I recently read a book by Sam Webster called “Tantric Thelema”. He points out that a Tantra, in the Buddhist tradition, is a manual of practice, and many of them take the same basic form, some short and some long — “here is the practice… here are the common failings of the practice; these are the solutions to those failings. Here is the advanced practice… here or the failings of this practice; here are the solutions to those failures.” (Bear with me here…)
Two of the first practices discussed in this interesting tome is the process of taking refuge, and the process of dedicating merit. While I’m not a practitioner of Thelema by any means, nor a member of Thelemic orders, and the specific formulae that Sam invented to bring these two concepts into Thelema, I have to say that I was deeply moved, awed even, by the ritual concepts he was attempting to introduce to an effectively Pagan audience.
The first practice, taking refuge, is asking for help. It’s starting all rituals by asking all the vast quantities of beings — spirits, gods, ancestors, angels, ghosts, ministers of grace, demons, eudaimones, faeries and all — to be active participants in the work of the ritual. They’re all invited, visible and invisible beings all, to help participate in the magic.
The second practice, dedicating merit, is the solution to the common failing of the first practice. You could easily get a swelled head, summoning all those beings to participate in your ritual work as a pagan, especially if you gradually became aware that they REALLY DO SHOW UP when you call. So you end the ritual work with a dedication of all the energy you just raised up, to the enlightenment of the world and of all beings. Not just yourself. Not only yourself. All of reality.
As I said, I’m not a Thelemite, and I’m not clear on how these formulae as ritualized in this book work out for people of that path. I do know that Sam Webster has got me thinking some highly unusual thoughts these days, and I’m wondering how to incorporate these two core ideas into my own practices.
As an additional aside, the front cover image of Horus, surrounded by the tools and emblems of Tantric Buddhism and Western Magic, makes me seriously groove out as an artist and a lover of symbolism. I can’t even begin to explain how happy it makes me to see it.