Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 8, Vol. 1, Vernal Equinox 2005
Healing in the Hermetic Tradition
by Alex Sumner1. The Pathology of Modern Medicine
There has always been a long tradition of Healing in the Western tradition (and indeed in other Mystery Traditions). Indeed, what are now known as “Esoteric” healing methods were widely used by exoteric medical practitioners at least until the end of the Renaissance, and the beginning of the so-called Enlightenment. From that point on, esoteric healing methods were driven underground by the scientific community, as indeed were a lot of occult practices. It is only in the present era that they are beginning to be publicly mentioned again.
The general principle behind esoteric healing methods from ancient times to the present day may be stated thus: physical effects do not solely come about through purely physical causes. Moreover, to successfully treat a condition, all of the causes must be dealt with.
These two sentences are fundamentally at variance with modern medical practice, which generally confines itself to the physical. In addition, modern medicine does not necessarily treat the cause of the injury or disease, but often only the effect thereof.
Take for example, the way that doctors in this country treat Depression. If a patient goes to a doctor complaining of the classic symptoms of Depression, the doctor will give an admonition that the patient should best talk to someone whether it be a counsellor or a friend, and then immediately write out a prescription for Prozac. The consultation can last as little as five to ten minutes. The doctor may very well not do any of the following:
Again, take Cancer. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery - the various methods of treating Cancer all revolve around affecting the diseased tissue after the disease has been detected. Whilst it is easy for them to say that certain types of cancer are caused by certain unhealthy practices (e.g. lung cancer and smoking) it is very difficult to say why people who live seemingly healthy lifestyles are struck down by the disease as well. Why do some women suffer from breast-cancer, and others do not? Why do some mobile-phone users get brain-tumours and the majority do not? Do in fact mobile-phone users ever get brain tumours really, or is it a load of rubbish concocted by the large Pharmaceutical companies who are funding cancer-research (i.e. research into the marketability of their cancer-drugs)? It is effects-led medicine, not cause-led.
The correct (i.e. esoteric) approach to healing should be both Holistic and Integral. Holistic (from the Greek Holos, ) means to treat the whole. The Holistic Healer, when examining the patient, asks:
The Holistic Healer then prescribes a course of treatment that deals with all of the causes identified. This leads to another undeniable truth when it comes to healing: ultimately, the Patient must take responsibility for his, own well-being and health. The Holistic Healer cannot do all the work himself – because in many cases the only effective ways to treat all of the causes are for the patient to put changes into effect in his own life. The Healer facilitates, helps, encourages, and shows the way – and the patient actively assists the Healer to do so.
True Healing is also said to be Integral, in that treatment at higher levels both transcends and includes treatment at lower levels – including conventional medicine. Conventional medicine does have its place in relieving injuries and illnesses that really are physically caused. However, the ideal form of healing is one that integrates all levels at once, wherever necessary: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Note well that there are practitioners of supposedly Holistic forms of healing, such as Homeopathy, who are not Integral in their outlook, because they criticise conventional medicine with as much fanaticism as sceptics criticise them. The wise approach is to appreciate all that is useful in all forms of healing.
2. Basic Concepts in Esoteric Healing
The traditional mode of Hermetic healing is best understood when one has a rudimentary knowledge of Astrology. It was the practice of the ancients to assign the parts of the body to the Signs of the Zodiac, and, thereby, to their planetary rulers – and to a lesser extent, the planets which are exalted in those signs.
The ancients would therefore have used this information for the basis of Natural magic: the object being to attract the beneficial influence of the Sign, Planet or Element that ruled the afflicted body part. Therefore, if a patient came to a magician with a bladder complaint, the magician would perhaps make a talisman (from Iron) of Scorpio.
It is for a similar reason incidentally that we find herbs in old Materiæ Medicæ classified according to the stars and planets – because they were found to cure diseases of the parts of the body associated therewith. Although we should not assume there is anything inherently “magical” in these herbs because of this. It may well be that the astrological classification was decided first, and the herbs assigned to the various signs and planets later, after it had been determined what conditions they treated.
