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An excerpt from The Covert Side of Initiation by Virgil – Ch 6: Malkuth

Bill’s (William Mistele) extended essay on the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life contains a chapter for each sephiroth. Each sephirah’s chapter contains several exercises for understanding the mysteries and lessons pertaining to that sephirah.

The first two exercises for Malkuth are as follows:

  1. Carefully observe your routines and seize opportunities as they occur to improve on what you are doing.
  2. Turn your life into a story worth telling.

These are genuinely magical exercises and are interwoven with the work of IIH. Therefore, I want to discuss them a bit.

When I contemplate the first exercise, I am reminded of alchemy. Just as an alchemist continually refines a metal to improve it, you continually refine the way you do anything, whether it is conversing with others, cooking, driving, playing with your kids, or eating. By constantly refining the way you do these things, you improve the way you do these things until you can do them almost perfectly.

Another thing I am reminded of is a quote by Paul Foster Case from a book he wrote that discusses using magical techniques to improve yourself, improve your life, and achieve your goals. The quote is as follows.

Don’t waste a moment’s time trying to think up some high and lofty objective, far ahead in life. Life is not lived by years. It is an affair of days, hour minutes even. Today’s activities determine the fulfillment of tomorrow’s ideals.

I think the spirit of this quote aligns well with the spirit of the two Malkuth exercises given by Bill. With the first exercise, you’re not trying to become an adept, or become enlightened, or accomplish some other high and lofty objective. You’re just trying to improve the way you do the things you do in your ordinary day to day life. This really is an affair of minutes. You might cook for a few minutes, or drive for a few minutes, or converse with someone for a few minutes. A lot of the time, it is actually an affair of seconds. Washing your hands doesn’t take several minutes. Yet, a magician can always improve the way he washes his hands by becoming better and better at using the magnetic fluid in the water to absorb away his negative traits and carry them down the drain.

For the student of magic, the ideal of tomorrow is to be a person than he is today. Whether this ideal comes to pass tomorrow is, as Case says, entirely dependent on the activities he does today. It’s not dependent on any one particular activity. Every activity you do today determines whether you will be a better person tomorrow. For this reason, at any moment in time, it’s important to be focused on whatever you are doing so you can consciously strive to do your best and take mental notes on what you can do to improve. For example, let’s say you are practicing a kata. If you aren’t present-minded, your movements will be sloppy. Practicing the kata in a sloppy manner may make you worse, rather than better. If you practice the kata while present-minded, then you consciously strive to do the best that you can do. In this way, you will truly improve. This also gives you the opportunity to make mental notes about other things you can do to improve. For example, you might notice that you are not good at remaining in zenkutsu dachi. With this knowledge, you might decide to do some stance training later. However, if you are absent-minded instead of present-minded when you practice the kata, you will not notice these things.

In summary, in order to improve the way you do something —cooking, karate, conversing, flirting, etc—you need to try your best while doing it. In order to try your best, you have to be focused. This is why present-mindedness is so important, and why I devote a whole chapter to the subject of present-mindedness later in this book.

Besides the importance of present-mindedness, another thing I notice is that in order to improve the way you do things, it is often necessary to transform your personality in some way. For example, let’s say you are a college student who is bad at taking exams. You will probably do better if you develop the quality of intelligence while eliminating the quality of stupidity from yourself. This can be done with the six-pronged attack, which I discuss in great detail in my second book.

Yet another thing I notice is that journaling can be a powerful asset to this exercise for some people, including myself. For journaling to be helpful, it needs to be approached in the right way. What the right way is will be different for different people. I like to spend an hour once a week writing in my journal. I document the all the things I like about the way I lived during the previous week, as well as all the ways I am disappointed in how I lived during the previous week. I might note down, for example, that I did a good job staying present-minded, but wasted a lot more time on social media than I wish I had. I’ll also write down plans and suggestions for the upcoming week so that it will be better than the previous week in regards to the way I live and use my time. The insights I gain from journaling like this go a long way in helping me improve the way I do the things I do.

Having discussed the first Malkuth exercise Bill gives, let’s discuss the second one. I find this exercise particularly interesting. Crowley theorized that the wand, sword, cup, and pentacle of the magicians evolved from the stylus, ink holder, sharpening blade, and paperweight of the first scribes. Just as a scribe uses those instruments to write a story, the magician uses those same tools to write out his destiny. The wand represents the airy aspect of a magician once it has been refined and developed. In other words, to possess a magical wand means that you have acquired positive airy traits like intelligence and open-mindedness, and eliminated from yourself all negative airy traits like absent-mindedness and shyness. Similarly, the sword, cup, and pentacle represent the fiery, water, and earthy aspects of the magician once they have been refined and developed.

There are several ways of attributing the four elements to the sephiroth of the Tree of Life. One popular way is to attribute air to Tiphereth, fire to Geburah, water to Chesed, and earth to Malkuth. Another possible way is to place all four elements in Malkuth. This method is probably the most relevant method for Bardonists who use Qabalah as a tool in their training. Malkuth in the macrocosm is the Earthzone, and the four elemental regions where the sylphs, salamanders, undines, and gnomes dwell are all contained within the Earthzone. Thus, it is fitting that a Malkuth exercise should involve establishing an elemental equilibrium; that is to say, acquiring the true wand, sword, cup, and pentacle.

