20 March 2010

Inside - Out, part II, or, A Tale of Two Martins.

The interior method:  meditation, introspection, quietism and the Way of the Heart.

The exterior method:  ceremony, ritual, invocation and the path of magick.

Any esoteric practitioner worth her salt will, if you push hard enough, admit that both have the same goal and ultimately both are effective, but you may have to push really hard.  Most esotericists or occultists will privilege one over the other, even if it's just in terms of their own work.  Even while admitting that the other path "might work for some people," they'll tell you that their experience clearly demonstrates the superiority of one over the other.  I frankly have no idea how the lines are drawn.  Personally, I've encountered more who prioritise the interior method, but I have no idea how representative is that experience.

The relationship between the two is one that is more than a little problematic, and I've worked to puzzle it out for myself for a long time.  I won't insult anyone's intelligence by suggesting that I've come to anything like an answer, but I will say that I value both.  Which one I privilege might vary on a daily, even hourly, basis.

On the one hand, the interior method works on precisely the thing which should be the object of all of our work:  our own souls.  We can see the changes that take place in ourselves as a result of even a few days of regular meditation.  Say the Jesus Prayer a hundred times and you're damn right you feel a little more holy. When we think of those who have attained the heights of spiritual advancement, we think of the monk, the hermit, and the saint.  After all, are we really going to waste our time drawing ridiculous circles on our floors and reciting long winded invocations to spirits that we don't really believe exist?  Louis Claude de Saint-Martin was not unversed in ceremonial theurgy but turned away from it toward the mystical practises that make up the Way of the Heart. The path to reintegration is one that leads inward, to the very soul of a human being.  If anything, the exterior method is a kind of crutch.  The symbols, the incense, the weird incantations all serve to put us in a state wherein we get a glimpse of what the interior work does.  Eventually, we "graduate," as Saint-Martin did and we don't need to training wheels of ceremonial anymore.

On the other hand, the exterior method has a long and honoured tradition and it seems reasonable that we should, in our state of separation, have recourse to those beings who care closer to the source than we are.  Great and wise men and women have prayed to the angels and saints, and for many of us there can be no greater spiritual operation than the celebration of the sacraments.  The high ceremonial of ecclesiastical practise is a central spiritual experience many, and it is hard to deny the power of such ritual.  Breathing into our navel is great, but really that's just acting on the physical plane, and never moves us out of our own space. Martinez de Pasqually was the great teacher of Saint-Martin, and it was through the ceremonial methods of Martinez that Saint-Martin came to have a glimpse into the nature and purpose of the human soul.  Our journey to reintegration is one that leads outward, to our origin, to the source of our being.  If anything, the interior method is preparatory.  The physical calm, the breathing exercises, the mental focus all serve to equip us to call upon the messengers of God.  Eventually, these things become a natural consequence of stepping into the temple and drawing the circle, and we begin to do the real and often dangerous work of exorcism and conjuration.

On the third hand, what the hell do I know?  And why do I have three hands?  I don't have a good answer.  I know that for the most part, I have always been drawn to the exterior path, and I admit that I find the interior work more difficult and less rewarding.  At least today.  Martinism in its various forms seems to recognise the value of both means without elevating either one to an end in itself.  This, after all, is the real danger:  that the practise becomes the goal, and we lose sight of why we practise.  No conjuration, no pranayama, no liturgy and no quiet prayer will do us any good if we forget that our goal is to elevate ourselves and recover the divinity which we have obscured from ourselves.


  1. +William,

    It feels a little like my soul had been hanging out at the corner of the bar, all parched, and you've revived her with a drop of the good stuff, with this post. Thank you for this. I'm no(t yet a) Martinist, but the interior/exterior distinction that you've made here resonates with me profoundly. I'd love to hear how, or whether, you see intersubjectivity as playing a general role in the interior/exterior dichotomy. To paraphrase you above, the depth that was made available through ritual work to Saint-Martin by Martinez, is implied into the interior realisations of Saint-Martin. There's an intersubjectivity implied in the transmission-of-ceremonial and the transmission-of-language-for-esoteric-realisation, and it seems important to acknowledge this, to me. I've been finding it helpful lately to think of myself not only as an interiorly obsessed navel-gazer, but also as a kind of connecting-unit, through which the divine is transmuted. As an Idealist yourself, I'd love to hear in what way connection to others is modelled, for you.

    Thankyou so much for this food for thought, again,
    With blessings,


  2. "If anything, the interior method is preparatory. The physical calm, the breathing exercises, the mental focus all serve to equip us to call upon the messengers of God."

    I tend to agree with this.

    The analogy I often use is from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9:

    "Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

    I look at the interior work as preparing the wineskin, and the theurgy as the new wine, although the lines are certainly not always clear cut.

  3. Of all the systems I've been exposed to thus far, Martinism speaks to me most clearly. Great post!