Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Victorian Arts...

Not all of the poetry, music and artistic output of the Victorian era was about doing body shots of absinthe off of velvet ruffled proto-Goths who were taking side bets on which one of their inner circle would die first of consumption while smoking blond Moroccan hash through a bong filled with ice from a Swiss glacier and fifty year old single malt Scotch that had been saved for just such an occasion. It was far more interesting than that.

Some of What Some of the Victorians Knew: The Delsartians

In addition to the frame I have selected for presenting the contextual expressive possibilities of the generally ignored North American branch of the Golden Dawn, there are four tool sets I'll describe. The framework is New Thought, which is radically different from the Anglican basis of the British and Continental Holy Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD). New Thought was developed from Mesmerism by Quimby in the 1850's. Quimby recognized the potential for abuse in mesmeric healing, and sought to replace the outside suggestions by internal changes in consciousness, resulting in improved health. By 1880, New Thought had cross-pollinated with Theosophy and its own parent, Spiritualism, to produce some of the following disciplines:

Magnetic Healing, Practical Psychology, Science of Mind, Divine Science, Mental Science, and a host of other terms. Several church movements will arise from all of this--Christian Science, Unity, Universalism (one of the two sources for Unitarian Universalists) and quite a few of the "Spirit Churches" find their origin in this movement.

Here's tool set one of four.

Delsarte 1.0(?!)

Francoise Delsarte was the son of a physician in France, born in 1811. His father died when he was young, leaving him a penniless orphan. He found his way to a Conservatory while in his teens, and was recognized as a prodigy in the field of elocution and dramatic instruction. Delsarte lost his voice due to over-use. In an attempt to reclaim it, he spent a lot of time analysing motion and gait. Eventually, his voice returned, and he began teaching statue posing. Delsarte viewed Greco-Roman statuary as a model of the True, the Beautiful, the Supernal. He founded a school, compiled notes and died in the 1870's before he published anything. Luckily he had an American student, Steele Mackaye, that knew everything Delsarte knew. Mackaye came to the US, and died shortly thereafter. Genevieve Stebbins (of the HB of L.) went to France and studied with the Abbe Delaumosne, a French Delsarte instructor. Stebbins and Northrup, her contemporary, suggest that Delsarte movement is based on Swedenborgian metaphysics. There's no way to confirm this, but true or not, it would factor into Delsartism in the 1880's and beyond.

He taught decompositions in the following order:

Finger, hands, forearm, entire arm, head, torso, foot, lower leg, entire leg, entire body, eyelids, lower jaw.

Exercise 1--Let the fingers fall from the knuckles as if dead; in that condition then shake them. VItal force should stop at the knuckles.

Exercise II--Raise arms above head, decompose them---that is, withdraw force. They will fall as dead weights. Arms still hanging decomposed from shoulders, agitate body with a rotary movement. The arms will swing as dead weights; now change and swing body forward and back: bend knees in this. The arms will describe a circle in their sockets; they must be decomposed. Druid Comrades should always remember to follow the Law of Gravity in their workings.

As Egami Shigeru, the master of Karate said:

"The hardest thing is for the pupil to comprehend and express the difference between relaxation and tension."

Let's look at a bit of Delsarte instruction, rendered in his style:

"Please pull a chair up to the table, and do try the white wine with cheeses, Monsieur Ash. It is a good vintage, is it not? Let us begin by observing our first subject, a man in his early twenties, as he walks along the street. See how his arms move crisply, note the certainty of his stride, and the brightness of his eyes. He is sure of his destination, and his youthful energy carries him along. Notice that the expression on his face precedes his walk and speech. This is a vital point to consider. The eye is the mental centre in expression, just as the centre of gravity is the vital centre. As the mind is first impressed, and the passions are first aroused, , the eye should indicate attention or intention first,; then the centre of gravity; then gesticulation; then articulation.

Moving lengthwise is passional, heights and depths are intellectual, breaths are volitional. Straight form is vital, circular form is mental, and spiral form is moral or mystic. Limbs move in an oppositional fashion--right hand/left foot, etc.

Life and mind are one and the same soul; soul and mind are one and the same life; life and soul are one and the same mind. From the basics of decompositions, we arrive at harmonic poise or being. Art is at once the knowledge, the possession, and the free direction of the agents; by which are revealed the life, soul and mind."

Elocution is the last discipline taught in Delsartism, though no part of this is taught in isolation. Articulation of sound was of great concern to Delsartians, living as they did in a time prior to the invention of motion pictures and in the earliest era of recorded sound. Vowels and consonants would have a decidedly Parisian accent, a point we'll consider later. "A voice, however powerful it may be, should be inferior to the power which animates it."

The statue posing of the 19th and early 20th century represent a God in a fraction of an interval of motion. The god postures are always Vitallized. The eye directs first. Strike with the eyes and assume the god form. Breathe, but not merely air.

Delsarte spends a lot of time breaking down movement into what he considered its basic elements. Delsarte was a genius, but neither had a movie camera nor training in physiology. Delsarte 1.0?! does not make a provision for reflex actions. I’ll expand on this in future posts. Suffice it to say that there is a wealth of material that’s been un-appreciated and unused since the earliest part of the 20th century, part of a useful and beautiful set of perspectives on esoteric practice.

First and always, comes the Silence. Following assumption of the silence, there is Concentration. Then there is the Meditation, which is also manifestation.

