One of the things I've been thinking about lately is lifestyle magic vs living magic…
Back in December of 2015 I wrote 2 open letters to Pagan Convention Organizers. In the first letter I explained that I no longer wanted to present at events where I was expected to pay to present and no compensation was offered for my efforts. In the second letter, I called for transparency on how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected, asking organizers to make it clear how a presenter is selected as well as what is offered to the presenter. I also asked my fellow presenters to share those posts and write about their perspectives as a presenter. Below is a list of links, where you can read the perspectives of some presenters and organizers who chose to write and share their insights in response to what I wrote. I want to thank them all for making the effort to write and share their thoughts. If I missed any, feel free to leave a comment with a link to the appropriate post.
Not too many presenters chose to write about this topic and I understand why, because they are potentially putting themselves on the firing line for sharing their own views, and consequently not being invited back to conventions. I was recently told by Jason Mankey that most of the rank and file agreed with what I wrote and I wasn't really sure what to make of that. Whether you agree or disagree, what I really hope you'll do is share your perspectives and thoughts as a presenters and yes as organizers as well, because this is an important conversation that we as a community need to have. And I don't expect that most people entirely do agree with my stance...in fact I know some who don't and I get why they don't.
I just got back from Convocation, which was a great event, well run, with lots of good programming. As I was there this time, there were some moments where I recognized that this really could be the last time I'm ever at that event. By choosing to take a stand and speak out about how presenters are compensated and how they are selected, I shined a light on a topic that can be touchy. I knew what the consequences were when I wrote those letters and I would do it all over again. But even so, I also recognize I might not be back and that I may have burned some bridges with different events I've previously presented at.
If presenters really agree with what I've written then I want to remind you of something. It is not the loudest voice that causes change to occur, but rather the multitude of voices that causes change to occur. One of the reasons I spoke up was because after 13 years of presenting at events, I feel like I've paid my dues and then some. When I first started speaking in 2003, I had co-written a book and I knew I had to pay my way if I wanted people to hear me speak. Even after I wrote Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, and Inner Alchemy, I still knew I needed to pay my dues, pay my way if I wanted people to hear me speak. That's the reality of presenting, early on...you have to be willing to put in the blood, sweat, tears, and yes money, if you want to reach out to the community at large.
But at some point you also want your efforts recognized and valued. You want to know that what you have to offer is worth something to the people your presenting for and that you'll get some help and compensation for that effort. And that's one reason I wrote those letters (and for that matter this one).
I also wrote those letters because I want all presenters to have a shot at being a featured presenter or guest of honor. I want all presenters to know what the criteria is and what they need to do on their end in order to meet that criteria. I have some further thoughts about that topic below, but first...
Thank you Pagan convention organizers
If' you've done a double take or you're blinking your eyes in confusion, I get it. It must seem odd that this person who has called you out is suddenly thanking you. Let me tell you why I'm thanking all of you (and recognizing a few of you).
I got a couple public responses and private responses to my open letters from people who organize Pagan conventions and festivals and what I took away from those responses is that Pagan convention organizers do a lot of volunteering and hard work to put together events. Now I knew that before I wrote my open letters, but in reading your responses to what I wrote I came away with a deeper appreciation for all the work you do on your end and the sacrifices that you make to make the events happen. It's not easy work and I don't know that you always get recognized or appreciated the way you should. I've always made it a point to thank event organizers that have had me present at their venue, but I know you do a lot of work and whether you believe it or not I do appreciate it. I also want to recognize some of you for taking the time to respond to me.
Laurie Pneumatikos and Typhon Dracos are the organizers for the Left Hand Path Consortium, occurring in April of this year. When they read my open letters, they responded and made a commitment to comp presenters their hotel rooms and registration. I've seen how hard they've been working to put the event together and I'm really appreciative and humbled by their generosity. I appreciate everything they are doing to take care of the presenters and I know my fellow presenters and I will do the same for them. Thank you so much for taking care of us.
David Smith is the con chair of this year's Convocation, which just wrapped up, and Lindsay Moss is one of the organizers. Lindsay initially responded to my questions and then put David in touch with me. David explained in great detail how featured presenters and guests of honor are selected. I really appreciate that both he and Lindsay took the time to respond and address my concerns. Thank you so much for making the time to connect with me.