Hence when Culpeper says that Agrimony is under Jupiter and the Sign Cancer (in which Jupiter is exalted) this is simply because Agrimony helps with conditions of the chest; it is also said to help other parts of the body with which Jupiter is associated, for example, the liver.
For reference, these correspondences are:
Table 1: Signs of the Zodiac and Parts of the Body.
Table 2: Planets and Parts of the Body.
Table 3: Elements and Parts of the Body.
Table 4: GD attributions and Parts of the Body.
It is also worth noting that certain aspects of the Art of Healing itself are under the presidency of a variety of Planets:
3. Working With the Aura in the Western Tradition.
This is based upon the following principles:
It is possible, using astral healing, to heal both oneself and others, both in person and in absentia. Generally speaking this is accomplished by the Healer invoking a beneficial current of energy within himself, and then directing it through the use of visualisation to the part of the body required, whether this be his own or of a “patient”.
It is always preferable if the patient is fully sympathetic to the qabalistic practises of the Healer; however if this is not the case (and generally speaking it won’t be), it is possible to heal a patient who is consciously ignorant of what the Healer is doing. Such cases rely on the patient unconsciously receiving the astral impressions that the Healer creates within his own aura.
It is within the personal experience of the author, that astral healing is possible even where the patient is both completely ignorant of the efforts of the Healer, and absent to the extent of being overseas, in a different country.
Astral Healing comprises two main disciplines, Self-Healing and Healing of Others. In order to be an effective Healer, both must be mastered, starting with Self-Healing. This is because, practically and philosophically, Self-Healing is an essential preparation for Healing generally. Once a Healer has learnt to invoke a healing current within himself, it is surprisingly easy to transmit it via sympathy to a patient, but it is very difficult to evoke such a current while remaining detached there from. It should be noted that the Greatest Healer of the Western Mystery Tradition worked His healing miracles out of a sense of pure unselfish, unconditional love for the patients. Not only is it preferable for healers to adopt a similar attitude, they will also find it nigh on impossible to achieve any success whilst not doing so.
For practical reasons, the Healer should be well practised in the power of fixed attention. In addition it should be noted that the Healing rituals are taught in reference to correct breathing: therefore the Healer should be well established in the practice of breath-control, e.g. through the Golden Dawn practice of the “four-fold breath”. The Healer should have a strongly developed visualising faculty, because this is used extensively in the healing rituals that are taught. For as has been said by more than one influential figure in the Western Tradition:
To obtain Magical Power, learn to control thought. Admit only true ideas which are in harmony with the end desired, and not every stray and contradictory idea that presents itself. Fixed though is a means to an end; therefore pay attention to the power of silent thought and meditation.This is directly relevant to the power of Healing itself. 4. Preparing to Heal – Self-Healing.
Basic Healing Ritual.
Israel Regardie devised an excellent practical method of accessing the healing power – the Middle Pillar Ritual. Regardie’s method may be summarised as follows:
Following this method, it is inevitable that the Healer approaches the art through Self-Healing first, owing to the necessity of starting by invoking the Healing current into oneself. It is interesting to compare this with the approach of Reiki, another esoteric Healing method that is based around channelling divine power into the patient. Initiates of Reiki almost always come to the Art because they themselves are patients in need of healing. They are first taught to use Reiki for their own self-healing, and then for their family and immediate circle, and eventually for others – including those in absentia. It should be noted that although Eastern in origin, the practice of Reiki came into being supposedly as the result of an attempt to rediscover the healing powers of Jesus Christ.
I shall therefore set-out a method of adapting Regardie’s conception to the wider context of the Healing tradition of the Western Mystery Tradition. One should use this exercise when one has identified which part of the body is in need of healing. One should also know in advance the Qabalistic correspondences associated with that part of the body – see Table 4 above. Similarly, one should also be familiar with the appropriate Pentagram(s) or Hexagram, as well as vibrating the appropriate Divine names.
