Last week for the Feast of the Annunciation Fr. James Martin, SJ, wrote an interesting reflection on having a profound divine experience...and then the facilitator of that experience, in the case of Mary the Archangel Gabriel, ends up leaving. And you have to go back to normal and you have to go back to day to day life. From Fr. James's point of view “and then the angel left,” the words which powerfully but subtly describe the singular nature of the moment which Mary experienced, are the words which are most important for Catholics trying to relate to this passage, or this event in scripture.
And then the angel left.
This describes the fact that moments of peak religious experience end, and then like Mary, you have to go back to dealing with your day to day life.
Fr. James's point about the Annunciation is a pretty interesting one. Especially, perhaps, from the perspective of a magician. We engage in some pretty amazing experiences. We do some epic stuff on a mundane level, like cool rituals or initiations, or traveling to interesting places to discover unusual things, or reading interesting forgotten histories and stories, and various things like that which most other people just don't think about. On a more directly magical level, we experience stuff like visions and revelations, foreknowledge of the future, awareness of things we shouldn't be aware of, conversations with angels, demons and other spirits, and moments where we mold our world to our will, or where we experience the coalescence of the divine. All of these things can pepper our lives with amazement.
But then the angel left.
We go back to school, or work, or taking care of the kids. We vacuum the rug and sweep the floor, make dinner and do the dishes, pay the bills, and find time to make it to bed at night to get just enough sleep to survive. All that other amazing stuff happened but it's just that, it's something that happened, in the past, and it was cool...but, what about the rest of the time?
People often ask “what's it like for the hero of the movie after the movie is over and his life goes back to normal?” In a way, that can be what our lives are like when we do magic. We have our spiritual adventure and then we're back to the grind, knowing that we get to do amazing stuff and be amazing...but just not right now. Right now we get to be humdrum.
That shift can be ok, depending on what our life is like; but it can also be miserable. Because it's fun getting sweet talked by a good looking angel...
Until the point where the angel left.
I think some of what we see online, or even in offline occult communities, is explained in part by this. Sometimes people get into magic because they feel small, but they want to feel epic. Sometimes they get to experience a moment that lets them know that epicness is there...but it's fleeting, or it might even be scary and so pursuing more epic moments might not feel comfortable. It's a lot easier to go online and be a mystical magical bad ass in your spare time, and that way your magical adventure movie is part of daily life.
But there are better ways to avoid that awkward feeling of waiting for the angel to call you back after what you thought was a great time.
Maybe, just don't be humdrum. Maybe you can be epic as a magician, and you can also fill your life with other epic things. Not to brag, but as a financial adviser I have multi-millionaires who ask me what to do with their money, and the bulk of my non-work non-magic time is filled with teaching people to use swords. In conjunction with that last part, this past summer I watched the Olympics, with an Olympian, who has complimented me several times on how well I train people in her sport. To me this seems not quite humdrum. My life has some cool stuff but that said I might not always feel epic, and I might totally hang out in the valleys of mental and emotional experience sometimes, but I keep my life pretty interesting even when I'm not talking to angels and seeking visions of the whirling potentials at the beginning of the cosmos. I think we all have that potential to live our lives in ways that are cool. So staying legendary is one option for diminishing that sense of banality.
The other option is to be a proper mystic. Because...when I had my most vivid experience of an angel, and it made its annunciations to me of those things it had to announce, the angel didn't leave. We have knowledge of one another that allows us to converse as needed. Your angel is there with you. You just have to build the relationship where you can keep in communion with it and where you can learn to rely on its contact and inspiration.
So yeah, in a lot of religious contexts, there are peak experiences and then the rest of life is the doldrums. But not so for adepts. The Sacred Magic is all about the angel showing up and not leaving.
Now, you won't always be in a place where you're grooving on mystical consciousness, but that's fine. There will be times in life where your angel might seem further away because you're in a place where you just can't do whatever it is you're called to do, and you can't do the magic, and you can't look to your angel, because, sometimes life is just like that. It may even feel like you're cut off. But, once you claw out of that place, and you reach out to your angel, and you show you're ready to get back to your work, your angel will be there ready to jump right into it with you.
So even when you're not riding high on spiritual experience, it's not because the angel left. The angel is still there with you, waiting for you to be ready again. To me that's a lot better. I'd rather know my angel is still there for me than know that after he's said his message he's going to bounce, and he may or may not ever be back.
I guess part of this difference is because we're choosing to be mystics, we're choosing to be magicians, we're actively seeking to create a relationship with the angel rather than going about our days until some flash of brilliance appears for a fleeting moment.
With that in mind, the practical piece of this is that we have to do the work to meet our angels. That doesn't mean we all have to dive into the Abramelin working. But being mindful when we engage in our developmental magical exercises how they might engage our angel is a start towards forming that connection.
Find prayers and rituals that connect to your angel. For instance I really like the Anthem from the Gnostic Mass for that purpose. With the Mass in mind, reflect on how the Eucharist connects you to your angel. Dive into that connection as your feel it.
Maybe set an altar for your angel and do devotional work with it. Come up with some prayers to use for the purpose of communion or opening lines of communication. Consecrate a candle or lamp to your angel and light it when you talk with the angel. Get some Abramelin or temple incense, or at the least frankincense, to offer to the angel while you're working at the altar.
There's lots of options short of the retreat. The PGM has several useful prayers that can help with this or be an inspiration towards it. Find what suits you and do it. And when your angel helps you determine it's time for the retreat you'll be all the more prepared.