Locating yourself in the physiognomial Tree of Life is a good place to start if you are attempting to understand how it can inform your own practice. Knowing yourself is in fact the essence of the mysteries. When looking through the Hermetic Lessons on the Physiognomical characters bear in mind what I am really talking about is the spectrum of these conditions, i.e. you may have schizophrenic or anorexic tendencies without necessarily manifesting the full blown disease. Similarly you may be aware that you gain weight easily but keep yourself on a very strict diet because of this - genetically though it is more likely that you would still be a physiognomical character associated with Tifereth or Daat, even if you manage to keep your weight down. What follows below is not a complete list and if you have a question about where some disease or advantageous trait should go please ask me or consult the archives for more information - bear in mind that you may have some symptoms of your character and are unlikely to have them all.
- Kether (The Ignorant Genius) - megalomania, controlling, agromegaly (spectrum is seen as large facial features/prominent brow without harsher symptoms), creative, future-oriented
- Chokmah (The Ignorant Fool) - hard-drug addiction (cocaine, ecstasy), schizophrenia, groomed, charming, seductive, stocky
- Binah (The Bloodless Being) - anorexia, self-obsession, young-looking, slim, good complexion, irregular menstruation, sleeping problems, low self-image, aloof
- Daath (The Treefrog) - metabolism (hyper or sluggish), restlessness, growth problems, froggy-toadiness
- Chesed (The Shellfish) - obsession, addictions, alcoholism, lazy, wider-spaced eyes, fleshy
- Gevurah (The Confused Venutian) - overly analytical, anxiety, chain-smoking, paranoia, sniffly because of overactive immune system, skinny
- Tifereth (The Prisoner) - abdominal weight gain, diabetes, epilepsy, fantasy prone, lazy, daydreamer, narcissism, anarchical, pigginess of feature
- Netzach (The Mime) - manic-depression, skin conditions (urticaria, eczema), high sex drive, stress control, emotionally cold but with breakdowns that lead to sickness/infection - stocky/fleshy
- Hod (The Jay) - anger management issues, lithe, dextrous, avian features (sometimes owl-form), good memory, bears grudges
- Yesod (The Many Mannered Mind Man) - aggression, paraphilias, lots of body hair, balding. facial width is closer to facial height
Ultimately we have to decide whether this kind of knowledge constitutes knowledge of the self, or knowledge of the vehicle of the self. I certainly believe that I am inhabiting this body and will survive its death, but during this incarnation it is to my advantage to learn what this particular body is capable of. If this body is on a particular path does it mean I should neglect work that is more in the domain of other paths? No. As initiates it is our task to attempt to develop the entire being and we will find that some areas are more difficult to develop than others we are gifted naturally in.
Aleister Crowley has this to say in a footnote of Magick in Theory and Practice, Ch.7:
''Every person, whatever his grade in the Order, has also a "natural" grade appropriate to his intrinsic virtue. He may expect to be "cast out" into that grade when he becomes 8'=3'. Thus one man, throughout his career, may be essentially of the type of Netzach; another, of Hod. In the same way Rembrandt and Raphael retained their respective points of view in all stages of their art. The practical consideration is that some aspirants may find it unusually difficult to attain certain grades; or, worse, allow their inherent predispositions to influence them to neglect antipathetic, and indulge sympathetic, types of work. They may thus become more unbalanced than ever, with disastrous results. Success in one's favourite pursuit is a temptress; whose yields to her wiles limits his own growth. True, every Will is partial; but, even so, it can only fulfill itself by symmetrical expansion. It must be adjusted to the Universe, or fail of perfection.''
When one graduates then one can be expected to become a living archetype of their path but only by exploring the symbols of the entire system of the Tree of Life, and embracing them can one hope to achieve this. This ''casting out'' becomes a return to the primary destiny of the incarnated self and its role as a differentiated cell within the tissue of humanity and its specific role in the Metabolism of Time. As each cell contains all the DNA necessary to create any cell in the body but only expresses that which differentiates it as a nerve cell or a liver cell so our minds contains all knowledge of the entire human organism but only express that which differentiates us from others. In exploring the system of initiation we are providing a context of knowledge whereby we are better able to define ourselves.
As someone whose natural grade is primarily Netzach, I can be expected to find the initiations of the Philosophus grade to be especially easy and pleasing to me. In fact I could become so successful at the mysteries of devotion that I could neglect all other paths or similarly the vices of my own character could destroy me if I let them. However in exploring other paths one must be careful to avoid distortion of the self - at ''graduation'' you still want to be cast out into your *natural grade*.
Let me furnish this by way of example. Many women become obsessed with looking slim, young, etc and some go so far to achieve this that they distort their natural forms with plastic surgery, etc. The entity that they are trying to become is the Bloodless Being - (to make this more complicated this is the type of those with a natural grade of 8 = 3) Now I am not saying that some cosmetic surgery/makeup, etc is not necessary in certain situations or indeed pleasing but if you completely distort the natural self you will not be able to succeed in these initiatory endeavours, at least this time. Only 10% of women are natural bloodless beings, i.e. natural 8 = 3's. Whilst it makes sense to explore the role and the initiations associated with it (to treat all phenomena as a direct dealing of God with your soul is appropriately self-obsessed for the Bloodless Being) it does not make sense to lose the sight of one's own path.