Laurie Froberg of Paganicon also took the time to address my concerns and explained how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected as well as how they are comped. I really appreciated the transparency. Also Paganicon refunded me the admission I paid as a featured presenter a couple years ago, recognizing that they had charged me, when in fact featured presenters get their registration comped. In their defense, I had already submitted workshops and they had already been accepted by the time I became a featured presenter. Thank you so much for making the time to connect with me.
Laurelei Black of Babalon Rising shared the dual perspective of being a presenter and an organizer on her blog (which is linked above). I really appreciated the insights and transparency she brought to the process, when it comes to putting together an event and what the challenges are.
I didn't hear from any other convention organizers at the time I wrote the letters, but if any of you want to reach out you can. However, what I would really like all of you to do is the following:
A Renewed call for Transparency
What I would like to see is a commitment to publish online, and in your program packets, what your criteria is for someone becoming a guest of honor or featured presenter as well as give all of us, presenters and attendees alike, a clear idea as to what compensation, if any, is offered. I don't think this is an unreasonable request. I think, if anything, it will help presenters and attendees know what is actually happening and what their respective roles have to do with this process.
When I have visited various convention websites I haven't seen anything to this effect and I hope that changes, because otherwise it's rather hard for all involved to really know how this process works. I'd like to suggest the following feedback for specific types of events.
Invite only events: Some events are invite only. What I'd like to know is how does a presenter even go about getting noticed so that they get invited. Is their a secret handshake or knock or is their some other criteria that you are looking for from us? And what role do attendees have in this process, if any?
Guest of Honor/Featured Presenter events: With these events it seems that its up to the attendees to indicate that they want a presenter to return as a featured presenter and/or guest of honor (though in some cases the GOH is selected according to a theme). If that's the case, the attendees need to know that. One example I like is that Convocation has a session at the event, (If this is your first time at Convocation), where new attendees are briefed on the fact that what they want has an impact on next year's programming. I think having programming to explain the role of attendees and presenters is a good step to take, along with putting that information on the website and in the program packet.
Presenters I want you to take special notes here. If you want to come back to an event as a featured presenter or a GOH you need to tell the people who are attending your classes to put that information in the feedback forms. Don't expect that simply presenting year after year will get you that opportunity and don't expect that asking organizers to give you that opportunity will make it happen. Tell the people who attend your classes that if they want you back as a featured presenter or Guest of Honor that they need to leave that feedback so organizers see it. It's your responsibility to make sure people attending your class know that their feedback is important and can help get you in as a featured presenter or guest of honor.
Pay to Present events: Fortunately there aren't many of these events around. If you want to run an event like this where you expect presenters to pay to present then I have only piece of advice for you: Pay to present MUST apply to ALL presenters, not just the majority. What this means is that no presenter should be getting comped for registration, hotel or flights, or anything else if you're going to sweep it under the rug and officially pretend that you charge everyone.
Instead I would suggest switching over to a featured guest and guest of honor model AND making sure every presenter knows how it works and consequently has a shot of becoming a featured presenter or guest of honor. That way there's no favoritism and no nepotism at work.
Additionally if you are going to insist presenters pay and present at the least offer them a reduction on their registration dependent on how many workshops they are teaching. Otherwise you're just being greedy and unethical to the very people who are helping to make the event happen.
That's my feedback for all of you and I hope you will do something with it that makes this process transparent for all involved.
A slight revision on my stance
When I wrote the first two letters I said I wouldn't accept going to an event if my room or flight wasn't comped. I'm making a slight revision, which is this: If an event wants me as a featured presenter where they comp my registration and provide a table where my books are vended and sold and I'm given some marketing in the program book, I can work with that. And if you want to cover my flight or hotel room, I'd appreciate it, but I know that not every event can afford that. I know you have expenses and I accept that. What I want is opportunities to cover my expenses and perhaps even leave an event with some profit. And I do want a crack at the Guest of Honor at some point.
And lest someone accuse me of selling out...I'm not...I'm just accepting that there are certain realities to putting an event together that involves a lot of expense and moving parts. I get that and I know I won't always be a guest of honor, but I want what I have to offer acknowledged and valued and I have paid my dues, so I don't think its unreasonable to revise my stance a bit, but still make it clear that some form of compensation needs to happen.
