THE LAM-SERPENT SADHANA
I. Background to this Sadhana
This is the second in a series of articles arising out of the development of Lam as a Way of Initiation. Readers may recall the conclusion of the article 'Lam: The Gateway' in the previous issue of Starfire, that Lam was not simply an entity, but a Gateway to the direct experience of Gnosis. This Direct Experience is the goal of magical and mystical working.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If Lam has such a potential, then that potential should be readily tapped. Therefore, fresh ways of working with Lam should be coming to the fore. It is in this spirit that the present sadhana has been developed, and is offered to anyone who wishes to try it. Do not expect a gleaming, finished product, but rather a skeleton approach which must be fleshed out by the Initiate for himself or herself. As a matter of interest, the need for customisation and elaboration is the case with all rituals and practices. Even a practice as apparently simple as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is worked differently by each Initiate, no matter how closely he or she may try to keep to the text. This is because, apart from differences in gesture and pronunciation, the fulcrum lies in the imaginative evocations, and these will differ considerably from person to person. More than this: the practice is different from one working to the next. If these considerations are true for the simpler rituals, how much more so in the case of more complex ones, such as Reguli or Samekh.
There is another reason for the approach of laying skeletons before the revered presence of our readers - for we at Starfire are not gratuitously necrophilist. Readers - or rather, those that are sufficiently interested to not only read but to work with what they have read - will gain maximum benefit from a practice not by merely following something laid down, but by experimenting and on the basis of their experience adapting the ritual to suit themselves. This approach is sound. Although Lam arises from the Amalantrah Working, Crowley never elaborated the theme. It is up to us, therefore, to develop it ourselves if it is to be useful to us.
II. Development of this sadhana
In the course of the article in the previous issue of Starfire, it struck me that there was a possible connection with the Fire Snake through the very name Lam. This is because "LAM" is the bija-mantra or rootsound of the Muladhara Chakra, which is the home of the Fire Snake. In the head of Lam, as drawn by Crowley, there is clearly visible a stylisation of the Ajna Chakra. Arising from the head of Lam is also shown an umbra, a spring or fountain; one of the symbols associated with the Manipura Chakra is the 'Fountain of Dew'. Although the context is not precisely the same, the term struck me as being especially fitting to describe the umbra.
Several months ago I read an account of a dream which suggested that the head of Lam was mounted upon a serpent's body. Immediately the connections outlined above slipped into place. On the basis of my own experience with Lam to date, there is a strong connection with the Holy Guardian Angel as well as the Aeon of Maat. These connections are explored in the article mentioned above, as well as a talk on Lam which I gave at Oxford in October 1994 [available from the author on request], and so I won't go over them again here. The Fire Snake is of the same order of fundamental importance, though, and in retrospect the Fire Snake connection is not surprising.
The next step was to develop a practice based on a Fire Snake approach. I avoided the hathayoga exercises which are utilised in the direct, physical arousal of the Fire Snake, and opted instead for an approach which is based upon visualisation. Some people might consider this a diluted, less powerful approach. However, we want to call forth the energies of the Fire Snake in amounts which we can utilise in our Operations, rather than unleash its raw energy in a manner possibly cataclysmic. Most of us are quite happy using the power of electricity in just such a controlled manner, rather than connecting ourselves directly to the supply - no matter how 'enlightening' we might conjecture the outcome to be. The techniques of physical arousal, subsumed within Kundalini Yoga, are best applied under the guidance of a qualified teacher of that method.
For those not familiar with the chakra system, there is posited the existence of a number of chakras and nadis in the 'subtle body' of the human being. There are a large number, but the most important are the six chakras listed below, which are located at various points along the spinal column. The Muladhara is in the region of the perinaeum, just below the genital area. The Svadisthana is just above the genital area, whilst the Manipura is at the region of the navel. The Anahata is at the region of the heart, and the Visuddha is at the area of the throat. Finally, the Ajna is located between the eyebrows, more or less at the head of the spinal column.
The central nadi is Sushumna, which is within the spinal column. There are deemed to be several nadis within the Sushumna; these do not concern us here, though hatha yogins might like to build an awareness of these into the sadhana. Two other nadis, ida and pingala, are ranged either side of the Sushumna, crossing over at several points.