Firstly, perform the Middle Pillar Ritual.
Secondly, invoke the specific influence. Do this by filling one’s sphere of sensation with the colour of the appropriate influence, and by vibrating the appropriate Divine Name by Aspiration. Do this around half a dozen times, or for however many times feels appropriate. One should also trace the appropriate Invoking Pentagram or Hexagram.
One should then visualise that this colour is concentrated in the particular place in the body in need of healing power. Visualise this for the space of around six breaths, mentally intoning divine names as appropriate.
One may conclude this healing ritual with the Adoration from the Neophyte ritual of the Golden Dawn:
"Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe.One should then ground oneself with the Lesser banishing rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram, and also the Rose Cross Ritual.
Holy art Thou, Whom Nature hath not formed.
Holy art Thou, the Vast and the Mighty One.
Lord of the Light and of the Darkness."
In all cases make sure that the colours visualised are as bright and luminous as possible – the parts of the body should be astrally seen to be glowing with colour. The theory behind all these visualisations is that the use of colour in this way attracts by sympathy a corresponding force from the astral, whose nature is to stimulate the healthy functioning of the particular part of the body.
So, for example, let us imagine that one is suffering from a headache, and one wants to attract healing influences to relieve it. In Appendix Two, which is a list of conditions based upon old authorities in the Western Tradition, that Neuralgia and Headaches come under the influence of Jupiter – and indeed we should remember that Agrippa did assign Jupiter to the Head. One would therefore go about healing this condition firstly by performing the Middle Pillar Ritual; secondly by filling one’s Sphere of Sensation with a bright Violet colour whilst vibrating the divine name El, and tracing the Invoking Hexagram of Jupiter. Finally one would direct this violet colour to the head itself, again vibrating the same divine name.
However – what if the headache were not the condition itself, but a symptom of another condition? Then, one would not necessarily invoke Jupiter, violet, El, etc, but the influence corresponding to the condition of which the headache is a symptom. So for example, a headache is a symptom of a hangover. A hangover is in fact caused when one’s Liver is retarded in the process of metabilizing alcohol. The most appropriate course of action in that circumstance would be not to treat the headache, which is a symptom, but the Liver itself – to speed up and stimulate its functioning. Hence, if this were indeed the cause of the headache, I suggest it would be better to invoke Sagittarius, which although ruled by Jupiter, is a slightly different procedure. After performing the Middle Pillar ritual, one would fill one’s Sphere of Sensation with the colour blue, and invoke Sagittarius by tracing an Invoking Pentagram of Fire whilst vibrating Elohim, possible following this with a Jupiter Hexagram whilst vibrating El. Finally one would direct the Blue light to the Liver, and not to the head. Remember, true Healing should be Holistic.
5. Healing Others
Healing a Patient who is physically present.
It is relatively simple to extend the method of self-healing described above to that of healing others. However, I would recommend that one only do so after having given the Middle Pillar ritual generally, and the self-healing method specifically, much practice. One should also be aware that successful healing is not something that the Healer does to the patient: instead, the Healer facilitates it within the patient himself. It is a collaboration between Healer and patient. It is vital that the patient be absolutely receptive to the healing force that the Healer sends him. Not only must the patient be completely relaxed, but also he should have unwavering confidence and faith in the Healer’s integrity and ability. For as Jesus Himself often said after performing a healing miracle, “Go, your faith has saved you.”
Receptivity however is not merely a matter of a conscious good-will towards the Healer. There is always the danger of the patient unconsciously resisting any healing – which would be the case if he suffered from a neurotic condition. Given the holistic paradigm of true healing, the Healer should in these circumstances set about trying to treat the issues which cause the neurosis – and not necessarily whatever the patient is complaining about, which would only a symptom of the neurosis. The Healer would experience apparent failure until he concentrated the healing power in the correct direction.