And Finally an Announcement
I've always felt that a person can and should speak out on whatever issues is of concern to them. But I also think if you're going to speak up, you ought to have something to offer as a solution as well. So my fellows presenters this is what I'm offering you:
I am in the process of researching and putting together the various moving parts to putting on a virtual conference. It's going to take a while for me to do it, but I will do it and I will keep you appraised of it. More importantly, I promise that you will have the potential to make money. Note the word potential, because some effort on your part will be needed. I will be transparent about every aspect of this event, so keep your eyes peeled for more details down the line.
I came across this article from Alison Lilly the other day about anthropocentrism in Paganism and Polytheism. You can find another article here where she defines Anthropocentrism in more detail. My brief definition of anthropocentrism is that it's a humancentric perspective of the world that considers experiences of consciousness in primarily human terms and applies human behavior, attributes, emotions, etc. to things that aren't human in an effort to simultaneously categorize and control what is labeled. The problem with such a perspective is that its extremely limited and presupposes that humanity and its perspective is what matters.
In my own spiritual work, one of the things I've tried to do is recognize when I'm applying anthropocentric perspectives, behaviors etc to connections I make with spiritual entities, the world around me, and anything that isn't human. The reason I seek to recognize this application of perspective is because I recognize that it is a filter that stops me from genuinely connecting with whatever it is I'm connecting with. For example, when I was doing my year long work with the element of fire, one of the realizations which came up was how mediated the experience of fire is by anthropocentric perspectives. We label fire with human attributes and emotions such as anger, passion, and creativity. This provides humans a way to understand relate to fire from a human centric perspective, but it doesn't allow you to experience fire in other ways. When I stripped away the labels, attributes and emotions associated with fire, what I experienced was something much more primal and raw, something that had more to with fire as its own force as opposed to something mediated and interpreted by human perspective. I recognized even then that to some degree I was still applying a human perspective to the experience, but as much as possible I was also being open to experiencing fire on its level.
I make the point that I was still applying human perspective because I don't think we, as humans, ever fully get away from that human perspective. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to experience other forms of consciousness, but rather that we should acknowledge that on some level, at all times, we are interpreting a given situation through the lens of being human. With that said, by being aware of that lens, we can also open ourselves up to a given experience where we seek connection with something that isn't human and recognize when we are labeling interactions through the being human lens and put it aside to focus on the interaction. Let me share a very recent experience.
I'm currently working with the bacteria in my stomach. In my opinion, bacteria is pretty far removed from being human, but the probiotic bacteria we have in our bellies play an integral role in the digestion of our food and I want to work more closely with them via magic. In my meditations and my daily awareness I've been focusing on connecting with the bacteria. Instead of trying to label the bacteria through human terms, what I've done instead is used the feeling of digestion to make contact with the bacteria. This provides me a chance to engage them on their terms, through an activity they are doing. The experience of their consciously isn't remotely human and the communication that occurs is based more on feeling than on words or visualizations. And even with all that, I recognize I could still be applying human perspectives to the experience, but what I'm not doing is assuming a human consciousness on the other end, or human values, or human communication or anything else, because such an assumption takes away from the experience and the ability to genuinely connect with the bacteria.
I think the same applies to any kind of contact you make with something that isn't human. Even if that consciousness approaches you on human terms, using human communication, it shouldn't be assumed that it holds human values, culture, etc. It might, or it could be that its trying to meet us on our terms because its easier to communicate that way or because it wants to experience our consciousness. I figure even if an entity I'm interacting with has two arms, two legs, a a head, and a somewhat human shape, even that doesn't mean it has the same consciousness needs, etc. That can only be discovered, never assumed and when we apply anthropocentrism to such interactions we make assumptions which can be dangerous, and if nothing else are faulty by virtue of our own limited perspective.
I'm reading the Necessity of Strangers by Alan Gregerman, which argues for the value of strangers in your life, because of how they open your horizons. The author points out that everyone you meet initially is a stranger, which is certainly true, but what I really like about the book is that it advocates that what strangers provide you is new perspectives that challenge how you think and what you do. And I think that challenge is essential if you want to experiment in a given discipline. As I've written before, one of the reasons I am able to experiment with magic is that I keep myself open to a variety of perspectives that fall outside the traditional occult disciplines, because I find that such perspectives provide me different angles through which to examine magic and my processes. Those different perspectives are what keeps magic relevant and fresh and provides opportunities to evolve it.
