Magic and Tasawwuf, by Charles Upton


[INTRODUCTORY NOTE: The basic approach of René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon to the Spiritual Path was as far from magic as can be imagined, although Baron Julius Evola practiced something he called by that name. Prof. Patrick Laude, however, in his Frithjof Schuon: Life and Teachings, characterized Schuon’s Native American practices as “Shamanism” (incorrectly I believe), while the late Algis Uzdavinys seemed to call for a renewal of Neo-Platonic and/or Egyptian theurgy in his Philosophy and Theology in Late Antiquity. Theurgy, being a sacred art (as Shamanism also is, or was), is certainly not to be simply identified with magic or thaumaturgy; nonetheless, archaic forms of theurgy in their decadence undoubtedly contributed to the growth of various types of subversive thaumaturgy, a “counter-initiatory influence which, like that of degenerate Shamanism (though legitimate Shamanism, God willing, is still in existence) has lasted into our own times. Sufism too has its thaumaturgic practices, some of them undoubtedly of great antiquity. And in view of the fact that many people who are attracted to esoteric spirituality do not always clearly differentiate between esoterism and magic, this essay, in which I do my best to make the difference between them crystal clear, may be timely.]


      [They] follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind magic and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut. Nor did they (the angels) teach it to anyone until they said: We are only a temptation, therefore disbelieve not. (Qur’an 2:102)

             In our time, the great resurgence of interest in the magical arts, both traditional and innovative, should be obvious to all. In the minds of many people, magic and occultism, mysticism and esoterism—anything in the spiritual field outside of strictly moralistic religion—are seen as intrinsically similar, if not identical. And while it may be true up to a point (and ironically so) that an interest in both legitimate esoterism and magic be shared by certain groups and subcultures who are fundamentally opposed to mainstream religion, in metaphysical and cosmological terms the magical path and the esoteric spiritual Path lead to radically different destinations. As many religions teach, while paranormal powers or siddhis (the Hindu term) may or may not develop as an accidental result of progress on the Path, to seek such powers is always detrimental to the spiritual life; and this is certainly true in terms of tasawwuf or Sufism. Although historical Sufism embraces (legitimately or otherwise) certain thaumaturgic practices which when deviated may tend toward the magical, the truth is that magic and tasawwuf, in essence, are poles apart. [NOTE: The first step, though certainly not the last, in determining the legitimacy of any form of thaumaturgy or theurgy or spiritual practice is to ask whether or not it forms an integral part of a Divine revelation that is presently in force, and consequently enjoys God’s favor. Forms of magical or spiritual practice based on the mere literary or archaeological resurrection of dead religions will be useless as best, and at worst make us vulnerable to the toxic psychic residues of forms of the Spirit that have departed this world. Consequently when Algis Uzdavinys, that incomparable scholar of archaic forms of the sacred who unfortunately is no longer with us, says in Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity [Sophia Perennis, 2010], “if the summit of perfection is achieved only through the union with the divine principles themselves and, if they are called ‘gods’, the traditional means of ascent should be rehabilitated and reused”—thereby apparently calling for a return to polytheistic theurgy—I cannot go along with him.]

            According to Islamic lore, the one who been opened to the psychic plane but has been unable to transcend it and make contact with the Spiritual plane, as well as anyone who has broken into the psychic plane on his own initiative instead of allowing God to open it in His own time, is in danger of becoming a saher, a sorcerer; the same destiny may lie in wait for the Sufi who abandons the Path after having made a certain degree of progress. The saher becomes subject to various psychic influences he may believe he can dominate, but which in reality dominate him. The essence of Sufism is to choose God’s will over one’s own, until it is realized that only God’s Will exists; consequently tasawwuf precludes magic definitively and from the outset (though the saher may sometimes feed himself on the crumbs that fall from the Sufis’ table; cf. Qur’an 20:86-96, verse 96 in particular). There are also many stories in Islam of human interactions with those subtle beings of the psychic plane known as the Jinn, stories involving poets, warriors, sorcerers, physicians, Sufis and others; some of them are undoubtedly true. Islam, unlike Christianity, but in line with many archaic religions, sees the Jinn—whom we in the west call the “fairies”—as made up of both good and evil spirits, both Muslims and unbelievers. However, the Qur’an is clear on the fate of those human beings who conclude alliances with them: In the day when He will gather them together (He will say): O ye assembly of the jinn! Many of humankind did ye seduce. And their adherents among humankind will say: Our Lord! We have enjoyed one another, but now we have arrived at the appointed term which Thou appointedst for us. He will say: Fire is your home, abide therein forever, save him whom Allah willeth (to deliver). Lo! thy Lord is Wise, Aware (Q. 6:129). Some claim that this applies only to the evil Jinn; nonetheless it is recognized by the Sufis that human intercourse with even the Muslim Jinn can have a deleterious effect; they can be highly fascinating and distracting to the person attempting to fulfill the Trust by conforming his humanity to Allah (cf. Qur’an 33:72) because they are not on the “human stem”. A story is told of one Sufi saint who, whenever he performed his daily prayers, was joined by a group of the Jinn, obviously the Muslim Jinn; as soon as he realized this, he asked them kindly to find another place to pray. And there is little doubt that many magical operations are based on human interaction with the Jinn and their powers.

            Magic, though it certainly leads to delusion, is itself quite real. It is an actual psychic “technology” that can produce real psychic and physical results. Every human civilization throughout history, except for the most recent and the most materialistic, has known this, and nearly every sacred scripture, including the Bible and the Qur’an, attests to it. And as long as we see things from the psychophysical level alone, according to a worldview based on the essentially profane root-assumptions of that level, we are justified in defining magic as a power that can be used either for good, or for evil, or to secure useful information, or simply for entertainment.

            When viewed from the Spiritual or Metaphysical level, however, the practice of magic, no matter what phenomena it is apparently able to produce, is seen as based upon a fundamentally false assumption. It’s as if someone knew everything possible about operating a computer, but labored under the delusion that in operating it he was actually designing and building it. The magician may feel that he has the power to operate upon reality up to a certain point, and that he has had this assumption apparently confirmed innumerable times by concrete phenomena. But the fact is, reality was designed by Someone Else, and is Someone Else. Whoever thinks that he is the ultimate Doer, that he has the power and the right to both propose and dispose, is totally involved in illusion.

            Yes, the will is free, but it is only totally free at one point: the point of the choice of masters. If you choose Reality as your master, then the notion that you are the ultimate Doer of anything whatever is totally dispelled. If you choose any other master, then you are essentially a magician, whether you deal with “occult” forces or simply with “ordinary” psychological or material forces. Ultimately, what makes a magician is not access to the realm of psychic or unseen powers; what makes a magician is the simple belief, the root illusion from which all other illusions spring, that he is the Doer. Once you fall under the power of this error, everything else follows, every other conceivable delusion. And if you believe that you are the Doer, then your intentions, “good “or “bad”, “selfish” or “altruistic”, ultimately come down to the same thing. This “ultimately” may take a long time to arrive, but direction of the road you have taken according to either the pursuit or evil or the egotistical pursuit of “good” is toward the creation of a world other than the one created by God, a non-existent world, a world which may be termed “total egotism” or “the pit of Hell” just as you please. If you believe that you are the Doer, the intent to do “good” and the intent to do “evil” both lead, slowly in the one case, swiftly in the other, to the same destination: the frozen paralysis of Hell. (In the words of William Blake, “Caiphas was in his own mind a benefactor to mankind”.) That’s part of what we mean when we say, usually without grasping its full implications, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. As a laughing, Mephistophelean hippy once told me in the 1970’s in the mountains of British Columbia, before one of the “excursions” we used to take in those days, “Let me clue you in: all magic is black magic”.

             In the words of the Peter O’Toole character of Lawrence of Arabia from the movie of the same name: “You can do whatever you want, but you can’t want whatever you want.” That’s the crux. Let us say that a magician forms his intent, undergoes preparatory austerities, draws his magic circle, performs his invocations, summons his forces, produces his visions or his phenomena, and then succeeds in withdrawing from his “voluntary madness” and re-establishing his personality again in stable form in “ordinary reality” . Quite  a tour-de-force! He has ridden the tiger, once again, and once again survived. And perhaps he can even see that his actions apparently had a good ongoing effect—or an evil one, if that’s more to his taste.  So it looks to him like he has covered the whole territory of reality pretty thoroughly, within the limits (of course) of his intent and his operation; like Satan in the Book of Job, he will be able to say that he’s been “going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it”. Little, apparently, has escaped his attention. [NOTE: “Voluntary madness” is a term coined by Peter Levenda, who presents, in his trilogy Sinister Forces: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft, much well-researched and documented evidence of the great affinities and bleed-throughs and conscious alliances between the world of the occult and that of the U. S. intelligence community, a milieu that also involves many prominent figures of the ruling elite; his work exposes levels of evil that most of us have never dreamed of. His “metaphysic”, based on magic and occultism, is erroneous and subversive, but his findings are of the greatest value for our understanding of “the rulers of the darkness of this world” and the counter-initiation that is their most direct expression.]

            But the one thing that the most dedicated Shamanic healer (unless he is truly a holy man, truly wakan), or the most evil CIA brainwasher of the infamous MK-ULTRA mind-control program, forgets to ask, is: where did that intent come from? Is he actually deluded enough to believe that he has summoned it out of nothing? On the basis of what intent might he have been able to do that? The magician is like powerful, skilled and courageous warrior who confronts the enemy and triumphs (or is killed or captured, but for the sake of the argument let us say he triumphs). He feels powerful, successful, and seems entirely justified in this feeling. But zoom out to the next larger frame of reference and what do we see? This warrior is now revealed as nothing but a soldier acting under orders. Whose orders? Along what chain-of-command? In the service of what overall strategy, what political agenda? The soldier sees and knows next to nothing of this; that’s not his business; his business is simply to do what he’s told. And the same is true of the magician. He may be imminently successful in enacting his intent—but as to where that intent came from, he is in total ignorance. He never asks that question, never looks in that direction, because he believes he is the Doer. To obey your own intent is to act under the command, under the tyranny I would say, of forces you will never see as they are, or understand, or be able to name. You may come up with some sort of psychological insight into patterns of intent you take as causal, or into the nature of the spirit beings to whom you attribute them, but the true origin of these patterns is completely hidden from you. Why? Because if you are the Doer, your knowledge, for all your excursions into the grim, fascinating, multifarious worlds of the Unseen, begins and ends with you yourself. The only way to even begin to see the real patterns that lie behind your intent is to recognize that the Doer is Allah—no-one else, because there IS no-one else. Instead of obeying our own intent, it is our duty, by the Trust that is laid upon us, to intend to obey Reality alone: “There is no power or might except by Allah”. This is the precise point where our true freedom lies—the point where our intent to submit to Allah effectively is Allah.

             That’s tasawwuf; that’s the essence of the spiritual Path in every tradition. Everything else, every political strategy, every psychological manipulation or evasion, every buy or sell order on the stock market, every twisting of, or letting yourself be twisted by, occult forces, is in some sense magic. That’s why must I reiterate, and insist: Sufism and magic are poles apart. Where there is Sufism, there is no magic. Where there is magic, there is no Sufism. Those adepts of ruhaniyyat (Sufi thaumaturgy) who think that they—by the wonderful power of Allah, of course!—are producing this or that phenomenon, are (in Rumi’s simile) like children riding hobby-horses and playing at war.

             A story may illustrate this point: Abbas Hussein calls the adab of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), his constant and never-failing courtesy, the ultimate miracle. Now calling the courtesy of the Prophet “the ultimate miracle” may seem like only a figure of speech, an exaggerated way of expressing admiration for a figure universally admired. But in another way it is the simple truth. A true story is told of a dervish who was visiting other dervishes belonging to a different group. These dervishes were known for indulging in karamat or wondrous feats. One of these karamat was to cut themselves with knives and swords while under the influence of a spiritual state (hal), without drawing blood or leaving any wound. While the visiting dervish looked on, one of the dervishes of this group drew a razor-sharp sword, then leaned against it until it cut deeply into his belly. The visiting dervish, not being used to paranormal occurrences, jumped up and ran over to his brother dervish, anxiously asking him if he was injured, if he needed help. “Fool!” said the wonder worker. “Of course I am not injured! Have you no experience of such things in your order? I need fear nothing, the power of Allah has protected me.” And so it was; when he withdrew the sword, no blood appeared, neither was there any wound.

