Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"A Kabbalistic Principle in Love, Sex and Magick"
(1999 addendum:On the lightworks.com website, this column is missing and the May 96 column is substituted.)
Enchanting by Sharon Green, Pinnacle Romance, Dec. '94
Silken Dreams by Sharon Green, Avon Historical Romance, Dec. '94
The Bahir - Illumination Translation, Introduction and Commentary by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Wiser, Inc. Box 612, York Beach, Maine 03910. This book is nonfiction, but forms the basis of much of what we commonly write about in the Fantasy Genre.
Midnight Temptation by Nancy Gideon, Pinnacle Romance, Oct. 1994.
Sins of the Blood by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dell Abyss Horror, Dec. 1994.
Out of the Darkness by Lynn Erickson, Harlequin Superromance Showcase, 1995.
For months now, I have been inching this column toward a discussion of how writers cast their illusions, the technical underpinnings of the craft. This month, we'll get a little closer to that topic, even though this is a review column, not criticism or instruction. Just as anyone who buys things in stores must understand the arsenal of tricks Madison Avenue uses to manipulate shoppers, readers must understand the tricks writers use to create their special effects.
There is one group of readers who must remain more vigilant than most. Seekers who have just begun the study of the Occult become suddenly vulnerable to tricks that would never have seduced them before, so they need knowledge to arm themselves against being tricked.
I was reminded of this by a fan, recently, when she reacted badly to a book I had recommended for a purpose other than simple enjoyment. She had just dug herself out of a nasty experience with a cult - the kind that "programs" the mind and destroys the will. The book triggered some bad memories, but she recognized her reaction as having little to do with the book and much to do with her personal history.
This very wise lady pointed out to me that one prominent signature of this dangerous sort of "cult" is that someone - a Leader or a nebulous Force invoked by a High Priest/Priestess - presents their view of the universe as Ultimate Truth, and then forbids doubt, questioning, disbelief, or inquisitive discourse of any sort.
Of course, any writer worthy to be reviewed in this column has the power to seduce a reader deep into his universe and block away all doubts and questions. That's what makes reading novels valuable and fun at the same time. But it's also dangerous without the reader's informed consent. One must suspend disbelief not eradicate it.
A "cult" leader who is challenged by a questioner usually does not see the question as an attempt to test and thus prove his view of the universe, but as a threat.
A question is viewed as a threat by those who don't have the answer but don't dare admit that - especially to themselves.
The main power that a "cult" Leader uses to enslave members is the innate human need to belong, to identify with a group, and experience acceptance - to have one's view of the universe validated by Others.
The power that the cult members have over the cult leader is that the leader is also seeking validation by belonging to a group that believes as he/she does. Such a leader experiences any dissention as a threat to his/her identity and may react violently to any question.
We have all read of terrible tragedies resulting from the "cult" phenomenon. But why is it that beginners in the studies of the Occult become so vulnerable to suggestions that would otherwise seem like nonsense?
Some months ago in this column we discussed the nature of Art and how we decide what is Right and what is Wrong. By now you've probably read a crossection of the novels highlighted in those columns and have a better idea what I was referring to.
In brief, a Work classifies as Art if it is a construct fabricated from the elements of our everyday reality but has a form or shape congruent with the higher, abstract realities the magician deals with. (as Below; so Above) When a consumer recognizes a Work as Art, then divine energy flows through the circuit from Higher Reality (or the Inner Planes) through the Art and into the various mental levels of the consumer. (This is the same mechanism behind The Tarot.)
The experience of such a flow of energy can open an "inner eye" or even change the Art consumer's concept of what is Right and what is Wrong. To experience a Work of Art fully can change one's Identity.
This is one reason that cult leaders may try to limit the books the group members read. Books, especially science fiction and fantasy, are seen as a threat because they tend to pose questions - such as Captain Kirk's little corker, what does God need a starship for?