Such perspectives can be found in books and other materials, but also through meeting other people. One of the reasons I like to meet with people outside of my usual sphere of influence is that it provides me an opportunity to get new perspectives by learning about them and how they perceive the world. I may or may not agree with them, but even if I don't agree it still provides me different insights and ways to experience the world, and those insights are critical for experimentation purposes. Indeed, one of the reasons that I like my day time business is that it provides me lots of opportunities to meet with people who don't share the same sub culture interests or beliefs. I feel that such contact enriches me and my practice of my magic because I'm not just meeting people I agree with or people who share similar beliefs. I'm not keeping myself in a bubble that has everything I'm familiar with, but instead challenging myself to experience something new, even though what is new and different may not fit inside what I already know.
Sometimes it doesn't. A lot of times it doesn't. When I work with people that hold different beliefs or values, it can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is good because it challenges the safe, conventional perspectives I have. Such a challenge is needed in order to keep a person grounded in my opinion. When you get wrapped up in your safe, conventional world view, supported by everyone around you, you lose touch, because you aren't challenging yourself or your views. You aren't staying open to new ideas or to discovering what you might not know. All of this is needed in a person's life, and I think in his/her spiritual practice as well. We see all too often the dangers that occur when a person is isolated from contrary views. S/he can become a fanatic fundamentalist, convinced that his/her way is the only way, Such a perspective leads to a dulling of the person.
So what are you doing to meet strangers, to keep yourself open to new perspectives?
The concept of community has always been an interest of mine. I think it's been so important because I never really felt like I was part of a community. I felt like an outsider for so much of my life and while I wanted to be part of different communities, I could never really figure out how. Then the answer came to me...instead of trying to be part of something, why not just develop your own community. And that's what I decided to do. My initial forays into community building weren't very successful, but they were illustrative of what I needed to do. For example, when I first moved to Portland, I decided to start up a meetup at my house, where various friends could come and I'd present on some of the magical experiments I was working on. I soon realized that although the classes were a success, they weren't an effective way to build community, because the focus wasn't on being a community. I eventually stopped teaching and for a while just drifted.
My next attempt at building community was a bit more successful. I decided to propose a game night to my friends, where we could get together once a week and play various board games. And sometime after that I started another magical meetup night, but instead of just me teaching people, we decided to rotate it so that different members taught or shared what they are are working on. We also made it in to a potluck so that all of us could share a meal together. And through these activities I discovered that I was building a community. I've learned a couple of key lessons that I think can be applied by anyone seeking to build community in their own areas.
1. Don't assume that belonging to a given subculture automatically makes you part of the community at large. What I've discovered over the years is that although I identify myself as a Pagan and occultist, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm part of the community. This is a lesson I've learned at various locations and what it has really taught me is that to become part of a community you have to work at it. It doesn't happen just because you identify with a given subculture. And something else to remember is that you'll have multiple communities of a subculture. For example, in Portland, there is a chapter of the OTO in town, a community of hermetic magicians, several different general pagan communities, the magical experiments community as well as various solitaries (and probably some I don't know of). Not every community with be a fit for a given person, but given time you'll either find the right community or create one.
2. Shared interests are an excellent way to build community. I have found that shared interests are important for cultivating and strengthening community. I didn't have much in common with the majority of communities I encountered when I moved to Portland, so I decided to form my own and with my friends found people who had similar interests, which helped to build an investment in the community that was forming. Finding people who share your interests, both esoteric and otherwise, can be very helpful for establishing community, and providing a foundation of shared values that also appeals to other people who want something similar.
3. Shared responsibilities increase community participation. My first attempt at forming community didn't work because I was solely responsible for it and it was more or less a class as opposed to an actual community gathering. When I tried again, one of the things I asked for was that other people took turns presenting on topics of their own interest. By doing this, the other people became more invested and participation rose. We also made it into a social event, by making it happen around a meal and asking everyone to bring a dish of food for the meal.