            What can we learn from this story as it relates to adab, and to the difference between magic and Sufism? Perhaps the lesson is that although the wonderworker had enough power to plunge a sword into his belly and remain uninjured, he did not have enough to avoid injuring his brother through discourtesy and arrogance, demonstrating that the power it takes to be courteous is greater than the power required to produce wonders. And the truth is, while magicians may perform wonders, only Allah can perform miracles—and the adab of Allah is necessarily perfect.

             As soon as you let go of the illusion that you are self-created (which is easier said than done!), you will see God creating you in this instant—you and the entire universe. You will see with His Eye—or rather, He will see with the Eye of the Heart, that Eye occupying the center of the place now vacated by the mother of all illusions, the illusion of the self-created, self-defined, self-determined ego: the nafs al-ammara. And what He will see, whatever may be the patterns that manifest it, will be Himself Alone.

            What, after all, are “phenomena”? What are these “significant coincidences” that so amaze the would-be magician that he dreams of one day being able to manipulate them by some sort of subtle occult bridge between the inner self and the outer world? In the words of the Holy Qur’an (41:53), We will show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves, till it is clear to them that it is the truth.  Suffice it not as to thy Lord, that he is witness over everything? This verse reveals the true nature of the phenomenon that Jung named synchronicity, which is not based, as he and physicist Wolfgang Pauli speculated, on some mysterious affinity between mind and matter that might be explained by the “non-locality” principle of sub-atomic particles, but which simply reflects the truth that only God is the Real; consequently the world of subject-object polarities that both veils and reveals Him, that He both pervades and transcends, is ultimately unreal. To the degree that we believe it is real, however, an act of God that is one in essence, just as He is One, will falsely appear—through the distorting prism of the ego—as refracted into “inner” and “outer” events. If we were completely free of the delusion of the ego, the nafs al-ammara, all events would appear as synchronicities. We would witness them not as products of antecedent causes in time but as eternal acts of God that send their waves through psyche and world simultaneously, because the subjective self and the world it sees are two inseparable designs woven into the one pattern of existence. 

            The illusion that I am the Doer, the illusion of personal power, is doom. We may think of the evil black magician or CIA brainwasher of MK-ULTRA as “powerful”—and yet, as Peter Levenda points out in Sinister Forces, the CIA interrogation manual (retrieved, heavily censored, via the Freedom of Information Act), whose methods he compares quite convincingly to magical techniques from many cultures, requires that the interrogator split himself in two, that he “sincerely “act as a “true friend” and a “real enemy” at the same time: in order to dominate the soul of his victim, in other words, he must effectively destroy his own soul. [NOTE: This apparently validates my contention, in The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Post-modernism and the New Age [Sophia Perennis, 2001], that one of the central techniques of individual or mass mind control is “unconscious contradiction”, though in terms of the interrogation technique here in question the contradiction is conscious in the sense that it is overt, while still remaining unconscious in the sense that the broken mind of the victim can no longer understand that for one’s torturer to be one’s true friend “does not compute”.]

            And lest we fall into the error of seeing only those magical or occult operations based on the most obvious sort of evil intent as capable of splitting the soul, we must realize that even the most altruistic act of “white magic “is also based on a split—the fissure between the human soul and the will of God, followed by the false identification of the soul with God, according to the illusion “I am the Doer”. Once this primal alienation occurs, every other type and degree of psychic fragmentation will eventually follow.

            If personal power is divorced from the Good, and consequently also from the Real, is it really power? Power and the feeling of power are often poles apart; in the words of St. Paul, “our power is perfected in weakness”. Those who act against their own best interests in pursuit of the mere feeling of power, and who ultimately destroy themselves in the process, can in no way be considered powerful, any more than a psychopath who sets fire to a forest and then perishes in the blaze. A tiny act on his part, the mere striking of a match, ends by producing a massive effect, changing lives, setting hundreds or thousands of people into motion at his command; how powerful he must be! Likewise it may seem to a genetic engineer tinkering with human genes that he has matched Allah himself in creative power, whereas all he has really done is deconstruct the human form, ultimately including his own. In the words of the Holy Qur’an, It is not their eyes that are blind, but the hearts in the breasts are blind. Does the CIA brainwasher ever ask: “What terrible forces beyond my control have rendered me subhuman, made me their puppet, and destined me for the Fire?” Rarely, I would guess. More often he simply thinks that he is powerful both in himself and in the forces that “back him up”. He is powerfully deluded.

            And the most deluded of all are those global elites who, with almost inconceivable “power “and “intelligence “and thoroughness and ruthlessness and subtlety and reach, are on their way to turning this world—meticulously, deliberately—into a living Hell, a Hell from which there can be no escape for them because it will be peopled only by fiends like themselves, or suffering victims who could only bathe them in an atmosphere of pain. What could be more idiotic than pressing all the powers of the human mind and soul and all the technologies the human mind and soul can invent into the service of a negative result? And that’s precisely what evil is: the synthesis of immense cunning and immense stupidity. [NOTE: 17,000 farmers committed suicide in India in 2010 because they couldn’t pay their debts, a trend that’s been going on for quite a while. Globalized agribusiness forces them to buy hybrid and/or genetically engineered seeds that don’t reproduce in the next generation so they can’t save any seed corn for next year’s crop. And as traditional agriculture goes, so goes Hinduism, which requires the rhythms of village life for its pujas; as one Indian computer tech-support agent told me during a long download, “nobody has time for Hinduism nowadays”. When my wife and I visited Rama Coomaraswamy in 2005 he told us: “No more than 5% of the population of India actually practices Hinduism anymore; if my father had made good on his plan to move there and try to live as a forest sage, it would have broken his heart.” ] 

                                               Sufism and Shamanism

             At this point we need to address the question of Shamanism, and other ancient forms of thaumaturgy that have survived as remnants from previous world ages. Does our condemnation of magic apply to every practice of one of the “primal religions “that manifests some thaumaturgic element? In terms of the Native American spirituality of North America, must we con-demn Black Elk and Thomas Yellowtail along with Harley Swift Deer and Carlos Castaneda?

            René Guénon, in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times [Sophia Perennis, 2001]  had the following to say about Shamanism, which, in my opinion, is most likely applicable to all forms of traditional magic that have survived into our times:

If we consider “Shamanism “properly so-called, the existence of a highly-developed cosmology becomes apparent, of a kind that might suggest concordances with other traditions in many respects, the first with respect to a separation of the “three worlds, “which seems to be its very foundation. “Shamanism “will also be found to include rites comparable to some that belong to traditions of the highest order: some of them, for example, recall in a striking way the Vedic rites, and particularly those that are most clearly derived from the primordial tradition, such as those in which the symbolism of the tree and the swan predominate. There can therefore be no doubt that “Shamanism” is derived from some form that was, at least originally, a normal and regular traditional form; moreover it has retained up to the present day a certain “transmission” of the powers necessary for the exercise of the func tions of the “Shaman”; but as soon as it becomes clear that the “Shaman” directs his activity particularly toward the most inferior traditional sciences, such as magic and divination, a very real degeneration must be expected, such as may sometimes amount to a real deviation, as can happen all to easily to such sciences whenever they become over-developed.

            In view of this, the least that we can say is that Shamanism in our time, even in its most traditional forms, is an extremely uncertain proposition. Perhaps powerful, balanced and good-willed Shamans working directly under the command of the Great Spirit still exist; I hope they do. Nonetheless, the likelihood of our ever encountering one decreases with each passing year.

             As Mircea Eliade points out in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, the Shaman is usually “summoned” to his role and his powers by a spirit being; and the psychophysical death-and-resurrection by which he claims them does seem analogous in some ways to the fana and baqa of Sufism: annihilation in God followed by subsistence in God. But if the Shaman is not also a holy man, if he does not possess the ability to view things from the standpoint of Wakan Tanka—or to fully submit to the will of Wakan Tanka whether or not he can see with His eye—then he is limited to serving the “agendas” of his spirit helper, which he has no way of investigating or evaluating with any certainty since he cannot stand “behind” them; this is something that only God can do. As for the fana and baqa of tasawwuf, these are produced not by fierce austerities undertaken on one’s own initiative, by a self-willed psycho-physical suicide and self-reconstruction, but precisely by the will of God. In the words of Jesus, “he who seeks to keep his life shall lose it, but he who loses his life, for my sake, shall find it.”

            An inescapable ambiguity crops up, however, when we recognize that it is possible to become more deeply receptive to the will of God through various techniques that include a psychophysical element, such as the Sufi dhikr (invocation), sama (spiritual concert), dance, or khalwa (spiritual retreat). That’s why it’s important to undertake these things only by the order or permission of one’s shaykh, and why there is always a danger in Sufism, or in any heavily technique-laden spiritual way such as yoga, that the practitioner will fall into the illusion that he is reaching or summoning God on his own initiative, in which case everything is lost. In the case of dhikr, for example, the Sufi is not commanding God’s presence by pronouncing His Name considered as a magical “word of power”; rather, God is speaking His own Name, on His Own initiative, within the Sufi’s heart. The path of tasawwuf is not traveled by the power or plan or intent of the traveler, but by that of Allah: “Not my will but Thine be done.”

      The Addiction to the Psychic and the System of Antichrist

            But why the great attraction to magic in our times? There is a dialectic to it: The “solidification of the cosmic environment” under the regime of materialism that Guénon spoke of in The Reign of Quantity produces, on the psychic level, a feeling of stagnation, dryness, petrification. Conscious access to God and the celestial world is largely blocked; the universe becomes “material, all-too material. “When materialism is new it expresses itself as triumphalism, the excitement of innovation, the “conquest  of nature”, the belief in progress; (this, apparently, is the phase China is in now). When it grows old, however, and when the negative consequences of such triumphalism—social, psychological and environmental—become apparent, the opacity and solidification of the universe, and the human soul, become terribly oppressive. That’s when the “cracks” Guénon speaks of  begin to appear in the solidity of cosmic environment, cracks that open in the direction of the “infra-psychic”. And the Jinn know all-too-well how to exploit these cracks, since some among them have also been working to open such fissures from the other side. The dryness and deadness of materialism make the glimmering antics of the Jinn highly attractive to a jaded humanity; consequently magic, spiritualism and interest  in the paranormal appear as an alternative to the materialist worldview, one that is vital and imaginative as opposed to dry and dead. They promise relief from oppression; but as with any addictive drug, the oppression that’s temporarily relieved is in large part produced by the drug itself. As Hamlet said, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” And once the soul becomes addicted to the sort of psychic experience the Jinn can provide, or simply to the hidden powers of the psyche itself, access to God and the celestial order  is doubly veiled: first by material opacity; secondly by a psychic counterfeit of spiritual realities. This, in Guénon’s terms, marks the passage from “anti-tradition” to “counter-tradition”. The deep emotional glamours (the Water element) and/or the sparkling multidimensional agitation (the Air element) that a person’s psyche becomes subject to when under the influence of the Jinn will seriously compromise his or her ability to attain what the Sufis call ‘jam, “recollection”, the sort of spiritual sobriety that allows  one to concentrate one’s attention upon God and the Path. (The “drunkenness” spoken of by the Sufis is not, if you will pardon the pun, Jinn-drunkenness; drunkenness with God does not disperse the psyche but recollects it, which is why it can function as the polar complement to contemplative sobriety, as when St. Augustine speaks of “sober inebriation”.) The steady, solid light of the celestial order—so well represented by the gold leaf used in Eastern Orthodox iconography—is replaced by the sparkling “pixie-dust “of the Jinn-world, in comparison to which anything else will seem painfully boring and uninteresting. Furthermore, just as in the case of psychedelics, alcohol and addictive drugs, the more we open ourselves to the Jinn and the sorts of experience and information they can provide (leaving aside for now the whole question of whether the Jinn we happen to be dealing with are Muslim or kafir, good fairies or demons), the drearier everything else becomes to us; we literally become addicted to psychic experience, and must endure all the jadedness and desiccation that goes along with it. And so we need more and more of it all the time, this being one of the lesser-known aspects of “the reign of quantity” (as well as, I would add, of our wonderful “information culture” with its “weapons of mass distraction”) . However, according to a couplet I composed quite a few years ago’

                                              Better the Wine of the Desert

                                              Than the desert born of wine.

