The Practice of High Magic in Ancient Babylon
What is the difference between High Magic and Low Magic? Ina van-Custers Bergen, the Magister of the Hermetic Order of the Temple of Starlight, explains here in her article: The Practice of High Magic in Ancient Babylon.
“Within the Hermetic Order of the Temple of Starlight we work with High Magic. I can imagine very clearly the upraised eyebrows of people, when they hear of the existence of magical orders. I understand that the term ‘High Magic’ is even more obscure. Still, High Magic has been an art, a skill and a science since the dawn of time. High Magic is the ‘spiritual science’ that deals with the ‘unseen’ and its laws. It is also sometimes called the ‘Science of the Sacred’.
High Magic ~ As Above, So Below
“In ancient times, religion was experienced very differently from us. In those times, one lived very close to nature. There were no ‘scientific models of explanation’ to understand natural phenomena like thunder and lightning, draught and fertility, the behaviour of animals: to name a few examples.
“Imagine what life would have been like in those days. You would have lived amidst of sudden floods, unexpected vulcanic eruptions, epidemic diseases, and had nothing to hold onto, to understand what was happening to you. Also in those days there were very intelligent people. The sages of those days were the priest-magicians. They tried to get hold to the phenomena of the day, with the methods and concepts that were available to them. Priest-magicians tried to understand the laws of nature. There was great awe for the great and violent forces of nature, who seemed to appear suddenly out of the blue, and that made the difference between life and death.
“As a priest-magician, you would observe thunder and lightning coming down from heaven. You would observe the movements of the stars and the planets. You would study and observe the behaviour of animals, the growth of plants, the influence of sun and moon on the events of nature. And you tried to discover Nature’s laws. Because also in those days, one wanted to know for example why someone suddenly became ill.
Babylonian Star Magic
“Studying the worldview and the philosophy of the ancients, it becomes clear that they assumed that everything is related. They assumed a connection between what happens in the heights of heaven, and the events on earth. When you would realise fully how fragile you are as a human being, in the forcefield of natural forces that are much more powerful than you yourself, you as a priest-magician would start to study these forces and give them names.
“In this way, the gods were born. Gods were personifications of the forces of the weather, of the behaviour of animals, or all kinds of forces of nature. A god would be pictured as a man or a woman, or as an animal. But they were regarded as a forcefield.
“To be able to observe the forces of nature, it was essential for the ancient priest-magicians and shamans to be able to orient themselves. They tried to find connections between phenomena, in a landscape without traffic signs. The first thing that you would need are fixed points; above, below, before, after, left and right.
“Also it is important to have fixed points in the landscape, in order to locate where something happens; the four cardinal directions of the heavens were named; north, east, south and west.
“The fixed points were build into the landscape. First of all by means of stone circles. Stones were planted to indicate the directions for when certain phenomena in the heavens became visible. In this way the winter solstice and the summer solstice were discovered and fixed. This system of fixating heavenly phenomena on the earth became more and more refined, and finally developed into the temples of the ancients.
“The priest-magicians from the ancient temples also left very important stories behind. We know these stories as ‘mythology’. In the past only the most important sages were able to read and write, and writing material was extremely expensive. A lot of knowledge was passed on from mouth-to-ear. In this way mythological stories developed. In these stories, people told each other about important natural phenomena that future generations needed to know about, knowledge that was important to survive. A story is easy to memorise. These stories were passed on to every generation, and they were reenacted as great cultural rituals which sometimes included the entire population.
“These stories form the core of the ancient Temple-mysteries. The stories were depicted in reliefs. A temple is in fact a mini-cosmos where the observations of what happens in the world of the gods is pictured, in order to predict future events on earth – as above, so below.
“In the meantime, the ancient priest-magicians developed the idea that one could learn a lot of the Gods, because they were their rolemodels for perfection. And when you applied what you learned from them unto yourself, then you started to develop as a person, and as a community. The life circumstances became easier, because people developed more understanding on what was going on in nature. Then you could copy the behaviour of the gods, and by exercising that behaviour, it would become a part of yourself.
The World of the Gods
“All kind of stories developed about these gods. Stories about their relations, their struggles, there lives and deaths. Myths are fundamental stories, that can teach us a lot about the primal behaviours and themes of life of human societies. The most important aspect of mythology is, that you can learn a lot from them when you yourself are rapped up in the difficulties of life. Myths can then give you information about the fundamental nature of the process you are in. Myths are not logical, they work in the subconscious mind.
“The mythical stories that developed in this way, were used in several ways. One of the ways was to bring about growth and healing in people. As above, so below …. Like the Gods healed in the Mythical Time, people will heal when they copy the behaviour of the gods. And in this way healing methods developed, build from a combination of incantations, medical treatments and healing herbs.
Humanity as a God
“The archetypical forces from the animal world were also pictured like gods. There were falcon gods, jackal gods, cat gods, lion gods – to name but a few. In this way also humanity as a species is seen as a god. And when humanity has developed itself to utmost perfection (somewhere in the future), then we will change into the ‘Winged Human Being’. When you work as a human being with the gods and heal yourself, when you communicate with the gods, you will start to grow. In this way gradually a complete spiritual system developed; High Magic.
“High Magic is a system of interrelated ancient techniques that help people to develop themselves into their full potential. It works on the subconscious mind. It works through the connection with the Gods and their forces, and awakens these forces in humans.
“When you have access to these forces, you can learn how to work with them, and let them work for you. Then you can use the inspiration of the gods, to improve upon your own life and the life of those around you. That system of spiritual development is called High Magic.
The Science of Sacred and Ceremonial Magic
“Myths were performed as ritual drama at important festivals. Working with High Magic we also play these myths in our temples. Ritual drama is one of the ways to train priest-magicians. Ritual drama is still one of the cornerstones of High Magic. When myths are performed in a certain way, they generate mystical experiences and visions. Everyone can learn this. Also you can learn to call up mystical experiences. Rituals and mystery plays are designed to do this. They are still very powerful instruments. During a mystery play, you feel how an unnamable force fills the temple with energy. Your spiritual exercises grow in power, and open you to mystical peak experiences.
“High magic was practised in the intellectual upper classes of our society as ‘Science of the Sacred’. At the time, religion and science became separated, High Magic – like Alchemy and Astrology – were caught in between. Nowadays some of the ancient methods are rediscovered by science, and important elements of High Magic surface as ‘modern’ therapeutical methods.”
Ina Custers-von Bergen writes more about ancient Babylonian and Egyptian magic in her book The Temple of High Magic, available here with a review.
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