4. It can be useful to keep your community semi-private. We don't post our events on social media sites such as Facebook. The community is semi-private in that people can bring guests, but the only online mention of the community typically occurs in my newsletter and in an e-list that is only for people who are part of the community. The reason it isn't public is because the community isn't automatically for everyone. It's for people who have shared interests, want to share what they are working on and also want to learn from others. The community is for people who feel called to join it and typically what I find is that a person will visit once and know shortly thereafter if s/he feels called to participate.
5. A community gels around a stable place to meet. A stable place to meet does a lot to solidify the community. Kat and I open our home up to the people in our community for our gatherings. I've noticed something similar in other stable communities and I think having one place for everyone to convene is helpful because it provides a stable physical environment that everyone knows.
Building a community of any sort takes effort and participation on the part of everyone that's involved. A community is only successful if the people involved in it make the effort to build and sustain the community together. The tips I've offered above can be helpful, but feel free to share some of yours in the comments below!
When I was growing up, I used to believe that a person's appearance, that what s/he wore didn't matter. I had bought into this counter cultural belief that appearance didn't matter and wasn't genuine (which is ironic because every counter culture I know of has a specific image and appearance that is important and indicative of whether you belong or don't belong). My perspective on this has changed quite a bit, especially once I became self-employed. I find that appearance is important and that how you dress can help make an initial impression that is important in its own right. Your appearance has its own magic, in a sense, and I think it can be quite useful to work with that on a magical level.
The clothes you wear, while not inherently possessing magic, nonetheless do possess something else: The perceptions of other people as they look at those clothes on you. What is the image you convey, the impression that you make, the presence you embody? It is, of course, your presence, but it is a presence mediated by others as well. Tap into that mediation and what you tap into is how to turn the perceptions of others into a glamour all its own. And you know, we do it all the time. The goth wears black clothing to present a specific presence, with different ideas associated with it. To other goths, the clothes indicate belonging, and to yet other people, they indicate that the person is a goth. That's one example, but I'm sure you can think of others that apply.
When I put on a suit, I often think that what I'm really putting on is a magical garb of some sort. The suit becomes ritual garb for business meetings. It's expected at those meetings, and without it I wouldn't necessarily fit in or at least not be as accepted. Yes we can argue that its superficial to judge a person based on the clothes s/he wears, but if that's so why then does clothing matter so much? Why put all the effort into finding the right clothing for the right occasion? No one I know doesn't prepare on some level for an outing without putting attention into the appearance, what s/he will wear, and how it will appear to other people. When I put on a suit, I think about what it is supposed to convey. A suit conveys reputation, authority, as well as belonging in certain settings (and not belonging in other settings).
When you put any clothing on, take a moment to really settle into the presence of that clothing, into the message you are sending? What is your appearance trying to convey? What impressions do you want people to get? How will those impressions help you? Do the color choices of the clothing help you in your appearance or do they create some cognitive disconnect? When you wear your clothes step into them and make them part of your identity, part of what you are presenting to the world. Your appearance isn't you, but it is you...it is what you present to others, and it can be a gateway all its own.
Appearance matters. We can tell ourselves it doesn't and that its superficial to think it does matter, but when we tell ourselves such a message we are being hypocrites. After all, every time you put some thought into what you wear, you care about your appearance...it matters. I say let it matter, and step into it and make it part of your magical part, part of your work with your identity. Be present with yourself in the clothing you wear and let yourself be open to how that in and of itself speaks for you. There's magic to explore there if you are willing to be open to it.
There's been a lot of uproar over Teo Bishop's realization that he's felt a calling back to Jesus Christ. Some people are upset because he's posted about this decision on Pagan blogs, while other people defend him doing so and feel it's important that he posts about his recent coming back to Jesus, especially given that he's been interviewed in the most recent issue of Witches and Pagans. And then there's me. I don't care about Teo Bishops' spiritual choices and I don't think anyone else should either. They are his choices and I feel that a person's spiritual choice is ultimately a private matter, something that can really only be known by the person and the spiritual forces s/he works with. I know, I know, Teo blogs about his spirituality (so do I for that matter). But while a blog post can describe a person's journey, it can't really speak to all of the moments the person experiences, or what s/he does with those experiences.
I have no doubt Teo will continue blogging about his spiritual journey and I'm fine with that. Let his voice be read by the people who want to read it and find it to be valuable. I'm relatively certain that just as with any other writer Teo will find his audience or they will find him and that what will really matter is what that audience offers each other. The rest of us will move on and life will continue.
