Original blurb: As occultists we are inclined to see ourselves as heretics: dissidents from the mainstream. And yet it seems that most occult, pagan or gnostic movements follow the same route as the modern mind in general: (unconsciously) losing access to the magical reality by favoring abstract mental constructions, power-fantasies & feel-good-spirituality. There is no quick fix & certainly no one-fits-all solution. However, in this talk we will explore the alternative heresy of the Kosmic Gnosis, embodied in initiatic paths of Gnostic Sacramentalism & Voudon. Their adepts exalt soul-body & seek ecstatic becoming in an erotic exchange with the maternal kosmos. Instead of replacing the One with a Goddess or an over-inflated Ego, they celebrate Life in all its daemonic expressions! Sharing from an inside perspective, I will highlight how the initiates of this current erect strongholds of their Gnosis & provide practical suggestions for the independent practitioner to magically re-enchant their world.
Strongholds of the Daemonic All
The term “Heresy” is defined as: “1. an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma; 2. dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice”.
Most of us here follow a magical path. This is per se contrary to church dogma and thus heretic with regards to Christianity. Like the ancient Gnostics, who were to my knowledge the first to be labelled “heretics” in this meaning, many occultists reject the Abrahamic Creator God. Instead their spiritual work shall lead them to the true, transcendent source of all being – beyond that god. To illustrate this with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life: you abolish Kether and want to merge with Ain Soph/Ain, become the source of the manifested god yourself. Others, in accord with religious mystics, acknowledge the Abrahamic God (as source of all creation) and seek to merge with him. More ‘Psychological models’ in turn transfer all of these monadic cosmologies into the human and put the ego / self in place of the Creator (often with the will as guiding principle). I am sure you all know examples of these pathways or follow them yourself.
No matter which of these routes we follow, all of them are embedded in the monadic tradition, where all of being, the cosmos, emanated from one transcendent source. (To which everything is reducible again.) Because of being closer to the source and preceding the material world, the upper, spiritual spheres are regarded as more powerful. Just as Spirit/Mind is regarded as more powerful than the body/Soul. And thus the natural conclusion is to develop or ascend from the phenomenal, from body/soul to a transcendent reality or to align that which belongs to it (pneuma in the language of the Gnostics, spirit or rational mind) with the transcendent source. This is what most esoteric systems, but also Eastern spirituality, mysticism, or even Jungian psychology have in common. And this is the transformation most of us seek with their spiritual, magical work. Isn’t it?
Well, to me it is not. The pandaemonic, Kosmic Gnostic current, of which I am an initiate, does not acknowledge any supremacy of the transcendent realm! This absolute refusal of the transcendent reality is a clear “dissent from the dominant theory, opinion or practice” of most spiritual and esoteric systems. Kosmic Gnostics are the true heretics within the occult.
So where/how do we dissent? We realize transcendence to be an abstract mental construct that mirrors itself in macro- and microcosm. It originates in the life-hostile parasite that at some point in time invaded the pandaemonic reality (which I will explain soon) and infiltrated mankind. In humans it manifests as spirit or rational mind, acting through ego.
To the Kosmic Gnostic, the kosmos, the pandaemonic All is the only reality that is truly real and alive. This is exemplified and supported by more primal, indigenous peoples as well as ancient pagans or mythical people like the Pelasgians, all of whom did not have any abstract mental concepts beyond the visible kosmos and who lived in close contact with the numinous powers. Only the kosmos was real. While most people today exist mainly within “day-consciousness”1a subject-object reductionism / perception of the world, roughly comparable to the waking state in contrast to the dream state, primordial people experienced the kosmos with their souls and lived in a (constant) “night-consciousness”, an ecstatic, erotic exchange with the maternal kosmos 2again, roughly comparable to the dream state, a holistic experience that includes all bodily senses; body-soul closely intertwined.
