by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
Once you have figured out a regular practice after some milestone in training — completing a degree, system, or course by drawing upon the components from that training — the challenge can be how to also acknowledge any previous training. How do you work different systems together? Can you? Should you?
The answer is up to you.
The success or failure of such work—as well as its complexity—depends on the systems you are drawing from and how integrated they are in your own psyche.
The first—and more simple method—is to keep all things separate. In some systems, this is a requirement, and you take vows, more or less, to keep the traditions as you learned them. One or more altar or working space is required for each. If you are still learning a new tradition and are holding different traditions simultaneously, rather than putting the older one on hold, such separation can be necessary to prevent confusion. Learn the traditions “as is” at first. While cumbersome, this method can be self-explanatory and quite effective.
The second method—really more a deep yearning than a method—is synthesis. The practitioner embodies many different practices and world views and paradigms. Do you see them in the context of the greater pattern? Many deeply adept practitioners don’t find the answers they seek in just one place. Questing into other teachings helps gain perspective. The three-fold way of Dion Fortune asks us to eventually study, deeply, three ways to gain a greater perspective on the divine. She had Esoteric Christianity, Hermetic Qabalah, and the land-based traditions of Arthurian Myth. I have many strands of Witchcraft, the Vedic and Sikh yoga teachings of a powerful mentor, and a mix of Hermetic Qabalah and New Age Theosophy.
Many of us feel strong past-life connection and true memories, either as strengths taken in this life or questions for working out now to resolve our attachments to the past. Many are rooted in the cultural traditions of antiquity found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome; the Northern traditions of the Norse and Celts; and the traditions of the East, the Americas, and Africa. The access to information today helps us explore those memories and put things into some form of modern practice. So our studies may not be limited to one lifetime.
How does one synthesize? Here are some ideas:
Hoard—I remember Maxine Sanders speaking about how the Craft is a scavenger religion. We find things and gather them up. We save them and put them to use. We can be like magpies collecting shiny objects or crows mixing beautiful and functional objects, but soon we have a treasure trove and can just pull the right object out for the right moment, or use the right technique or teaching for the right moment in our lives. It’s intuitive. It lives mostly in memory, and at times it can be effective and other times jumbled.
Mosaic—we can take the parts we have gathered, and while still separate, arrange them in a beautiful pattern. We use them to create something bigger, with each part contributing to the whole.
Alloy—we can melt down our treasure, refine out its impurities, and then select the ones that will mix well into a new stronger or prettier alloy, combining properties of both. Like making bronze, pewter, sterling silver, or even steel, our practice will have some of the best qualities of the things we have combined, but it might have some unforeseen characteristics too, that will take a while to discover. It might not work, requiring us to go back to the drawing board and change the percentages of each source ingredient.
Compost and Garden—you can take all your source material and let it decompose within you, until the hard edges between the different practices naturally fall away. The resulting mix is fertile, and you plant your own seeds within it, letting the fertile soil feed your new idea. You aren’t inventing the wheel, so there will obviously be similar characteristics to ideas past, but in this process, these qualities become part of the natural growing and evolving structure of your practice and paradigm. The implication of growth means you don’t have to design something that is set, but will instead grow with you, and you can add more matter to the fertile matrix as you go. You don’t have to uproot your own garden.
Obviously this is all poetic. I can’t give you explicit instructions as I don’t know what you’ve got. Even if I did, it’s not my job. The whole point is that the work of synthesis is yours to do. I have my own to do. But can you see how these different approaches might inform you? They give you a guide for approaching what is really a lifelong practice, one where you may change your approach many times.
With some synthesis, go back and ask yourself the question from Part 1 again. See how they can change, and how your new ideas can be put into practice.