I don't think it's such a big deal really. Here's this guy and he's having some spiritual realizations which are causing him to move toward what he feels called to. We all have them. I think the only reason this is a big deal is because Teo has a bit of fame (outside of being Pagan) and so people are upset because this person who has a bit of fame might suddenly not be Pagan anymore. Let's ask the honest and tough question everyone seems to be avoiding: Would you really care so much about Teo's conversion if he didn't have some fame attached? I know that must make me sound terribly, terribly cynical, but really, why are people getting so bent out of shape because someone shares that he's going through a spiritual change? Maybe it has nothing to do with his fame, but the thing is, I never heard of Teo Bishop until a year and change ago. Before then, as far as I knew he didn't exist. Then suddenly he pops up and this is partially so important because he's already a public figure and that just might make Paganism look better as a result. So now he's going through some spiritual changes and people are upset (in my opinion) because this person is A BNP and a public figure in other venues outside Paganism.
I don't care about Teo's spiritual choices, or yours for that matter. Believe what you want, practice it how you want. As long as you aren't hurting people I don't have a problem with it. I also don't think we need to make a big deal about it. Mind your own business, live your life...you get the idea and that's all I have to say on the subject of Teo Bishop and his changing spirituality.
The other day I come across this blog post, where the author, Cat Chapin-Bishop discussed a desire to be able to meet with someone as a peer, as opposed to needing to take a class to have access to the person. I then read a post by Jason Miller, which while not written as a response to the one I've mentioned above, fittingly enough does present a counter perspective in regards to who has access to an occult author. In his post Jason makes it clear that certain boundaries are needed when you have a certain degree of fame and that a certain level of protocol and etiquette needs to be maintained in order to connect with him. The issue that both of these people bring up in their respective ways boils down to access, specifically who has access and connection to people who are considered prominent within a given community.
My feeling on this topic comes somewhere between the two perspectives already mentioned. I am in favor of peer relationships, but I also think that the nature of such relationships changes to some degree as you become an expert in your field. Also as someone who has a bit of fame, I've found that people want access to someone famous without necessarily considering that person's needs. They want to bask in their perception of that person and as a result the relationship is less about a peer connection and more about validation of themselves via having a connection to the famous person (A great example of this in action is someone who likes to name drop who they know that's famous. It's more important to them that they are perceived as someone who knows someone famous).
Like Jason, I do have certain protocols in place when it comes to how people can connect with me, and how I prefer for them to connect with me. The reason those protocols are in place is because I want my privacy respected and because I am selective about who I let in my life. On occasion I've had people who've wanted my opinion or perspective on their projects, or even wanted me to participate in those projects (with an expectation that I would participate), as if I should feel obligated to do so. What I've felt instead is that it's been more of an intrusion on my time to write and work on my own ideas, which I'll admit are much more precious to me. As such I tend to limit my connections in specific ways, because in doing so I also preserve and cultivate my creative genius which is an integral part of my own spiritual and practical work.
Nonetheless, I also feel that it's important to connect to the community at large. I create certain opportunities for people to connect with me. Some of those opportunities are paid for, such as through the Process of Magic class or the class I'll soon be offering on Space/Time Magic, and some of those opportunities come about as a result of attending a convention where I'm speaking, at which point I do make every effort to speak with people who want to connect with me. I even offer a chance to connect with me once a month, in person, if you happen to be in PDX (living here or visiting) and attend one of our monthly meet-ups (subscribe to my e-newsletter to learn more). People who attend those meetings regularly end up becoming friends and cultivating a deeper relationship with me because they've come to know me as Taylor the person as opposed to Taylor the author. However all of these ways to connect with me are filtered to a certain degree in order to also allow me to maintain my own space and focus on my own work and also are filtered by the fact that the type of access isn't necessarily a peer relationship, but rather a teacher/student relationship. Such a relationship can still provide a sense of connection and community, but it does not automatically provide a peer connection.
