My new book, The Practical Art of Divine Magic, is now available. It’s a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. If you’re interested in theurgy (or working with divine forces in magic) it’s something you might enjoy.
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.
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 am that which I am.
What’s the difference?
And which are a more magical view of the world?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.