Fair-weather Wizard

Posted in Magical life on December 13, 2014 by Patrick

A lot of people do magic, or come to magic, because their lives are not what they want and they want to make them better. That’s awesome. Good for them. I didn’t, though. I mostly came to magic because it was fascinating and I wanted to know what was really going on under the paper surface of the world.

Sometimes, those who come to magic for utilitarian purposes abandon it once they get what they want. That’s okay too, really. Who am I to tell people what to do with their time? But the thing is, “getting what you want” is an illusion. We always want something else later, and there are always ways to become better, stronger, happier people.

A lifetime engagement with magic is about being an all-weather wizard, doing cool magic in the cool times (offerings, meditations, and so on) and hot magic in the hot times (spells, talismans, evocations, and so on). It’s about balance.

It’s almost always about balance, of course.

At some point, it becomes impossible to do magic. I was working on a new set of magical tools (you outgrow them, you know — I should post on that). And it occurred to me that I hadn’t done any magic in a while.

Except for two healing spells for friends, daily offerings, meditations, impromptu offerings while going for walks, mantra practice, maintaining my paredros, and a check in with the HGA. Yup, no magic at all in the last few weeks.

Can’t

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2014 by Patrick

I can’t dance.
I can’t speak French.
I can’t sing.
I can’t write what I really want.
I can’t be myself at work.
I can’t dance yet.
I can’t speak French yet.
I can’t sing yet.
I can’t write what I really want yet.
I can’t be myself at work yet.
I can dance a little.
Je peux parler le français un peu.
I can sing a little.
I can write what I really want a little.
I can be myself at work a little.
I can dance.
Je peux parler le français.
I can sing.
I can write.
I can be myself.
I dance.
Je parle.
I sing.
I write.
I am that which I am.

What’s the difference?
And which are a more magical view of the world?
(Trick question)

Are You a Doll?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 by Patrick

Let’s try a thought experiment (I don’t actually believe this, but it’ll be interesting to entertain the idea):

You wake up in the morning. You have thoughts, feelings, emotions. You know, at a level impossible to question, that you exist as a thinking being. If you try to question that you are a thinking being, you fail, because in questioning that you are thinking, you are thinking, because questioning is a kind of thinking. Thus, you must be a thinking being.

You see your neighbors, your friends, and you think that they, too, are probably thinking beings.

But they’re not.

See, a few of your friends have been replaced with perfect replicas of a human being: mechanical dolls. They are machines made out of the same organic material you are, so cunningly created that they could not possibly be distinguished for an organic human like you. Moreover, their brains have been woven out of the same neurons, but there’s a difference:

While they react properly to all stimuli, due to a very sophisticated program, they never have thoughts, feelings, or emotions of their own. They only seem to. They see you make a frowning face, and the program goes, “if expression(other) == frown :: expression(self) == sympathy.” But they don’t feel it.

Could such a world exist? Could there be a world in which some people have been replaced with physically and behaviorally indistinguishable replicas of real people? I’m not asking if you think we live in such a world (I hope you don’t), but could such a world exist, or would such a world be self-contradictory?

It seems, to me, that such a world could exist. (Even though it doesn’t)

What does that imply?

It implies that internal experience is real, otherwise, the appearance of internal experience and the actuality of internal experience would, by Leibniz law, be the same thing. But they don’t seem to be. It rubs against at least my intuition that they could be.

Do you agree?

Yes, this post was an excuse to bring up not only the philosophical zombie, but remind you of this wonderful song from the 90s.

The “Will” and the Will

Posted in Magical Systems, Techniques on November 15, 2014 by Patrick

I’m going to talk about sex magic for a while.  Not sex-magic, like, doing magic while having sex (always seemed like making work out of fun, to me), but magic done in order to bring about circumstances in which one can have sex.  In other words, the chaos magic holy grail of “getting laid” magic (I say that with affection, as a former chaos mage who made quite a bit of use of that particular kind of magic).  But I don’t want to talk about how do to do that.  I want to talk about will, and Will, because sex magic is a really good example of that.

A friend of mine put it very well the other day: “I sometimes do magic to get laid, but it doesn’t always work, I think because what I want when I’m horny isn’t the same as what I want when I’m not.”

This post gets less sexy from here on out.  Sorry.