Now I can imagine the neo-pagans and Wiccans say: hey, we also worship the kosmos, venerate nature; and some of us also want to diminish the ego or integrate our shadow self. And yes, that’s true. These points are similarities between paganism and the Kosmic Gnosis; and they are why many Kosmic Gnostics would also identify as pagan. But a pagan or wiccan or neo-shaman is not automatically a Kosmic Gnostic. Because there is usually one of the following problems: modern esoteric pagans use heathen terms and put more emphasis on nature and body than mainstream religion, for example, but their overall framework does not differ from other esoteric systems and is still directed towards transcendence. For instance, they usually replace God with a polytheistic pantheon or the Goddess but those are still thought of as transcendent beings and are then just as much a transcendental projection as the monotheistic God or the Gnostic monad. (Often there is also a recreation of history that never existed) And the exaltation of mind, the overall framework, stays the same. Nothing really changes. Since we have this transcendent parasite within us, we usually act in day consciousness. And to rationally proclaim to be a pagan or animist is not the same as actually having a pagan, animistic world experience, which is obstructed by Spirit/rational mind. If this is not addressed in any way, via transgressive, transformative work, most of the ritual work stays under its influence and is merely a form of self-hypnosis: The apparent loss of ego-feeling during a ritualistic trance or the feeling of being one with the world, or in particular assuming a god-form, this is still generated by your day or I-consciousness. Naturally there are exceptions; I do not doubt that ritual work of any flavor can momentarily draw you into night consciousness, if your soul is reactive, else you could not have any experience of an essentially kosmic gnostic nature. However, it is about recognizing those (and not mistake any “magical experience” for something more.)
To repeat: The status quo, the original set-up of the human being needs to be changed. However, as the transcendence is a false trap and the spirit-mind the adversary, the direction and intention must be inversed: The Kosmic Gnostic embarks on a descent. To subjugate the transcendent parasite (and usurp his powers). We must overpower him, not just temporarily, and put him in service – to the only mystery there is: Life (polarized into soul and body)3Compare Ludwig Klages, Of Cosmogonic Eros, Transl. M.Kuhn, Theion Publishing, 2018.. Life is manifold, dynamic, ever-changing, always becoming. It is not just moving matter but en-souled phenomena. Within us AND around us. Kosmic Gnosis is a bio-centric, that is a life-centered worldview. Not logo-centric, nor human- or god-centered. It is a Gnosis of the numinous, magical reality as it can be experienced only by our Souls. Kosmic Gnosis is the knowledge of the unharmed reality of the pandaemonic All. Unharmed but not untouched – as there is that parasite, alien to Life. Kosmic Gnosis is actually anti-cosmic. “Cosmos” with a “c” is what the parasite in your mind/ego, like the monotheistic God creates. It is the life-less reality all of us perceive each day, whether we are religious, spiritual or not. The “kosmos” on the other hand is the living plurality (temporarily) manifested or revealed out of the potential/chaos by the meeting, the erotic exchange of souls, of daemonic entities and powers. Therefore, we also call the kosmos the pandaemonic All as everything truly alive is en-souled and daemonic. And to perceive or experience this, via the night consciousness of our souls, has already been lost to most. To make such an experience of the pandaemonic more than just a spontaneous happening by chance requires the “gnostic transformation” of the individual I just talked about, the exaltation of soul-body/Life over spirit, as well as Magic rooted in this knowledge of the All. Magic here is to be understood as the means to interact with that kosmic reality, to intentionally draw night consciousness into day consciousness. This is no longer easily accessible to us/to be done and under constant threat by the life-less, imitating parasite. Consequently, we need to erect strongholds of the daemonic All – in our Souls, on our altars, even in our daily and profane lives! Because strongholds are not only “fortified places”, they are “places of security or survival”. And they are places “dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic”. Now one such stronghold of the Kosmic Gnosis is formed by the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna with its pathway of Gnostic Sacramentalism.
Gnostic Sacramentalism: Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna
Without going into too many details, suffice it to say that the gnostic church of the Kosmic Gnosis, the Ecclesia Gnostica Aeterna, might be compared a bit to underground revolutionaries: while the surface (on a quick glance) is in line with the (Christian) “enemy” (use of sacraments, e.g. baptism, communion; Apostolic Succession as lineage of initiation), the EGAe’s context/its Gnosis and consequently internal, esoteric methods differ; eventually, you could say that we hijack the apostolic succession and thus the power and methods of our adversary, of “God” or the “Holy Spirit” are usurped and used against him. This equals building a stronghold right within enemy land. Some of the methods used (that include essential Kosmic Gnostic elements) are the following:
- A transformative, initiatory path that is outwardly marked by sacraments and ordinations that reflect corresponding esoteric changes in the initiate. Which is to be pursued by everyone: Everyone works at least towards priesthood / More clergy than lay members – Because ordination is not just a grace or mark transferred onto you but becomes a true metamorphosis, the transformation I spoke of. Using the sacraments in a heretic and heathen context 4E.g. understanding of Christ, mater, soul, kosmos, “god”, we transform the initiate and break down the barriers erected by the non-living agent of transcendence between soul-body and kosmos, ignite our bloodlamp and resurrect our inner daemon to the pandaemonic all. Like Krist, we sacrifice our Self.
