Some among my small group of readers may find this interesting. Or alarming. I certainly hope that you all vote next week.
Archive for October, 2006
If you’ve read Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics, you know two things:
1. Translating from the Czech into the German and then into English does not make clear or elegant prose.
2. Central to his system is a “pore breathing” method of bringing the elements into one’s body and consciousness.
If you’ve read Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magick, you probably also remember that pore breathing technique. But Kraig makes less of it than Bardon.
The thing is, once I got past Bardon’s horrid prose (which took me a long time to do — not his fault!), I recognize the utility of his method. Using the breath to absorb, through visualization (visual and tactile), elemental essences is a remarkably handy tool. It is more versatile than the Middle Pillar (which has other uses, though, as well) and one doesn’t have to be limited to elements. I’ve absorbed planetary essences, even spirit names, by visualizing them as colored lights or mists. But I wonder where he got this method from?
Could Bardon have read some Taoist books, and absorbed the idea of “colored mists” from Taoist magic? I don’t know — I know the approximate dates that Taoist materials made their way into English (believe it or not, it was an important point in my dissertation), but I don’t know when they might have arrived in German or Czech. Jan Fries details, as well as he can (it’s not easy, since translations of the relevant texts are few and far between even now) several such methods that resemble Bardon’s method. Or did Bardon get it, as might be more likely, from Hindu “Pranic” breathing? Either way, Bardon makes it something uniquely his own, and offered it to the Western Mystery Tradition. As techniques go, it’s one I like.
Scott Adams, author of Dilbert, writes about his experiences with affirmations.
I picked up Alexander Roob’s Alchemy & Mysticism. It’s largely a collection of plates from various periods in history illustrating alchemical and mystical theories. What’s striking about the book — and this isn’t a judgment of its quality — is that the textual explanations pale against the effect of the graphics. It makes me think about the ways that we organize information.
In the middle ages, paper was expensive, books were expensive, and (although this is secondary, I think) literacy wasn’t widespread. The graphical representation of information, therefore, was common, from stained glass depicting saints’ lives, to alchemical texts illustrating complex procedures with allegorical drawings. We now find this a remarkably inefficient way to organize information, but it’s exactly the opposite — it’s incredibly efficient. Reading it, however, requires different sets of codes.
For example, we have to recognize that up is often far, and down is often close — processes frequently move up the page, rather than down as we might expect. Our preference for left over right is irrelevant, largely. The center is still privileged. Smallness indicates minor information, not distance in space. Largeness indicates important information, not closeness in space.
The codes all changed with the invention of text. Engraving images and text together was a bit of a chore (Blake’s dead brother taught him a method from beyond the grave, for example — that tells you something of how difficult a task it was). So there’s a stronger reliance on text than image, and the codes change. Coincidentally, we also develop the new graphical codes — the “realistic” codes of forced perspective and so on.
Now, we have a third revolution on our hands — image and text interacting in a completely free environment. We have yet to invent or codify our codes for interpreting information in this new medium.
Also, these graphic representations have a different effect on consciousness. The information doesn’t arrive linearly, as with text, nor in binary pairs, as with language. It arrives in threes, fours, groups, clusters, and — while there’s a tendency for the eye to move along certain lines — slightly differently for each person.
I sometimes wonder if a graphical representation of the principles of magic is not only preferable, but necessary.
I’m sort of interested in the idea of people who use magic for survival, on a day-to-day basis. I think an interesting book could be made of interviews with such people, discussions of their techniques, and so on. I simply have no idea where to find such folks. (Besides, of course, just putting up signs all over Belmont and Clark)
I used some of my extra cash to buy a rather inexpensive keyboard. I’ve been learning how to play it. I was considering making it a magical project, seeing how quickly I could gain this new skill. But I’m not sure it’s a skill, other than on the surface. Plus, it’s fun to just putter and not make it into some sort of Project.
One of the things I like about music is that its harmonies are mathematical, but of the mind. We hear pleasant or unpleasant harmonies based on their mathematical interactions. It’s as if a chord drags a finger across the surface of consciousness itself, feeling out its contours. A minor chord shows us the mathematics of sorrow. Something in the poet in me has to love that.
There’s an interesting eastern model of magic, popular in Buddho-shamanic syncretic religions. Windhorse is a little bit like mana, but not quite. It’s based on positive karma, and you charge it like a battery by doing good things. It’s not like “energy” in the New Age sense; more like “authority.” There are prayers and rituals to increase Windhorse, but you can also increase it by doing good deeds, or by acts of austerity. The idea appeals to me.