In any working, the good high Occultist would summon their spirit Band, conjure the egregore, and if outside, perform a Solar Adoration or similar energy exercise, focussing on the solar plexus (aka "The abdominal brain"), processing the violet effulgence of the Sun, bringing it down to the solar plexus, standing barefoot on the ground to make sure that contact with the Earth is never interrupted. It wasn't just the HOGD doing this-----There were public tableaus with hundreds of people wearing gossamer veils, posing in God forms in public and private. Magnetic Healing, processing of sunlight and activating the solar plexus are covered in the blog "The Only Course in Magnetic Healing You Will Ever Want".

Take a look at this passage, from "The Golden Dawn" vol II, page 132---

"... Let him remember what particular God he represents. Exalting his mind unto the contemplation therof, let him think of himself as a vast figure, standing or moving in the likeness of that God, colossal, his head lost in the clouds, with the light flashing round it from the head-dress of the God---his feet resting upon Earth in darkness, thunder and rolling clouds, and his form wrapped in flashes of lightning--the while vibrating the Name of the God. Thus standing, let him endeavour to hear the voice of the God whom he represents and of the God-forms of the other officers as previously explained.Let him speak, then, not as if unto an assembly of mortals, but as to an assembly of Gods. Let his voice be so directed as to roll through the Universe to the utmost confines of space. ..."

This passage is an excellent summary of Delsarte 1.0?!. In fact, it is so specific to the discipline of "High Occultism" that I suspect this bit had to have been written by an adept with lots of exposure to the French esoteric and dramatic scene, someone who worked this material repeatedly in person, and not a "perfume book-man" as the Chinese would say.

On introduction to the HOGD postures, the Delsarte student would have "decomposed" the Golden Dawn postures, breaking them down into spiralling movements beginning near the torso, ennervating each bit of the limb sequentially, moving from the shoulder to fingers, hips to toes. Think of it as western Chi Kung, or "sentiment avec elan vital." As mentioned in an earlier post, "Cong-Fou" is the Chinese translation of "magnetism".

The ritualist is not merely stepping across the floor, but across the Universe and in sacred space. "Look at the floor and consider it well." Floor work could have been as simple or as complicated as the group or individual desires. Step with meaning.

Here is my preliminary version of what I think of as the most basic Golden Dawn posture:

There are possibilities inherent in the simplest of gestures or actions that frequently go unexplored. In fact, a practitioner of esotericism might be well served to take a single ritual action or short reading from their materials and focus exclusively on this for a period of weeks. Let’s take the sign of Harpocrates from Golden Dawn ritual as an example. This stresses the child of silence aspect of deity. It is mythologically rich in associations from several perspectives. Looking at the “Kybalion”, one of the central texts of US Golden Dawn magic, the state manifested by Harpocrates refers to the One silence that pre-exists all else. It is the first of the Rosicrucian precepts that Magus Incognito lists. Another and equally valid way to view this is as the manifestation of the first child of magic, the infant Horus. Let’s see what happens when we step through this posture in light of Delsarte mind/body/spirit mechanical actions:

The first puzzle to be solved by the Magus is, simply, the determination of a neutral or beginning position for the ritualist.

The GD system offers no answers here, so we must design a solution that is compatible with the other postures found in the GD. What John Michael Greer and myself have independently arrived at is the “neutral stance” in Tai Chi Chuan, itself a position with several layers of meaning. It is a quiescent state, one of tranquility and full of the possibilities inherent in Malkuth. This cannot and should not be practiced "1, 2, 3, 4 ...". There is only this accomplishment, this motion. All else is devoid of meaning. Approach this with a state of reverence, play and curiosity, and allow assumption of the posture to guide your visualization and accompanying sonics.

When viewed from above, the feet are arranged thus:

This forms the character “pu” in Chinese, a gentleman.

/ \

The line of movement would be as follows:

1. / \

2. \


3, / \

Step out with the left foot, slowly, moving the hips and torso forward while raising the arms in sections--first the right shoulder, then the right upper arm, the forearm, the wrist, and finally the fingers. If a light were to be taped to the fingers, the lifted arm would be seen to follow a spiral pattern. The action is one of rising to the heights while remaining grounded and in constant, deliberate motion.

A brief exhalation should accompany the completed gesture, with the finger raised to the lips as the final stage of the action. It might help to meditate on the way a bird breathes--its bones are hollow, and fill with air as they move. There is a centered lightness about this, but one should not emulate a wooden puppet on strings, as that would be a performance denying the existence of gravity. The eyes strike in harmony with the arms. This simple movement occurs not merely in time and space, but from one breath to the next, the Magus will take on, assume and finally cast off the aura and mental state of the neteru in the Work.

There is dynamic movement through passive, active and "quiescent" energy states within the ritual space that manifest with each glance, action or sound that should be attended to by the practitioner. Nothing is static for more than a bare instant.

Prior to the advent of cheap, universally available recordings in the 20th century, folks had to have a personal teacher or guess a whole lot when pronouncing foreign words. This would have especially applied to Egyptian. If I were to put money on it, I suspect the HODG Egyptian pronunciation had a decidedly French feel to it.

Consider the circulation of the officers in a fraternal lodge about the ritual space, and think about it in terms of "magnetic healing" or what today might be termed "Polarity Work." without the relevance of physical gender or inclination. (I’ll expand on this in future posts.)

Now, with this post in mind, go back to the Solar Adoration and apply the movement discipline of Delsarte to your own mechanics. Don't worry--it will take a while for you to learn how to relax. (In Delsarte schools, pratfalls and flatfalls were taught. In my opinion this is unnecessary and counter-productive. I'll introduce a safer and equally valuable tool in a few posts.) I'll detail some useful bits on Delsarte chanting in a few posts. Until then, practice, practice, practice!

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