Understanding Self- Possession

The knowing of one’s self in totality and honesty brings us face-to-face with the infinite potential within. – Frater Omen[1]

When we see a person who seems collected, confident, and stable, we may say that he or she is “self-possessed.” That meaning reflects some internal mastery cultivated by the individual. This mastery is a large part of what I mean by self-possessed. I am speaking of an individual who has done the work to know himself, and who has faced himself unflinchingly and learned to love what he sees. This person has integrated many of her parts, and remains essentially the same in any situation or in the midst of any emotion. By self-possession I mean all of this and something more as well.

In various magical and shamanic traditions, people become “possessed” by Gods or Goddesses.[2] Even in Charismatic Christianity there is the concept of being “filled with the Holy Spirit” which is another form of divine possession. What these traditions do not stress is that seekers can become possessed and possessor of their own divinity, their own full self hood. In fact, without this self-possession, possession by any other force can be dangerous to mental and physical health at worst, and at least, can sometimes derail a person’s quest for spiritual wholeness. Feri tradition Grandmaster Victor Anderson insisted upon not doing possessory work without having clear contact with our own God Soul first.

When given prime of place, the quest for spiritual wholeness leads to self-possession – to full human health and integration – coupled with one’s own divine potential. Without self-possession, there is no chance for full and balanced enlightenment to occur. As I have mentioned, flashes of enlightenment or moments of grace may happen, but there is no foundation for them to rest upon, leaving people hungry for things beyond their ken. This is the cause of transcendent thinking: things will be better after I lose weight, or find a new job, or get the right partner, or go to heaven. In these scenarios, something always gets left behind. That something is often the seeker herself. With self-possession, seekers open to inclusive consciousness, a new concept that argues for the embrace of all parts of human existence into the fold of the spiritual quest. When all of life is included, all of life can aid what is known in magical esotericism as the Great Work of coming to know our own divinity and our life’s purpose.

The Great Work is important to all magical systems stemming from ancient Alchemy. There is nothing that lies outside of this quest. Our magic includes our whole lives and in time, will come to include the life of everything in the Universe, everything held in the fabric of God Herself, the limitless divine.

Remember my definition of magic: the marriage of breath, will, and desire. By exploring these components and applying them to the self, we arrive at a place internally – and in relationship with the world – where the processes of integration will unfold. At that point, the universe steps forward to greet us.

Opening to inclusive consciousness enables us to grow into fully integrated, magical lives and to have consistent conversation with our own divine natures. This conversation will in turn help us to reach toward spiritual Adepthood and the even larger inclusiveness of this reality: immanence and transcendence are one. The microcosm is the macrocosm. Further work can, in the few who are called on, open a permanent channel to the non–dual, the great All, enabling the magic worker to become the Lover, the bodhisattva, she or he who brings extension back into form, sowing love. But that latter is the subject of yet another book, which perhaps I will write someday.

Self-possession is my hope for all people. I believe that individuals can become more than they are now, and that some of us possess a strong enough wish, with enough openness and dedication to see this process through. If you are reading this book, you are likely one of those people.

To do this work with the fullness of our beings, we must be simultaneously voracious and calm and also filled with enthusiasm, the inspiration of the Gods, for this work is the unfolding of the great mysteries. The mysteries are only hidden to us because we lack practical, applied knowledge. Engaging the work held in all deep spiritual traditions, whether Western Occultism, Witchcraft, Taosim, Sufism, New Thought, or any esoteric expression will give us a way to touch the mysteries and come closer to understanding.[3]

So much is possible we can scarcely comprehend it. But when we close our eyes, take a deep breath and reach with our whole being, we catch a glimpse, a glimmer, a sense of hope. And then we move through the layers of darkness and light that are ourselves, in order to better touch the All.

God Herself is the building blocks of all creation and the movement of all destruction. We are pieces of these processes, and reflections of workings more vast. If we can first come to know ourselves and then to connect out, we will better serve the processes of All. We will come to help all beings, animate and inanimate, visible and obscured.

