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Balance

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2014 by P. Dunn

I would love to live in a fantasy world, I admit it.  If I could put on a robe, carry a staff, have peasants tremble at my terrible power, and so on — that’d be pretty nifty.  And that’s why there are such things as video games and novels and roleplaying games, all fun things.  But they’re not real.

In reality, I live a double life.  On the one hand, I am a mild-mannered (or not so mild, actually, in terms of manner, some days) professional.  I deal with the public, champion critical thinking and skepticism, and regard myself as a scholar.  I get up, go to work, pay my mortgage, clean the house, mow the lawn, cook dinner, eat it in front of the computer while watching old episodes of Frasier.  You know: an ordinary life.

On the other hand, I’m an occultist.  I pray to gods, practice theurgic rituals, try to probe into the meaning and use of occult forces, cast geomantic charts, summon spirits, make talismans, meditate (never enough).

It’s sometimes hard for me to maintain a balance.  I often find myself veering toward tweed rather than robes, because it’s certainly easier to live a mundane life.  But that way lies the slough of despond.  If I ignore magic, I start to feel thin and dry in my mind, like I’m letting the bigger part of me atrophy.

At the same time, I see people who retreat so far into magic that they fail to live a successful mundane life.  I’ll just say it, man: if you’re horridly in debt, unhappy, and your idea of a relationship involves someone to jeer and scream at, you’re not doing well.  Magic should make those things better, not be an excuse for them.  Sure, it’s not a panacea, and sometimes bad things happen to the best magicians.  And not every magician has everything they want automatically, because sometimes magic doesn’t work (often for very good reasons, but that’s another post).  But I’ve known more than a few people who claim great magical power but couldn’t balance a checkbook.

I don’t want to be such a person.  More importantly, I don’t want to seem to be such a person.  So it’s hard for me to balance these two important and valuable lives.

What helps me is to look at my friends who are not magicians, but have a rich spiritual life.  They seem to have found that balance, partially because their religions are sanctioned by the dominant culture, but really that’s just an excuse.  In fact, they find that balance because there isn’t, for them, a difference between these two lives.  The mundane life is a part of the larger, spiritual life.  It’s not a choice between two lives, but having one part of your life be a subset of the greater whole.  So that’s the balance I suppose I’m striving for.

Finalist — “State of Grace”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2014 by P. Dunn

This is a technique from a friend of mine, Chris, whose column at Rending the Veil is definitely worth the read.  I like it because it is simple but very effective.  It’s also extremely effective and useful in a wide variety of situations.

This is a variation on your physical/magical journey technique in your first or second book.
I learned to do this with the chakra system, but it would probably work just as well with any body-mapping system.
The technique involves holding your attention in one specific area for extended periods of time. A personal favorite of mine is either the crown, or the spot at the top of the aura (called the 8th in my work–one of the transpersonal chakras, in any case). With a little bit of practice, one can sense a kind of movement from the spirit, which can then be followed with the body.
It effectively allows one to act in a “state of grace” (Christian terminology) without actually being a saint.
Requirements:
1) being able to hold your awareness in one place for extended periods of time.
2) being able to hold your awareness outside of your physical body (so, at least a limited form of “astral” projection.
3) the ability to take direction from the spirit while simultaneously being aware of the world around you (there’s a chance that your spirit could direct you in questionable/dangerous directions — better safe than sorry)

Reminder — Contest

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2013 by P. Dunn

Remember, the deadline for the technique contest is Samhain.

End of the World . . . Again!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2013 by P. Dunn

Today, according to Pravda, is the day that the world ends, according to Rasputin.

We’ll see, eh?

 

 

A Contest!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2013 by P. Dunn

Just for fun, and also in the hopes of learning something, I propose a contest.

Submit, to my email, pee double-u dee you en en at gmail.com a description of your favorite magical or divinatory technique.

The four or five best techniques, judged on quality, innovation, usefulness, and clarity, will be posted on my blog.  The two very best technique will win a prize: an inscribed copy of one of my books, of the winner’s choice.  The very best technique will also win a free Lenormand Grand Tableau reading or a geomantic reading (your choice) in addition to the book.

Deadline will be Samhain, October 31.

ETA:  Let me clarify that it is my hope you will explain, briefly, how to accomplish your technique so that people can learn it or apply it.

Does Zeus Exist?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2013 by P. Dunn

An interesting opinion article by a professor of philosophy on the question of whether or not Zeus existed.  His conclusion:

On reflection, then, I’m inclined to say that an atheistic denial of Zeus is ungrounded.  

Some Toys

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13, 2013 by P. Dunn

I’ve started a new website, mostly as a place to practice my Javascript and html skills. But I have a couple magical apps available that people may find helpful: one little program that helps with memorizing rituals, and a simple browser-based geomancy program that generates a random chart with the click of a button. I hope people find them entertaining or useful.

