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The Work of Power

Dreamed December 1880 by Anna Kingsford

[Anna uses some alchemic terms. Don't be intimidated. Her broad meaning is clear enough. And yes, this was a dream!--Ed.]

You have asked me if the Work of Power is a difficult one, and if it is open to all.

It is open to all potentially and eventually, but not actually and in the present. In order to regain power and the resurrection, a man must be a Hierarch; that is to say, he must have attained the magical age of thirty-three. This age is attained by having accomplished the Twelve Labours, passed the Twelve Gates, overcome the Five Senses, and obtained dominion over the Four Spirits of the elements. He must have been born Immaculate, baptized with Water and with Fire, tempted in the Wilderness, crucified and buried. He must have borne Five Wounds on the Cross, and he must have answered the riddle of the Sphinx. When this is accomplished he is free of matter, and will never have a phenomenal [material] body.

Who shall attain to this perfection? The Man who is without fear and without concupiscence [lust]; who has courage to be absolutely poor and absolutely chaste. When it is all one to you whether you have gold or whether you have none, whether you have a house and lands or whether you have them not, whether you have worldly reputation or whether you are an outcast--then you are voluntarily poor. It is not necessary to have nothing, but it is necessary to care for nothing. When it is all one to you whether you have a wife or husband, or whether you are celibate, then you free from concupiscence. It is not necessary to be a virgin; it is necessary to set no value on the flesh.

There is nothing so difficult to attain as this equilibrium. Who is he who can part with his goods without regret? Who is he who is never consumed by the desires of the flesh? But when you have ceased both to wish to retain and to burn, then you have the remedy in your own hands, and the remedy is a hard and a sharp one, and a terrible ordeal. Nevertheless, be not afraid. Deny the five senses, and above all the taste and the touch. The power is within you if you will to attain it. The Two Seats are vacant at the Celestial Table, if you will put on Christ. Eat no dead thing. Drink no fermented drink [alcohol; she's not calling kefir wicked]. Make living elements of all the elements of your body. Mortify the members of earth. Take your food full of life, and let not the touch of death pass upon it [i.e. stick to raw foods]. You understand me, but you shrink. Remember that without self-immolation, there is no power over death.

Deny the touch. Seek no bodily pleasure in sexual communion; let desire be magnetic and soulic. If you indulge the body, you perpetuate the body, and the end of the body is corruption. You understand me again, but you shrink. Remember that without self-denial and restraint there is no power over death. Deny the taste first, and it will become easier to deny the touch. For to be a virgin is the crown of discipline. I have shown you the excellent way, and it is the Via Dolorosa. Judge whether the resurrection be worth the passion; whether the kingdom be worth the obedience; whether the power be worth the suffering. When the time of your calling comes, you will no longer hesitate.

When a man has attained power over his body, the process of ordeal is no longer necessary. The Initiate is under a vow; the Hierarch is free. Jesus, therefore, came eating and drinking; for all things were lawful to him. He had undergone, and had freed his will. For the object of the trial and the vow is polarisation. When the fixed is volatilised, the Magian is free. But before Christ was Christ he was subject; and his initiation lasted thirty years. All things are lawful to the Hierarch; for he knows the nature and value of all.

When the elements of the body are endowed with power, they are masters of the elemental spirits, and can overcome them. But while they are yet under bondage, they are the slaves of the elementals, and the elementals have power over them. Now, Hephaistos is a destroyer, and the breath of fire is a touch of death. The fire that passes on the elements of your food, deprives them of their vital spirit, and gives you a corpse instead of living substance. And not only so, but the spirit of the fire enters into the elements of your body, and sets up in all its molecules a consuming and a burning, impelling to concupiscence, and to the desire of the flesh. The spirit of the fire is a subtle spirit, a penetrative and diffusive spirit, and it enters into the substance of all matter upon which it acts. When, therefore, you take such substance into your organism, you take with it the spirit of the fire, and you assimilate it together with the matter of which it has become a part.

I speak to you of excellent things. If you would become a man of power, you must be master of the fire. The man who seeks to be a hierophant, must not dwell in cities. He may begin his initiation in a city, but he cannot complete it there. For he must not breathe dead and burnt air. In a city you respire air upon which the flame has passed; you breathe fire, and it consumes your blood. The man who seeks all power must be a wanderer, a dweller in the plain and the garden and the mountains. He must seek the sun, and the breath of night. He must commune with the moon and stars, and maintain direct contact with the great electric currents of the unburnt air, and with the grass and unpaved soil of the planet. It is in unfrequented places, or in lands such as those of the East, in parts where the abominations of Babylon are unknown, and where the magnetic chain between earth and heaven is strong--that the man who seeks power, and who would achieve the Great Work, must accomplish his initiation.

The number of the human microcosm is thirteen; four for the outward body, four for the sideral body, four for the soul, and one for the Divine Spirit. For, although the Spirit is Triune it is One, and can be but One; because it is God, and God is One. At the Last Supper, therefore, in which the Magians symbolise the Banquet of the Microcosm, there are twelve apostolic elements and one Christ. But if one of the elements be disobedient and a traitor, the Spirit is quenched and death ensues.

--Anna Kingsford


I posted this lesson-dream of Anna's partly for its sheer strangeness, but also for its extremism. "You understand me, but you shrink." No shit! Kingsford doesn't cushion it: there's no easy road to spiritual power. The discipline's as hard as Olympic training, or ballet, or (oh my poor fingers!) guitar.

But I disagree what the price is. Kingsford, at least her dream-self, demands perfect control over your desires, perfect indifference. I like imperfection! Just undo your brainwashing so your desires are yours, not your family's or friends'or society's. Desire rising from real need, or even whim, is healthy enough. Ascetics like Anna who scorn desire often become prone to seduction by OTHER things than desire--like big, cool-sounding ideas. You end up with fanatics as often as Buddhas or Christs. Just being a creature alert to its own appetites (and satisfactions, and excesses) is a solid way to ground the "Work of Power". And accepting your desires helps you empathize with other beings, even if they're still penned and tamed while you've gone feral.

Perfection isn't vital. Freedom is. But figuring out your own appetites, separating them from others' desires and influences, is just as hard as Kingsford's iron denial of them. A different discipline, that's all. Noticing and questioning desire ("is this me or is this brainwashing?") takes focused time alone, but also practice out in the world, learning when to be tempted, how to recognize right desire. Stomping desire flat is easier, really. But do we need more stompers?

This debate didn't start in 1880! It even predates the ancient Gnostics who taught Kingsford that bodies and matter are eeeeevil. You see it in early Buddhism versus Hinduism; even more sharply, between Taoism and Buddhism. "Desire is the root of suffering" versus "The Tao follows what is natural."

Our age follows neither of those maxims, but a third: "Capitalism harnesses desire." Feel the harness; then you can untie their knots and wriggle free.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: work and working conditions - dreamwork - austerity and asceticism - fanaticism and fundamentalism - food, anorexia, meat is murder - fire - dream-advice on sex, love and desire - cities - solitude and hermits - meditation - shamanism, Buddhism and Taoism - more Anna Kingsford dreams

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