            Once we have fallen into this sort of psychic addiction, the felt presence of God will become painful to us; we will tend to flee from it. God will seem to bring with Him a whole world of hopeless psychic deadness, burden, even cruelty. What we are actually going through in experiences like this, God willing, is a purgative withdrawal from our addiction to psychic  experience—in the face of which, however, we will be tempted to see Allah as not a merciful Sustainer but a cruel torturer; only those recovering addicts who (by His Grace) love Him above all else will be capable of choosing the pain of the Real over the pleasure of illusion. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, “prayer is a torture-chamber”; or as St. Silouan of Mt. Athos put it, “Keep your mind in Hell and don’t despair”.

             In strictly Islamic terms, the solidification of the cosmic environment is represented in part by the fundamentalist terrorists. Only someone whose soul is so painfully constricted that it seems to be choking the Spirit out of him will be attracted to meeting his Maker by blowing himself up. Thus suicide bombing is not only a tactic; it is also a passion. And in the face of such constriction, desiccation and cruelty, the betrayal of Islam via dealings with the Jinn and their world will become increasingly attractive to those who are repelled by the opposite and equal betrayal, that of the fundamentalists, as will those Sufi groups who habitually interact with the Jinn (whether or not they know it), practice ruhaniyyat and indulge in karamat. Nor is the meeting of the two apparent extremes of magic and warfare beyond the realm of possibility. Wizardry was a common weapon in the arsenals of the ancient world (as psy-ops is in ours), and the individual soldier of today will often seek magical protection from enemy bullets; this is one reason why Wicca is becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S. military (cf. Qur’an 13:16). To the degree that Allah withdraws His Spirit from visible, historical Islam—as He is now withdrawing it, up to a point, from every religion, to the precise degree that its adherents have fallen away from Him—the psychic element of Sufism, valid and necessary though it is for the viable existence of tasawwuf in this world, will increasingly be reduced to the level of those “psychic residues “that Guénon saw as inhabiting the shells of dead religions—and the mass of psychic material collected by Sufism over its history is truly vast, vaster than the treasures of a thousand caves of Ali Baba. Such psychic residues, as Guénon pointed out, can be exploited by magicians. To the degree that established Islam rejects Sufism, Sufism will be tempted not only to depart from Islamic norms in the direction of magic, but also to throw in its lot with those globalist forces who want to groom tasawwuf as a benign (or compliantly militant) alternative to the Islamicists. [NOTE: According to the article “State-Sponsored Sufism “by Ali Eteraz, accessed on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, 7/28/2010,  “Why are U.S. think tanks pushing for state-sponsored Islam in Pakistan?…. Well, now, according to commentators from the BBC to the Economist to the Boston Globe, Sufism, being defined as Islam’s moderate or mystical side, is apparently just the thing we need to deal with violent Muslim extremists. Sufis are the best allies to the West, these authors say; support them, and countries as diverse as Pakistan and Somalia could turn around.”] And as Lee Penn has amply demonstrated in his False Dawn [Sophia Perennis, 2005], and Peter Levenda in Sinister Forces, Jinn-worship under one name or another, and according to the widest possible definition of this tendency (including adherence to a basically New Age or Neo-Pagan worldview), is far from uncommon among the intelligence communities (Levenda) and the national and/or globalist ruling elites (Levenda and Penn). [NOTE: As examples of this I can point to the acceptance of New Age teachers Barbara Marx Hubbard and Robert Mueller (former Assistant Secretary General of the U.N.) in the world of globalist institutions, as well as to Mihkail Gorbachev’s revelation that he worships the Earth; see Lee Penn, False Dawn,] Consequently, there is a danger that certain elements of Sufism, or what once was Sufism, will become further jinnified, further veiled from the Light of Allah, further attracted to the practice of magic, as they are drawn into the gravitational field of globalism and its agents.

                                                    The “Great Goddess”

             Both the cosmic environment and the collective psyche, at this extreme tail-end of the Kali-yuga, are haunted by the Jinn. And given that these beings include among their many nations the elementals or nature spirits (the Gnomes of Earth, the Undines of Water, the Sylphs of Air and the Salamanders of Fire, according to Paracelsus), and that the entire psychophysical world is feminine in relation to the Spirit, just as universal manifestation itself is feminine in relation to the Creator—Allah in His Name al-Khaliq—the world of the Jinn is in many ways the world of Mother Nature, the Great Goddess who, when no longer recognized as Shakti to the Absolute Divine Witness, is transformed into that regime of hopeless Fate that so oppressed the Pagans of late antiquity, and from the power of which—also (ironically) by the power of which—many blindly sought the protection of magic. For Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Fairies are ruled by a feminine power, Queen Maeve; and it is ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­obvious that the whole “return of the Goddess “in our time has gone hand-in-hand with a mass  resurgence of the interest inboth Paganism and every form of magic. [NOTE: The openness of the Traditionalist School to the Divine Feminine outside the bounds of a single tradition is one of the things that has made it possible for various intellectual Neo-Pagans to identify with certain elements of Traditionalist doctrine and integrate them into their worldview—something that Schuon himself, judging from his highly critical attitude toward Paganism, would have been flatly opposed to. The magazine Primordial Traditions out of New Zealand, for example, has drawn heavily on the ideas of René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon and Huston Smith, as well as Nietzsche,  Julius Evola and Aldous Huxley; its past editor, Gwendolyn Toynton, though opposed to Wicca and “non-traditional” Neo-Paganism, believes that revived forms of ancient Hellenic or Northern European Paganisms such as Hellenismos or Asatru, based on traditional texts, can be viable spiritual paths in our times.] Consequently it behooves us to be very clear on exactly what the Divine Feminine is, and what She is not. And those of us who identify (as I do) with the Traditionalist School founded by René Guénon and brought to its highest point of development by Frithjof Schuon will be hampered to a degree in this study by the fact that Guénon hardly mentioned Her, while Schuon by and large emphasized only Her positive aspects, in both his books and in the radiant female nudes of his “shakti” paintings (though he did speak of the rigorous aspect of the Virgin Mary in his chapter “The Wisdom of Sayyidatna Maryam” in Dimensions of Islam). Simply put, if this Kali-yuga, then where is Kali? Where is the bloody-mouthed hag with the necklace of human skulls? Without an honest presentation of the dark side of the Divine Feminine, including the dark side of Eros, the image of the paradisiacal Feminine, erotic or otherwise, remains vulnerable to the insidious influences of what is denied. [NOTE: Patrick Laude in Frithjof Schuon: Life and Teachings sees Schuon’s aesthetic/erotic/ contemplative relationship to the Divine Feminine as an example of Shamanism—incorrectly I would say—and understands the goal of Shamanism as the integration of the body and the lower aspects of the psyche into the spiritual life. He says: “The matter is not to cultivate powers for the sake of power—for, as Schuon has judiciously and vigorously stated, one can go to Hell with all the powers one wishes—but rather to integrate the various levels of one’s being so as to know God with all that one is.” Point well taken. But to consider magic of any kind, even the most traditional and altruistic forms of Shamanism, as a viable method of integrating the psychophysical individuality into the spiritual life, especially in these darkest of times, is ill-considered. Those whose psychophysical nature is not already fully integrated into the Spirit, or at least fully submissive to It—a condition extremely rare in our time—should never touch Shamanism, the exceptional case being that of the person (if he lives in the Americas) who, by the grace of God, has found and been accepted not simply by a working traditional Shaman or medicine man, but a true holy man or woman of the Native American way.]

            Every rose has its thorn, every paradise its angel with a flaming sword; they are there to protect “the soul of sweet delight” from the crassness and lust of this world. Schuon is entirely right in saying the physical beauty of the human body testifies to Divine Beauty as such, independent of the spiritual state of the soul occupying that body. But without a teaching which elucidates Femininity and Eros in their false forms as well as their true ones—and in their rigorous forms as well as their merciful ones—a strict Puritanism, in my opinion, would be the wiser course. There are plenty of traditional sources (Grimm’s fairytale “The Goose Girl”, for example) which remind us that the outwardly attractive woman is not always the true bride, a doctrine which is valid in gnostic as well as emotional terms. Popular culture also recognizes this truth, its classic cinematic statement being The Blue Angel, starring Marlene Dietrich. But it is Shakespeare, not surprisingly, who ultimately says it best.

            In The Merchant of Venice, Portia—Divine Wisdom—has concealed her portrait in one of three caskets—of gold, of silver, and of lead. She is then approached by three suitors. The expansive, foolish one chooses the gold casket: wrong. The cold, calculating one chooses the silver casket: wrong again. But the true bridegroom, Bassiano, chooses the leaden casket, and in so doing becomes a type of Christ, who endured the tamasic heaviness of the material world, death on the cross, and the harrowing of hell to save humankind. Within the lead of radical kenosis, Bassanio finds the portrait of the True Bride. “You that choose not by the view” says Portia, “chance as fair, and choose as true!” And we need to listen as well to her verse dismissing the Prince of Morocco, the vain, inflated suitor, whose character reminds one of the Islamic legend that it was the peacock—narcissistic aestheticism—who introduced the serpent into Paradise:

                                   All that glisters is not gold,—                    

                                   Often have you heard that told:

                                   Many a man his life hath sold

                                   But my outside to behold:

                                   Gilded tombs to worms infold.

                                   Had you been as wise as bold,

                                   Young in limbs, in judgement old,

                                   Your answer had not been inscroll’d:

                                   Fare you well; your suit is cold.

Only the man, or woman, who thoroughly understands this can look upon Beauty naked, and know it as Wisdom. To teach “Beauty is the splendor of the True” without at all points immediately balancing it with “all that glisters is not gold” is to invoke avidya-maya, ultimately leading to the veiling of the Intellect and the corruption of the will. And one of the most common doors to the world of the Jinn (the other being the Promethean power-motive) is this very relationship to the Divine Beauty, something Jean Borella in Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery criticizes as “the aesthetic identification with the Essence”. To fail to grasp the truth that Beauty too has its rigorous side—something that the Troubadours and the Arthurian Romancers well expressed by their theme of the “Noble Lady Hard-to-Attain”—is to ask to become pixilated (“pixie-led”), majnun (Jinn-possessed). And the one who chooses the glamours of the Jinn over the rigors of Truth has picked the golden casket, wherein the true semblance of the Beloved will never be found. But the one who has endured the dryness of death to the world, death to the “soul commanding to evil”, who has withstood the Jinn and all their blandishments, and has consequently chosen the leaden casket, will find that semblance, that imago deiinsh’allah—and be granted not only the power, but also the right, to look upon Beauty naked.