When it comes to peer relationships, I'm picky. I want people I can collaborate with or have a good discussion with, but also people who know and understand that I have my own commitments. I have a few people I connect with on a somewhat regular basis and those people aren't all fellow authors (most of them aren't in fact). They are people I'd happily meet up with for a bagel, but they are also people engaged in a similar level of work and as such my interest in developing a peer relationship is partially motivated by wanting to know more about their work and what they are doing as well as by the opportunity to brain storm together. They are people who intrigue me with what they do and as a result I connect with them because I feel a sense of connection and camaraderie based on our mutual interest (hopefully they feel the same about me).
You can't force a specific type of relationship to happen. A relationship of any type occurs organically, based on what each person brings to the relationship. For me what makes a relationship valuable is how people treat each other. Anyone who contacts me in a respectful manner will be treated respectfully. At the same time, I do maintain the right to have my own boundaries and enforce them as needed. The fact is I still have a lot I want to write and do and in order to do that I find that I need a fair amount of me time, because that's what really allows me to do the level of research, experimentation, and writing that I want to do. I think recognizing the boundaries you need is an essential part of establishing healthy relationships with yourself and other people.
When we talk about magic and spiritual work, most of the time the focus is on a person's journey into his/her spirituality, but I think that another component of a person's spiritual work is the service you engage in with the community around you. That service can involve the Pagan community you are apart of, but I also think it should include service to the larger community that you are apart of. Service to the community is an integral part of your spiritual work because it provides you a way to give to the community. And service doesn't need to be complicated. It could involve working at a soup kitchen or donating some time to a nonprofit that you believe in, but regardless of what you, why you are doing it is because you feel a call to serve your community.
I also think that this call to be of service can be applied to your profession. As the managing non fiction editor of Immanion Press, one of the things I've focused on is how I can use the press to serve the community. One of the missions that I've set for Immanion Press is that we publish books on issues that need to be addressed in the Pagan community, but aren't being addressed overtly. For example Women's Voices in Magic was published because I felt it important to have an anthology that strictly represented what women had to offer on magic. Similarly Shades of Faith is anthology which focuses on Pagans of color speaking about their experiences in the Pagan community. Immanion Press will be publishing new anthology called Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Spirit later this year which focuses on people with disabilities sharing their experiences in the Pagan community. Each of these anthologies were put together because I saw a need to focus on these topics.
In each case, I found someone to edit the anthology who was qualified to edit it and could do an excellent job of reaching out to their respective communities. I recognized as a white male that while I saw a need for each of these anthologies and could hep them get published, I wasn't the one to edit them. Instead as part of my service to the community I needed to find the right person who could edit the anthology and who would feel a similar passion for the anthology that I felt. I also recognized that I could help set up the circumstances, but I needed to step away, provide enough support to help each editor, but also let them run the project their way. This showed them that I respected their work and the work with the people they were working with. I think that Brandy Williams, Crystal Blanton, and Tara Masery Miller all demonstrate that passion in their respective anthologies.
What I love the most is hearing how each of these anthologies empowered the people who wrote for them and helped to facilitate and promote much needed conversations in the Pagan community. The anthologies are a way that Immanion Press can serve the community, and it has even helped to get some of the people to continue writing and sharing. To me, while Immanion Press is a publisher that publishes books, it's also a publisher willing to publish work that might be edgy and controversial because it gets conversations to happen and raises awareness about issues that the Pagan community needs to address to continue to evolve.
Publishing is a passion of mine, but part of that passion is informed by my desire to serve the community I am apart of. For me, one the best ways I can serve the Pagan community is no only publish my own work, but empower other people to write their books, in their voice, to their audience. And what really excites me is helping to publish the anthologies and other works that promote discussion about issues in our community that might otherwise not be focused on as overtly. Publishing is part of my spiritual work, because the books we publish are for the Pagan community, and so I see it as a form of service. I don't make a salary for the work I do for Immanion Press, and what little I do get paid amounts to pennies for hours of work, but why I'm doing isn't for the pay, but rather for the opportunity to help people share their words with the audience that needs to read them. In doing so I serve a part of my spiritual calling. And I think that informs a lot of my approach to magic as a result, because it's not just about my journey, but other people's journeys.
