Kudos to Caitlin and John Matthews for a well researched, well written, well lived chronicle of walking between the physical and spiritual worlds! Walkers Between The Worlds is rather like a basic handbook for bringing ancestral (shamanic) knowledge and the magickal knowledge of the Hermetical tradition together - it honors both, and makes a very good attempt at showing why both systems are important in how we live our day to day lives. In a nutshell, Walkers Between The Worlds is a history of the Western esoteric (Mystery) traditions, from shamanic times through the middle ages, the Renaissance and on down to today.
Woven through the book are twenty-one exercises (practices) that will help the reader to find and walk the Way in their own lives. These exercises are presented in what I consider to be "order of need". In other words, they build on each other, and nothing is presented to the reader/student until the proper foundation has been set. Amazing transformation is possible for those who choose to do this work. The exercises are meant to act as a catalyst for reawakening our mystical awareness reconnect us with our roots. ( Note: This is not a "how to" book for solo practitioners. In fact, students are encouraged to find a system within the Western Hermetic tradition that they can work with. The importance of the exercises is that they allow the student to see what their lives could be if they choose to do the work.)
The Matthews define the term Western Mysteries as: "It refers to a body of esoteric teaching and knowledge constituting a system of magical technique and belief that dates from the beginning of time. From the Foretime, when our ancestors first began to explore the inner realms of existence, these Mysteries have evolved into a variety of practical ways to explore the sacred continuim of life. They have been handed down primarily by oral means, and have been remembered and practiced by those who are called to act as the memory of the group, who show the way or act as the soul or spiritual consciousness of the tribe."1
A walker between the worlds is defined as " ... any person, whether seeker, initiate or adept, who passes from the world of everyday reality into the world of spiritual reality and back again. This is accomplished through the practice of meditation, magical rituals, and ceremonies through which our everyday world and the Otherworld are comprehended as one reality."2
Walkers Between The Worlds is essentially written in two parts: Part I is a discussion of ancestral (shamanic) wisdom - the earth centered traditions of the indigenous peoples. Part II is a discussion of the alchemical nature of the Western Hermetic Tradition. The earth connected ancestral wisdom and the high magic of Hermeticism work together in a wonderful celestial harmony, symbolized by the labyrinth.
The labyrinth is seen as a symbol of the path of initiation for the mysteries. The inward spiral represents the path of the our ancestors, of native wisdom, of returning to our roots. The inward spiral, the Native Tradition, is viewed in terms of tribal consciousness moving into individual consciousness. The outward spiral represents Hermeticism and the mysteries - it takes us on an outward bound journey to the cosmos. The outward spiral, the Hermetic Tradition, is viewed in terms of moving individual consciousness into cosmic consciousness.
In discussing sacred times and sacred places (there is a wonderful thread on ley lines here), some interesting points come out that don't take up a lot of space, but that do have great import. One item that got my attention was that there are cycles to everything - that life progresses, and that our spiritual practices need to do the same. This I understood - in fact, this I took as a given. The caution that the Matthews set down was that sometimes we can recognize a sacred place, but that we need to leave it at that. We can know that it is there, but we do not need to try to bring the energies out if they are not already there and being acknowledged. Sometimes a sacred site has served its purpose, and nothing good would come of bringing those energies back again.
The Matthews also present an interesting caution about Native Wisdom (the wisdom of our ancestors). They recognize that each individual will "take on" the customs and traditions of the land that they are in, whether it is the land they were born to or not. They also encourage the seeking of clan wisdom - the Native Wisdom that comes from the lands and people that run through our veins. I find this to be very true - and I also feel that these are complimentary wisdom's. For the most part, the references in this book are to Celtic traditions and mysteries, as this is the background of the authors. For those of us in a country like the United States, where we may well be two or three generations from our homeland(s), it is vital that we retain whatever we can of our ancestry.
I want to step back for a moment and share what the Matthews have to say about preparation for doing the personal exercises in this book. Here you will see a flash of the caring and respect that is deeply imbedded in the whole of their writing:
Part I deals with our spiritual origins in the Foretime to how this energy manifests today in Wiccan, Pagan and other earth centered practices. Here we see the worship of Gods and Goddess's in a very intuitive, conscious manner. Part II is concerned with the western Hermetic Tradition, supposedly named after its founder, Hermes Trismegistus. Here we see the progress from ancient times, through the Renaissance period and into modern times of a tradition steeped in the seeking of knowledge, a belief in the oneness of all with the Divine and a movement towards superconsciousness.
As a representation of the material within this book, let's take a look at exercise number thirteen, The Temple Of Inner Wisdom.