- One of those “heathen” contexts that we embed our sacramental work in is the Great Mother, which must not be confused with either a specific Magna Mater as Cybele nor the idea of a universal, all-pervading goddess. The Kosmic Gnostic Mother is the Ur-ground of Life, to which everything returns and from where it re-emerges in ever-new shape 5In contrast to the monad/emanation theory, it cannot be reduced to her again.. For one she symbolizes (and facilitates) this gnostic experience of the becoming and passing away, the cyclical time of the all, and the experience of the kosmos as maternal.
- Such experiences are (foremost) truly ecstatic experiences, enabled by Eros, as it is “ekstasis” that (temporarily) diminishes the influence of our “I”/ego, lifts the shackles from our soul, and transports us into the daemonic reality, to the instantaneously created new world. This is not the same as merging with “God”, the transcendence, or an experience of “cosmic consciousness” as being one with All. It means a bio-centric, ecstatic experience in night-consciousness, where daemonic entities meet/enthuse each other. 6Again, see Ludwig Klages, Of Cosmogonic Eros, Transl. M.Kuhn, Theion Publishing, 2018.
- Last for now but not least, the path and transformation is facilitated by ancestor veneration and service to the dead which progressively develops into a symbiotic exchange of Initiates/the Ecclesia and the living Dead, the past and the present, ensuring the cycle and return of life in changed form (not only of past physical lives but also our own).
Now this last point, ancestor veneration, is an obvious link between the pathway of Sacramentalism and another more prominent current within the Kosmic Gnosis which is Gnostic Voudon embodied by the SVG. 7When I talk of Gnostic Voudon or Voudon Gnosis, I am not implying the Voudon Gnosis by Michael Bertiaux that some of you may know. While there is shared history there, Bertiaux’s system clearly falls into the category of transcendent, logo-centric/monadic theory.
Gnostic Voudon: La Société Voudon Gnostique
Haitian Voudon is a living and breathing tradition that on the one hand connects back to indigenous and (traditional) African Vodun spirituality in an unbroken lineage, and thus naturally incorporates a more primal consciousness. (in contrast to imagined reconstructions of traditional religions). On the other hand, through its own formation history and syncretistic elements it is already more accessible to the Western mind. In my opinion, however, it does not account for the dualistic struggle we find ourselves in, the tyrant / live-less god in us. This is why SVG does not practice solely traditional voudo even though our hierophant David Beth is initiated in Haitian Voudon as well as in more traditional African lineages (besides esoteric and western occult traditions). Apart from emphasis on traditional voudon element, we do also incorporate Western esoteric / gnostic elements in order to address the gnostic struggle I tried to elaborate earlier. ((We put a lot of emphasis on voudon elements and their traditional background though and how they intertwine with our Gnosis by nature)) instead of only conceptualizing a Western magical approach in voudon terminology. One of our aims is to use the methods Voudon offers to achieve the interaction and symbiosis between voudon initiate and world/kosmos that is natural to voudon but to utilize it for the Kosmic Gnostic transformation, the usurpation of “God”. As this usurpation requires revolutionary acts, it is consequential that the SVG is modelled on the ‘rebellious’ secret societies, and works mainly/especially with the more rebellious, wilder spirits, that usually belong to the petro and kongo nations. It operates in the wilderness, at the fringes of society, at night. Although Haitian Voudon includes elements that make it more accessible to a Westerner, as said before, its ethics and morals, the social and profane life experience differ (sometimes certainly wildly) from our own – this confrontation with the unfamiliar can help though to leave your own comfort zone and transgress into the terrain of the Soul. One of the central goals of a Kosmic Gnostic.
