The Importance of Knowing Oneself

Here I will discuss a topic I feel is sorely undervalued in the occult today. Pretty much everyone mentions it at some point or attempts it but I can’t help but feel that far too many others neglect it and even those that pay heed to it tend to fall behind if not given reminders now and then.

The value of introspection and dissection of your own being is immense and is seen in many forms throughout different paths. I shall address it from the angles that I know best primarily Chaos Magick and Hermetics.
The process of such introspection is often referred to as soul mirrors by those that practice Bardon’s version of Hermetics especially and is a process of at first a surface analysis of your personality and traits and their associations to the elements and later work to balance and adjust them to your desired self through mental work and repeated autosuggestion. This is often seen in chaos magick using techniques derived from shamanic journeys and confronting personal gods and demons with barbarous names or no names at all that are derived solely from the self.

I think the basic approach is easy enough to understand but how does it relate to deeper work and development as a whole?

Well, let us look at it like this and ask yourself a few simple questions. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can you be exploited by both people and spirits that are not bound by time or space and can read your thoughts and emotions? How would an outsider see these traits and react to them? On the surface these are all very important questions and the importance of the answers has some obvious weight. Now to look on the deeper level this understanding gives you control of yourself and choice of whether you will be subject to the personality you developed only partly of your own will but also in response to your upbringing and environment. This choice lets you choose who you want to be and how you will direct yourself from the lowest to highest levels of your being.

To start you would want to list these aspects and traits of yourself and assign them to categories. Bardon recommends using the elements to associate with traits of your personality but you can use even planetary influences or both if you wish but keep it consistent and meaningful the associations you choose. Now decide what all these traits mean to you and how relevant they are to your core self and if they are good or bad. Decide how they can be better, if they negative how can you guide them into a positive influence and redirect their energy into your positive traits or to develop new ones. You must think as the truest expression of yourself, an unbiased and impersonal observer and as someone seeking to manipulate, use, and destroy you, and as your own best friend. Compare and contrast these views and make your decision.

Now to start making changes. Think of where you want to go and the ultimate expression of divinity that you would embody. Don’t be edgy or dramatic but think truly in the terms of the universe and reality what would you be as the ultimate expression of the divine in relation to these traits and how these would be refined and changed to make that image and dream a reality. What are missing and what would hold you back that you can do without or can redirect? Focus first on either the strongest or weakest. I recommend your strongest negative trait and weakest positive in how they contribute to you. I am not talking positive and negative in terms of polarity but literal benefit or detriment in this case.

Let us set an example. Your strongest negative trait is sloth or laziness and your weakest positive trait is creativity or imagination. This is a fairly easy example with different takes on it and it may vary for individuals as some methods work better than others.
Now let us first think of how you can fix one at a time and then how you can work on them both together.
First let us correct sloth, think about the times you are lazy, what happens before, during and after? How does it feel? What motivation for this can you glean? Let’s say you end up finding that your greatest times of laziness come in response to stress or expectation of fulfilling some activity that you don’t want to do but have to. This is common enough I feel. Now how can you fix this?
Let us look first at the use of auto suggestion to influence your mind to correct this followed by active planned action. The use of suggestion upon yourself is quite common and you do it all the time without realizing it and now you are going to do it consciously to your benefit. Start with phrasing as you contemplate the source of your sloth and the causes and start to tell yourself that yourself especially as you are drifting off to sleep that you will take less time resting and take action sooner so that you have more free time later. Phrase this in a positive sense and don’t seek to completely remove it all at once but to gradually ween it away.
Now for the active and planned action. Anticipate a time you know this sloth will strike that you know will be coming in the near future. Maybe you always put off one periodic task. Well this time tell yourself that will not put it off but set to work with it immediately when it arises. Command yourself to make this so and when that situation arises fulfill that command. If you find yourself falling to the laziness then focus only on your breathing and in the moment. Keep constant awareness of your breath and tell yourself to move. It helps to picture your body as a machine while you sit within issuing commands with absolute focus and authority. Don’t think about how you don’t want to do the task just on your breath and get to work. Once it is finished then you can continue on as normal. Continue to do this with planned tasks and then when something unplanned comes along focus on that as well. If you fail do not get upset but review what went wrong and any progress you might have made.