                                     The Ambiguities of Ruhaniyyat

            Be that as it may, Sufism, as we have seen above, does include its own form of thaumaturgy, known as ruhaniyyat (a name which, however, is applied in several other senses) which we may criticize but cannot absolutely exclude. If in his practice of this thaumaturgy the magus taps the power of Allah, and if he understands that he is working not with his own personal power but with that of the Deity, then well and good. But again, where did the intent to employ the power of God for this or that purpose come from? Who issued the commission? Say a young woman comes to a ruhani magus and says, “Please, shaykh, invoke the power of Allah to heal my mother, who is quite ill.” Does this magus know for sure, simply because he has received that request, that it is God’s will that the girl’s mother be healed? I myself want many apparently benign things that God may not want. Or is the very fact that the girl has arrived and made this request sufficient proof that Allah desires it to be granted? If God has told the magus in no uncertain terms, “those who apply to you have thereby applied to Me”, then well and good; if indeed the shaykh in question has reached absolute certainty as to God’s commission to him, and labors under no delusions, then he may do as he pleases. But if he simply says to himself (most likely without being fully conscious of it), “God is merciful and I am a man of good will; therefore I have a right to invoke the power of Allah to fulfill any petition that seems to me benign”, then things are much less certain. Such a magus who has not been informed by the Deity in no uncertain terms that “your wish is My Command” must first submit that petition to Allah, stand in wait for His answer, and then accept that answer, whatever it might be, on pain of acting as a saher. Because the truth is, Allah only fulfills petitions that are brought to Him in response to His command “petition Me”. A petition truly invited by Allah will be based on a desire formed by Allah Himself in the heart of the petitioner—and if the petition is not only granted by Allah but also in effect issued by Him, then of what use is ruhaniyyat? If the King offers me a precious gem with his own hand, do I send a carrier pigeon to retrieve it, and then hope the pigeon will be able to find its way home? At one point ruhaniyyat, like all other forms of thaumaturgy, or even theurgy, simply gets in the way—though without it (if, that is, we have been called to it by Allah, rather than entering it on our own initiative)—and, of course, in the absence of perfect islam—we may never be able to see exactly where that point is; as William Blake expressed the matter, “If the Fool would persist in his Folly he would become wise” (insh’allah).

            The Prophet Solomon, peace and blessings be upon him, was given the power by God to command the Jinn and the physical elements, but according to Ibn al-‘Arabi in the Fusus al-Hikam, he was the only prophet commissioned by God to do so, or rather the only one given both the power and the right to issue such commands on his own initiative; and the specific power he received was given to no one after him. God may perform miracles through His saints, but even the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was reminded by the Holy Qur’an that the power he manifested when, at the battle of Badr, he threw a handful of pebbles in the direction of the enemy after which the tide turned in favor of the Muslims, was not his own power, but God’s: You did not throw when you threw, but God threw. (Qur’an 7:180)

            I will end with a highly relevant account of “wisdom after foolishness” given by the great Shaykh Ahmed al-Alawi, as recounted in A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century by Martin Lings:

My first leaning [in the direction of Sufism] was marked by my attachment to one of the masters of the ‘Isawi Tariqa who impressed me by his unworldliness and evident piety. I made every effort to comply with the requisites of that order [known for its practice of wonderworking], and this came quite easily to me on account of my youth and the instinctive attraction for wonders and marvels which is a part of human nature. I became proficient in these practices, and was well thought of by the men of the order, and I believed in my ignorance that what we did was purely and simply a means of drawing nearer to God. One day when God willed that I should be inspired by the truth we were at one of our gatherings and I looked up and saw a paper that was on one of the walls of the house we were in, and my eye lit on a saying that was traced back to the Prophet. What I learned from it caused me to give up what I had been doing in the way of working wonders, and I determined to limit myself in that order to the litanies and invocations and recitations of the Qoran. From that time I began to extricate myself and make excuses to my brethren until I finally gave up those other practices altogether. I wanted to drag the entire brotherhood away from them also, but that was not easy. As for myself I broke away as I had intended, and only retained from that contact the practice of snake-charming. I continued to charm snakes by myself or with some of my friends until I met Skaikh Sidi Muhammad al-Buzidi….

      One day, when he was with us in our shop, the Shaikh said to me: “I have heard that you can charm snakes, and that you are not afraid of being bitten.” I admitted this. Then he said: “Can you bring me one now and charm it here in front of us?” I said that I could, and going outside the town, I searched for half the day, but only found a small one, about half an arm’s length. This I brought back and putting it front of me, I began to handle it according to my custom, as he sat and watched me. “Could you charm a bigger snake than this?” he asked. I replied that the size made no difference to me. Then he said, “I will show you one that is bigger than this and far more venomous, and if you can take hold of it you are a real sage.” I asked him to show me where it was and he said: “I mean your soul which is between the two sides of your body. Its poison is more deadly than a snake’s, and if you can take hold if it and do what you please with it, you are, as I have said, a sage indeed.” Then he said: “Go and do with that little snake whatever you usually do with them, and never go back to such practices again.”


      And Pharaoh said: Bring every cunning wizard unto me. And when the  wizards came, Moses said unto them, Cast your cast!   

      And when they had cast, Moses said: That which ye have brought is magic. Lo! Allah will make it vain. (Qur’an 10: 79-81)


58 Responses to “Magic and Tasawwuf, by Charles Upton”

  1. Thank you for these pertinent thoughts on subject. Keep up the good work! Here are some references that may be of interest on the confluence of magic and modernity:

  2. Algis is right. We are just changing labels yet the contents remain the same, or else the gods are not universal. The old gentile traditions can never die for they are eternal, and because their myths are based on astrology onto which metaphysics is already superimposed. No one has the right to tell me which religion I can practice and which religion I cannot. It is furthermore absurd to judge a man whose tradition is Gentile Asian or European and expect him to follow some foreign Semitic law. Islamic law has no relevence to a Hindu or an Asatruar. All of this fearmongering about psychic residues is just that, fearmongering. When Guenon wrote that psychic residues would tear apart the wall dividing the layers of the universe he was grossly overestimating such forces. While everything in life has certain risks, we are men not little whining babies. If one cannot deal with psychic forces then what’s the point of being alive? Do we all need psychic diapers on orders of the vatican?

  3. Dear EXIT,

    Of course nobody has a right to tell you what religion to follow. But for myself, I believe that mixing elements from various different religious revelations is dangerous and counter-productive. Algis was, supposedly, a Muslim and a Maryamiyya faqir; if so, any attempt to practice Egyptian or Neo-Platonic theurgy would have produced an “interference pattern” that could block progress on the path — but God knows best, and He can advance anyone He chooses to advance, whatever quibbles I might have.

    My personal difficulty with “Neo-Paganism” is twofold. First, present-day Paganism seems to shy away from any sense of the Unity of God or the Unity of Being, though of course there are exceptions; Plotinus, on the other hand, understood the One as superseding the gods, though not negating them.

    Second, it is my belief that the “dispensation” that made a Pagan spiritual path possible has lapsed, partly because the “silsilah” or “Apostolic Succession” of Paganism, all the teaching lineages, has been broken; so much of what we call Paganism today is based on anthropological and literary research. But I’m sure you will disagree, and if the One is calling you to realize It by a Pagan path, who am I to say that is totally impossible?

    Psychic residues and psychic forces are not the same thing. I believe Guenon when he says that religions or sacred sites from which the Spirit had departed do harbor dangerous residues; this even applies — in my opinion and according to my experience — to the Novus Ordo Catholic Church, which has in many ways rejected the Holy Spirit. Psychic forces, on the other hand, are unavoidable, and often formidable. And the closer one gets to the One, the more formidable they get; any spiritual path of any religion must recognize these forces and give us ways to deal with them, either by protecting ourselves from them or by putting them to use, or both.

    Algis, brilliant scholar though he was, had the common post-Christian European prejudice — at least as a scholar — against the Semitic spiritualities, including Christianity; the only real errors I discovered in that book of his I edited had to do with his characterization of the relationship between Christianity and Platonism. The Greek Fathers absorbed and preserved much more Platonism than he was willing to admit; for example, it is my belief that Christian icon-writing partly carried on the Neo-Platonic practice of “animating” statues of the gods, applying it instead to the Christian saints.

    Charles Upton

  4. You admit that Christian fathers absorbed Platonism (and therefore mixed forms) and it is obvious that the Christians in the Middle Ages did the same, but then you say that if Algis attempted to practice neoplatonism it would interfere with his religion. You say this as though it is obvious and provide no evidence to support your claims. But isn’t it true that practicing theurgy would make him closer to God? I think so. Mixing forms is only dangerous to those who don’t know what they’re doing. But there are whole new religions that formed because of mixing; Sikhism comes to mind. And the argument has been made that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all just copies of older traditions mixed into one slightly altered religion. Abraham and Sarah are none other than Brahma and Sarasvati. Guenon is wrong to think that these religions came about simply from a traditional source without any borrowing. It is also wrong to characterize anyone who wants to restore the old traditions as neopagans. The term pagan as I’m sure you are aware began as an insult.

  5. Dear EXIT,

    Re mixing forms: Every religion is based on a “vertical” revelation from God. In Aristotelian terms, this is its “form”. Islam, for example, was not stitched together from rabbinical lore and Christian apochrypha and Nestorianism and Arab legend and docetic Gnosticism; it was first received by the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in his cave on Mt. Hira at a specific date. AFTER a particular revelation has been received, it magnetizes to itself the “matter” it needs to form a “body” for itself in this world, drawing from earlier and other religions, and from the general cultural ambience, what is compatible with it and rejecting what is incompatible. Allah, in the Quran, directs the Prophet from time to time to “make mention of” something from Christian or Jewish tradition, thus incorporating these elements into Islam, and consequently Islamicizing them in the sense that they then assume a specifically Islamic flavor and significance. This is poles apart from collecting lore on your own from here, there and everywhere so as to make up your own amalgam of many influences, some of them intrinsically incompatible with each other, outside the power and authority of a Divine revelation. The first is revealed synthesis, the second is promiscuous syncretism.

    Sikkhism operates at the extreme limit of what is possible in this cycle of manifestation in terms of the synthesis of traditional forms; one step more in that direction and you are over the line into syncretism pure and simple, along with the Baha’is, the Freemasons and the Theosophists.

    Only a path sent and maintained by God can bring you all the way to Him. Is Neo-Platonic theurgy a tradition presently maintained by Him, or has its living form, its “charter” been withdrawn? I believe it has.

    Abraham and Sarah are not Brahma and Sarasvati. Where did you get that idea? Brahma and Sarasvati are gods who never even assumed human avataric form in this world; Abraham and Sarah are historical figures. The two pairs may both participate, from one point of view, in the same archetype, but that in no way justifies our identifying them.

    I wish there were better terms than “Pagan, Neo-Pagan”, which I do recognize began (and in some ways continue) as insults; can you suggest a better name? Original Greco-Roman, Nordic and Celtic “Paganism” descended from archaic Divine revelations whose historical date we cannot fix. The Druids were a branch of the same Indo-European priesthood that also produced the Brahmins; the Orphic tradition sprang from a revelation every bit as Divine as the Abrahamic or Hindu ones. But it died out. Chaldean theurgy, the Egyptian religion, Neo-Platonism, all died out. Druidism died out. The initiatory lineages were broken. The same is true of whatever Nordic esoterism might have been represented by the Rune Lore. According to the genealogy of my mother’s family, the Strothers, I am descended from Odin; “Strother” may mean “Stra-Thor”, priest-of-Thor. But that doesn’t mean I think I can dig up the bones of that tradition and do something useful with them. Times change. The remnants of Neo-Platonism, and even the religion of Egypt, only survive in living form in Christianity — especially Eastern Orthodoxy (via Dionysius the Areopagite and others) — and Islam (via Dhu’l Nun and others). If you want true religion, then apply to Eternity, to the Always So, not to the graveyard.

    Charles Upton

  6. I’m sorry but you’re wrong. The patriarchs and prophets were not real people. Some say even the apostles were not real but copies from other legends. If the scriptures were received at once by revelation then why do we find different versions of the same stories in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? Moreover there are many other versions from the Gnostics, and before that from the Mesopatamians, Assyrians, Egyptians, etc. Yes these stories were borrowed and the historical evidence is overwhelming, as for example, Acharaya S has compiled (though I don’t agree with all of her conclusions) in her book The Christ Conspiracy.

  7. Dear EXIT:

    This idea that historical figures were not real people is simply the product of the academic disciplines deconstructing themselves under postmodernism; it’s called “the hermeneutics of suspicion”. The Indiana University Press even published a book whose thesis was that the Gulf War never took place! An immense stupidity and ignorance is emanating from the academies right now; I once heard Elaine Pagels say on the radio that Christ was an “illiterate carpenter”, when everybody knows, or used to know, that he was a Rabbi who read from the Torah scroll when he preached in the synagogues. The prevailing policy is that any scholarship more than 50 years old must be thrown out, consequently our relationship to our own past is being systematically destroyed, leading me to quote that line from T.S. Eliot, “the tribe without a history is not redeemed from time”.

