Doing Nothing

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.


4 Responses to “Doing Nothing”

  1. Anatole Nymrod Uszmin Says:

    Hi. I read almost all of Postmodern Magic. Great book. An excellent start, and I related well to it because I’m a child of the Postmodern, Deconstructionists. Maybe they’re just a bunch of Chaos Magicians.

    One major stumbling block. Like you said, magical exercises “sound” easy when you read about them. Doing them; a completely different story. For example, it was easy enough to make sigils, but then I had to do all of that visualization. I have a problem with visualization in general. Not on my own, but focused, conscious, deliberate, functional visualization centered on my own body, as opposed to my body in the third person.

    A magician suggested that since I have an affinity for words, that I should focus more on developing techniques that center on linguistics. Perhaps mantras. This seems like a good idea, and one that I’ll pursue, but I would like to be able to move towards doing what I find difficult now at some point. Any suggestions on a course of action?

    -Anatole Nymrod Uszmin

  2. Administrator Says:

    Thank you for your comment.

    My next book, actually, is on verbal magic, particularly things like mantras, gematria, and the like. Perhaps you’ll find that interesting, when I finish it.

    For now, if you want to work with a verbal method of visualization, you might try a technique that’s worked well for me and other people I know. It involves imagining a rather richly complex scene, such as a forest or beach, and then describing it out loud in detail. There’ll probably be some hesitance to talk to yourself at first; helps if you have a partner. But once you overcome that, you’ll find that casting the scene into words helps you visualize the scene more accurately, which helps you put it into words easier, and so on. If you start describing the scene from your own perspective, rather than third-person, your imagination will automatically shift to compensate.

    I think a big problem with visualization exercises as they are usually presented is that they’re *hard*. They ask you to visualize the hardest possible things to visualize — objects with no context in your real life — and then assume that you can do that and go right on their blithe little ways. In reality, it’s the complex and interesting that’s easiest to visualize. So start there and work *backwards* to simplicity. So much easier. Jan Fries’ Visual Magic has some good stuff on that; you’ll find that he and I share a lot in common in terms of method, I think.

    Remember, by the way, that visualization involves all the senses. You sound like you’re probably a verbal person, so you might very well notice sounds before you see images clearly. Start where you’re at and plug away gently.

  3. One of these fine days, somebody needs to write a book of “visualization” exercises without any “visualizing”, in the literal sense. Fuck this “now imagine you see …” No, how about “imagine a sound” or something? I mean this more joking than it sounds, but man oh man, you sighted folks are really obsessed with that whole sighted part, huh? Or how about, let’s not imagine anything. How about “play a little melody” or something, to get you into a trance state? How about the Tibetan approach of drawing/mandalas? I dunno. There’s something about a lot of Western magic that’s so me me me. All internal and imagined and my mind is the whole big deal. Fuck that. Get it out into the world, you know? Sort of a combination of the previous person’s comment about not doing the simple things and your interest in hoodoo.

    Man, I gotta get out more. I’m turning into some old crank! It’s kinda fun though, if not very attractive to others. That whole “you damned kids, why in my day ..” attitude is fun to play with though. I guess I should get off my lazy ass and start seeing if I can research enough to do a book on magical sound/music, since I keep wanting to see one written.

  4. Panninggazz Says:

    I just found my way to your blogsite. I’m re-reading your book and was happy to find this site. I’m looking forward to reading more here, both your posts and the comments.


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