So, think about that: what I want when I’m horny isn’t what I want when I’m not.  Or to put it in magical terms, what I will when I am horny is what I don’t will when I’m not.  Who is the I that wills?  Is it the horny-I, or the not-horny-I?  And what is the will, that it can change so rapidly?  We could think of it like wanting food: have you ever shopped for groceries when hungry?  You pick up everything in the store.  Ever seen an ad for food right after eating a big meal?  It’s less than appealing.  What’s the me that wants?  Is it the me that wants to get laid, oh yes please, and throw in a cheeseburger?  Or is it the me who wants to cuddle, perhaps, after a nice conversation, and maybe just a cup of tea for me, please.  Both are real, given any particular point in time.  Can there even be said to be a me that wants anything, in any permanent or real sense?  The Buddhists say “no,” and that ends that.  But I’m not so sure . . .

Or let’s think about it this way.  Can I do magic to get laid?  Yes.  Can I do magic to make myself more likely to want to get laid (i.e., increase my sex drive)?  Yes.  Can I do magic to make myself the kind of person who does magic in order to make myself more likely to want to get laid?  Um, maybe.  That last one requires that I at least think that getting laid is a good thing, in the abstract, even when at the moment I don’t want to get laid, and if I think that, then I’m already the kind of person who might wish to increase his sex drive.  Just like, even when full of good food, and I see an ad for some foul abomination of cheese and oozing meat, there’s part of me that goes “yuck, that looks gross,” rather than “Yuck, food is disgusting.  I quit eating.”

There’s a difference, then, between what you want in the moment, and what you want overall.  Those desires can be in tension, or they can be in harmony.  We see those desires in tension when we see people struggling with eating disorders, or people engaging in risky and anonymous sex while decrying sexual desire in public. When we talk of true will, what we’re saying is, how do you bring these things into harmony.

The thing is, I’m not the one to help you with that.  That’s part of the great work, and you don’t learn it from a blog. But you can learn it from thinking about your desires and working with them magically.

The Magical Kata

Posted in Techniques on November 8, 2014 by Patrick

In martial arts, a kata is a sequence of motions you perform for practice, in order to build up muscle memory. We’ve got kata in music, too: you do scales, arpeggios, various finger exercises, all in order to make reaching for a particular note second nature. So the idea is, how about a set of magical kata? These would be magical exercises, visualizations, breathing, that you can do very quickly just to keep in practice. They would, ideally, not have any particular object in mind.

In some ways, the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagrams) of the Golden Dawn style of magic is a kind of kata, but it’s got a goal, so you can’t always use it. There might be times you don’t want to banish (there are, in fact, some operations where you do not banish at all: not banishing is part of the point), but you still want to practice.

Here’s my idea of what a magical kata might look like. In fact, it’s my general “exercise routine,” and I do it more or less daily. It can be done without being ostentatious, because it requires nothing more than breathing and thinking.

1. Four-fold breath: Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four.
2. Centering and connecting: Visualize a shaft of white light descending and plugging you into the sphere of the stars. Visualize a shaft of black light (roll with it, man) ascending and plugging you into the chthonic sphere. Imagine white light descending out from your solar plexus to either side, and also front and back, so you are situated in a three axis coordinate system.
3. Do pore-breathing of Earth. Send it to your hands. Send it down into the earth, and shake your hands slightly.
4. Pore-breathe Water. Send it to the hands, etc.
5. Repeat with Air.
6. Repeat with Fire.
7. Fill the body with Azoth, and circulate it around the body.
8. Four-fold breath.

Favorite Tarot

Posted in Cartomancy, divination, Good Books with tags , , on November 1, 2014 by Patrick

I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I have a new favorite tarot. Well, not new — really quite old, but given a coat of polish. It’s the Yoav Ben-Dov version of the Conver tarot, a very famous, very popular Marseilles deck. Ben-Dov has cleaned up the lines, brightened the colors, but left the mystery and wood-cut style intact. This is a deck that practically reads itself.

tarot

I particularly recommend, to go along with it, his book Tarot – the Open Reading

Even if you’re not interested particularly in the Marseilles style decks, this book has a lot of clear, good insight.

There are still things to love about the Rider Waite, but if you’re looking for a fresh, less Golden Dawn-y take on the cards, you can’t do better than the Marseilles decks, and Yoav Ben-Dov’s version is the best I’ve seen.

You can buy his deck here. When I bought it, at least, it had to ship from Israel, but was surprisingly fast.