    I did not say that scriptures were received at once by revelation; that’s true only of the Qur’an, which was transmitted over a period of years. The only thing strictly equivalent to this transmission in Judaism is the Ten Commandments. And in Christianity, the revelation is not the Bible, but Christ. Of course accounts of His life differ, they were written by different people at different times. Christian scripture is “inspired”, not “revealed”. As for the Gnostic versions, some of them, like the Gospel of Thomas, are of real value; however, insofar as the Gnostics preached the Transcendence of God — which is true — but denied the Immanence of God — which is also true — they were heretics, by which I mean they were simply wrong; to deny the Immanence of God is to depart from the Primordial Tradition, and also from reality. (The Gospel of Thomas, however, did NOT deny Immanence: “Break a stick and you will find Me; lift a rock and I am there.”)

    There is a huge academic effort to debunk religion right now, which can’t be done
    without rewriting history; the prevailing ideas of the government-and-business-bought intelligentsia in our time are not only anti-God but anti-human.

    But let’s cut to the chase: Do you believe in God?


  8. I of course believe in the Supreme Principle, metaphysics and initiation. But I distinguish between myth and history. Even Guenon admitted that figures like Christ, Hermes, Zoroaster, etc., were not historical or literal humans but represented certain spiritual forces of the times. There really is no difference between Christ, Zeus, Osiris, and other like gods. These comparisons go on and on as do passages in holy texts; for instance, the Gospel of John has many passages that are almost exactly the same as passages in the Vedas and other Hindu texts. And we know that Brahmins travelled the world teaching their ways.

    The Ten Commandments on the other hand were taken from Egypt and Mesopotamia. I don’t see how these constitute a revelation, as they are simply rules for a government to establish a civilization; there is no absolute morality especially when governments are exempt from their own rules.

  9. Yes, we do need to distinguish between myth and history, otherwise everything becomes literalized and opaque. But on the other hand, myths are always lived out AS history. The Abrahamic religions concentrated on this aspect, but it’s a universal principle nonetheless; like Plato said, “time is the moving image of Eternity.”

    Where did Guenon say that Christ was not historical? He certainly had an a-historical aspect, just like you and me, but did Guenon really say that?

    Hermes was more a symbol of a philosophical/theurgical school, a Greece-ification of the lore of Thoth.

    Zoroaster was both a historical figure — or several of them — and a symbol of a spiritual force or influence. Prophets and sacred kings would take the names of gods or spiritual principles, and (if successful) really embody them. By the same token, spiritual principles and/or gods would sometimes be named after historical figures who “became” gods after their deaths, through apotheosis; there is always a give-and take between the archetypal and the historical. Quetzalcoatl was a Toltec/Aztec god; Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl was a Toltec sacred king who “became” Quetzalcoatl for his time, like Zoroaster the man “became” Zoroaster the archetypal principle for his time.

    You are right about parallelism in sacred texts; the figure of the Word of God armed with a sword and mounted on a white horse who comes at the end of time to destroy evil and isbnamed “the Beginning and the End” appears in both the Apocalypse and the Puranas. But does this mean that the Apocalypse borrowed it from the Puranas, or vice versa? Not necessarily; perhaps the sages of both traditions went, in vision, to the same place in the Imaginal Plane and saw the same figure; Jung, at least, would claim that this is possible. Likewise Egypt, Mesopotamia and Moses on Sinai might have had visions, differing according to their differing perspectives, of the same Principle of Ten. To get this principle horizontally through cultural diffusion unblessed by the Divine is to inherit nothing but a corpse; to get it straight from God through Vision is to bring it back alive.

    There actually were sacred authorities who (sometimes at least) lived by their own rules.

    As for the Supreme Principle: Do you believe that It (at least on one level) is aware of us, has designs for us and can act in relation to us?

  10. If there were a few coincidences between texts then it would be coincidental, but when large portions are the same, and numerous passages are almost word for word, and we know that people journeyed about teaching their ways to others, then all this taken together suggests borrowing. It is unfair to say that the academists are just attacking religion; they are criticizing a portion of religion which they see to be erroneous. For instance, I was reading the Upanishads and it said if I don’t perform the rites properly my head will fall off. Is that really true? Of course not. But I can disagree with certain points and still respect the tradition overall.

    As to where exactly Guenon wrote that Christ wasn’t a literal human, I would have to do some digging, but I do believe he wrote it. Samuel D. Fohr also wrote something to that effect in his first book. But Christ, who is the Sun, was a copy from older sacrificial gods as most academists have pointed out. This is clear to me since the gospels and all myths are about astrology which is the natural cosmological symbol for metaphysics and initiatic rites.

    If on the other hand you believe that the Semitic myths are history, then you must also believe that the world was created in 7 days from speech (Om?), that we are all descended from one human, that Moses split the Red Sea, that Jesus walked on water, rose from the dead, brought Lazarus back from the dead, changed water into wine, etc. These things are impossible and scientifically incorrect. Therefore it cannot be history unless it is a history for fools.

    As for God, I believe we make our own destiny, hence we have free will. God gives us potentials limited by Divine Necessity. As the Upanishads say, the source of the heavens is the earth, and the source of the earth is ether; for all beings come from ether and must return to ether. And as the late Ronnie James Dio once said, our heaven and hell is here on earth, to make of it–our lives–as we will.

  11. If you don’t do the ritual right maybe your head won’t fall off, but it WILL become so big that you won’t be able to lift it off the ground.

    Your denial of the miraculous simply shows how trapped you are in the modern, narrow-minded, worldy outlook. Miracles have always taken place and are well documented; in our own time Padre Pio and St. John Maximovitch performed endless wonders. Have you researched this, or just dismissed it? First do your homework and then get back to me (or not). I myself have witnessed the wonders performed by the Philippine psychic surgeons, both in the Philippines and California, and they were only Christianized shamans employing a kind of ancient psychic technology. They plunged theirr hands deep into my belly which opened and then closed again like a bowl of water.They popped my eye out of my head, scraped something out of the socket and popped in back; I experienced no pain. when I sat up, everybody around me was staring with their mouths open. I saw similar wonders performed on others many, many times. And to say that miracles are scientifically impossible is meaningless. What can science know about it? Science has nothing to say about the limits of God, only the limits of matter.

    The 7 days of creation were obviously not our kind of days; those who think that they were are naive literalists, but those who think that such language is consequently meaningless have no appreciation of symbolic mythopoesis.

    You think you believe in God, but then you come up with arguments that only an atheist materialist could make, or at least a deist. If you deny the miraculous you deny that God can ACT. You make Him passive, in relation to which only the self-willed ego appears as active — a view shared by both magic and science.

    So we’re not going to agree, are we? No blame. I just pray that you come into the kind of relationship to God where you can experience Him as moving in your life, not just yourself as seeking Him or trying to figure Him out. If you are SERIOUSLY seeking Him and trying to figure Him out, even though you will fail, that IS God moving in your life.

    Ugh! you’ve got me preaching. I believe in saying things like this ONCE, but if I don’t stop now I’ll just end up nagging.

  12. You’re making this a black and white issue when there is really alot of grey area. I believe in miracles but I don’t believe in people living for thousands of years, or rising from the dead. As the Upanishads say, once born, you cannot die and live again, for who is to create you? Metaphysics is the true miracle. In that I trust.

    The Upanishads also say, “If a man departs from this life without having seen his true future life (in the Self), then that Self, not being known, does not receive and bless him, as if the Veda had not been read, or as if a good work had not been done.” The true initiate knows that clairvoyance and magic result from initiatic rites, and must needs be so to attain blessing (according to the above). Thus the Semitic proscriptions against such are foolish and can only arise from a counter-initiatic force or from pure ignorance. Moreover, is not speech a magic spell? Is not the mantra magical? For Om gives blessing, healing and immortality.

  13. When Jesus healed the sick and taught his doctrine people said he was practicing magic (according to the Jewish texts or was possessed by the devil according to the gospels) and was crucified. One might also say that the Brahmins used magic when they transformed the world around them into bliss through Om. But magic has always been used as an excuse by the uninitated to persecute the initiated. And accusations of magic are still used today in Islamic fundamentalist nations to persecute one’s rivals. I think we have more to fear from the hate and superstitions of others than by being slightly distracted from our spiritual goal.

  14. Hello Charles Upton.

    I have a question about 2 of your books. They are Legends of the End and The System of Antichrist. I have been looking for a book on comparative eschatology. Comparative as in not the variety of interpretations of just the Book of Revelation but the Apocalypse as described in different world religions. Legends of the End, particularly its section on comparative eschatology, is exactly what I been looking for and surprisingly the only book I found on this subject. Do you know of any others?

    I also looked at the other book, The System of the Antichrist, using the look inside feature and found the contents to be interesting. I never heard of Perennial philosophy but it seems to make a lot of sense to me as someone who agrees a lot with the ideas of Michele Moramarco. I also agree with the caution you have about the New Age and the more loosey goosey movements. I actually wonder if things like Raelism are a return of the Medieval movements like the Brethren of the Free Spirit and I also wonder if they could ever get as dark as the Brethren of the Free Spirit.

    But what I especially noticed when looking inside was the list references to other texts and concepts in the back. Looking inside I could also tell that Legends of the End seems to basically be an excerpt of a few chapters from The System of Antichrist. Just like the Cracks in the Great Wall book on UFOs which also perked my interest.

    This brings me to my main question. Does Legends of the End contain all the comparative eschatology content from The System of the Antichrist as far as the descriptions of the events in the ancient texts go? Which would be the better buy? I can only get one of the books for the time being.

    I am sorry to post this unrelated question in this discussion area but I’m not sure how else or where else I could ask you. If it is undesirable please just tell me what to do.

    • Dear X-Man:

      Sorry to be so long in getting back to you. Magic is more than a “slight distraction” from our spiritual goal; it can create the kind of the psychic scar tissue that could permanently blind the Eye of the Heart. It’s true that the “other guy’s” religion is often characterized as magic, while the wonders produced by our own religion are seen as pure divine miracles; nonetheless there really is a difference in principle between magic and miracle. In magic, the wonderworker is posited as the doer, thus making man active and God passive; in the case of true miracles, the God is recognized as the Doer — which is the actual state of affairs.

      • Charles writes that magic “can create the kind of the psychic scar tissue that could permanently blind the Eye of the Heart.” But there is no distinction between self and god, nor can anyone determine that the prophesying in the bible was from “god” and the prophesying from some non-biblical source was from one’s psyche. There has never been any evidence put forth that magic blocks one from the eye of the heart. If that was so we wouldn’t experience signs once we reached a high level of initiation. All of this seems like idle speculation meant to comfort some age old polemical prejudices.

        • Dear Exit,

          Maybe we mean different things by “magic”. If your goal is the production of paranormal phenomena, that’s what you’ll get. If your goal is to reach “higher consciousness”, this cannot be accomplished in any stable way unless that consciousness is an active Reality in itself whether or not you yourself have reached it. If you attempt to reach it through a mental set that is not already based upon or emanating from that Reality, you will just move in circles. We need to be guided by something beyond us if we want to reach something beyond us; that’s one intrinsic aspect of “Tradition”.

          So what is your goal? If you were to accomplish all you hope to accomplish on your path, what would that look like? This is a problematic question, however, since if you have no intuition of that ultimate State, anything you answer would have to be based on personal fantasy, and if you have not yet come in touch with that State, no true intuition of it is possible. Such a state or reality must already somehow exist “within” us, and at the same time be beyond us, or rather beyond our self-concept and our habitual view of the world. And if it is fundamentally beyond us, we cannot reach it by our own efforts. As I see it, the effort necessary on the spiritual Path is a WORK of receptivity and submission — not blind submission, which is useless, but intelligent submission in the presence of Knowledge. As for the signs you seem to have encountered on reaching a high level of initiation (I assume you are referring to your own experience, but maybe you’re takling about things you’ve read in books or information gained from other people), these could be any number of things, from true instances of Divine guidance to mere collective psychic residues of spiritual efforts, legitimate or delusional, made by people who came before you. Suffice it to say that when I criticize what I call “magic”, I am using the word in a very general sense as referring to a “Promethean” spirituality based on the idea that you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, that you yourself are the guide, and that the goal is to be defined primarily as a state or condition that pertains first and foremost to you personally.