The Healer, however, should not be put off unduly if the patient is only mildly doubtful to begin with. The process is a powerful one, and when performed correctly can pleasantly surprise and reassure patients, so that their faith in the Healer is increased through the course of the session.
The following methodology is based closely on the writing of Regardie. Prior to beginning, the working space (as well as the Healer himself) should be freed from all negative influences, through the use of the Lesser Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram, and the Rose-Cross Ritual. This may be done before the patient is present.
Relax completely every tissue throughout one’s own body before attempting the Healing Ritual. Have the patient lie on a couch. The patient should be induced to relax all nervous and muscular tension. One may do this by guiding the patient to briefly pay attention to each part of his body in turn; and as he does so, to consciously relax that part. All the while, the patient’s breathing should be relaxed: slow, deep and even. Regardie said:
I have found a useful preliminary in the practice of spinal manipulation and massage, with deep kneadings and effleurage, for in this way an enhanced circulation of the blood and lymph is produced.”After the patient has attained a suitable degree of relaxation, his feet are crossed over the ankles and his fingers interlaced to rest lightly over the solar plexus. The Healer then seats himself on the right side of the person should the patient be right-handed - vice versa for a left-handed patient.
The Healer now establishes a magical rapport by placing his right hand gently on the solar plexus and his left hand under the patient’s head – or vice versa if the patient is left-handed. Within a few minutes both the Healer and the patient should be able to discern a free circulation of magnetism and vitality.
Maintain silence and quiet should be maintained for a short while, following which the Healer silently performs the Healing Ritual, still maintaining his physical contact with the patient. His awakened spiritual centres act on the patient by sympathy. A similar awakening is introduced with the patient’s sphere, and his centres eventually begin to operate and throw an equilibrated stream of energy into his system.
It is not necessary to vibrate the divine name audibly. Whether the Healer does so or not, the power flowing through his fingers sets up an activity which will surely produce some degree of healing activity within the patient – without conscious effort on the patient’s part.
When the Healer arrives at the circulation stage, he so employs his inner visualising faculty that the augmented currents of energy flow not only through his own sphere but through that of his patient as well.
The nature of this rapport now begins to undergo a subtle change. Whereas formerly there existed close sympathy and a harmonious frame of mind, mutually held, during and after the circulation there is an actual union and interblending of the two energy fields. They unite to form a single continuous sphere as the interchange and transference of vital energy proceed.
It is vitally important to play close attention to impressions clairvoyantly received at this stage. These are indications of the state of health of the patient (and the Healer) that need to be taken into account when directing the healing energy. These may include conditions that the patient has neglected to tell the Healer, whether through pure ignorance, or forgetfulness, shame or embarrassment. They may also include conditions within the Healer that he himself has not resolved. Thus the Healer is able to divine exactly what potential his projected current should be, and precisely to where it should be directed.
It is interesting to note that followers of other healing traditions, e.g. Reiki, report that they too may receive clairvoyant glimpses of the patient’s true condition at this stage in the healing process. Alternatively, the Healer may experience it clairsentiently – for example by experiencing pain in the same part of his own body as is afflicted in the patient. Some healers have claimed that they are able to detect how the patient’s past-lives are affecting his health, in this way. In any case one should not be surprised at receiving such impressions, as by this stage of the process the Healer will be in a state of heightened psychic sensitivity anyway.
In any event, the Healer continues by invoking the correct influence in his Sphere of Sensation, as described above, and directing it to the patient. The sympathy and union established by the foregoing process will ensure that the healing influence is successfully evoked within the patient. Thereafter, the Healer may end the session in the appropriate manner.
6. Healing a Patient In Absentia.
Absent Healing is difficult to understand if one does not accept the reality of the Astral plane. A skeptic might be inclined to believe that if any good results from healing a person in person, it is because there is some wholly explainable phenomenon such as suggestion taking place. But the same person would fail to believe that healings in absentia could possible work as there is not necessarily any link between the healer and the patient. On the other hand, if one posits that esoteric Healing takes place not merely at the psychological, but at the Astral level, the possibility of working at a distance becomes a reality. For example, the Healer who has a high degree of control over his subtle body may astrally project to the place where the patient is, and then perform a healing ritual similar to that described above (the present author once did so, with apparently successful results).
