In my article, “A Witch’s Weaving ~ of Consciousness” I indicated that I would be delving into the concepts of the strata of consciousness. Concepts of varying planes of existence, all of which are interconnected and are in continuous motion of creation, manifestation, and evolution, are a cornerstone of Occultist philosophy. Strata is derived from the Latin ‘stratum’ and is loosely defined as ‘layer’; therefore, a strata of consciousness is defined as a layer (or plane) of consciousness. The hypothesis indicates that there is a plane of consciousness in a sphere around earth; however, it is not fixed, and is in a continuous state of evolution. For human beings, the evolution of this sphere is influenced, most adeptly, through our animistic practices. We have to keep in mind that all consciousness influences this sphere, some of which may be detrimental to the global collective as a whole; it is imperative that we take this aspect into consideration. Highly focused concentration and ritualization within Animism not only enables us to contribute to this plane, but it also allows us to tap into and derive from this strata of consciousness; the more adept we are within our practices, the more profound and influential our work.
Throughout the aeons, cultures have embraced this plane of existence. Indigenous Peoples of North America refer to it as the Great Spirit. The Cherokee call it We n’ De Ya Ho and the Sioux, Wakan Tanka. These are not ‘gods’ in our understanding of the concept, but rather indicate a universal Spirit or consciousness. In the Eastern Traditions, the Sanskrit term Akasha means ‘ether’ or ‘space’ and is a similar concept. In Vedantic Hinduism, Akasha is the basis and essence for all things in the material world; therefore, it was the first element created. The ‘five gross elements’ are the Akasha from ‘space’, from which appeared Air, Fire or energy, Water, and then Earth.
Another term for this concept is Noosphere, which is defined as a ‘postulated sphere or stage of evolutionary development dominated by consciousness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships’. The term is derived from the Greek ‘noos’ meaning ‘mind’ or ‘reason’. It was popularized in the 1920s with the individual works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Vladimir Vernadsky, who may have been influenced by the work of Edouard Le Roy. Teilhard first used the term in his 1922 publication, Cosmogenesis. Teilhard was a Jesuit priest and his perspective was spiritual in nature. He coined the term Omega Point, which means that everything in the Universe is fated to spiral towards a final point of unification, which he believed would bring about the return of Christ. Although they both broke away from the applied natural science of the time, Vernadsky’s viewpoint was more scientific than Teilhard’s. Vernadsky viewed the noosphere as a phase within the development of Earth indicating the first is the geosphere (inanimate matter), the second is the biosphere (biological life), and the third is the noosphere or a human cognitive sphere.
Teilhard and Vernadsky’s work, although brought to the forefront in the 1920s within the Christian, scientific, and academic platforms, was certainly not new within occultist circles and theosophical societies. Metaphysical, philosophical, alchemical, and occultist studies had been studied and practiced for centuries with the works of John Dee, Eliphas Levi, Madame Blavatsky, and Austin Osman Spare, to name a few. However, for me, Dion Fortune is certainly the most inspirational and influential occultist within my own work, and in my opinion, her adeptness within the realms of Occultist studies are indelible. Her masterpiece of Occultist philosophy The Cosmic Doctrine, was channeled to her between 1922 and 1924. Initially, she distributed it among Initiates within her circles, but the work was not formally (privately) published until 1949, three years after she passed from the earthly realm.
The Cosmic Doctrine is very heavy, philosophical and metaphysical reading; however, many consider it to be the most important work of occultism in the 20th century. I first attempted to delve into the work with the publication of the Millennial Edition in 1995 when I was in my 20s; at the time, I felt my attempts were futile, at best, as it is so laborious. I managed to get through the entire book, but I didn’t feel that I had truly understood much of what was written. I was mystified that Fortune, who was considered to be highly intelligent but without a formal education, could have written such a densely rich and technical work filled with metaphors and underlying meanings. The answer as to how she did this, however, was right before me…..she channeled her writings from the Inner Planes, which is the strata of consciousness.
I consider channeling to be an animistic practice. It is the art of creating energy conducive to tapping into, harnessing the energy of the Inner Planes and then manifesting that energy within the Earthly Plane. In our channeling work, this energy comes in the form of wisdom. We have to keep in mind that the Inner Planes consist of every piece of human consciousness, in energy form, throughout the aeons. They have gone through numerous evolutions of creation and manifestation. This evolution, which is both imperative and inevitable, is in a constant state of motion, and it is up to us to recognize and allow for these changes. It was when I recognized that it would be necessary for me to enter into another state of consciousness through ritualized animistic practices that I was able to absorb The Cosmic Doctrine. Today, nearly 25 years after I first read the book, I continue to go back to its teachings; I always use my practice of ritualization in order to absorb the information in the text.
Ancestral work is very similar to channeling in that we are creating energy to tap into the Inner Planes of a specific consciousness. For me, Ancestral work has always been very tricky. There is a difference between our direct, physical ancestry in this lifetime, and the Ancestors, as an entity. Too often, there is an impulse to take into consideration our direct, physical lineage, and not the Ancestral consciousness as a whole. In so doing, we are not taking into consideration the evolution of the Ancestors of the aeons, and this can be detrimental to the evolutionary process of the Ancestral consciousness.
Dion Fortune was an Adept. She was an Initiate. Ceremonial Magick was a means of crafting her art. I embrace both ceremonial and ritual magick as animistic practices. We have to keep in mind that Animism is the belief that everything carries with it a spiritual essence, a spiritual energy, which can then be incorporated into our magickal practices.
Religious, spiritual, philosophical, scientific, academic, and traditional as well as non-traditional cultures embrace the concept of a palpable sphere of consciousness surrounding the Earth. For me, this is the realm of our Ancestors, the Otherworld, Egregores, gods and goddesses, pantheons and deities. It is also the sphere of collective joy, sadness, compassion, grief, love, despair, and hope.
The following quote is an excerpt from The Magical Battle of Great Britain, a series of letters written by Dion Fortune during WWII, compiled and edited by British Occult Scholar and biographer, Gareth Knight.
November 28th, 1939 ~
“It is this combination of the mental with the spiritual, or the spiritual with the mental, according to the degree of knowledge possessed by those who do it, that constitutes the difference between occultism and mysticism. We are engaged on the mental aspect of the work; those who come to us in the light are engaged on the spiritual aspect of it; neither would be effectual without the other but together we can almost literally move mountains.” ~ Dion Fortune