Men and women of all eras and cultures have pondered our eternal threefold question of philosophy: where did man originate, what is his present condition, and what will be his ultimate destiny? Out of this philosophical dilemma have arisen all of mankind's various systems of knowledge and belief, the oldest such system being Magick.
Modern historians, perpetuating those 'facts' which support their prejudices and discarding those which don't, have supposed that 'primitive' beliefs such as magick have been proven wrong by centuries of rationalism -- that while science may have grown out of Magick, science greatly surpasses such 'superstitions' in explaining and understanding our environs; nevertheless, scientists are today finding more and more evidence of unexplainable phenomena (unexplainable according to scientific dogma) and are turning in increasing numbers to the study of ancient beliefs and explanations: ESP, plant sensitivity, psychic healing, aura photography, out-of-body projections, survival after death, etc.
Science has reached a plateau of significance and finds that it must turn full circle and re-evaluate many of man's earliest beliefs in order for it to effectively relate to the human condition. While other systems of belief have been based upon philosophies and dogmas which have not withstood the test of time, Magick teaches the basis for all systems of belief and initiates the individual into a direct personal experience of reality and the forces which sustain it.
Magick is the knowledge and experience whereby man learns to master his environs and his self, forging his link with personal divinity. This knowledge is innate within man's spirit/consciousness, but some past catastrophic event separated man from this knowledge. This knowledge of Magick could no longer be intuited directly from the other planes.
From this time of man's 'fall' from grace, the teachings of Magick such as had been written down or could be recalled through memory were preserved and disseminated throughout the world as the original wisdom teachings of man.
With the cutting off of the direct experience of spiritual truth, there arose many interpreatations of the Mysteries, the many cults and schools. Each bearer of the Mysteries sought to have his or her version accepted as the correct one, and the conflicting factions forgot that the outer form of dogma, of beliefs and practices, is not of any great importance since no edifice erected by the emotions or intellect can adequately represent or reflect the true nature of the Spirit; they forgot that the central concept which binds all initiates together is the personal mystic experience which transcends all words and forms. Thus the many factions devolved into the different religions and scientific schools of thought extant today.
Throughout the ages, individuals with greater than average attunement have occasionally arisen and attempted to correct some of the errors which have accumulated in the teachings, and today we are experiencing an ever increasing number of such individuals who have rent the veil of the Mysteries and offer us a vision of a greater perfection.
Magick is generally divided into the Lesser Mysteries (scientia: the knowledge of the many and varied forms and structures assumed/expressed by consciousness/Spirit) and the Greater Mysteries (sapienta: the mystical knowing of that which lies beyond all forms and structures). Magick encompasses the preservation, reconstruction and transmission of the arts, sciences, and concepts of the Mysteries, particularly the evolution of human consciousness and union with the Higher Self.
This ancient entity, known as the Elder, the Ancient One, and the One-Who-Is-Many, is the source of man's inspiration, revelation and illumination. Conceptualized and romanticized in the myths, legends and ancient cults of all cultures, this male-female entity, called the Daemon by the Greeks, the Genius by the Romans, the Holy Guardian Angel by the Jews and Christians, and the Familiar Spirit by the Witches, has been the prototype for gods and goddesses bright and dark throughout man's history. As both a mystic and a magician, the initiate should realize that the various gods and goddesses of the world are externally manifested powers drawn from the archetypes of the collective inner psyche (i.e., created by consciousness). The ancient precepts of Yoga take heed of this distinction when they state that one who identifies with the gods of his culture will develop magical powers, while one who pursues the inner source of these powers will transcend the differences that separate men of one belief from those of another. Of necessity, both of these approaches should be present to balance each other in the magickal adept.
There are two paths of initiatory status: first, following one's own magickal system, which initiates the candidate into the archetypical stages of initiation (commonly called degrees or grades) simultaneously, and second, following another's magickal system, which initiates the candidate step by step through the Stages of growth. These two paths evolved from the Greater and Lesser Mysteries; the second path can only imperfectly bring about our initiation, since no one pattern of evolution duplicates another's, while the first path alone leads us into the higher initiation of self-knowledge.
During our many dark ages, the creative magickal progress which emanates from magickal adepts has been lost or distorted, while our magickal traditions have largely been carried forward by those who have only been inheritors of the past. Thus in most groups, fragments of the magickal systems of others are the only magick available. The first, and almost only, contemporary group known to have re-discovered the original wisdom teachings of self-initiation has been the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (and its offshoots).
At least seven initiates associated with this magickal current have created their own magickal systems: Sammuel Mathers - astrology/kabbala, William Yeats - moon magick thru cyclic representation, Aleister Crowley - cult of the True Will, Dion Fortune - moon magick thru controlled dreaming, Austin Spare - Zos Kia Cultus, Kenneth Grant - beginning with a tantrik exposition of Crowley's Liber 231 and exploration of qliphotic entities from the dark side of the Tree, his system continues in exposition today, Gerald Gardner - Wicca (reconstituted Witchcraft). Of these, however, Crowley was the most successful in understanding the concept of self-initiation and in transmitting this concept in his magickal system.
Crowley experienced firsthand the difficulty in getting initiates to take on the responsibility for their own initiation; although he taught his members to seek their own True Will, his constant work and progress kept the disciples of "one hell of a holy Guru" in awe of their leader. Crowley was aware of his failure in this regard and among his last words to those who would carry on his work, he left instructions to scrap the guru cult and its apostolic succession, and instead to set up nomes or centers of initiates in those areas of the world where the magickal current was strongest.
Initiates were to prepare for their New Aeon initiations by performing a resume of the cultural magicks of their historical ancestors, then seeking out the true Will of their higher Self or Genius through the magickally controlled ecstasy of sex, drugs and music. Such ecstasy producing "sacraments" (that which gives power) allow the initiate to transcend the conditioning of consensus reality and bring into conscious awareness the knowledge of the larger selves we are.
On the inner levels, the fusion of Ida and Pingala (the twin serpents of Kundalini energy which spiral round the spine) equates with Kubhakam, the ceasing of the outgoing and ingoing currents in the wave of bliss which transcends the opposite modes of being. The old age magick made use of these two currents (ob and od) in their cyclic manifestation; however, the mystical manner of attaining the highest consciousness involves merging objectivity and subjectivity, past and future, until only the Watcher remains, not in time, but in eternity. Thus has at least one of the magickal adepts of our age restored to us a key by which we may open the doors of our perception, re-forging our link with divinity.
The magickal philosophy embodied in the Mysteries has been distorted and persecuted for millennia by rival religions/sciences/philosophies and ignorant historians, yet in its resurgence today as a vehicle for human growth it remains compelling in essence and unequalled in potential. The mark of the advanced initiate today is contact with the growing flood of extraterrestrial Mysteries emanating from other spheres, universes and dimensions wherein we are awakening to greater identities old and new.