It is easy to say that the seeker must just stumble upon this stage in the midst of her work. Why? Because self-possession cannot be planned. It isn’t something a spiritual aspirant can schedule, unlike some other initiatory rites, rather, all the preparation he has done makes the aspirant ripe for the experience. He has laid the ground with meditation. She has primed the cosmic pump by aligning her soul. Zen teacher Baker Roshi once said, “Enlightenment is an accident, but meditation makes us accident prone.” The same statement can be made for self-possession. No one cannot tell us how to do it, even Abramelin the Mage couldn’t tell us how to say the necessary prayers.[4] We have to figure it out for ourselves. All that can be offered are maps. I offer what was helpful to me, cobbled together from the maps of others and that which I wrote myself along my stumbling way. There are also signposts and insights that have come from the work that followed integration. I hope these are of help to those still seeking, or those who wish to confirm the strength and stability of their own work.

So, while there is no guaranteed outcome, the map provided by this book will strengthen you, open you, and generally prepare you to receive the grace of your own Godhood.

Everything opens to he who is open. Nothing is closed to she who dares.

Possessing Yourself

To know yourself is to know your Lord. – Ibn Arabi[5]


Feri Tradition artist Anaar, says simply that our goal is becoming self-possessed.[6] Not initiated. Not holding power over other people. Not commanding forces outside of ourselves. Our goal is to possess ourselves, fully, in every moment.

Self-possession is the quality of being fully in touch with all of one’s parts and aware of the relationship those parts have to our own divinity, known as our God Soul or our Sacred Dove.[7] Since the God Soul is connected to all things, establishing a constant link to this places us into concert with the All-encompassing. Self-possessed, we open fully to an awareness of ourselves as a point of matter anchoring the endless flow of spirit and energy. In this stage we not only have knowledge of our divine natures, we have active conversation with it.

This can feel like we are open to a being outside of ourselves that is a helper or guide, which is both true and untrue. The nature of our God Soul is that of being linked to the macrocosm, having access to all space and time, in the present moment. That is beyond the awareness of my body and personality parts that are settled into time and space as discrete units rather than constant flow.  Because this feels beyond the scope of understanding of the rest of my human parts ­– my instincts, my physical form, my thoughts and opinions, my personality – it can seem that this divine and fully connected nature must be solely distinct from us. Actually, once joined with us, it makes us more fully ourselves. All the things called “I” before are shown to be simply component parts of this vital, shining whole of grace and light, matter, form, and formlessness.

In some metaphysical and occult circles, self-possession is known as Knowledge and Conversation with our Holy Guardian Angel, and because of the macrocosmic quality of this part of our soul, the Angel is also sometimes talked about as an outside entity. However, Victor Anderson, used to quip, "‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,’ means you!" He related this to the Sacred Dove, our God Soul, and he was talking obliquely about the state of self-possession and the processes of alignment that lead up to it. Still others call this finding the Authentic Self and recognize the importance of its function on the road to enlightenment.[8]

What is the upshot of this? What are we making, with this choosing, this practice, and this spiritual life? A full self. Not just our disparate personalities or drives, or our physical needs, but all of those along with the part of us that touches something even larger, and includes everything.

Self-possession is integration; we step into our Godhood.

From the stage of self-possession it becomes possible to know enlightenment. From a state of self-possession, it is possible to have greater and more consistent access to the All. From self-possession, we can leave personality behind for something greater, meet the challenger at the threshold of space and time, entering a place of unity. And from a stage of self-possession, it becomes possible to return back into personality and maintain that constant connection with the All. In this way, self-possession is the necessary precursor to a stage, rather than simply a state, of enlightenment and effective magic.

All the mystics write about this in some form or another. From the platform of self-possession, it is possible to touch the fabric of God Herself and not go crazy, not become an egomaniac, and not dissolve into a couch surfing leech. We can translate the Limitless back into the every day.