          So — what are you after?

          ~~ Charles

          • Please do not shift the discussion. I never implied that magic was a goal in itself. I am asking for actual proof that magic causes a scar and permanent obstruction from the nous.

            You seem however to be distorting the definition of magic/clairvoyance/etc to fit your narrative so as to disallow any criticism of your viewpoint.

            You mentioned that a “shaman” popped your eye out, scraped something off of it, then popped it back in its socket, and that this wasn’t magic or pure bushman/witchdoctor quackery, but what do you base your determination on? And if you accept that this was indeed a miracle healing, an opinion which I strongly disagree with, then how are you to say that someone else’s personal experience on the spiritual path was due to simply a “psychic residue” (another unproven claim!) and not the Spirit?

          • Dear Exit,

            My personal experience of involvement with the subtle dimension or Jinn-world — which (as I see it) was in part produced by foolishly idealistic attempts at “intervention” to apply subtle forces to help this or shift that in the phenomenal world, as well as on the use of psychedelics, the abuse of kundalini-yoga etc.– produced in me an
            openness to the multidimensional agitation of the psychic plane which made it hard for me to concentrate on God — at least that’s my definite impression. And I’ve seen what magic did to an aquantance of mine with a background in witchcraft, Gurdjieff work and Cheyenne shamanism: blew him to the 4 winds and made him a very dangerous person to be around. Obviously this doesn’t happen to everyone who connects with the world of magic, but I believe it does represent a real danger.

            HOWEVER, I won’t be able to dialogue with you with any degree of clarity until you make it clear how YOU define magic, and what function you think it fulfills in terms of the spiritual Path, if any. So I’d say the ball’s in your court.

            ~~ Charles

          • Dear Exit,

            My personal experience of involvement with the subtle dimension or Jinn-world — which (as I see it) was in part produced by foolishly idealistic attempts at “intervention” to apply subtle forces to help this or shift that in the phenomenal world, as well as on the use of psychedelics, the abuse of kundalini-yoga etc.– produced in me an
            openness to the multidimensional agitation of the psychic plane which made it hard for me to concentrate on God — at least that’s my definite impression. And I’ve seen what magic did to an aquantance of mine with a background in witchcraft, Gurdjieff work and Cheyenne shamanism: blew him to the 4 winds and made him a very dangerous person to be around. Obviously this doesn’t happen to everyone who connects with the world of magic, but I believe it does represent a real danger.

            HOWEVER, I won’t be able to dialogue with you with any degree of clarity until you make it clear how YOU define magic, and what function you think it fulfills in terms of the spiritual Path, if any. So I’d say the ball’s in your court.

            ~~ Charles

          • Magic is a general term for mystical powers. One example would be clairvoyance. Another would be to produce a state of bliss or to heal oneself. The only difference between magic and miracle is terminology. In all the “pagan” world miracles are referred to as magic.

            However, one cannot judge magic by its misuse or by its attempt by halfbaked charlatans who due to their ignorance became unstable (or already were unstable to begin with). The same thing can be said about meditation or initiatic rites. But we don’t ban something just because someone might do it improperly. Rather that is the case for more education on the issue to dispell irrational fears about it.

            Thus there is no evidence that magic leads to harm, but rather doing something in the wrong manner leads to error and peril.

          • Dear Exit,

            There may well be people who can practice magic and come to no harm. But Union with God is not something that you DO. If you believe this you will at best waste your time and at worst come to GREAT harm, and do harm to others. The application of the magical paradigm, the idea that “I am the Doer”, to the spiritual Path
            — the notion that mysticism is a “power” someone can possess — is one of the most fundamental delusions.

            ~~ Charles

          • Charles, I’m sorry, but I’m still waiting for the criteria whereby one determines whether God produces magic/miracle and when He does not. You will note that it is through human faculties that such must be determined, and that no one really knows what to measure this “God” by, so it is just a bunch of sophistry…is it not? Honestly? With all virtue can you truly say that what you believe is the only truth? Because I have a good idea what I believe and I am no novice, yet I constantly question my beliefs because my virtue begs of such! Really, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others, nor should we be fast at condemning them! I pray you truly accept God in your heart and love mankind, for love is the commandment that Jesus himself implemented. Even though you seem to be a muslim I am sure you can appreciate that! For it is said, judge not lest ye be judged yourself! I assure you that I am far from delusional. I have told you more than once that I don’t believe the final goal of the path to be occult powers or magic, yet you persist in attributing this belief to me. I have only tried to suggest to you that magic low or high has been valued by “pagan” priests and that it at the more advanced level it is no different than a miracle. But maybe in time you can move past your semitic prejudices an accept that the gentile world is also capable of such glories. That being said, I don’t think that magic as delivered from the gods could harm the person who works with safeguards, as must needs be when entering any practice, whether it be yoga, meditation, astral travel, or whatever. Personal safety is just common sense, and I guess there is a learning curve when it comes to such things. But such is life.

          • Dear EXIT,

            I’m not condemning you, I’m disagreeing with you. If you have the courage of your convictions you can tell me to go jump in a lake.

            The caution against the magical view of the spiritual path is not just “Semitic”, it is also Indo-European and Pagan. The Hindu yogis caution against involvement with “siddhis”, psycho-physical powers. And the Greek myth of Prometheus explicitly dramatizes the dangers of self-will on the spiritual Path. That myth is usually considered nowadays to be the story of a spiritual hero persecuted by a negative possessive father-god who is LITTLE BETTER THAN JEHOVAH. But the truth is, Prometheus committed sacrilege against the Father of Gods and Men, and so his punishment was just. Furthermore, that punishment was also a PURGATION. To have one’s liver devoured by an eagle is, in the language of symbols, to have one’s self-will negated and assimilated to the Divine Intellect; the liver, like the “manipura-chakra” in tantric yoga, is the seat of “personal power”. So maybe Prometheus’ transgression was a “felix culpa” after all, a fortunate sin.

            As for the criteria by which we can determine the presence of God’s miraculous action, only faith can really discern this: “the presence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” On the human side, magic is based on the assertion of our agendas, whereas the kind of prayer that can open us (God willing) to the miraculous is based on the sacrifice of them. That’s the difference. We may present petitions to God, but we must always end with “not my will but Thine be done”. And the QUALITIES of miracle, which are not always easy to discern, include effortless power, the accomplishment of many things in many dimensions at the same time, and the manifestation and illustration of a spiritual principle through a physical symbol. If you want to know more you should read MIRACLES by C. S. Lewis.

            ~~ Charles

          • Charles, the myth to which you refer is open to many interpretations. I am looking for some concrete criteria from you whereby one actually determines what is spiritual and what is psychic, or moreover what is god’s will and who is to decide what is god’s will? I know that not you nor anyone can come up with this. For in reality the psychic and spiritual are mixed, as we are material beings after all. That yogis urge caution isn’t surprising but they do not condemn their use because it is impossible not to run into subtle forces. That’s what’s so ridiculous about the whole thing. And as the Upanishads says, those who don’t see their future life (clairvoyance) don’t receive the blessing of the Self. I think that people are scared of occult powers and that’s why they condemn them.

          • Dear EXIT,

            The history of Sufis and Hindu yogis and Christian saints ia full of what you call “occult powers”; it’s just that these powers are seen as the action of God, not the action of ME: that’s where the distinction between Spirit and psyche comes into play. The Spirit is active, the psyche, receptive.

            I think at one point we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I can’t read your soul or evaluate God’s will for you; as Schuon always emphasized, “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth”, which means that God’s ways of dealing with the an individual’s spiritual destiny transcend all explicit criteria, even those expressly established by Him. If you find your path fruitful, then more power to you.


          • So it comes down to semantics. For everything is “done by God” so it can’t be “done by me”. I for one think one can be too fundamentalist when it comes to “God’s will”, since after all he did give us free will. Besides, the whole “God’s will” idea was created by religious moralists as a way to control the people through trickery…some dirty black magic if I must say! No one can know what God’s will is or if he even has a will for every single event that we do here. Anyone who claims to know what God’s will is is a liar.

          • Dear EXIT,

            If you’re immersed in ego, you’ll see God (if you believe in Him) as just a bigger and meaner Ego than you are, one that you’re either forced to submit to in sullen oppression or get the nerve to rebel against in heroic battle; like Lucifer said in PARADISE LOST, you’d rather “rule in hell than serve in Heaven.” But God is NOT just another ego; God is the essential and transcendent Nature of things. The Tao, for example, could be called, in western terms, “the immanent Will of God”. And yes, we do have free will — but our will is only COMPLETELY free at the point of the choice of masters, the moment when we decide whether we’d rather be the slaves of Reality or the slaves of our own crap. As slaves of our own crap we are slaves for real; as slaves of Reality — our own Reality as well as that of the Universe around us — we are free. If we make that choice we will no longer create and imprison ourselves inside subjective fantasy-worlds based on tiny fragments of what we really are. Like Beat Generation poet Lew Welch said, “I seek union with what goes on whether I look at it or not” — in other words, OBJECTIVITY IS FREEDOM FROM SELF and union with the Great Mystery. Who could ask for more?

            ~~ Charles

          • Charles, it appears that Semitic religions devalue life, the world, the personal self, etc, and this is the reason why it has lost credibility. We even read Rama Coomaraswamy defending the Catholic doctrine of submission of women to men and the veiling of their heads because women are “of man, not of God”; he even defends Eckhart’s view that women can’t go to heaven unless they become men. This is what crap is. Pure unsubstantiated nonsense that purports to be from God, but is really just a bunch of bigoted nonsense. If God loves, then he must give to man some of his power (to he who knocks). Else he is simply a fraud or a selfish hater. If he is the latter then I don’t want to know him. But I know that man thinking he can speak for god is the only true egoist. Everything here on earth has become an epidemic; is this due to god’s will? If so then I hate him, for I hate the evil of this world. The good people on earth will always be slaves of the ultra-evil, ultra-wealthy, and ultra-violent “masters.” Those that claim to be good, i.e, the defenders of Sharia law demand that we give up everything, such as music, art, sports, wine, pork, etc., etc., because this is “god’s will.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that–the blind leading the blind. So let us not speak of god’s will, but of good will, which begins with human kindness and human understanding.

          • Apuleius wrote that, “we have reason to believe that all these [means by which we obtain a knowledge of future events] are by the will, power, and authority of the celestial gods, through the obedience, aid, and services of daimons.”

  15. Dear X Man,

    THE SYSTEM OF ANTICHRIST has substantally the same material as LEGENDS OF THE END, though the latter has a different introduction and a few other changes. If you want to buy just one book, I’d suggest ANTICHRIST.

    The Raelians are already a lot darker than the Brethren of the Free Spirit; they worship UFOs, and some years ago they claim to have cloned the first human being, posting pictures of the joyful “mother”….they are essentially transhumanists, which is probably the worst evil we face in the world today.

    ~~ Charles

  16. Hello!

    I’m sorry despite my similar name I’m not the same person as Exit. I originally chose X to be my signature for this forum but then added man as in the X-Men.

    I was impatient and ordered LEGENDS OF THE END a few days after my post. Mainly because it seemed to focus more on eschatology which is what I was specifically looking for. I finished the book and its good.

    It was what I wanted. I knew a little about the Kalki of Hinduism and of the Tibetan Buddhist siege of Shamballa but there is nothing that really shows how they compare to the Book of Revelation and to the Jewish, Islamic, and Zoroastrian versions of the Apocalypse. You showed the links and similarities well. Such as the Messiah using the spear to defeat the Antichrist in the Islamic and Tibetan Buddhist versions. These links should be more widely known.

    You mentioned Keresaspa often who is one of my favorite heroes. Could you tell me if there is any special meaning to Keresaspa’s “occulted” body being protected by 99,999 fravashis(guardian angels)? Similar to there being 12 legions of angels in the Book of Revelation and 12 divisions under the Tibetan version of Kalki. Interestingly I see eschatological similarities between Keresaspa and the Estonian figure of Kalevipoeg and even Tolkien’s character Túrin Turambar.