There is a seventh main chakra, the Sahasrara - the Thousand Petalled lotus, over the top of the head. However, it is not a part of the anatomy of the individual, but where individualised consciousness merges into cosmic immensity, Outside, the Beyond, or whatever nominalisation of transcendence we might care to use. Within hatha yoga, it is here that the arisen Kundalini is fused in blissful union with Brahma, causing the nectar or sixteenth digit of the moon to flow. In other words, this is the experience of Samadhi, where we awaken once again to our cosmic, pan-dimensional, extra-terrestrial reality. This Gnosis is the goal of all magical and mystical disciplines.
The present approach, therefore, combines visualisation, invocation and mantra. Lam is cast as the Fire Snake with the head of Lam, coiled three-and-one-half times in sleep around the Shivalingam, in the Muladhara Chakra at the base of the Sushumna, the nadi which is located inside the spinal column. The fundamental visualisation is thus that of the Lam-Serpent, the Serpent with the head of Lam. The Lam-Serpent is taken upwards along the Sushumna, pausing at each Chakra for invocation and reverberation of the bija-mantra appropriate to that Chakra. Finally, the summit of the Sushumna is attained at the Ajna Chakra, and the Lam-Serpent surges through the Sahasrara Chakra and beyond, into cosmic immensity.
The invocations at each chakra have been kept short, though pointed via correspondences etc. to the specific chakra. For instance, the sense of smell is attributed to the Muladhara via the Earth Tattva; that of taste to the Svadisthana through the white, crescent moon, etc. The visualisation centres around the Lam-Serpent rising along the Sushumna through the chakras in turn, each of which is vivified in the process, becoming clearer and stronger in its visualisation - colours, number of petals, etc. The Lam-Serpent should be clearly felt in its progress along the Sushumna, using all senses to aid this evocation. Sensations and images of undulation, uncoiling, surging forth, etc., are of great help here. The bija-mantras should be vibrated at the appropriate chakra. That is, although vocalised, their centre of activity should be focused firmly at the chakra, from where the mantra reverberates outwards. Their function is to assist in the awakening of that particular chakra. The more resonant and rich the vibration of the bija-mantra, the more powerful will be the effect.
In this way, the Lam-Serpent stretches forth, uncoiling its undulant length from the Muladhara to the Ajna. At this point it pauses upon the brink; the Initiate should use this pause to strengthen the awareness of its presence. The Sahasrara is not so much an individual chakra, like the other six, as the gateway to cosmic immensity or Beyond. The Lam-Serpent surges forth through this gateway and billows into cosmic immensity; the fountain of dew overflows, raining through all space, all time, all dimension, all being - omnipresent, pan-dimensional. This is the instant of Gnosis, of eternity, of samadhi; consciousness is no longer individual, but universal. In the process, the 'instant' is 'eternal'; the point is everywhere.
Then, there is a return to individuality. Consciousness again coagulates, centres around the Sahasrara, condensing. As it again enters the body, and journeys back down the Sushumna to the base of the spine, at each chakra the bija-mantra is vibrated once as it passes, to seal its descent. Then, when the Muladhara has been rejoined, the bija-mantra "LAM" is intoned and the hands clapped together, to signal the earthing. This return may well be elaborated by the Initiate into a reversal of the rising.
III. The Structure of the Lam-Serpent sadhana
The Initiate opens with the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This is followed by the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram, utilising the Earth hexagram at each quarter. This section will of course be replaced should the style of opening which the Initiate prefers to use be different. Then follows a declamation celebrating Lam, to open the Working proper:
Lam! Thou Voice of the Silence!Now visualise Lam as Kundalini-shakti, coiled at the base of the spine. The visualisation is of a Serpent with the head of Lam. Spend several minutes on this visualisation; the sharper and clearer it is, the better. When satisfied with the visualisation of the Lam-Serpent, proceed to awaken it by vibrating the bija-mantra LAM for several minutes, until the Snake stirs. Then intone the invocation of this chakra:
LAM!The Lam-Serpent ascends the sushumna slowly, vertebra by vertebra, until it comes to the Svadisthana Chakra. The bija-mantra VAM is vibrated; then an invocation is intoned:
VAM!The Lam-Serpent ascends slowly, as before, to the region of the manipura Chakra - the solar plexus. The bija-mantra RAM is vibrated, and the invocation intoned:
RAM!The Lam-Serpent now ascends slowly to the region of the Anahata Chakra, the heart. The bija-mantra YAM is vibrated, and the invocation intoned:
YAM!The Lam-Serpent continues its ascent, reaching the Visuddha Chakra, the region of the throat. The bija-mantra HAM is vibrated; the invocation:
HAM!The Lam-Serpent ascends to the Ajna Chakra, the region between the eyes at the root of the nose. The bija-mantra OM is vibrated; the invocation:
OM!The Lam-Serpent now rears upwards, and billows out to cosmic immensity, pan-dimensional, all space, all time:
Thou, who surges forth into the Sahasrara Chakra,
IV - Consolidation
What has been provided in the course of this article is the skeleton of the Lam-Serpent sadhana. The flesh has to be developed by the Initiate in the light of his own initiation. Before going on to consider this point in more detail, let us first consider the overall flavour which this sadhana imparts, which is the chakra system.