One's concepts of Right and Wrong can be changed by reading a novel because by walking a mile in the main character's moccasins, one can experience the universe through a different epistemology. After that experience, if one has only suspended one's disbelief, one can then choose which epistemology to apply to one's own life. At the very least, one can acquire a sympathetic understanding of other people and their personal angst.
So, again, why is it that new students of the Occult are so specially vulnerable to mental manipulation and domination?
Of course, I don't really know the answer to that, but I have a theory you might like to test.
My theory is formed of an amalgum of Astrology, fantasy novels and Tarot.
From Astrology, we learn that one's subjective life-philosophy is shaped by the house and sign positions of one's lunar nodes in the natal chart. Also one very important motivation is cued to the natal position of the moon by house and sign - but especially by house. The position of the natal moon by house can reveal what the person is missing and yearns for above everything else.
Noel Tyl identifies the moon position as revealing one's needs. But I'm interpreting that, here, to be something more subtle. I (with Moon in Cancer in 11) see the natal moon as the portal through which one Receives. Thus, it also signifies psychic awareness as well as the ability to love.
When that portal is wide open, incoming signals will seem loud, even brutally intense, overwhelming. When that portal is sealed shut, the subject is untouched by events, unreachable, depressed, disconnected from reality. Most of us learn to live with our aperture set somewhere in between. Most of the time.
As I write this, Highlander and Star Trek: DS 9 have been in March reruns. In close succession, we saw the episode of Highlander where another immortal who had been a psychic burned as a witch in the Middle Ages comes back to kill Duncan by using psychic projection to distort Duncan's sense of reality. Then we saw the DS9 episode where Kiera is tricked into thinking she's someone else. Reruns of Mission: Impossible have been showing us how fragile our grip on reality can be. Last night I saw the one where William Shatner portrays a man the IM Force tricks into thinking he's thirty years younger than he is.
Under ordinary circumstances, living daily life, none of us are really vulnerable to any of these tricks. Psychic attack isn't a problem for most people - it rolls right off their barriers. Kiera was fully armored against the absurd idea that her memories weren't real. And if the IM Force put any of us on a movie set we'd notice the cardboard feel of the walls and floors or that the plumbing didn't rattle correctly.
Under ordinary circumstances, our critical faculties spot the discrepancies, the absurdities, the distortions when someone tries to trick us, and we automatically reject the trick. We reference our internal model of reality and reject anything "out there" that doesn't match our model. We don't waste time and energy questioning the internal model.
But when one begins to study the Occult, one is usually prompted to do so by an experience of something "out there" that is in stark disagreement with one's internal model - i.e. "She could only have known that by telepathy. Therefore telepathy is real. Which means everything I've ever believed is probably not true. Oy. Veh."
One thereupon embarks on the study of the model used by those who take telepathy for granted, i.e. Magick practitioners. The very first thing one encounters is a requirement, a prerequisite. To make progress on the Path to mastering the magickal view of the universe, one must become Receptive.
The filters we use to sort and reject absurdities are formed from our culture's prevailing assumption that magick isn't real. When we set those filters aside, when we divest ourselves of our psychic armor, we become Receptive to every crazy notion and vulnerable to cult leaders who have "all the answers." This is an extremely dangerous condition. So - is it necessary? Can we avoid it and still learn magick?
To find out, let us examine the phenomenon of the Romance/Fantasy Novel and the Kabbalistic Principle behind the genre.
I take as my Text, Sharon Green's Pinnacle novel, Enchanting, together with her Avon novel, Silken Dreams.
Silken Dreams is a typical Historical Romance of which I've read many variants. Young Heroine falls deeply (but genuinely) in love with a tall, dashing, Hero - who turns out to have a secret identity. In Sharon Green's hands, the material acquires a few interesting twists because Green knows how to write science fiction as well as fantasy. Here, the heroine (in 1751, mind you) is a Martial Arts master in her own right. The Hero may (or may not) be quite as good. The extremely intelligent English Heroine has also been trained (in China) by a Chinese concubine in the fine art of manipulating men as well as pleasuring them (something no well bred English Lady of the day would admit to knowing).