However, there is a body of opinion that it is not even necessary to project astrally in order to effect distant healing. For example, the Whare Ra temple of the Stella Matutina employed a healing ritual involving a photograph of the patient. In Reiki initiates of the second degree are taught to practice distant healing by projecting healing energy towards the patient. Even Radionics supposedly works by transmitting healing energy to the patient via a link which is not discernible according to conventional science.
It would appear that in each case, a magical link is formed, which works at the astral level. In Radionics the link is supposedly formed by a snippet of hair belonging to the patient – in this respect it is rather like sympathetic magic. However in Reiki (and in the Whare Ra ritual), the nearest equivalent to a magical link would appear to be a visualised image of the patient himself. It is interesting to note that Dion Fortune once described the method of Telepathy as consisting of visualising the target person, and then communicating with that. Thus it is possible to infer that one may attempt to heal a patient in absentia by performing the healing ritual as described previously: but when it comes to projecting the invoked influence, to form a strongly visualised image of the patient in one’s imagination (perhaps with the aid of a photograph), and projecting it at that.
Appendix One: The Middle Pillar Ritual (Summary)
Prepare by standing, sitting or lying straight, and stilling one’s mind with regular breathing. For example, the so-called “Four-Fold Breath” of the Golden Dawn. Reference is made to rhythmic breathing throughout this exercise, and so I would recommend this “four-fold breath” be kept up continuously.
Begin by visualising Kether at the crown of one’s head: a globe of white brilliance. Take a moment to imagine that the Kether of one’s microcosm, is linked to the Kether of the Macrocosm, and is receiving the influence therefrom. Now imagine drawing Divine power from above into your heart, and vibrate the great name associated with Kether: Eheieh. Repeat this half a dozen times, or for however many is felt to be appropriate.
Follow a similar process for each of the Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar. Visualise Daath as a globe of lavender at one’s throat. After meditating on the link between the microcosmic and macrocosmic Daath, vibrate the divine name: Yod He Vav He Elohim.
Likewise, Tiphereth: a globe of golden light at one’s heart, for which the divine name is Yod He Vav He Eloah Ve-Daath.
Then Yesod: a violet globe centred on one’s generative organs. The divine name for Yesod is Shaddai El Chai.
The lowest Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar, centred on one’s feet, is Malkuth. This is a globe of four colours: citrine, olive, red and black, and its divine name is Adonai Ha-Aretz.
After establishing the Sephiroth of the Middle Pillar, one should circulate the energy around one’s Sphere of Sensation. Do this in four ways: firstly, inhale, visualising and feeling that the energy descends down the left side of one’s body, from Kether to Malkuth. Exhale, letting the energy flow up the right side from Malkuth back to Kether. Repeat this half a dozen times, or as much as one feels is appropriate.
Secondly: inhale, visualising and feeling the energy descend from Kether to Malkuth down the front of one’s body. Exhale, allowing it to ascend up the back, from Malkuth to Kether. Again, repeat as appropriate.
Thirdly: inhale, imagining the current of energy is ascending up the centre of one’s Sphere of Sensation, through the Middle Pillar itself, from Malkuth to Kether. Exhale, imagining that is now fountaining from Kether down the outside of the Sphere of Sensation, eventually returning to Malkuth. The effect is similar to the lines of magnetic force that surround a spherical magnet – such as the Earth itself. As with the previous two “circulations”, repeat this as appropriate.
Fourthly: imagine that the current of energy is ascending in a spiral fashion, starting from the left foot, and going clockwise and upwards to Kether. Repeat this as appropriate.