That is what is possible. The integration is a gift unto itself: to be a whole, autonomous person, living from the place of health . The Kabbalah teaches us that health rests in the sphere of Tiphareth, of Beauty.[9] It is the place of the integrated magic worker who has looked at all her parts, come into conversation with them, and done the work necessary for the Sacred Dove to descend. Grace, also known as fortune, descends upon the prepared person who can accept and acclimate to that state. That temporary state then becomes a stage from which further life and growth occurs.

This distinction between states and stages is a helpful one made by Ken Wilber.[10] When I speak of epiphanies that get eaten by life, I speak of a "state.” When we align all our parts for a moment and then life throws us off course, that alignment is a "state.” Full self-possession is a "stage" of alignment. It is a "stage" because even though other things come and go inside and around us, the "stage" is constant. We are aligned with our God Soul and our purpose even when upset, in ecstasy, sorrow, joy or anger. We always have the perspective of and conversation with, our divine nature.

The achievement of full possession of one’s God Soul – or gaining Knowledge and Conversation of one’s Holy Guardian Angel, the descent of the Genius, or connection with the Authentic Self – is both a full linkage of all of our parts and opens the door to true communication with the supernal: with God Herself, the Limitless, and also with other Beings unseen. [11]

Once we reach full possession of our God Soul, we have the chance to continue the further integration of all the parts we have previously brought into contact with each other. I advise doing the bulk of this work before achieving self-possession, or we will have a much harder time of it. For example: if one has not begun to set his financial and romantic life in order, the push to do so after possession will grow more severe, sometimes breaking the individual who hasn’t done the proper preparation. For some, this feels almost impossible, raising the question of whether self-possession as a stage, rather than a temporary state, actually occurred. Sometimes epiphany and strong connection that has no foundation for a permanent connection to form does occur, but goes nowhere except to spin the person’s life further into disarray. And thus we are thrust back to the ancient advice to know ourselves.

If we have built a foundation of good work, right attitude toward money, knowledge of our mental, emotional, and physical needs and of our relationship to others, and then we achieve knowledge and conversation, or full possession of our God Soul, we will be in a good position to expand into our integrated lives and to be of greater help to those around us. We will be able to rightly see what further integrative steps are necessary and have greater reach toward what lies beyond our current scope.

This is a state of greater connection, rather than the space between connection and disconnection most of us swim in, and will therefore give us greater success in all areas of life. Life will expand around us in ways either unforeseen or only previously hinted at. All will become easier. The strength of internal connection and integration brings a rightness to all things, lending a broader more cohesive view of the world and our place therein.


[1] This quote comes from an article by Hermeticus Nath (Denny Sargent) entitled “Om Mani Padme Hum: The Buddha and the Holy Guardian Angel” http://www.horusmaat.com/silverstar/SILVERSTAR1-PG23.html

[2] For a very good explication of various states of possession by spirit and divinity, see Spirit Speak (New Page, 2008) by Ivo Dominguez Jr. An earlier edition from Sapfire was published as Of Spirits.

[3] Even the philosophy of Existentialism grapples with the task of self-knowing.

[4] A classic magical text on working toward Knowledge and Conversation of our Holy Guardian Angel now has a new translation: The Book of Abramelin by Abraham von Worms compiled and edited by Georg Dehn and translated by Steven Guth. (Ibis, 2006)

[5] Ibn Arabi was a Sufi mystic and teacher. This phrase has worked itself into many Sufi teachings.

[6] see www.whitewand.com or www.tombostudios.com for Anaar’s work.

[7] See illustration vi of the parts of the human soul.

[8] See the work of spiritual thinker Andrew Cohen.

[9] A kabbalistic term for the center of the tree of life. There are many good sources for study of Kabbalah, including Alan Moore’s Promethea series, Israel Regardie’s The Middle Pillar and Lon Milo Duquette’s Chicken Qabalah.

[10] A thread that appears in much of his work, it can be found in A Brief History of Everything.

[11] These various terms can be found in Theosophical works, and the writings of Iamblichus, Crowley, Andrew Cohen, and Victor Anderson.