This practice is designed to establish a temple of inner wisdom, a common meeting place where those of disparate religious traditions, or from no specific religious tradition, may meet. Of "religious loyalty is nothing else than the sincerity of our human relations with God, on the basis of the means which he puts at our disposal" (524), then we must find and use the most skillful means. Although an accident of birth determines our cultural background, and though we may find our own tradition only after having come to maturity, there exists a companionship of the sophis perennis in which we all partake.
The temple of inner wisdom is circular. Around it are set many antechambers that give access to the central area. You will enter through one of these. The inner temple is approached through the antechamber representing your own tradition. This will be furnished according to the appropriate symbology and correspondences of that tradition. It should be a place where you feel at home.
If you have no tradition, consider the many paths that have led you to where you stand today. These paths may not necessarily be traditions in themselves, but rather fragments or derivatives of one. Perhaps you have used a meditation technique that has been helpful, or read a book whose philosophy resonates with yours so that you have adopted it. You may have explored a symbol system such as Tarot or the Tree of Life; you may have used techniques derived from Eastern religion, such as yoga and I Ching. If you wish, you may visualize these antechambers around the temple's center, but make sure that you are at home in one of them; do not attempt to work from a tradition that alienates you. Before entering the temple, make sure you comprehend the tradition you have chosen on more than a surface level. Each of these chambers will have a guardian - a master or mistress of that tradition - who is at liberty to admit you to the temple. Listen to his or her advice.
If you are still traveling toward wisdom (and when do any of us finally possess it?) or if you are totally bewildered by the multiplicity of traditions available to you, do not hesitate to enter the antechamber of the amethyst sanctuary. This is a bare, holy room in which hangs an ornate silver lamp with an eternal flame burning in an amethyst-colored glass. Anyone may enter this place and will be hospitably welcomed. Its only furnishing is a chair where you may meditate on the Eternal Flame. If you truly wish to enter the temple of inner wisdom, you must bring something of your spiritual experience with you. A guardian will come to you from within the temenos to talk with you and instruct you. He or she will invite you to enter the temple from the amethyst sanctuary only when you are fully prepared, and not before.
There are as many antechambers to the temple as there are traditions in the world. To prepare to enter the temple from your chosen room, sit in meditation and build the antechamber about you, evoking its essential qualities using the tools of the senses. You should, in effect, be inhabiting your tradition before you are allowed to draw aside t he curtain that separates you from the temple's heart. The chamber's guardian - who can appear as a religious leader, prophet, mystic, or established guide along that path - will indicate whether you are fully prepared.
You draw aside the curtain. The circular hall is of vast proportions. Around it, supporting a golden central dome, are seven pillars. There are no symbols of any tradition here - these all remain int he antechambers, for they are the outer semblance's of an inner tradition. The sanctuary of the mysteries is an empty room representing the imageless truth of wisdom.
In the center of the temple is a round table on which is a dish of bread and salt and a cup of red wine. All who enter must partake of this meal to have a place here. This bread and salt of hospitality and the wine of fellowship are served by Sophia herself. She may appear as a beautiful crowned queen of mysterious aspect or in some other guise. It is possible that the meal will be served by invisible hands, that you will see no figure at all. Yet the presence of Sophia pervades this temple, making it a meeting place of all who are engaged in the search for her gifts.
You may come here to meditate and to meet those from other traditions. This temple is a place of convocation - those who come here have been called together in common quest, and they come from many different paths. You may meet those from other times and places. Because all of you have eaten the bread and drunk the wine, there is concord among all who come here. You may ask questions about a tradition's aspects that are troubling you or that you do not understand. Because you represent your tradition in the temple of inner wisdom, do not be surprised if others ask you questions.
This practice may grow in importance to you over the years; its effect is a cumulative one. The temple can be used as a place of tranquility and refreshment. Just as you may meet other pathwalkers here, you may meet guardians, saints, and mystics of many traditions. You may even sit at the round table of fellowship and take in the counsel of Sophia.
Do not feel that you have come here on a second-class ticket if you are entering by way of the amethyst sanctuary or if you are not readily invited into the temple's center. You will enter when you are ready. Love and desire open the doors in this place. You will not enter through duty or a sense of obligation. The temple is by no means for those who have reached the end of the search for their wisdom. Sophia leads us by winding roads and though you have entered by way of one tradition in the past, you may find that door temporarily closed to you if your road should lead you away from it. Be patient; another door will open in time. Meanwhile, the amethyst sanctuary is always open to those who thirst and hunger after wisdom and her gifts. 4
Walkers Between The Worlds is a wonderful resource for finding ones path, as well as for deepening ones understanding of the path being followed. There is an in depth bibliography at the end of the book that acts as a starting place for further studies - and is well worth perusing. I highly recommend this book as a resource, and as a personal workbook.
1. Ibid page 3
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