The Hero is smitten, and not the least intimidated - until he realizes that he's in love. Then he's intimidated, but turns into a bully determined to "protect" the heroine. So there they are, two Brits in British High Society - speaking Chinese.
As most Sharon Green novels, this is a story of psychological combat between a man and woman who are in love with each other, but each is bound and determined not to be dominated. The issue is control, and the maturity to know when to surrender it. Green's thematic question of vital interest to students of the Occult is, "In order to achieve self-control and thus personal sovereignty, must one achieve dominance over others?"
In and of itself, this book would not belong in this column - however, juxtaposed with Green's other Dec. 94 novel, Enchanting which is set in another universe, and from another publisher, Silken Dreams peels away The Veil (the one behind the High Priestess in the Tarot) just a bit.
Enchanting is a story about a romance writer, a woman, who is doing a series about a "Barbarian" - Everywoman's Dream Lover. But actually, unknown to her, the Barbarian she writes about is a real person in an adjacent Universe where Magic is Real.
When the writer activates her printer to run the final draft of a novel for the publisher, the real Barbarian is seized by a trance-like state that forces him to ennact the events of the novel. After a few novels, he gets fed up with this and pays a magician to send him to the otherworld where he can deal with his tormenter.
Things don't go exactly as planned, and he ends up dragging the woman back to his world to deal with her cruel misbehavior. He discovers she didn't know what she was doing to him, and he changes his mind.
The two of them are forced to relive her novel as the printer in the other world prints. There ensues the typical Sharon Green psychological combat between the two over matters of Honor, Control, Obedience, and Dominance.
As I was reading these two novels, real life events in the career of a very successful woman in her mid-twenties illuminated the Kabbalistic principles behind Sharon Green's romance novels for me. This young woman is an Initiate who has gone very far, very fast along the Path, while at the same time winning immense praise and respect in her day job. She is one formidable woman, easily the equal of any of Sharon Green's Heroines or Heros.
She has also been a lifelong reader of Romance, sf and fantasy and she's a Sharon Green fan. During a recent stressful period on the job, events confirmed that she had Divine Forces with her. Later, a supervisor's comments confirmed that she was respected for her skills. Two others besides myself interpreted matters in this light. The young woman, however, interpreted the Divine Commentary via events to mean she'd done the wrong thing, and the human comments to mean she was not good enough at her job.
This young woman has her natal moon in the tenth house, under much adverse stress, and has long yearned to "do something important" with her life. Any external observer with a halfway functional third eye would conclude that she has done something Important already, and is well on the way to doing more. But when the Divine forces send a confirming message to that effect, she fends it off with deeply suppressed panic and terror.
Sharon Green's heroines in these two books both yearn for a Dream Lover. One has actually met such a man, the other has only written about one. The Martial Artist from China becomes convinced she can never have the Man of Her Dreams at the very moment when that same man finally decides he's in love with her. The romance writer Heroine is convinced there is no such Dream Lover for her until she's dragged through a magical portal to fix up the life of her Dream Lover. But once she sorts out the real man from the imaginary one, she thinks up all sorts of logical, rational reasons why she can't have him no matter how much she wants him.
These books represent a mental state common among humans. At first, I thought it was specific to women in twentieth century America. But then I considered that even in England in 1751, people felt, thought and behaved that way. Then I remembered a Kabbalistic Principle I had learned some years ago, and I realized Green was writing about a broad based, culture and gender independent key to human nature.
Then I remembered the fan who had been burned so badly by a cult. And, at Lunacon this last weekend, I encountered another old friend, a Tarot teacher who told me some harrowing tales about how mentally dense her students could be. And I recalled some points made at a Vampire panel I had moderated at Lunacon.