Of course, having a stylus, sharpening blade, ink holder, and papyrus is not enough to begin writing a beautiful, wonderful, and interesting story. You also need to brainstorm ideas and come up with a plot for your story. Similarly, you need to brainstorm and come up with ways to make your life interesting so that when you die, people will love to hear the story of your life. One way to do this is to make a bucket list. Many example bucket lists can be found on the internet. From there, you just need to prioritize the items on the list and make plans for fulfilling them. Later on in your training, after you have completed Step 8 of IIH, you will find that there are numerous spirits in the Earthzone and in the planetary spheres who can give you support and guidance as you carry out those plans. That said, you shouldn’t wait until you have completed IIH before beginning to carry out your plans. Do that as soon as possible.

Because the four elements pertain to Malkuth, and because the four elements are a major theme in IIH, it’s clear there is some kind of profound connection between IIH and Malkuth. For this reason, one might come to the conclusion that these two exercises presented by Bill are somehow woven into the work of IIH. This conclusion is correct. Of course Bardon never explicitly describes either of these exercises in the text of the book, but when I reflect upon the time I spent working through IIH, it becomes apparent to me that I was doing these two exercises all along.

Bill also writes the following in the Malkuth chapter of his extended essay.

Life is short. Make every effort not to get bogged down.

According to Bill, the two exercises he gives are specifically designed to help you do just that—not get bogged down in life. Your magical training is an aspect of your life and should be well-integrated with the other aspects of your life. Thus, we might consider not getting bogged down in your magical training to be a part of not getting bogged down in life. I want to discuss this part of the practice a bit.

Many people get bogged down in their training. You see this in instances where people spend several years on Step 1. There are multiple things these people can get bogged down in. A lot of them get bogged down in their immaturity. Again, the way Bardon wrote IIH makes it seem like magical training is just about mastering exercise after exercise. Although I’ve stated several times already that this is not the case, numerous people continue to believe it is. Since they are unaware that one’s maturity affects one’s rate of magical advancement, they never realize they are bogged down in their immaturity. They believe that the solution to their problem is to practice the exercises of IIH for several hours a day. This a really bad idea, and often leads to what is known as “magical burnout.” If you are bogged down in your own immaturity, the best solution to your dilemma is to work strategically and persistently towards becoming more mature. This will remove the invisible walls you are butting your head against when you practice magical exercises and find yourself unable to advance, despite putting many hours into practicing those exercises.

Bill also includes a section on “well-being” in the Malkuth chapter. I think it’s important to discuss well-being in regards to magical training; in particular Step 1, because well-being is exactly what many beginning Bardonists don’t feel. Instead, they feel uncertain about whether they have what it takes to complete their training. They feel anxious about finding time each day to practice. They feel despair because the magical path seems so difficult. They feel worried about how they can juggle their magical training with their other interests and activities. This mixture of negative feelings isn’t great. Until you’ve developed a sense of well-being, you won’t make any significant progress in your training. The reason is that in order to make lasting progress, your magical training needs to be well-integrated into your life and in harmony with all other parts of your life. If this is the case, your magical training should not have a negative impact on your sense of well-being. Rather, it should enhance your sense of well-being because there are many positive benefits to be gained from magical training, assuming it is approached in the right way.

Bill also writes the following about gnomes in the Malkuth chapter.

Gnomes are those beings who are most at home in the physical world. They consider matter itself to be spiritual and they are continuously seeking to shape and to transform it, raising its vibration and adding soul and mind to its nature. Gnomes possess a quiet ecstasy. Whatever they are working at, they are doing it with all of their heart. For gnomes, a unit of time is measured in terms of when they began and then completed a project. Time is defined from within.

In magical training, you work to develop all four elements within yourself. Thus, you possess the positive traits of a gnome, a sylph, an undine, and a salamander. It is developing the gnome part of yourself and learning to approach your tasks like a gnome that I want to discuss now.

Gnomes continually work to refine and transform matter. When you have completed your magical training, you are a different person than before. You have an elemental equilibrium. You possess certain magical skills and abilities. You have become noble and righteous. In the same way that a gnome refines and transforms matter, you have refined and transformed yourself. Some people think that a “fiery” approach to working through IIH is the best. Through willpower, you blast through all obstacles in your path. Other people think that an “airy” approach to working through IIH is the best. Through intelligent reasoning and logic, you come up with an excellent plan to overcome any obstacle and then put that plan into action. Other people think a “watery” approach to working through IIH is the best. Any time you come across an obstacle preventing you from advancing, you find a way to adapt and flow around the obstacle. In truth, the ideal approach to IIH has the nature of all four elements. I feel that the earth/gnome aspect of most people’s approach to working through IIH is the weakest, and this is why their progress is slow. Consider, for example, that patience is a virtue of the earth element. Many people impatiently try to rush through IIH as fast as they can. Gnomes don’t rush through their work. They work steadily and persistently at the pace most comfortable with them. Since “time is defined from within,” they feel to need to hurry.

Try to approach all aspects of your magical training more like a gnome and see what happens. Refine your ability to practice conscious breathing, conscious eating, and magical washing the way a gnome refines matter. Refine your ability to concentrate, accumulate energy, and exteriorize your subtle bodies the way a gnome refines matter. Refine your ability to see, hear, and feel astra-mental phenomena the way a gnome refines matter. Refine yourself the way a gnome refines matter. Document what happens when you do this. You will be surprised at what the patience and thoroughness of a gnome can help you accomplish.

To find out more about Virgil please see his Author page here
See his books here.
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