How to Break Into Occult Writing

Posted in Writing on October 26, 2014 by Patrick

Here are some suggestions for those who want to write books about the occult:

1. You have to have something to say. If everything you have to say is everything everyone else has had to say, you won’t get very far. The best way to get something to say is to go do some magic. You want to write a how-to about making wands? Then go out into the woods and get some branches and start making wands until you can say interesting things about the process. Don’t just make up some stuff that sounds good. Actually do the exercises and techniques you want to talk about.

2. You have to say it well. Hone your craft by writing, a lot, and reading it aloud. Find a few authors whose style you admire, and imitate (but not copy!) them. Learn to cite your sources. Learn to write clear English, and easily understood instructions. This could take years, and so you should get started as soon as you can. I began writing when I was about sixteen. Before the world ever saw anything I wrote, I had written five or six very bad novels, countless terrible stories and essays, and enough poems to choke a pretentious horse.

3. Take criticism. Someone who criticizes your writing is criticizing your writing, not you. There are two, and only two, ways to take criticism. If it’s valid, address it. This happens a lot, even among very skilled writers, because no one can see everything even in their own writing. If it’s not valid, ignore it. Never talk back or try to argue with a critic. It’s a waste of time. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and that’s okay. This goes triple for when you have published the book and reviewers respond to it. Someone gives your book a bad review? That sucks, but move on with life. You can’t please everyone. You don’t have to disparage their judgement, or attack their integrity, or respond publicly at all. Maintain your dignity. (It may be acceptable to send the author of the review a short note, but it should be friendly, private, and should say something like “thank you for your review. It’s given me a lot to think about for my next book.”)

4. Learn the business of publishing. Your publisher is not your baby sitter, your friend, or your therapist. They’re a business arrangement, and you should approach it that way. Forget all the silly notions you may have of authors being prima donnas, making demands and so forth. Meet your deadlines like a professional. Take criticism from your editors as a professional (this is the only time you can argue with criticism, by the way — but do it as a professional and only when you’re sure you’re right). Be friendly, concise, and polite in all your dealings. This goes triple if you’ve been rejected.

5. Don’t let publishers walk on you. Most publishers aren’t really cut-throat. That’s just a thing for movies. But do have enough of a backbone not to cave. The first contract they send you is a perfectly fair, acceptable contract. Don’t sign it. Instead, read it very, very carefully. If there’s something you don’t like, ask to have it removed or changed. For example, publishers will often happily send you more complimentary copies than listed in the boilerplate. If you intend to give talks, classes, or readings, ask that this number be increased. They may or may not raise your royalties if you ask, but you can always ask for a graduated royalty schedule, where you get paid more if you sell a certain number of books. No publisher will ever say “Hey, you asked for an extra 2% if you sell over ten thousand copies. That’s nonsense! The deal is off!” They might laugh in your face, but they won’t usually cancel the deal unless they say no and you refuse to budge. If they request changes, make sure you can make them before you agree. Make sure you understand how translation and foreign rights work, and if there’s not a clause for it, ask their lawyers to write one.

6. Deal with your editor fairly. If they tell you that something needs to be changed for the good of the book, don’t have a kneejerk reaction of “no way.” Think about it and make the changes if they make sense to you. If they tell you to do something that you know is wrong (like get rid of citations), tell them no. It is still your book. Your name is on it. Any input they give you on the cover is a kindness they’re offering you; most contracts do not give the author control of the cover.

7. The author never gives money to the publisher. If you are told otherwise, you are not dealing with a publisher, but a scam artist.

8. A typical size for a book might be around 50,000 words. If you write 1,000 words a day, you’ll finish the first draft in a couple months. Assume that it takes you an hour to write a 1,000 words (that’s fast!). That’s 50 hours. It usually takes, by rule of thumb, at least twice as long to revise. That’s another 100 hours for a total of 150. Research and practicing the techniques (see suggestion #1) will also probably take you a while, so say another 50 hours for that and thinking time. That’s 200 hours to write a book. You could do that in three weeks or so, working most of the day. So it is a doable task, but it won’t break down that easily. You’ll make false starts, have days that involve staring at the lawn and not writing a word, and so on. It usually takes most authors a year to finish a book, including downtime and so on. You may make, total, a couple thousand dollars in royalty on most books. $2000 a year is a very bad salary. $10 an hour isn’t great either, and would require you to write nearly all day every single day. The moral: don’t write for money. Write for the fun of it.

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