As said, Voudon / African spirituality naturally includes elements that are essential to the Kosmic Gnosis which is why it lends itself so well as a pathway to those who are naturally drawn / called towards this form of sorcery and ritualistic expression.8Aside for those who do not know: Voudon is foremost a religion (that includes but is not limited to magic) and it is much more structured and regulated than it may seem to outside observers. Some of these elements are the following:
- Ancestor veneration. This is crucial to traditional African religions in general (as well as to other “primal” religions or let’s better say modes of living as far as we can evaluate/know today) with their strong focus on the bloodline and the tribe or group. In contrast to modern ego-centered spirituality that aims for individual immortality (btw consequence of this life-less “I”-parasite that wants to exist forever and cannot deal with physical mortality). Anyways, the ancestors often also became the gods or divinized beings and enable access to magical and transformative powers, exactly because of our natural “blood” relation to them and their reality – those that have gone before are souls that have been/have lived and may come again in different shapes + embodiments (not reincarnation of the “person”).
- Another aspect I already mentioned is the work with rebellious spirits. Those are not to be mistaken as “evil” in our Western moral sense as the ideas of good + evil of Western society do not exist in African / Haitian Voudon. (Good + evil here usually related to taboo and its violation.) But there are lwas that could additionally be described as wild and/or rebellious, of a sometimes more forceful nature, addressed with other ritualistic means. And since the Kosmic Gnostic wants to break down this “heavenly kingdom” of “God”, wants to change the status quo, such lwa are the right allies.
- Lastly I want to quickly mention as an important aspect that links Voudon and kosmic Gnosis the positive attitude towards the body, towards sexuality and towards methods of inducing ecstatic states. In Voudon the importance of sensory methods (dance, song, drums) is actually a clear expression of this exaltation of soul and body. However, it is not about simply using the method but about the context, the Gnosis! If you join a shamanic or African drum circle or the like to induce a trance-like-state to feel at one with the world / everybody, you have to critically ask yourself whether that is not just a temporary feel-good method – which is totally fine to do but it is not a transformation and does not provide access to the reality of the pandaemonic all but to a certain, short-lived feeling / emotion. Transformation in my experience is not always feel-good but requires (sometimes boring) practice, can be painful and usually takes time.
There could be much more said to both pathways but as I promised to also give some suggestions for independent practitioners I will quickly come to this now before wrapping up. I have to emphasize though that in my view a group, proper initiation as well as a “true” teacher (which is not about rational “now I teach you some facts or explain a few things”) is necessary. On your own you can only go so far and you will eventually stay within your comfort zone and under the influence of the same old voices in your head – because you will not even realize it.9(We all know the voice in our head that sounds quite convincing and logical – until you speak it out loud that is). This said, there are a few things you can do. (And I assume that most of you are already doing the one or other but then you might think a bit more about why and to what end).
Independent ‘start’: practical suggestions
- Connect to the dead/ancestors as they will be your easiest access to the daemonic reality.
- Also connect to nature, the living, breathing outside world – link your altar with outdoor places that are important to you and make it a living altar, that changes and becomes a stronghold of your own soul;
- Speaking of which, set up a soul-centric practice, i.e. meditation, prayer, contemplation but connect it to external, e.g. natural stimuli as to not “forget” about the phenomenal world.
- Do also not neglect your body and focus on real body awareness – stop to see your body only as an instrument or tool that needs to be made perfect.
- Try to initiate small/tiny ecstatic states by the natural appreciation of art, music, dance, (again) nature, sex, that anybody can still do – but(!) carefully observe the difference between the experience and the later, often almost instant, rational evaluation of it. This might sound easy but actually takes practice and should help differentiate between your soul and your spirit.
- Instead of violating social norms that you do not like anyways or where the process is easy for you because you like the feeling of “power” it gives you, try figuring out your very own personal “safe space” and the little things and actions that might mean moving out of there. Leave your safe space! (without infringing another person’s/being’s rights etc.). This might go a long way towards cracks in the walls that our ego puts between us and the kosmos.