In my own speculations, it’s a feeling of lightness and power that centers in the solar plexus. I often feel it spike after magic, or after work (keeping in mind that I very much enjoy my job and feel as if I’m doing some good). It can also be transferred to another, it seems, and doing so actually increases it. That would imply that one could become a big burning ball of Windhorse, giving it to all and sundry. But some things kill Windhorse.
For me, negative speech saps my Windhorse, as does fear. Routine seems to take a lot out of me, as does dirt (which, since I’m not the neatest person in the world, says something). Weirdly, extended isolation also hurts my Windhorse — weird, because I’m a tested introvert and isolation is one means used by shamans to increase Windhorse.
I’m a little down today, partially because it’s a dreary rainy October day, and I just got a letter saying my book was out of print. Meh. Such things happen, and when you consider how many 31 year old brand new shiny Ph.D.’s can say “my book is out of print,” I’m pretty lucky. But I don’t feel lucky. Little things, like the fact that the very expensive boots have a screwed up seam inside that makes them largely unwearable, throw me well off the track.
So what do you do when you claim to be an All Powerful Magician who nonetheless occasionally has a mildly crappy day?
First, you don’t claim to be an All Powerful Magician — and that’s why. Sure, yesterday I talked with an angel, but today, I tried (and largely failed) to get my boots fixed. How do you reconcile that? By regarding both things as ordinary challenges to an ordinary life.
Second, you reconcile yourself to matter. The nature of matter is to be imperfect, whether that matter is your body (the sore tendons, for example, in my left wrist) or your clothes (a bit of extra leather on one seam that rubs my heel). As much as our consciousnesses are That, all manifestations of the underlying Logos, etc., etc. . . . we’re still engaged in slogging through matter, and to expect matter to be other than what it is, is irrational.
Third, you recognize that things change, and no change is entirely good or entirely bad. Fine — my book is out of print. That, on the surface, is a bad thing — but is it really? Isn’t it better, if my book’s not selling right now, that my publisher cut corners and maintain funds to print my next book (assuming it’s accepted)? So a close friend with whom I’ve fallen out of touch is in dire circumstances . . . at least he’s alive, and now I can contact him and help him. When we repudiate change, we repudiate opportunity too.
Fourth, recognize the interconnection between self and other. What helps my publisher helps me, in the long run. Moreover, what helps my rivals helps me, in the long run, even if I don’t much feel that way right now. After all, if some other occult author sells more books than I do, say (not hard to do), he or she might inspire some people to buy more books, and among those might be mine. Not every single thing that happens to me can be good, but they can all be turned to some good with some effort. Or, at least, turned to neutral.
Fifth, recognize that things can be fixed. The boots are just boots. I can take them back; hell, that’s another excuse to head into the City, after all, which I do dearly love to do. And the book — well, out of print isn’t forever. And even if it is, I have other books. Finally, as for my friend in his dire situation (the real thing that’s bothering me — bothering me so hard that sometimes, I confess, I don’t really want to get out of bed, except that I truly love my job), even that isn’t forever. And when it’s over, we’ll have reunited at least by mail, and I’ll have regained someone important to me that I thought I had lost.
Last, magic. Magic can help you regain your equilibrium, balance, and poise. It can help make you aware of old opportunities and open up new ones. Best of all, it can turn bad or annoying situations into opportunities and challenges.
Notice I listed magic last. Magic is one tool out of many to aid in the art of living. But eventually you gotta just live.
Don: I’m there with you right now.
Evocation is the summoning of a spirit outside one’s sense of self. In the Western Mystery Tradition, that’s usually outside of a magical circle into a triangle, crystal, or small table called an “almadel.” In Tibetan magic, it’s into a magical circle called a kylchor. But either way you cut it, it’s a spirit you summon.
For some reason, there’s a lot of emphasis on seeing the spirit visually, that I’ve never understood. Most spirits are pretty naturally invisible, and while one can see them in the Imagination, forcing them to become visible is a strain. I’ve discovered that, visible or not, spirits will give some sign of their presence, subjective or, sometimes, objective. I think the whole “visible evocation” thing is rather over-rated.
Similarly, I think we could conceptualize the whole process differently. I have several friends who live closer to Chicago (or “Civilization”) than I do; when we meet, sometimes they come here, sometimes I go there, sometimes we meet halfway. Instead of making the spirits always come to us, why not meet them halfway? Evocation on the astral is so much easier, even if half the ritual is done in physical space, and trust me — the spirits appreciate the effort.
I don’t know. I’m not certain that any of the Bushes possess an ounce of Crowley’s wit or charm.