Occasionally, I am contacted by people who are interested in the Western Esoteric Tradition, but are overwhelmed by the daunting amount of information available. They’ve found the Hermetic Library because they’re looking for information, but sometimes it can be really difficult to know where to start.
Well, honestly, I always hesitate to suggest directions and such for anyone, let alone someone I’ve never met. However, I have over the last few years managed to put together some general ideas in response to these questions when they come my way. Here’s an example of a few remarks I currently have prepared, that I thought I’d share here now.
First, I point out that I have no idea what path someone else is on, what ‘current’ or tradition they work in. There are so many, and it seems to me that anything specific about one person’s practice is not necessarily useful or suited for another’s, even if under a ‘tradition’, a general label, for which I might share a similar understanding. With that said, I suggest people consider thinking about work developing two things: theory and practice.
For theory, of course, I encourage people to read through and engage the materials at the Hermetic Library site. (If one is interested in Thelema, a good place to start is by checking out Thelema for example.) There’s a lot there, to be sure. However, there’s plenty that is not there. One technique that I’ve suggested to people is to head to a good esoteric bookshop. I don’t recommend the big chains or the fluffy new age kind of shop, but there should be, somewhere local if not nearby, a shop with a serious selection. (If there isn’t one of those latter kinds of shops, then one can made do with one of the former.) Go into that shop and start checking out books. Flip through materials until something really grabs the attention, and that one feels an enthusiastic reaction about. Now, I want to be clear: I am not saying that the material creates warm and fuzzy feelings, though it might be. I suggest taking note of anything that gets one’s attention even if, perhaps specifically because, that is something that seems transgressive and edgy. For this purpose look for things about which there are energetic reactions of any kind. Once something like that has been found, read it. Repeat that process: follow enthusiasm!
For practice, consider starting a daily practice that includes both ritual and journaling. Don’t think of the specifics of daily practice as a life-long commitment. Think of daily practice as general container for a varied series of specific experiments about which to record results in a journal. Pick a specific practice and make a commitment to do that for a month. See what happens. Record the experience, the ongoing results. Then, pick something else to do for some period of time. And remember that for experiments it’s actually the failures from which one can learn the most interesting things, so don’t self-flagellate about the particular experience and results. Just do the experiments, and if they fail half way through so be it, record that a journal as something to learn from. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
Also, for practice, consider checking the local area for groups that are actively doing public ritual of some kind, and attend those events. At that previous good esoteric book shop, look for their newsletter, bulletin board or website for notices and a calendar of events. Get to know people doing these activities and talk to them. See if they are people that seem both interesting and grounded or not. Attend a variety of events in the local area and see what they are about, and how you feel during and after the ritual they celebrate; compare them and see what seems to be the best personal fit. Then, when there is some group doing active ritual that seems compelling, start to participate.
So I suggest that people follow enthusiasm and experiment, experiment, experiment. Do a personal daily practice and participate in the community. I personally think doing some combination which works toward all those things will help people find their people and more fully follow their path, and perhaps more importantly have a strong relationship with themselves and a strong personal practice either way, from which to take next steps.
I hope these remarks offer some help, even if only a little bit. Of course, each individual’s milage may vary, and so on. If you have comments or suggestions about these remarks, do consider contacting me. If you take the advice offered, consider letting me know how it goes, if you like!
In conclusion, I find these Cole Porter lyrics to be so completely spot on that I cannot but recommend them to everyone when I get a chance: “Experiment” by Cole Porter
Before you leave these portals
To meet less fortunate mortals
There’s just one final message
I would give to you
You all have learned reliance
On the sacred teachings of science
So I hope, through life, you never will decline
In spite of Philistine defiance
To do what all good scientists do
Experiment, make it your motto day and night
Experiment and it will lead you to the light
The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve
So take an example from Eve
Experiment, be curious
Though interfering friends may frown
At each attempt to hold you down
If this advice you always employ
The future can offer you infinite joy
And merriment, experiment and you’ll see