    I looked at my old post and saw I was talking about several different things all at once and thought I should explain a few things. As I said I was looking for books on eschatology and was also looking into books by Norman Cohn at the time. It was looking into his The Pursuit of the Millennium book that I heard of the Brethren of the Free Spirit and noticed how similar it sounded to some of the New Age ideas. I realized that this sort of thing must of been going on at least since the Middle Ages and whats happening now seems to be an extension of it.

    I brought up Raelism because a lot of what you said about the negative aspects of UFOs instantly reminded me of them in particular. I know Raelism is really just one of such things but they outright say the Elohim or the angels are really a race of aliens and God either doesn’t exist or is just their leader. As a man that does believe there are aliens out there on other planets, it has always given me a very sad feeling in my gut when ever I hear about things that reduce the angels and other spiritual beings to just being physical aliens. In terms of reducing the spiritual to the purely physical they also claim these aliens can recreate anyone who has ever lived through scientific cloning alone.

    I’ve only recently learned of transhumanism and if it really means what it sounds like then that is indeed frightful. Its hard to not see the giants in the Book of Enoch and the creatures in the Book of Giants and Mesopotamian myth as an example of this from the past.

    The reason why I mentioned Michele Moramarco is because he is a Zoroastrian Universalist who in his “Universal Mazdeism. An Outline” paper states the good qualities of other traditional religions and how they should be studied as well as having a guarded stance towards more recent movements. I feel almost exactly the same way as what is written there. I have only recently learned about Sophia Perennis and it is the closest thing to it that I have heard of before.

    Thank you for the advice and for getting back to me too.

    • Dear X-Man,

      Tracking down spiritual myth and esoteric lore is fascinating and can be very useful, but you can also get bogged down in it. Take it from me! I’m sure the 99,999 fravashis guarding Keresaspa’s occulted body have a specific symbolic significance, buy you’d have to ask a Zoroastrian sage what it might be, and sages do not always respond to curiosity.

      Religious universalism is true in that all TRUE and revealed religions emanate from the same Reality and provide valid (though differing) perspectives on It and methods for realizing It. But once you come to that rather preliminry realization, the need is to search for a single path, since you can’r practice all religions at once without blowing yourself to the four winds. This is one of the central principles of the Sophia Perennis. Also, various non-traditional globalists are now using religious universalism to create their One-World Religion, which will be the regime of Antichrist.

      ~~ Charles

  17. Charles,

    What exactly is the difference between the munda imaginalis of Henry Corbin and the astral/psychic realm, if any?

    Also you mention Juilus Evola in a positive light seemingly in the introduction, but surely though he is a lot more sophisticated than “New Age” or “Magical Revival” stuff he does put forward basically a path of self-deification through one’s own power which puts him at odds with Islam and Christianity to put it mildly no?


    • Dear Enoch,

      The mundus imaginalis and the astral/psychic plane are pretty much the same thing on the phenomenal level; the difference appears in the different ways they are explained and the different significance given to them. The magician will see the astral plane as giving him an opportunity to “seed” events in the subtle dimension that will later take place in physical reality; the Sufi understands the mundus imaginalis or “alam al-mithal” as the realm of “image-exemplars” where Divine realities are dramatized as symbolical figures and events — the same being true, in a less obvious way, of the material world. The best and most accessible book on the alam al-mithal I’ve run into is IMAGINAL WORLDS by William Chittick, which given the doctrines of Ibn al-‘Arabi on the subject.

      I didn’t want to attack Julius Evola on at that particular point, but I entirely agree with your assessment of him. Still, I think some of his books — REVOLT AGAINST THE MODERN WORLD, for example — can be informative, once you understand and know how to avoid his basic errors.

      ~~ Charles

  18. I have found that the basic underlying structure of Evola’s thought comes from Carlo Michelstraeder and Otto Weinnger and that he bends his findings and thoughts on the ancient world to fit into this basically romantic vision of the transcendent ego; for all his supposed anti-romanticism he seems caught in a romantic pose that he could never grow out of. Ernst Junger who is contemporary with him did manage after many shocks to mature into a wonderful novelist. I would be interested to know what you found of value in Revolt Against the Modern World that is not in other places.

    Do you believe that the visionary parts of the lets Daniel in the Bible come also from the Astral Plane?

    Good article over all by the way. Thank you for it.

    • Dear Enoch,

      I’m sure you’re right about Evola’s sources and the fact that much of his material can be found elsewhere. It’s just that he put a lot of material together in one place that I personally hadn’t already encountered. For example, the idea that the Roman Plebeians tended to worship goddesses and the Patricians, gods, was an interesting item. However, when Evola classes COMPASSION as a vice, you know you’re dealing with a dangerous influence.

      As for the Book of Daniel emanating from the mundus imaginalis, the fact is that every dream and every symbolic image entertained by any mind comes THROUGH the Imaginal Plane; the question is, where did it originate before that? Ibn al-‘Arabi divides the alam al-mithal into two regions: images that are essentially memories of sense experience, and images that dramatize metaphysical principles or Divine commands. The visions of the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Apocalypse etc. obviously derive from the latter, though they still might have made use of the former. Often a truly archetypal dream emanating from the higher worlds will clothe itself in images from your recent waking life.

      ~~ Charles

    • Dear Enoch,

      Here’s a link to an intelligent and informative review of a book about Evola:

      ~~ Charles

  19. Thanks, your explanation of a legitimate visionary material makes sense to me.

    I will read the review properly later but having glanced at it I will say this, I read most Evola’s work in English when I was younger and I never came across a mention of Corbin, he is someone I have only come across recently; obviously someone who’s scholarship and thought is of much greater worth but who I still would not swallow whole.

  20. I have been reading this discussion so far. Regarding earlier comments –especially those written by EXIT–, the inability or unwillingness to differentiate between spirituality and sorcery is one of the characteristic traits of contemporary mentality, a mere consequence from the widespread confusion between the spiritual and the psychic domains. This subversive confusion affects both profane anthropologists and different kinds of new age ‘adepts’, even if they don’t think of themselves as new agers –nowadays it happens a lot to many ‘neo-pagans’: this is understandable since all them are part of the modern world. How many times we have seen anthropologists speaking of initiatory rites as ‘magical beliefs & practices’, attributed to ‘primitive peoples’? The reluctance to acknowledge this essential distinction is a manifestation of the same way of thinking. And is not possible to achieve a sensible approach towards Tradition while keeping such disqualifying traits proper of the profane mindset.

    In any case, reading a book such as ‘Magic, medecine et divination chez les Celtes’ by Christian J. Guyonvarc’h (unfortunately only available in French) can be helpful to people thinking that the distinction between spirituality and sorcery is just ‘a mere legacy from Abrahamic religions’, lacking, thus, of ‘objective validity’.

    It is necessary to write a few lines concerning these statements, by EXIT as well: ‘All of this fearmongering about psychic residues (. . .) he was grossly overestimating such forces.’

    Actually is very, very hard to overestimate ‘pshychic residues’, while underestimating them is, unfortunately, too easy for those that can’t experience such things objectively – usually, human beings suffer them all the time in a passive, unaware manner. Man barely can’t do anything alone about ‘phychic residues’ without the effective participation of a ‘spiritual influence’, which is the only thing able to counter their effects. The whole contemporary world is shaped by the continuous action of ‘psychic residues’, and they are present even in the soul of humanity, individually and collectively. They are present even in modern technology. In the current age and state of things, these ‘forces’ are much more active than ‘spiritual influences’, so it’s something ‘to fear’ indeed, or for putting it in different words, something to be alert about –at the very least. Additionally, despite acting everywhere, these things are able to hide themselves extremely well from the dim perception of most people, allowing them to operate even with greater freedom.

    Also I’d like to make a question to Charles about something that he wrote in an earlier reply to Enoch, regarding the differences between ‘the astral plane’ and the psychic domain: “The magician will see the astral plane as giving him an opportunity to “seed” events in the subtle dimension that will later take place in physical reality.”

    What I would like to ask about this is: are there verifiable sources? I mean, is possible to point to a known text accounting for these claims about sorcery? I would be thankful to know it. While I have no positive interest in sorcery, I need to find information of this kind for reasons having nothing to do with curiosity. Maybe you are reluctant to share the source of such claim in a public forum: if that is the case, I can try to ask the same question to you by e-mail.


    • Dear Anacoreta,

      When I was personally dabbling in magic it was “natural” somehow to see the dream state — the astral plane, that is — as a place of POTENTIAL physical events; the idea was to make dreams “come true”. Many involved in lucid dreaming had this general idea. The Anthroposophists (and undoubtedly the Theosophists as well) see events as manifesting in the astral (the psychic plane) and the etheric (the subttle energy dimension, possibly identifiable with the Anima Mundi) before they come into physical reality. Even Frithjof Schuon said that all things come into physical reality through the intermediary plane, though before that may originate from vastly different planes of being. Psychic healers, including those called
      “etheric surgeons”, will remove both potential physical problems and those that are already manifest by helping to clear the psychic and subtle-energy planes of negativity and energy-blockages, since those planes are considered to be (relatively) causal in relation to the physical. And the Philippine psychic surgeons, whom I experienced personally on many occasions, are able to affect the physical matter of the body by tapping energies (and with the help of entities) from subtler planes. The fact that it is possible to “intervene” on these levels tends to hide the fact that God alone is the ultimate performer of all action, to reinforce the magical paradigm as against that of TASLIM or submission to God. It is possible, of course, for God to charter, guide and empower action on the intermediary planes, as in the case of legitimate shamanism; the psychic surgeons themselves make this claim. But when operating outside a living spiritual tradition (as I was) it’s very hard to distinguish between following God’s guidance and simply messing with things on your own whim. Apparently God allowed me to prove to myself both that magic is real and that, for me at least, it is a waste of time and a serious danger.

      ~~ Charles

  21. Dear Charles,

    Your answer clears it up for me.

    I agree with what you are saying. Here and in earlier replies as well.

    Also, since I did read your “The System of Antichrist”, I’m a bit ‘aware’ of a small part of your personal, psychic experiences before embracing Islam.

    (Albeit in all honesty I can’t pronounce myself about the psychic surgeons: I never saw them personally and besides, the involvement of subtle entities, in our current cosmic situation, makes it a bit difficult to judge to me.)

    Concerning “seeding events”: yes, it’s clear to me that everything in the gross existence –not only mental objects like desires, emotions, or corporeal ones, but also happenings, situations– has its roots in the subtle domain . . . and the subtle domain in the spiritual one.

    Just in case, I’ll add that this is implied in the cosmological unfolding of the manifestation from the Principle, and I want to reiterate that I have no positive interest in sorcery: according to different orthodox traditions, it is an acknowledged danger that can halt, distort or destroy the spiritual realization. The many confusions brought by anthropologists, and developed by false “spiritual masters” are not innocent in the very least.

    Thank you, Charles, for answering to my question.


  22. I have been told by proper Orthodox monastics that when we are in a state of spiritual health that we do not dream, I know that science says that we always dream so maybe its a case of when we are in spiritual health we dont remember them.

    Has anyone else encountered similar statements elsewhere?

    • Dear Enoch,

      This is something that should be classed as a crank idea. When Jacob dreamt of the ladder reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it, or when an angel came to St. Joseph in a dream and told him and his family to flee into Egypt, does this mean that they were spiritually ill? When “proper” Orthodox monastics contradict scrioture, just ignore them. Eastern Orthodoxy is full of heresy these days, and apparently lacks people who can discern it and are willing to deal with it. One heresy is that we are saved only in community, which is true if by “community” we mean membership by Baptism in Christ’s church, but patently untrue if the idea of Christian fellowship is used to replace one’s relationship with God. If this were true then the Desert Fathers, hermits of Egypt and Syria, would all be in Hell. I fear that this notion may be an infection from Soviet Communism where the destiny of the individual is meaningless, only the destiny of the class. Another and more obvious heresy is the denial of the immortality of the soul, the idea that we are immortal not “naturally” but only by grace; if this were true, Hell would be a meaningless concept since those cut off from grace would simply be annihilated. The truth is, we are immortal because we are CREATED in the image of God. “Eternal life” is not simply the survival of human consciousness of bodily death, which is a universal reality based on the nature of the immortal soul as God created it, but a participation in the Eternity of God — two very different things. Such crank and heretical ideas are signs of the latter days; when the supposedly legitimate spiritual authorities no longer understand their own tradition, it is up to us to inform ourselves by spiritual reading: scripture, the Church Fathers, the great saints.

