comfortable. When sitting to meditate the hands should rest comfortably in the lap, or in some preferred hand gesture. The chin should be generally level, so that your neck is not slouching forwards, but neither should it be rigid. Stay relaxed. When sitting in your meditative posture, it is good to ride a line between comfort and attention. Be relaxed enough to be able to sink into a meditative state without being distracted by your body, but be alert and erect enough that you do not become drowsy or lean.
Starting the Day: The Secrets of the Sun
When first setting foot upon the spiritual path, the major obstacle which confronts the aspirant is a matter of self-perspective. The aspirant, who hitherto has been enamored by the world, and has been both in and of the world, must now define himself to be in it, but not of it. In other words, a paradigm shift is necessary. The spiritual seeker must do away with the image that he is a mundane person living in a mundane world, leading a mundane life. Instead, active steps must be taken towards realizing one’s self as a spiritual being temporarily encased within a body, whose life is much larger and greater than a physical lifespan. Realizing this, it will be absolutely natural for the student to devote great attention and the utmost care to the service of his immortal soul and divine spirit. Until this is experienced, however, the adjustment will be a difficult one for most people just starting out.