Kumare

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2013 by P. Dunn

I just watched Kumaré, a documentary about a man named Vikram Gandhi who decides to impersonate a guru to demonstrate how easily people are misled.  I went into it not feeling sympathetic — I’m not a fan of the “make fun of people for their beliefs” crowd, even when those beliefs are odd.  To my relief, it didn’t really take that route.  And as I watched, I realized that this movie had a point, and it might even be a point that Mr. Gandhi missed:

He was, at some point, no longer impersonating a guru.  He had become a guru.

 

 

Take the psychic who does a past life reading and talks about the long line of previous Kumarés who stand behind him.  That’s all nonsense, of course: he made up the title and his yoga moves are often just air-guitar-like flailing around.  But by the same token, she’s also right.  There is something behind his teaching, because his teachings actually begin to help people.  Why?

Because he teaches what he believes:  You don’t need a guru.  You can be your own guru.  You can take charge of your life.  You don’t need external validation.

Dude, this stuff works because it happens to be true.

It’s a nice example of postmodern spirituality, actually.  The forms and rituals don’t matter (and he says as much.  One of his confederates, toward the end of the movie, points out that they’re doing the ritual just because it makes things seem important and special, not because it really means anything).

At the same time, it’s a good example of realistic spirituality: the truth is real, even if spoken by a fake guru with a false Indian accent.  And the truth is that you don’t need teachers, gurus, or guides to get where you’re going.

(By the way, the psychic at the end of the movie gets in a dig when she finds out his identity.  “You do have psychic powers, though,” she said.  The screen goes blank.  “He doesn’t,” it says, in plain white type.  Again, she’s right, and he’s wrong: he has charisma, which is a psychic power if there ever was one.)

 

 

What I Do Believe (3/3) — Humanity

Posted in I do believe, Uncategorized on March 18, 2013 by P. Dunn

I regard myself as a sort of postmodern Neoplatonist (::blam!:: that’s the sound of heads exploding as they try to reconcile the two — just roll with it, man, just roll with it).  As such, I also admire the Stoics, who are some of the wisest and most practical philosophers ever to apply stylus to tablet.  One of my favorites — because, like me, he found his own authority troubling and often woke up feeling like nothing he did was ever good enough — is Marcus Aurelius, who in between being emperor of Rome and leading campaigns against northern barbarians (who were, of course, my ancestors) also wrote a few notes to himself about how to be a good person.  I read one passage over and over regularly, often on first waking up.  It goes like this:

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

I believe, then — or try to — in humanity.  I believe that we are good and trying our best, more or less.  We do stupid things out of ignorance, and often those stupid things are just horrid, absolutely and undeniably reprehensible.  But that fact that we can be repulsed by them is evidence that we’re not bad.  We’re made to work together.

I think the good can often be described as the prosocial.  I don’t mean that we have to get along with everyone or hang out with lots of people and go to lots of parties.  For that matter, we can lock ourselves in our house all winter, much as I have this season, and still be prosocial.  I just mean that the good is what allows us to live together and contribute to each of our welfare.

Society is a non-zero-sum game.  If we learn that, we can create a civilization worthy of the name.  Unfortunately, many people are ignorant, so I have to also believe in the power of education and reason to teach people how to live.

I don’t think that goodness comes from the gods — or rather, it does, but it’s not delivered by them in a little package of thou-shalt-nots.  I get that many religions do believe that, and that’s fine.  But I don’t.  I think we’re human and we must determine the good for ourselves, but that it’s clear that we survive best by being with each other.  And so that’s a place to start looking.

I live in a suburb of a city of six million people.  If you were to take six million monkeys and cram them into the same amount of space, you would very quickly have a bloody soup of monkey fur.  But we manage pretty well.  Yes, there is violence and murder, but really not that much of it.  It’s a miracle that there aren’t more murders, thefts, and so on.

There is an instinct for the good that drives most people, and I think that’s simply to be kind to other people, because we recognize on some level that they are we.

What I Do Believe (0/3)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9, 2013 by P. Dunn

Now that I’ve been all negative and talked about what I don’t believe, I think it’d be good to cover what I do believe, and why.  

Belief is such a strange thing.  Plato analogizes beliefs as statues, that are so life-like that they might get up and run away.  We can enjoy those statues only if we chain them down. And we chain them down by testing them, again and again, and never letting up.  We forge the chains that bind our beliefs, that strengthen them and solidify them, through the process of self-elenchos, of self-questioning.  

Some things we know with such solidity that to call them “beliefs” would be odd.  I like anchovies.  I don’t believe that; I know it, with absolute certainty.  But you don’t know that’s true: what I experience, you only hear about.  I experience enjoying the salty little buggers.  You, though, only believe that I like them because I have told you so and you have no reason, I hope, to distrust me.  

There are few things that I believe with enough certainty to assert them.  And usually, my belief in them comes back eventually to a grounding in experience and elenchos.  But here are three of them, in the coming days.  

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