End the exercise with the Qabalistic Cross:
Ateh - Thou art (Touch the forehead);
Malkuth – The Kingdom (touch the breast, turning one’s hand to point to the feet);
ve-Geburah – And the Power (touch the right shoulder);
ve-Gedulah – And the Glory (touch the left shoulder); Le-Olam – Throughout the Ages (join both hand in front of the chest …) Amen. – Amen (…and assume the prayer gesture in front of the heart).
The Middle Pillar Ritual is very powerful in itself, and when it performed properly one inevitably experiences a sense of peace, relaxation, and quiet exaltation.
Appendix Two: Miscellaneous Conditions.
A list of various medical conditions, and the astrological influence which, when invoked, is said to alleviate them. This list is compiled from various sources such as Culpeper. It is apparent that certain herbs which are traditionally assigned to these signs and planets treat the conditions in question (See section 2. Basic Concepts in Esoteric Healing). Where a planet appears in brackets after a zodiacal sign, this indicates the Hexagram to be used when invoking that Sign, in addition to the invoking Pentagram. Normally this will be the Hexagram of the ruler, but in some cases one should also invoke the Planet which is exalted in the sign as well – e.g. Asthma (see below).
Agrippa, Henry Cornelius Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
Crowley, Aleister: Liber Librae Sub Figura XXX.
Crowley, Aleister: Magick In Theory and Practice.
Culpeper, Nicholas: Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.
Regardie, Israel: The Middle Pillar, Third Edition (edited by Chic & Sandra Tabatha Cicero), 2003, Llewellyn.
Regardie, Israel: The Art of True Healing, 1932.
Sumner, Alex: Lucid Dreaming, Second Edition, http://www.geocities.com/alex_sumner/lucid2.htm
Sumner, Alex: Can A O Spare-Sigils be used in Golden Dawn Magic?. In the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, 2.1.2002. http://www.jwmt.org/v1n2/spare.html
NotesOr her – masculine terms are for convenience only.
I.e. Jupiter is indirectly connected with the liver by being the ruler of Sagittarius.
Tables 1, 2 and 3 are derived mainly from H C Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy (especially book 2) – as indeed were most of the Golden Dawn’s knowledge lectures!
I am here deliberately missing out the planets of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – for being comparatively recent discoveries they are not a part of Classical Astrology, nor of the Hermetic tradition of healing which is associated therewith.
See note 4.
See note 4.
I.e. because Geburah is associated with cutting away that which is redundant or unhealthy. It is interesting to note that sometime after first writing The Middle Pillar and The Art of True Healing, Regardie devised another method of healing based upon invoking Geburah for this very reason. This he taught to Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, and thus came to be mentioned in the third edition of The Middle Pillar.
Sumner, "Can A O Spare Sigils be used in Golden Dawn Magic?”
“…the trained and consecrated will in a well-developed astral body is such that it can even produce a permanent change in the material upon whose Body of Light you are working, e.g.; one can heal the sick by restoring a healthy appearance to their astral forms. On the other hand, it is possible so to disintegrate the Body of Light even of a strong man that he will fall dead.” – Crowley, Ch. XVIII, Magick In Theory and Practice.
Jesus Christ, ca. 6BCE to ca. 27CE
This was published by Crowley in Liber Librae Sub Figura XXX, but it is actually a verbatim copy of part of the Practicus Knowledge lecture of the Golden Dawn, so its original authorship is more likely to be Mathers or Westcott.
Regardie, The Art of True Healing. In fact the version of the ritual described in this book differs in several details to that found in The Middle Pillar. For example the former version incorporates some colour and elemental associations which do not necessarily correspond with the Golden Dawn corpus.
Summarised in Appendix One.
Regardie, The Art of True Healing.
Sumner, Lucid Dreaming (Second Edition), Appendix Four: Dream Healing.
Daath in fact does not have a divine name associated with it. However, it does correspond to the Saturn point of the Hexagram. Moreover, if one is in Daath one is usually aspiring to reach Binah anyway. It is for these reasons that Regardie interpolated YHVH Elohim, the Divine Name of Binah and Saturn, as the most appropriate name to use for Daath.