and the SACRED FIRE
The Lam-Serpent Sadhana at Group Level
The Lam-Serpent Sadhana is essentially a devotional Working. It proceeds by evoking Lam as a Serpent (the Lam-Serpent) at the base of the spine, and raising it along the sushumna to the Thousand-Petalled lotus and beyond, invoking the chakras as it passes through them. A model of such a practice was given in the article 'The Lam-Serpent Sadhana' in Starfire Volume Two Number One. Since then, a circle of initiates has been developing this Sadhana as a group Working.
The Sadhana is readily adaptable to group Working, when it becomes more powerful. Each initiate is responsible for the invocations at a specific chakra. This means that they devise the invocation, lead that section of the ritual, and guide the visualizations and other sensory evocations. The discipline is, of course, that all must be conducted as a group exercise. Each part needs therefore to be not only coherent within itself, but equally an integral step in the group edifice being constructed. It is obviously crucial in a group Working that the individual efforts are co-ordinated, and thus there is generally a Lodge Master or Mistress appointed for a particular Working. It is his or her job to monitor the course of the Working, to judge when a particular stage has been reached, and when it is time to move on to the next stage.
The fulcrum of the group Sadhana lies in the visualizations and their analogies across the other senses - smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Group astral images are constructed, developed and intensified by all participants concentrating upon the group construct. Imagination is an incalculably powerful tool, because it is the matrix or womb, the cross-roads where human and praeter-human consciousness meet. The bridge is open-ended; what begins as image-building becomes increasingly palpable, a vessel for praeter-human forces, and takes on a life of its own. Imagination is thus the womb in which this communion with the praeter-human takes place. The image is at first an artifice, but becomes enfleshed by forces attracted by the Rite, which indwell the astral construct and lend it animation. This is not dissimilar to the creation of an homunculus, the goal of many an alchemical operation.
After the opening banishings and invocations, it has been our practice to cast a yantra, within the confines of which the subsequent Working takes place. The yantra we chose was the Smashana Kali Yantra, and the method of casting is for the initiates to visualize the yantra in unison for several minutes. The centre of the circle thus becomes the bindu or central dot at the heart of the yantra, within the downward-pointing triangles. The bindu becomes the central focus of the circle, and the place where the Lam-Serpent is evoked in the course of the Working. The more intensely the yantra is built up, the more powerful is the Working; the yantra becomes in this way the foundation, and thus needs to be solidly established.
When the yantra has been established to the satisfaction of the Lodge Master or Mistress, the mantra LAM is subsequently chanted a number of times, to further focus the attention. The Talam-Malat invocation may then be used by the Lodge-Master. After this, the invocations of the successive chakras begins. These invocations are the responsibility of each participant of the Rite. It is again emphasised that each invocation must serve as an integral and contributory part of the whole, as well as being designed to evoke the particular attributes of the chakra.
Although one particular initiate leads the chakra invocation, the other members of the circle participate actively in it, by for instance vibrating the appropriate bija-mantra as a background sussuration or seething, and building up the images created in the course of the invocation. In this way a state of magical pregnancy is developed, and the atmosphere becomes ever tenser with expectancy and anticipation.
The vibration of the bija-mantras has an important rôle to play in this intensification of atmosphere. The mantra is not simply intoned, but outpoured. The term vibration is the key: the entire being of the initiate should vibrate to and with the mantra. The mantra should be unhurried and drawn out, with emphasis on the terminating letter m. In group Working the mantras have a particularly powerful effect, with strange resonances and harmonies developing. Obviously, where the mantra is being employed as a background sussuration, it will be less audible.
With each successive invoedtion, the Lam-Serpent waxes stronger and more tangible, becoming ever more palpable in two locations simultaneously - along the sushumna of the initiate, and in the centre of the Circle. The Lam-Serpent writhes, undulant and magnificent, its scales iridescent, its eyes flashing. The air is electric with the energy of its rising, the impress of it blazing through every sense, the echo of its presence sweeping across the nadis. The more intensely the Serpent is built up, the more readily will it take on a life of its own. Thus the evocation of the Lam-Serpent is a truly co-operative venture: the more powerful the act of imagination, the more vitality and power is attracted to the image from praeter-human realms of consciousness.
When the invocation has reached the region of the Ajna chakra, the summit of human awareness has been reached, and the climax of the Lam-Serpent Sadhana comes with the surge upwards through the Sahasrara and then outwards. This outwards leap is the sudden and dynamic expansion of awareness in all directions - almost an explosion. Difficult though this outwards impulse might seem at first, it becomes easier with practice. There are some practices given in Crowley's Liber 536 (published in The Equinox I,10, and republished in The Complete Astrological Writings) which are helpful here. Also similar is the creation of the massive columns of consciousness at the elemental quarters in Crowley's Liber Samekh.
At our group Workings to date, an expansion/contraction period of about five minutes has proved optimal. With more practice, awareness ranges further and deeper, but this growth has to occur of its own volition. Again, it is up to the Lodge Master or Mistress to gauge when the optimal outflow has been reached, and to signal for contraction to occur. This is the collapsing of awareness back to the human vehicle of consciousness, down through the Sahasrara, where it takes once more the form of the Lam-Serpent. The Serpent then journeys down along the sushumna, returning to its ultimate resting place in the Muladhara. At each chakra on the downward journey the appropriate bija-mantra is vibrated several times, to seal the chakra. Finally, at rest in the Muladhara, the Lam-Serpent sleeps once more, dreaming - the dreaming which constitutes the maya, or what masquerades as everyday reality.
