Fasting and Magical Practice, my thoughts on Ritual Purity Vs. Spiritual Coolness.

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I was reading a blog post by Aron Leitch called  Ritual Purity vs. Spiritual Coolness, and thought I’d chime in on the practice from a Taoist point of view.His post can be found here: https://aaronleitch.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/llewellyn-magick-blog-ritual-purity-vs-spiritual-coolness/

 

Gentle reader, you may or may not know this about me, but I fast quite regularly. Fasting is one of the principal tasks in a Taoists’ daily practice. The aim is for Taoist to keep their body clean and their Qi pure.This has nothing to do with giving up what you enjoy, but as Aron has written:

 

” the point of the ritual preparations (aka “purifications”) is to spiritually cool you down. Meditation; contemplation; prayer; seclusion; fasting; baths; cleaning the ritual tools and space; avoidance of sex, meat, and blood; etc. All of these result in a calm and cool body, mind, and atmosphere wherein the magick can take place.”

 

Mr. Leitch is ultimately correct in saying a calm and cool body and mind is a key factor in the calling of spiritual entities. Fasting existed long ago in ancient China, it is a much older practice then the Christian and Jewish form that is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible, and is practiced by nearly every magical discipline. Often times In Western religions, fasts are observed as a counterpoint to feasts and celebrations, and as a form of penance and self-mortification. Mystics and saints combined intensive fasting with isolation and other practices to achieve ecstatic states in which they believed they attained union with God.

 

When dealing with the Left Hand Path and Fasting we must note that The practices of the left hand school of kaula tantra that attract the most attention from non-initiates involve the use of wine, meat, fish,physical gestures, and physical union. There is another component, which is less well known: fasting from these five makaras. I bring this up because often times those who approach the Left Hand Path in the west see it as a pass to get drunk, work with some Demon, become wild, and enjoy the company of Satan either in a secluded place or at a crowded road crossing.According to some practitioners, no restrictions and no discipline are required; simply be spontaneous and do anything you want.

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Now let me ask you something, isn’t that what your doing right now? has it brought any change to your life that has improved you in anyway?I mean the Left Hand Path is suppose to be all about improving the self, for the self.  How is it possible to improve the self and becoming a god if you can’t resolve these contradictions?To talk of the left hand school of kaula tantra once more, The only practitioners who have the authority to accept others as students are those who are purnabhishikta, literally “the one who has taken a complete bath.” This refers to a high level of tantric initiation, which is done by a master who is samrajyabhishikta, which means “one who is anointed as the emperor of all kaula tantrics”—and believe me folks, there are very few samrajyabhishikta tantrics. There are more purnabhishikta tantrics, although they too are quite rare. Assuming that you can find a purnabhishikta tantric who is willing to teach you, he or she will put you through an arduous discipline before you are taught how to worship Shakti with the five makaras.

 

 

This discipline involves a strict schedule of sleeping and waking, exercising, and either fasting or living only on havishyanna—rice mixed with ghee that is left over after the offering to the fire. You will also have to complete a lengthy course of japa—repeating a mantra thousands of times.In other words, you cannot just walk in and be initiated. This preliminary discipline is so rigorous (you may even call it torturous) that by the time you have completed it, your senses will have lost their taste for pleasure and your mind will no longer find charm in the outer world.

 

 

Taoist ideas on fasting are no less strict. The Book of Changes claims that to fast is to take preventive measures against wrong-doings to reform oneself thoroughly. In the book Mencius it is written: “Even a villain can worship the Higher Emperor so long as he fasts.” Records about fasting can also be found in several chapters of the Book of Rites. It is recorded in the Taoist cannon that to fast is to commune with spirits and ghosts. Ancestor Lu wrote “As one is going to fast, he or she must guard against everything evil and get rid of hobbies and desires. It would be better not to listen to music, not to worry about anything, and not to move with one’s hand and feet.”( I bet he was fun at parties…) Taoism inherited the skill of fasting for the purpose of restraining desire and to offer sacrifice to the spirits as well as to Heaven and Earth.

 

Most if not all the Grimoires from the solomonic tradition require Fasting as prior preparation of the operator before Evocation, some say three days, for others the duration is nine days before the beginning of the work .The operator must be purified with fasting , chastity & abstinency from all luxury the space of three whole days before the day of the operation. often we are told you should seek solitude as much as possible ( avoid social activities & stress ), have a fasting diet – raw vegetables ,only modest amounts of meat added as a side dish in the first 3-4 days. Interaction with the family & friends should be kept to minimum, sexual activity of any kind is to be strictly avoided!