The sadhana utilises the basic correspondences associated with each chakra. These correspondences may be gleaned from, for instance, The Serpent Power by Sir John Woodroffe. The most basic ones are as follows:
Chakra; Colour; Petals; Tattva; Sense
Muladhara; Red; 4; Yellow Square; Smell
Svadhisthana; Vermilion; 6; White Crescent; Taste
Manipura; Raincloud; 10; Red Triangle; Sight
Anahata; Vermilion; 12; Smoky Hexagram; Touch
Visuddha; Smoky Purple; 16; White Circle; Sound
Ajna; --; 2; --; Mentation
Each chakra has its own sense, colour, form, etc. assigned to it. The idea of the chakra invocations is, therefore, to heighten the experience by utilising a variety of the correspondences. At the Muladhara Chakra, for example, we might visualise the chakra as with four red petals, inside of which is the yellow square.
Within it we would visualise the Lam-Serpent, coiled three-and-one half around the shivalingam or base of the spine. We might stimulate the sense of smell by imagining rich perfumes. We would use the correspondences at the Svadisthana and subsequent chakras in a similar fashion. There are other correspondences, in addition to the basic ones listed above, which can be used; these can be found from texts such as Woodroffe's The Serpent Power or The Garland of Letters. These correspondences can also be built into the invocations, to reinforce the evocation of the various senses. This is best left to the creativity and imagination of the Initiate.
Such imagination should not be restricted to the chakras. As the Lam-Serpent awakens and courses along the sushumna, what impact does it have on the body-mind complex? Are there any changes in awareness? Feel its powerful, surging undulations; hear its sinuous hisses as it arises; see its scales shimmer and sparkle; smell and taste the divine nectar which its progress towards the Sahasrara stimulates. Many magicians have a bias towards visualisation in their imaginative workings; heighten the experience by involving all the senses in what will thereby become a glorious, intoxicating synaesthesia.
Repetition has a positive role to play here. The invocations are not intended to be elegant, literary pieces - though for the Initiate of a literary disposition this would perhaps be helpful - but tools to do a specific job. That job is the amplification to a crescendo of the evocation of the Lam-Serpent. The repetition of, for instance, the surging, undulant sensation of the Lam-Serpent as it courses along the Sushumna will heighten the experience and strengthen the impact. The stronger and more vivid the evocation of the Lam-Serpent is, the better.
When the Ajna chakra has been attained, the initiate should pause for a while, strengthening and consolidating the presence of the Lam-Serpent. Then, there should be a final surge into the Sahasrara and Beyond. At this stage the call "OLA-LAM IMAL TUTULU" is uttered. This call appears in the seventh chapter of Crowley's Liber VII, received in 1907. Nowhere does Crowley comment upon this call, thus giving us freedom in its use. We note the presence of-LAM and LAMA in the first two words, albeit in reverse; as for the third word, it suggests Cthulhu. There is a parallel between Cthulhu and Kundalini-shakti: both are masks for the dynamic energies of consciousness, the function of which is to blast away the delusion of divided consciousness. "Cthulhu lies dreaming", and so does the Shakti. It is Her dreaming which gives rise to the lila, the play of manifestation.
It is Her awakening and ascension to the Sahasrara which is the remembering of reality, the dissolution of separation. Consciousness roams the universe, free, unbounded; no longer restricted, individual; but cosmic.
The Initiate should not expect instant illumination from the use of this sadhana, though we live in hope. It is, though, one more step on the way, and one that has proved useful to the author of this article. It is presented here for further refinement, adaptation; it might suggest other avenues of approach. The Initiate must forge his own weapons. In conclusion, the author would be extremely interested to hear of the experiences of others in working with Lam: write to him at BCM Starfire, London WC1N 3 XX.
© Michael Staley
Tradução portuguesa: Michael Staley: Lam Workshop
Russian translation: МАЙКЛ СТЭЙЛИ: САДХАНА ЗМЕЯ-ЛАМА
Michael Staley: The Image of LAM
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