      ~~ Charles

  23. Im aware of the importance of dreams in Scripture, but what applies to great saints does not necessarily apply to lay people in the ordinary run of things.

    Being part “White Russian” I fully agree with about the state of most of what calls itself Orthodoxy.

    On the issue of the immortality of the soul; strictly speaking only God is Immortal and all creation only retains existence through His will, so how is forcefully making this point heresy?

    On the question of hell-we have to define what we mean by Grace, if by it we mean the energy of God than no people in hell are not cut off from that, they are both kept in existence by It. and tormented by It; if by Grace we mean God’s illuminating energy (for want of a better word) than yes people in hell are cut off from it.

    • Perhaps the great saints only have divine or angelic dreams, but dreaming is a natural aspect of the human psyche that helps us process our daily experience and right psychic imbalances. To say that all who are not great saints are spiritually ill may be true from one perspective; nonetheless the medicine, though it is a response to the illness, is certainly not the illness itself. Dreamlessness may be a result of deep psychic repression as well as of the lack of imbalances that need redressing.

      Certainly we are all immortal only by participation in God’s immortality, but such participation begins with His creation of the human soul, not just with the grace of the sacraments; there are some (undoubtedly marginal) Orthodox who now even teach that unbaptized children essentially have no souls, and when they die they are simply annihilated. Related to this is the heresy of “soul sleep”, that since man is created body and soul, the death of the body effectively means the death of the soul until both are re-created at the general resurrection; if this were true it would be meaningless to ask the saints to intercede for us. In any case a distinction has to be made between the bare survival of human consciousness in some form after bodily death and the full participation in the eternity and immortality of God, which are two very different things. If you want a good book on the traditional Orthodox doctrine of the soul’s immortality, read IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL by Constantine Cavarnos.

      ~~ Charles

  24. I have not read all the comments on here, but it’s a fascinating and important discussion. My two cents, when a person gives themselves sincerely over to an authentic spiritual path, especially one grounded in a tradition, and one or more sacred texts and founding teachers such as the Prophets, peace be upon them, or one like Buddha, and does so sincerely for the purpose of self-purification and to be of benefit to others and a vehicle for the Divine Attributes and Divine Energies, then their latent spiritual energy or gift(s) becomes activated, and this can seem unusual to many people, as if they have a power that others don’t have. When I visited Turkey and studied the great Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and his “Risale-i-Nur” (Epistles of Light), it was reported by many of his followers that during his life he was constantly protected by unusual “coincidences.” Nursi was a highly educated “hoja” or teacher who served in the Ottoman military, was a POW taken to Russia, somehow escaped and trekked across the Balkans back to Istanbul, was offered a government position by Ataturk, declined it and was sent into exile by anti-religious secularists who came to power after the Ottoman empire collapsed. He had many powerful enemies who attempted to kill him and ban his writings, but eventually he became perhaps the pre-eminent Turkish Islamic scholar of the 20th century, with many students reading his Risale-i-Nur around the world. The point isn’t to advertise him, but
    that Nursi is an example of one who had great spiritual gifts that defy explanation and perhaps stand in opposition to a willful, volitional “magic”, which attempts to manipulate various realities for personal ends. Nursi himself wrote when he was once in exile he and a friend were stranded in a remote area without food and destitute. Nursi performed one of the daily prayers, and strangely enough, later on his companion who had wandered off returned saying he had found a loaf of bread sitting on a branch of a tree. So, they ate the bread, not knowing “how” it got there. This of course is no “magic”, but an example of if we selflessly give our lives to the authentic spiritual path, then perhaps there are times the Divine Energies (as Greek Orthodox Gregory Palamas called God’s expressed powers in the world), mobilize to help us in ways that seem a little too “coincidental”. Anywho…just a thought….

  25. Charles, a God who grants and removes dispensations to religions is, on principle, not the highest, and ineffable God.

    That God arises from the acme of rationalism. His beneficence flows outward unceasingly. The God you are proposing is a conflation of myth and rationality.

    Take care in your argument that Neopaganism, Egyptian religion, et al, just “died.” You’re well aware that they didn’t just “die.” They were murdered, or an attempt was made to murder them, by the very Abrahamic religions you now propose as the true recipient of their dispensation. This renders any suggestion of that dispensation a complicity in murder or, at least, an attempt to fence stolen jewelry.

    I agree with you pertinent to the dangers of force-fusing distinct traditions. Sadly, no one was there to alert the Church Fathers who ingested NeoPlatonism. Now it sits inside Abrahamism, a wooden horse in the square, awaiting nightfall.

    Finally, I do think it bad form to name your site after Sophia then steer yourr readers away from the Great Goddess.

    • The highest, ineffable God does not arise from “rationalism”, which is simply the exercise of the human faculty that allows us to see the necessary relationships between created things that already exist in the world of manifestation. The personal God Who acts and creates, Who grants or withholds dispensations, is an emanation from that Highest God. Our ways of conceiving of this God — the Ishvara or Saguna Brahman of Hinduism — differ according to culture and psychology; nonetheless, true myths spring from realities, not realities from myths.

      It is true that Christianity committed excesses in supplanting the Egyptian and Neo-Platonic spiritualities, but if these spiritualities had not already lost force — largely by limiting themselves to an elite who had less and less relationship to and influence upon the cultural collectives from which those spiritualities iarose — Christianity could never have triumphed, nor would the Father have needed to send Christ.

      I am not convinced, as you seem to be, that Neo-Platonism is nothing but an embalmed perspective in the context of Christianity; some — like Meister Eckhart and Maximos the Confessor, and perhaps Dante — put it to real use.

      When I say a spirituality is “dead”, I mostly mean that the chains-of-transmission of spiritual guidance from human teacher to human student have been broken. Religions cannot be resurrected from texts alone.

      As for “Sophia Perennis”, that name is James Wetmore’s idea. The figure of Holy Wisdom is discernable in Judaism (Proverbs; the Kabbalah), Christianity (the Blessed Virgin as “Sedes Sapentiae”; Dante’s Beatrice), and Islam (the Layla of the Sufis; Ruzbehan Baqli’s characterization of the Virgin Mary as “The Mother of All the Prophets”), etc. But as soon as She is concretized as a separate “hypostasis” of the Godhead, She loses Her esoteric station and becomes a theological loose cannon, destructive to the Orthodox traditions. In most cases the Great Goddess — at least today — represents an Immanence OPPOSED to Transcendence, and thus a form of glamorized materialism. As far as I can see, only Durga/
      Kali embodies an Immanence that is one with Transcendence; the various resurrections of the other archaic goddesses, especially those of the greater Mediterranean, are de facto tinged with a kind of mythopoetic feminism; they tend to be “alternative” deities, not integral symbols for the Absolute.

    • I know this is an old post, but, I just wanted to ask, exactly how did the Abrahamic religions murder ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian religions?, for a start, Islam didn’t begin for a few centuries after those Traditions were last in force, and Judaism had nothing to do with their downfall, the State-sponsored Christianity did exert a lot of pressure (sometimes with violence, sometimes more subtle ways), but, that was after Christianity made an unholy alliance (some would even say Faustian pact) with the Roman Empire.

      There seems to be some prejudice against Semitic traditions (I mean, seriously, some people say “Semitic’ like it’s a dirty word), a lot of people mention the violence of “Monotheistic traditions” (even though Monotheism itself means different things to different people, for example, Jewish Monotheism is different to Christian Monotheism, which differs from Islamic, Hindu, Platonic, etc) against “Pagan” Traditions, but, what about the violence done to Jews in antiquity – their Temple was completely destroyed, banished from their homeland, even the first anti-Semitic slurs were created by Hellenic “Pagans” (e.g. the blood libel, etc), which has haunted us down through the centuries, but, I suppose that doesn’t matter (or maybe that “was just different” or an “exception”), then, there’s certain persecutions of early Christians, and other groups (for example, Orphics were persecuted, Manicheans, Zoroastrians, etc by the “Pagan” Roman State).

      I think violence, whoever perpetuates it, is wrong, but, I don’t get why some people seem to think if it’s perpetuated by a “Semitic” Tradition (even though the violence of Christianity was done by European Christians, the Middle Eastern/Semitic branch had a very sophisticated Christian Tradition, just read Philip Jenkins ‘The Lost History of Christianity’).

      Anyway, informative article, Charles Upton, and, with interesting points.

      If you get a chance to read this, do you mind me asking, I know, from what I’ve read, Traditionalists believe it’s better to practice one of the Traditional, still existing religions, like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, but, for those that, for one reason or another, don’t practice those (either they aren’t pulled to those Traditions, or perhaps have personal reasons for distancing themselves from a certain Tradition (e.g. sexual abuse from someone in authority, etc), if they either practice a modern religion (such as Wicca) or none at all, do you think they’d still come to God/The Divine/Allah after this life, if they just try to be a good person (e.g. help others, not committing evil, etc).

  26. Since magic is a traditional science, even if this is the lowest of all, what is the problem to practice without the help of the jinn? because this is possible. After all the magic can be used as a tool for everyday needs. If the practitioner is believed almighty that’s stupid on their part, but also does not have to override the magic. It should not lose faith in God, because you do not lose it when seeking medical help or go to a mechanic. Magic is not religion, why should it be confronted?
    Magic is just science among others, not the counter-initiation. Although the counter-initiation can use magic for his purposes.
    I think the solution is to put everything in its place and not mix it up for fear that the risks of magic can raise.

    • The only context in which magic should and must be absolutely prohibited is that of the spiritual Path. If our goal is to realize God, we must see Him alone as the Doer of all action, something that the practice of magic directly stands in the way of. Other than that, magic of course has certain occupational hazards. Even if one does not attempt to manipulate the entities of the Intermediary Plane, magical operations can open the soul to this plane and make one vulnerable to those entities. But if a particular magician believes that he or she possesses the skills necessary to avert these dangers, who am I to disagree? Nonetheless, if we consider the quintessential human call to be God-realization, magic is only a hindrance to this call.

  27. Estimado Sr. Upton,

    I think very true your statement:

    ” Yes, the will is free, but it is only totally free at one point: the point of the choice of masters.”

    And about :

    Apuleius wrote that, “we have reason to believe that all these [means by which we obtain a knowledge of future events] are by the will, power, and authority of the celestial gods, through the obedience, aid, and services of daimons.”


    “Habeant igitur haec daemonum corpora et modicum ponderis, ne ad superna inscendant, et aliquid levitatis, ne ad inferna praecipitentur.”

    These bodies of daemons, therefore, will have a little weight, in order that they may not proceed to supernal natures; and they will also have something of levity, in order that they may not be precipitated to the realms beneath.

  28. Hello all and thank you Mr Upton for your great books! What are your thoughts on Unitarian Universalism?

  29. Mr. Upton: I have purchased and read your System of Antichrist and was hugely impressed. I have also found this essay (and the accompanying comments) most enlightening.

    May I second Anne Elly Rose’s request for your thoughts on Unitarian Universalism?

  30. Charles Upton’s entire discussion and distinctions here are predicated upon false arguments, making assumptions superimposing orthodox Sunnism as the only universal normative form of Islam (which is one of countless fallacies clung to by Anglo-European Traditionalists). In every instance he argues almost identically to the Wahhabis or even Calvinists here, and rather than make distinctions between theurgy and sorcery (one that Islam makes, and arguably implicitly the Qur’an itself), he lumps everything into a rubric called “magic.”

  31. A truly enlightening article. It is refreshing knowing that the Traditionalist critique remains alive and courageous. My sincere gratitude.

    Many thanks,


  32. God bless

    Thy will not mine be done

    Just visiting, Heart fixated on God.

    + +

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