 

The Book of Esoteric Explications of the Three Heavens written in the Liu Song dynasty of the epoch of division between South and North said: “To learn Tao, one must fast first. Thus one can keep one’s body clean externally and one’s mind empty and pristine internally, so much so that one ascends while the Perfected descend. Finally he and Tao will be one. A long time of fasting can help one communicate with the Perfect Tao without violating any taboos.”

 

 

Despite its long antecedents, fasting as a practice has been both secularized and harshly criticized in the modern Western world. Incorporated into fad diets and dubious health regimes, promoted as a health restoring miracle with irrational and questionable claims, fasting as a “diet” practice has been severely condemned by orthodox medicine with some justification. When fasting is practiced by political protesters and anorexics, its symptoms are chronicled with morbid sympathy by the news media and ideological writers. In a society obsessed with eating and food, very little is said about the spiritual implications – far less the magical ones – of fasting.Fasting is one of the most primal of the challenges we can set to ourselves, one which accomplishes several different objectives. It sharply outlines the limitations of our own self-control, and demonstrates to us the degree to which we are slaves to our own appetites and unconscious of our eating habits.

 

It draws our awareness toward the polarity between life and death.A magician fasts not in order to deny, but in order to use Will to create changes – the definition of Magic itself. At every stage in the fasting process, the adept is forced to confront a series of adversaries – psychological dependencies, bodily weakness, anger, fear, and loss. Fasting becomes a process of self-discovery and a doorway to self-transformation. Fasting deepens our appreciation of food as a privilege, a pleasure, and a gift. It demonstrates our dependency on arbitrary structures such as mealtimes for functioning on a daily basis. And finally, fasting very quickly produces an altered state of consciousness through physical stress, thereby following a pattern common in shamanic practices. By physically changing our bodies, fasting alters our spirits, and our ability to communicate with spirits.It can crack that opening and give us the key to journeys in other realms and to radically different forms of perception.

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Since the Tang and Song Dynasties, fasting has been closely connected with chanting scriptures and the calling of spirits,  which has always been a part of Taoists’ routine practice. The Collected Annotations of the Book of Salvation wrote that if one persists in fasting, burning joss sticks and chanting scriptures, one is sure to be rewarded with boundless fortune, for he has accumulated so many merits and virtues. On the one hand, fasting is powerful enough to eliminate natural disasters and ensure the king’s throne as well as blessings for the state. On the other hand, it can put an end to various poisons and save the common people from misfortunes.

 

Fasting has two functions in Taoist practice. Firstly, it is a step to cultivate the Tao. Taoist scriptures state: “Fasting is necessary for a Taoist to cultivate Perfection in a Taoist temple. Be careful about what you say and be prudent so as not to make mistakes. Then you may approach Tao.” The Taoist Wu believes that fasting is the root of Tao and the bridge of skills. If one is to cultivate Tao, he must fast and meditate on the cinnabar field, keep the perfect Tao in one’s mind, and then one’s desires disappear automatically.”

 

Secondly, it is a method of communicating with spirits. When it comes to fasting and reciting scriptures, Zhang Yuchu wrote in the Ten Taoist Winds: “Anyone cultivating Tao must fast for a clean body as well as a pure heart, and he must visualize the Spirits he would like to call and read Taoist scriptures silently in his mind. It is as if facing the Higher Emperor, communicating with him with the heart. Once concentrating on it with a pure heart, he will understand the perfect meaning of the Tao. If one reads aloud the scriptures in a clear and melodious sound, the Vital Breath will rise and harmonize smoothly, so one can accumulate merits quickly.

 

 

Generally for Taoists, it is encouraged to fast(vegeterian diet) on the first and fifteen day of the lunar month.On special days, such as a sage’s birthday, anniversaries and for a number of days before the time of rituals, it is important to fast too. There are even certain days set aside in the month whereby Taoists who are cultivating the Qi are encouraged to fast on these unique days at certain times of the day, but I’m not going to go into all of that here. In closing, I recommend the practice for any path, especially if you plan on working with spiritual entities of any sort. It can only help your practice.But don’t take my word for it, put down that hamburger for a day and try it for yourself!

Stay Gold everyone….

Fasting and Magical Practice, my thoughts on Ritual Purity Vs. Spiritual Coolness. was originally published on The Hidden Left Hand

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