“O little Star of Bethlehem “Shining far through shadows dim…” —Popular Christmas Carol
“…now is Hoor let down into the Animal soul of Things like a fiery star that falleth upon the darkness of the earth.” —Liber LXV, Chapter 4
I was in Sacramento over the Solstice, my hometown. And as I drove about from one scheduled event to another I was reminded of a singular experience from my youth. I was 18 years old at the time and had just spent the previous six hours with an older woman, my lover at the time. It was the dead of winter, about 2 am, and the outside temperature was just below freezing when I felt myself transformed and revealed as an exalted spirit.
This description as a “revealed as an exalted spirit” comes off as pretentious, though this is pretty much what it was like. And to be fair to the experience, when it was happening, there was a part of me that could only relate to it as something totally alien.
The world about me too was also transformed, a deeper reality breaking through the ordinary perceptions of my senses to reveal an anxious truth. As it unfolded I did what I could to align myself as much as possible with the epiphany: I opened the windows of my mother’s car, and forced it to accelerate to about 95 miles per hour, the best that little Toyota compact auto could do. And though my body objected to the frigid air there was something else in me, more present and real than mere physical sensation, that thrilled to the sharp, icy currents of the biting wind that filled the cab. The world, and by world I mean all of reality—my reality as far as it could extend in space and situation; and as far as I had known it in time, from my earliest memories to however far I might persist into the future—appeared to me now as a dead world, frozen and inert. I, on the other hand, was a god of speed and immediacy that seemed unencumbered by the dead, insensitive matter in which I moved. I was a blazing, irresistible force that gloried in the ecstasy of absolute mastery, unfazed by any obstacle, moving, fully confident of my ability to achieve any goal I might contemplate. There was nothing so easy, so pure, or so triumphant as my very being.
As experiences go, I do not believe this sort of thing is all that uncommon. I have found that most everyone has had something along these lines happen to them. But what I find is not so common is the owning of the necessary question these exalted states seem to pose: what do they mean to the rest of your life, especially after one has come down from the mountain and is no longer in direct contact with the well spring of that inspiration?
“In my Coiling there is Joy!”
—The Book of the Law, Chapter II
I am not sure if anyone has stopped to ponder the device on the Performance Movement Magick website, as well as it being used on many of the hand-outs and promotional materials for the workshops. Vaguely occult and perhaps a little gothic, you are forgiven if you thought it was just a cool device, included for no other reason than that it seemed magical. I included it, and asked that it be used as much as possible for reasons that actually go back to the above experience. It shows a bearded, and I assume poisonous serpent within a circle. This image was lifted from an early Greek vase illustrating the Greek war god Ares in battle. It is in fact the Shield of Ares.
In all Western cultures that I am familiar with the god of war was/is a common player. Historical anthropologists might tell you that this type of god is probably one of the very oldest present in any antique civilization. This makes sense since Mars, Ares, Hoor (Horus) has always been a cipher for Energy in its rawest and most immediate manifestation. The color red, blood, and life are other traditional associations of this god. It is easy to imagine a Palaeolithic tribesman uttering the phrase ‘force of nature,’ or something very similar, to describe the immanent presence of this deity in his world.
As a god he has gotten a bad rap for his seeming blindness to the consequences of his actions, but the truth is simply that nothing is possible without Mars: creativity, war, progress, procreation, growth, destruction, change, transformation, justice, virtue, evil, revolution, evolution, liberation, even death and decay…
As a performer, this god is easily one of the most important you will ever have. And yet, there will be problems, mostly due to the immaturity that becomes a significant part of the god in his youthful manifestation. In Alchemy this force is symbolized as a lion; its immature aspect as a Green Lion, which is called “green” because of its tendency to grasp, destroy, mar, go off half-cocked, obsess, fixate, and so forth. One alchemical text advises the alchemist to cut off the paws of the lion to limit its destructiveness. But this is not an ideal solution.
I don’t amputate! It is one of my pet peeves against followers of the New Age that they cannot see how much of their philosophy is actually informed by discredited medical perspectives of the 19th century, which were responsible for therapies such as electroshock, lobotomy, castration, and cold-water immersion as ways to clam down, or lessen a persons’ energy, all strategies which are insulting to the God of War.
“Do not go gentle into that good night, “Old age should burn and rave at close of day; “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Every attempt to get someone to do and be less is wrong for the simple reason that “the less you do, the less you will be able to do.” For this reason and a few others I will not go into here I am against any strategy that outlaws or marginalizes passions, desires, and drives. Instead, we should train people how to exploit and cultivate these forces with understanding and sympathy. This means we should embrace the challenge and struggle to raise them up, working to establish them as noble powers of our being.
The Shield of Ares was chosen for this very reason. As an image emblematic of the god of force and fire it is a symbol of that refinement—force, focused and expressed as a precise image. In this sense it represents the fullest potential of the force, which is and should be an ideal of all performance! But to be able to do this sort of focusing, on stage or in the Circle of Art, requires training. In my life, the shield emblazoned with its heraldry, was forged in those years of intense training that resulted in my becoming a performer. I learned how to amplify and control the force I first experienced welling up in my breast over 40 years ago as I was driving home in my mother’s car—a fierce star in the cold dark night. But even as I experienced an intense exaltation through my alignment with the radical root of all energy, I lacked the ability to express it to the world. It took me another 20 years to remedy this.
What I felt as a young man was the spear in the dominant hand of the god. My years of dance and theater training resulted in the forging of the shield he holds in his other hand.
Let me end here with a quote from a curious text by an obscure Sufi mystic. His words helped inspire this text. He writes about an antique vase illustration showing the pagan god Ares:
“In his right had is the spear, and in his left is a shield. The spear is the active force attacking, invading, and destroying, while the shield is designed to receive, withstand, and protect. On the shield is the “heraldic” device of the god, his formula. In many illustrations we find the lone image of a bearded, poisonous serpent. Instantly we can see how Image and Force, expressed by the weapons of the left and right hands, complement each other, one being an expression of the other in a different mode…”
—Sol Abulla, The Peacock’s Tale
December 2017 – Robert H Allen
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