Finally, I realized Sharon Green in her two apparently trivial novels had in fact put her finger on The Great Barrier Reef in the sea of the human Unconscious and that's why her books cast such a gripping spell. This is the secret of the Sharon Green appeal - a Kabbalistic Principle!
I learned that Kabbalistic Principle from a book titled The Bahir - Illumination. Bahir means Illumination. Bahir is a famous core text of the body of work commonly known as Kabbalah. Kabbalah is part of an oral tradition of mysticism and occult principles given to Moses along with the first five books of the Bible and never written down until maybe around the First Century.
Kabbalah is a maze of facts, suppositions, opinions and mystical insights which express the epistemology implicit in the first five books of the Bible. The thumbnail distillation of that compendium of Ancient Wisdom is today commonly known as Tarot. The accreted commentaries on Kabbalah are strongly imbued with the cultural masculine-dominant biases of Ancient times, but the core essence which can still be detected has a decided feminist slant. (Note: in Hebrew, nouns ending in -ah are in the feminine gender.)
Bahir consists mostly of disjointed quotations from various legendary and famous sages. To make sense out of it you need to know the other texts these famous sages had memorized. (This dates from a time when people didn't read books - they memorized them from other people reciting them.)
The following is not from Bahir itself but from Kaplan's commentary on his own translation of the second paragraph of Bahir.
I'm going to give you just a snatch completely out of context, omitting the quotation the commentary explains, so don't deduce anything about Judaism or Jews from this because it will be flat out wrong. Most Jews have never even heard of this material, and of those who have, most of them have a guarded opinion of it. This is simply a clue as to why it's so hard to live life and be happy.
Kaplan comments: "God gives existence to all things, and is therefore the ultimate Giver. Creation, on the other hand, must receive its very existence from God, and is therefore the ultimate receiver."
Kaplan continues: "Another important principle is the fact that God is an absolutely simple Unity, and cannot be described by any qualities whatsoever. Every concept that is necessary for creation must therefore also be created. As we see, two of the most basic of these are the concepts of giving and receiving. In Kabbalistic terminology, the concept of giving is referred to as "Light," while that of receiving is called a "Vessel.""
A few paragraphs later, Kaplan notes: ". . .in order for a vessel to properly receive, it must also give."
This is a basic principle I've seen explained many ways in many commentaries. Giving is supported and lauded by our current culture, and we all get a lot of practice at it, though few perfect the technique. But the purpose for which we were created can't be fulfilled unless we also learn and perfect the techniques of receiving (consider the picture on the Waite/Rider Magician Card.) Our culture despises and derides people who are working to perfect receptivity.
Consider the typical Romance Novel dialogue (which one seldom sees in a Sharon Green novel!) At some point comes the agonizing admission, "I love you." The response? "I love you, too."
Do you see what's going on in this transaction? One party gives an emotional gift of great price. The other party instantly flings it back into the giver's face - refusing to Receive the gift. How would the dialogue go if the gift were Received? "I love you." "Oh, how beautiful. That's such a relief. I'm so glad." Many in our culture would label such a response as selfish, fatuous, arrogant, condescending or even cold. It isn't proper to Receive a spiritual or emotional gift. One must only give.
So, even when we're literally drowning in whatever it is our natal-moon-position sets us up to crave, we can't receive it, not only because of ideosyncratic quirks or cultural inhibitions, but also for lack of respected role models and practice at receiving.
The story of the Fool, as depicted in the Major Arcana, is the story of the Seeker on the Path, or the Fantasy Quest novel Hero, or the Romance novel Heroine. This is the story of a person who yearns to fill an empty spot in their life and psyche, who yearns to Receive what their Moon craves.
The reason new students of the Occult are so vulnerable to being sucked into destructive "cults" is that the very first lesson on the initiatory path is that of reception. The new student must discard all the armor that has kept him/her from Receiving. In that supernally naked state, it's impossible to detect deception. One simply becomes what one Receives.