I began this talk with a definition of heresy. And I tried to illustrate that the Kosmic Gnosis is not just heretic towards Christianity or monotheism but also as a “dissent or deviation from a dominant opinion or practice” a heresy towards most other spiritual, esoteric systems. Systems which are basically doing the same that they reject in mainstream religion, society or culture. We must be careful that occultism does not become another escapism! As systems caught in the illusion of transcendence usually are.
So what to do? We need to embark on a counter-movement: descent instead of ascent. Initiate a gnostic transformation that exalts soul-body over spirit, night consciousness over day consciousness. Work with wild, ferocious, chthonic powers to help this transformation as well as the constant subjugation of the transcendent parasite. Subjugate the Will to Power to the Will of Life! This will allow for successful use of magic to change the parasitic, cosmic reality, and return the sacred/numinous into profane day-life. I touched upon a way where this is facilitated by hijacking dominant Western religious tradition and its lineage and form, i.e. Gnostic sacramentalism, as well as a way where this is facilitated by operating within a naturally poly-spiritistic setting, i.e. Voudon. Both shall lead us towards (intentional) experiences and interactions of/with the kosmic, daemonic All. Both show the importance of context. All (successful) magic and transformation roots in Gnosis! And eventually, Gnosis must be experienced – an experience which will not be triggered by arguments or convincing rationalization. These might convince you to take a step on a path towards this experience, however. “Heresy” originally means “a choice”, “selection” and thus a different, alternative path. I do not ask you to follow mine but I would really like you to contemplate and honestly scrutinize your own path, your practices and their context and motivation. Your experience. Thank you.
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2 thoughts on “The Heretic Pathways of the Kosmic Gnosis”
I get that you don’t like the word “transcendent” because it implies a separateness or disconnection from a chthonic numinous Real. But there are other less bounded, richer, more powerful beings, some of whom are willing to enter into relationships with ensouled humans (the same could be said of other worlds). We can dispense with the spatial metaphors of higher/lower, and so forth, while maintaining an understanding that there are forms of soul-being, consciousnesses, living forces/currents that are beyond our comprehension and are not ontological particulars in ways that we can conceptually pin down. In other words, the blanket denial of transcendence, it seems to me, ends in a flat ontology along the lines of object-oriented-ontology which is essentially a form of intellectual necrophilia.
Btw, I am reading David’s works with great intensity and truly appreciate your wonderful essays.
Hey Manuel, apologies for the delay but I was out and about and did not have the password in mind 😉 Thank you for your comment, appreciated! I do not really disagree with you, I think. And I hope it is clear that I am not denying other beings, forces etc. And yes, we cannot necessarily pin them down conceptually – although I would probably say that we can (via Soul) experience (many of) them and would always locate them within the whole phenomenal kosmos (not meaning ‘material’ nor ‘this earth’), which in the Kosmic Gnostic current is also called the pandaemonic All exactly because it is ‘inhabited’ by a multitude of beings, forces, consciousnesses… In the lecture here (which was/is meant to introduce in a short and easy way some thoughts of the Kosmic Gnosis to a western occult audience and thus uses particular images and vocabulary), I am certainly not denying the transcendence or ‘higher’, I am rather devaluing it 🙂 I am saying that most occult etc. movements, in particular in the West nowadays, are focused on it, aiming for it – i.e. even when allowing a positive view on the physical plane (body etc), this is much too often combined with an idea of ‘evolvement’, putting mind over matter, the higher above the lower, becoming better for the ‘higher’ good etc…that is a dichotomy that is already established firmly in most people and is exactly a result of what we Kosmic Gnostics see as the influence of the “Spirit” and its negative consequences can be seen easily in the world today and is in my view what actually leads to that what you called object-oriented-ontology (e.g. seeing phenomena as things, grasping them conceptually and intellectually instead of experiencing them as ensouled beings etc) – and we do not say “abolish it” (which would equate denial as you rightly say) but “turn it around (again)” (put Spirit in service of Soul-Body, ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ are here just used as pointers towards the signified).
Eventually, however, I am not aiming to convince anybody of my perspectives as I do not think this is an intellectual game of discussion or the like and I will not deny anybody their experiences of transcendence, God, the Absolute or whatever they want to call it although I would think that many of them are a mental projection and actual “intellectual necrophilia” – nice term! But you might just as well say this of mine, of course… 😉