This, then, is an outline of a group approach utilising the Lam-Serpent Sadhana. Drawing on my own experience, I practice this Sadhana in three different contexts: by myself, on the lines of the Sadhana as outlined in the previous issue of Starfire; with my Priestess, Soror Artemis; and as a group Working within the Lamal Lodge. The dynamics are radically different in each case.
Lam is not the only example of praeter-human Intelligence that there is. Nor should Lam be considered as some sort of mystical superman. The fact is that there is no such thing as entity in the sense of something which maintains an enduring form. Instead, there are transient agglomerations of consciousness, in a constant state of flux and flow. No matter how solid things might appear to us as 'everyday reality', heightened awareness brings a different perspective. There are diverse methods of reaching this heightened awareness - some brief and superficial, like drugs; others, such as yoga and magic, which are deeper and longer lasting when pursued on a regular, disciplined basis.
To encounter praeter-human entity is to weaken the notion of a self which is sovereign and separate, having an existence apart from the rest of the universe; this universe is thought of as somehow 'out there'. In reality, there is nothing other than consciousness, which is continuous; and entities - whether human or praeter-human - are transient agglomerations of consciousness. Form is something which crystallizes out of consciousness and is subsequently reabsorbed, leading to further crystallization in an apparent space-time continuum. This is not something philosophical, a speculation far removed from 'reality': it is fact. The problem for our human reasoning is that we are like two-dimensional creatures trying to comprehend a third dimension; it can't be done within those limitations. Magical and mystical experience heightens awareness of other dimensions, of wider and deeper ranges of consciousness.
The Lam-Serpent Sadhana does not make a facile equation between Lam and the Kundalini, but suggests an analogy. To savour this analogy to the full, we need to consider the nature of Kundalini more deeply - not because we are preoccupied with it particularly, but because there is more to it than meets the eye, so to speak. The Kundalini, or Fire Snake, is not simply a vast concentrated energy located at the base of the spine, but is a haunted avenue to praeter-human consciousness. The Kundali-shakti which sleeps at the base of the spine is the same Kundali-shakti which spins the maya, the drama of multitudinous form spun out across space and time - the dream which we take for reality, or being awake. We are not, though, fully awake; we are still dreaming. Disciplines like Kundalini yoga are pursued in order to awaken fully; it is as simple as that.
There is also an analogy between Cthulhu and Kundali-shakti. Just as the shakti lies immersed in sleep at the Muladhara, dreaming existence, so too does Cthulhu lie dreaming in the sunken city of R'lyeh. Like shakti, Cthulhu can awaken and rise to enlightenment. In both cases we are dealing here with something, the arousal of which brings about an awareness of other dimensions of consciousness, of passing beyond the restrictions of space and time.
Lam is not essentially an entity, but a Gateway to gnosis, or awakening. This aspect has been explored more fully in articles in the two preceding issues of Starfire. The Lam-Serpent Sadhana was developed on the basis of LAM being the bija-mantra of the Muladhara chakra. It is not an attempt to identify Lam with the Fire Snake, but an exploration of analogies. Imagination suggested the analogy, and it has proved a fertile ground. It is, though, a staging-post, not the end of the journey; sooner or later it will be time to move on.
The article 'The Lam-Serpent Sadhana' in the previous issue of Starfire included an outline of how the Sadhana might be constructed as an individual practice. Since writing that article I have carried on developing the Sadhana, both at group and at individual level. A substantial Lam-Serpent Sadhana takes an hour or so to carry out, often longer. However, a shortened version, the Talam-Malat Sadhana, makes a daily or twice-daily practice which can be carried out by even the most time-pressed person.
Any of the many standard banishing rituals will do. My own favourite is the Lesser Pentagram, but many will perhaps prefer the Star Ruby. Whatever banishing ritual is used, perform it thoroughly, with attention. Create and maintain the Pentagrams and the elemental entities at the quarters as powerfully as you can, utilising all the senses.
Again, any invoking ritual can be used. I normally use the Lesser Hexagram, which incorporates the invoking earth hexagram. As with the banishing, be thorough.
This is an brief evocation of six lines which celebrates Lam as an avatar of Silence and as a gateway to the Aeon of Maat:
Visualise Smashana Kali Yantra as covering the field of operation. Where the magician is standing should be the bindu of the central triangles. Establish the yantra as clearly and as intensely as possible. Then vibrate the mantra LAM five times.
Visualise the Lam-Serpent as being asleep in the Muladhara, coiled three and a half times around the shiva-lingam. Reflect that the Lam-Serpent dreams, and its dreaming is what we take as waking reality. Now vibrate the Bija-Mantra LAM slowly, with resonance; the vibration comes not from the throat, but outwards from the Muladhara. As the bija-mantra is vibrated the Lam-Serpent stirs, awakens, and arises. As it arises and ascends the sushumna, it comes successively to each of the remaining chakras, the appropriate bija-mantra being vibrated. Again, the vibration comes not with the intonation from the throat, but from the location of the chakra. The location and bija-mantra of each successive chakra is as follows:
The Lam-Serpent leaps forth, out through the Gateway of the Sahasrara Chakra, into cosmic immensity, rushing outwards in every dimension of space. With this rapid expansion, utter the cry OLA-LAM IMAL TUTULU! Then the contraction takes place, and once more the return through the Gateway of the Sahasrara Chakra. Then the Lam-Serpent descends the sushumna, the appropriate bija-mantra being vibrated at each chakra on the journey back to the Muladhara. There the Lam-Serpent once more sleeps.
This can be any standard closing. I use the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, but it can be anything of the magician's choosing or devising. Such are the bare bones of the Sadhana, and it should be customised by the initiate and made his or her own. It can never be stressed enough that initiation is an idiosyncratic matter, at root an intimate relationship between the initiate and the universe.
© Michael Staley
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