Now to the issue of creativity and imagination. First you have to think how you want this to apply. Is it for art, writing, just general creativity and imagination of forming new ideas, images, and thoughts in your mind? Decide just how you need to improve and look to those things which you believe to be creative and analyze them in respect to yourself. This is something a bit more subject to personal opinion and just how you want to cultivate this trait. Seek to emulate what is creative to you and fill your mind with it but also ask yourself deeply for some creative image or answer or inspiration from yourself. Suggestion is especially effective in this case as you can ask yourself and tell yourself to be more creative at the same time. If you want to write then ask yourself what you would like to read and believe to be creative from another same with art or just solutions. Imagine in your head scenarios and if you have a hard time imagining focus again on your breath and tell yourself to imagine something and let it come.

Now to combine the two. As you work on your sloth you can train your creative and imaginative faculties to form ever more in depth methods of suggestion that rely not only on spoke words but imagines sounds and images. You can train your mind to imagine yourself into a different state of feeling and so change how you feel about a situation to alleviate the current mood. You can also use the times you are lazy to train your imagination or other skill to turn it into a productive time while also resolving to shorten the time you spend away from the needed task little by little.

Confronting the Aspects:

Now that you have started to gain some control and mastery over the varied parts of your being through these exercises if you wish you can start on a different approach. This approach is more utilized I believe in shamanic practices and chaos magick where conflicts, diseases, and other issues are personified and evokes as a separate entity to be commanded, conquered, or befriended depending on its role. Now these personal angels, demons and elementals are essentially thoughtforms manifesting from within yourself embodying the traits and aspects you are trying to work with and claim mastery over. These are wild creations that are in your control only so much as the trait is and by mastering this external manifestation you master the inner source of it. That is the basic theory. Now the process is quite simple to evocation. You use your chart of traits and associations of those traits to pick what you are going to work on and the energies and symbols you associate with the traits and form a sigil and give it a name that feels right and evokes the feelings of that trait within. Now you perform the process same as you would a normal evocation bringing forth a lot of energy for this ‘being’ to take form within. Now how it goes from there depends on how it reacts to you and how you choose to take control of it and work with that internal force to gain mastery. Banish undesirable traits or consume and embody desirable ones you wish to acquire or increase in potency for example. Now these beings while they could technically be used to affect things outside of you as normal servitors are not meant for that in this context but in the context of soul mirrors is a way to further internal work so I would say save sending them on external tasks until they are under your control.

Symbols and the Alphabet of Desire:

Now onto the real fun stuff. I did not directly mention this before as I would hope everyone would thoroughly read everything preceding this instead of skipping to the end.

So hopefully after all the previous work you have a good roadmap of your psyche set out and are starting to gain control over these various forces and parts of yourself in not just emotions but tendencies and your personality on all levels you are aware of and your self control and mental discipline should have spiked throughout the process. Now we shall work on externalizing this new found mastery through the use of internal symbols.

The alphabet of desire was an idea put forward in chaos magick originally by Austin Spare as symbols which hold the key to internal connections and powers with not only your own being but as pure representations of your relationship to external forces as well by the principle of that within is similar to that which is outside and vice versa. This is similar to what you might receive asking a spirit to give you a personal sigil to use but instead of a spirit it is a force you have gained a level of understanding and clarity over. These personal symbols can be incredibly powerful due to how well they resonate with their creator. Now their creation is not like the standard sigil but rather a result of contemplation and investigation into the self and ones relationship not only with emotions and concepts but also outside forces.

The process is quite simple and should be familiar to you by now. Investigate a concept and its meanings to you contemplate and meditate on it just as you do to form the soul mirrors and all the associations and continue to dig deep until you understand what it means for you at the deepest level and everything connected to it in your mind and just how they are connected. Find a symbol for that embodies all of that the mere sight of which brings the full concept to bear at the deepest levels. This symbol will usually come to you as you meditate forming in your mind or by clues of the symbols of the associations. I might be simple, it might be complex, it might even be a known symbol you were using already and that is fine because to you that symbol is connected that deeply to that concept. It is the connection and resonance with yourself that makes it so powerful when used to form sigils and cast spells. You can now slowly start building a library of symbols for all the concepts and forces you explore to the deepest possible level at the current time and don’t be afraid to substitute them with other more well known symbols if you feel it would be better in one instance so long as you understand the concept and connections.

Now an important thing to note is once you have done this it is still not done. These relationships within yourself and to outside will always be changing as you grow and advance and so you will routinely be investigating and re-investigating concepts as you progress and your personal symbols might very well change and shift with this progression. It should become a routine and natural thing to explore.