In the first columns I wrote for Monthly Aspectarian, I identified a new genre I called Intimate Adventure - fiction in which the adventure and action happen on the plane of emotional intimacy, not physical combat. People who enjoy reading Intimate Adventure are usually trying, in real life, to get their armor off, to stand naked and defenseless and Receive an emotional gift. That's why Intimate Adventure is a kind of fiction well suited to students of the Occult.
But people who have begun to discard their armor are terribly vulnerable. As far as I know, there are only two things that can protect someone during this vulnerable stage of study. #1)Invoke the Divinity traditional in your own heretage. Do not leave that tradition until you've made complete peace with that Divinity (whether anyone else can recognize that peace or not.) That is, work from your own roots but grow toward your destiny. #2)Do not allow anyone to constrain the scope of your curiosity, inquisitiveness, or information resources. You must be mature enough to discipline yourself and to accept the danger.
One good safe way to discover if you're mature enough is to read a few Sharon Green novels. But I don't mean just sit back and go for an armchair romp with Green's delightful characters. I mean question and analyse every event and every bit of the characters' reasoning and the ethics behind that reasoning - and the unconscious assumptions.
If you're young you'll have to teach yourself to do this - and in the process learn the basic skills of the professional writer. Schools no longer drill students in how to find and extract the theme from a novel, nor do high school book reports routinely consist of an analysis of the element of Poetic Justice illustrated in the novel. These are the elements to look for: Protagonist, Antagonist, Plot, Story, Conflict, Resolution and Theme.
Ask yourself about the hidden agenda of the author and the author's assumptions about his/her readers. Ask yourself if most readers would consider the ending right because it serves Poetic Justice or Karmic Law. Then find out what you think about it by analysing your own emotional response.
When you've got it straight in your mind what Green is writing about and why, test your analytical method on Nancy Gideon's Midnight Temptation. This is a vampire love story (rather "darker" than most Romances) set in France around the time of the Revolution. This one, too, involves power over others, and relationships that involve dominance - and the agony of throwing off dominance. You can experience the helplessness of a young aristocratic girl of independent mind and self-sufficient self-image suddenly adrift in Paris without a cent to her name, her only protector dead. This girl is the daughter of a vampire and doesn't exactly know that at first, though she finds out the hard way.
For an encounter with the really ugly side of dominance, take a look at Sins of the Blood by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. If you've never read up on co-dependence, do so before reading this book. Abyss as a line is dedicated to "cutting-edge psychological horror". Rusch's book is a perfect example.
Sins is a serious novel about the adult survivors of child abuse - artistically it's perfect because nothing but a vampire novel could handle this theme adequately. It's set in an alternate universe of freeways and rock and roll that I found irrelevant and uninteresting. But get past that and there's a story here with lessons to teach regarding the various points I've made above about Receiving.
Honorable Mention this month goes to Out of the Darkness which is, of all absurd things to find in this column, a genuine Harlequin romance. This is another in the growing subcategory of romances involving encounters with the supernatural. This is a fifteenth century vampire and a woman who wants to cure him, (shades of Forever Knight our thirteenth century vampire) and of course there's an enemy who doesn't want that cure. The interesting thing about this book is that its copyright is in the name of two women, and it doesn't read like a collaboration. It's seamless and powerful.
Think carefully about the vampire in all its modern incarnations, about how the genre has grown, diversified, and proliferated. Think about giving and receiving blood, the metaphore of life itself, and all the ways Magick uses blood and the difference between willing and unwilling sacrifice. And then think about how the popularity of vampires is generally attributed to their sex appeal.
Think about how it feels to fall in love, to lose every last shred of common sense judgement of another person. Think about how it feels to fall out of love and believe the other person tricked you on purpose, not that you tricked yourself. Love, sex, Magick, and Receiving - put it together and you may learn to avoid being tricked - even by yourself - before it's too late.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952
Find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg