Archive for December, 2005

Doing Nothing

Posted in Techniques, Uncategorized on December 18, 2005 by Patrick

It’s amazing how hard it is to find the time to do nothing. But it’s important for me as a magician, and perhaps for other magicians, that we do find time to just sit.

The traditional meditations of zazen and vipassana are useful to the practitioner of magic, because they teach us how to still our minds and gain insight into our thoughts. As a side-effect, that process can open us up to recognizing when we’re using imagination as a sense (i.e., seeing nonphysical things) and when we’re using it as a tool (i.e., “making stuff up”).

I’d like to suggest a couple other meditation exercises that might be useful to the magician. Let me begin by making a perhaps controversial statement first: these are not prescriptions to be lavishly followed or worked into some sort of syllabus. If you find them useful, you might want to do them for a short time daily. But not for an hour, not to the point of physical pain, and not under obligation. There is at least one magical group that, as part of its entry exercises, asks students to sit completely motionless without blinking for an hour. The fact that this is physiologically impossible ensures that new initiates into the order are either (a) advanced fakirs who can control their body beyond the limits of most people or (b) liars. Now, let me offer the disclaimer that I don’t belong to this group and it’s possible that a third option, namely that the instructions offered to new initiates are modified by living teachers to be physiologically possible, exists. In fact, since most of the people I’ve met belonging to this group aren’t either fakirs or fakers, that’s probably exactly what happens.

Anyway, here are two simple meditation exercises I find useful.

Ajna chakra opening — This one could potentially be dangerous, I suppose, although I’ve never had any trouble with it. Begin by sitting upright and imagining a beam of light running through your spine out the top of your head. Now, imagine a line connecting your temples — the place where these lines intersect is your ajna, or “third eye” chakra. I like to imagine a flower opening, spinning clockwise ever larger and larger. In the center, I project a sigil that represents the magical power of communication to me. I hold my fingers in the Hakini mudra, which is with the fingertips of each hand lightly touching the others. When finished, I imagine the flower folding in, but not disappearing. It’s a good stretching exercise before divination.

Magical consciousness — This is a variation on mindfulness practice, which involves being aware of one’s surroundings at all times. In this case, however, you maintain awareness of the magical significance of one’s surroundings. You begin by standing before your altar and taking a mini “oath of the abyss” — “For the next hour of my day, I will interpret every event as a message from the underlying substance of infinite qualities, to me.” Of course, you can replace “underlying substance of infinite qualities” with whatever entity you pray to, or your own unconscious or deep mind. I also like to begin by saying a short prayer to Janus Bifrons, the god of doorways. Then, I go about my day, interpreting every snatch of overheard conversation, every chance piece of litter, even roadsigns, as messages.

This last method sometimes has startling results. I remember once I was worried about my dissertation progress, so I went for a walk after taking the mini oath, and saw a sign with those magnetic stick-on letters above a fast food joint. The letters had been blown about by the wind (around here, the wind is practically one of the four fundamental forces of physics), and somehow even mixed up a little into a nonsense phrase. Several of them were clumped together, so I translated them into Hebrew and added them up to receive the number 333, the number of Chorozon, the demon who eats ego. Aha. That let me see my dissertation and the process of attaining a Ph.D. as a kind of initiation, in which it’s inappropriate to harp on how hard it is for the initiate.

Both of these methods of meditation can be useful, either as is or modified, in your magical practice. They also require relatively little time out of your day, unlike more traditional meditations.


Hoo Doo and High Magic

Posted in Magical Systems on December 16, 2005 by Patrick

I’m developing a strong interest in Hoodoo, the American folk magic. Some of the things I find interesting about it are

  • It’s about very quotidian, everyday things, like getting and keeping luck, finding money, having physical and emotional relationships. I like that because much of the western magical tradition (typically called “high magic”) is about internal changes that are invisible to the outside world. There’s something appealing about magic that fits so tightly into the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s magic that’s about living life rather than thinking about life.
  • It’s about giving power to the powerless. It was often practiced by those placed, as a result of America’s odd history, in a position of submission and sometimes humiliation to others. It’s got a rebelliousness that appeals to the punk rock fan in me.
  • Despite its apparent difference from the western mystery tradition, it still obeys the same principles: namely, the laws of similarity and contagion. A Golden Dawn magician might use a blue candle because it represents Khesed and therefore wealth and so forth, and a Hoodoo Doctor might use a piece of High John root, but for the same reasons. Both are symbols pointing to uncertain signifieds. How can I not adore that?

What I would like to do is study with an actual practitioner. But they’re a little thin on the ground around here. Although I do recall driving into Chicago, and going to the famous Occult Bookstore there and seeing a big jar marked “Goofer Dust.” It was practically empty with just a thin ring of yellow powder in the bottom. Which makes me wonder, especially since Goofer Dust is used in curses and blasting. Who, in good ol’ Chitown, was buying all that Goofer Dust?

Postmodern Magic

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2005 by Patrick

I’ve decided to create a blog to supplement my book, Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age. If you’ve read the book, or even if you haven’t, you’re welcome to post comments and discuss, and I will make an effort in return to post timely and interesting things on a semi-regular schedule.