The other day, Jason made a post about why magic isn't a race of doing a given magical activity as fast as you can. He notes that people get fixated on doing a given magical ritual as fast as possible, and makes the point that the efficacy of a working can be lost when you try to do something as fast as possible. I agree with him, and I also agree that there is a fixation on doing magical work as fast as possible. I think some of that is a result of living in a world where the technology is speeding up the pace of life. Consequently people have an expectation that everything else will be faster as well. I also think that sometimes people want spirituality to be something that is condensed and experienced in as short a time as possible.
My own magical work is an activity I take a lot of time on. I have a post I'm planning to write n some of my latest space/time magical experiments, but I haven't written it yet, because I'm taking my time on the experiment and fine tuning the work. I don't want to just do something and then share it as quickly as possible. I want to put the time and effort into the magical working in order to effectively understand and implement it. The problem with doing a magical activity as fast as you can is that it leaves you no time to really consider or integrate what you are doing into your magical work. Instead it just becomes an activity you do for the sake of getting done with it as soon as possible.
My own magical work is rarely done as fast as possible. When I do my daily work, I don't have a specific time frame in mind for when it'll be done. I do it and it lasts for as long as I need to do it. For other magical work I take a methodical approach to the work, which allows for a given activity to occur over longer periods of time. My elemental balancing work, which typically lasts a year is an example of such a work. I take a year to work with a given element in order to really allow it to imprint meaningfully on my life. Doing a quick ritual to an element wouldn't mean much, because I really wouldn't get to know that element.
My other magical work is similar. I take as much time as needed, because it's not about getting it done as quickly as possible. It's about experiencing the magic and the experiences it provides and allowing yourself to fully feel it and know it. That kind of experience doesn't happen if you rush your magical work. So take your time and don't make it a race. Make it an experience that genuinely changes your life.
Book Review: Working with the Dreaming Body by Arnold Mindell
In this book, the author explores the concept of the dreaming body in conjunction with how a person expresses his/her psychological dysfunctions through everyday behavior, as well as the dreaming body. What I like about this book is that the author builds on previous work and shows how various physical symptoms can be related to psychological disturbances as well as how to use those symptoms to uncover and work with those disturbances. He also explains how a personal can use the symptoms that s/he experiences to come to an understanding and make with him/herself. The case studies that he provides also demonstrate the techniques he uses and provide further insight into working with the body holistically. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn how to work more with your body and your mind as a unified unit.
There's a lot of conversation going on right now about the validity of pop culture magic and spirituality in the blogosphere. If you want to see my response to it, go here. But I figure for this post I'll talk about some of my current work with pop culture magic. While my magical practice isn't as focused on pop culture anymore, it's still a significant component of how I practice magic. I'm pleased that more and more people are integrating pop culture into magic, as it is necessary for the evolution of magic. So below are a few case studies of what I've been up to.
Nathan Drake: Discoverer of lost items
At the beginning of this year I discovered the Uncharted video game series. While the first game was a bit lackluster in my opinion, the second and third game are amazing. You feel like you're in a movie. Even the musical score supports this feeling. In playing the game I felt like I got to make a connection with the main character and there were three traits I felt were useful: His ability to find artifacts that were lost (you collect them throughout the game), his problem solving abilities, and his luck. So I figured if I ever needed to I could call on his help for finding something I've lost. I've had three occasions where I've needed his help. Once was to find my phone (I'd left it in a restaurant) and the other two times were to find keys. Now I imagine that all of you know how frustrating it is to lose something and not be able to find it, especially when you need it. In each case, I started humming the theme song of Uncharted to evoke Nathan. Then I asked him to find the objects in question and show me a map of how to find them. Each time I did this, within a couple minutes I got a map that showed me where to go and each time I found the item in question.
I figure if I'm stumped about a problem I can also call on Nathan to help me discover possibilities for solving the problem. I haven't had to as of yet, but I'm sure I'll need to. And he's lucky...he's fighting scores of goons and who know's what else and he always comes out on top, so that's something else I figure I can draw on.
Kratos: Time and Time Again
If you're familiar with the God of War series then you know of Kratos. What's fascinating about Kratos isn't just the fact that he's the archetype of rage and vengeance (as well as the God of War), but the fact that in most of the games time is an element that he uses to his advantage. The most recent game, for example, allows the character to construct or deconstruct items, while in other games he is able to slow down time. Pretty nifty skills. While I already have some Time Dilation techniques I can use, I'm never one not to experiment or explore an idea that's presented in a different way. So in the case of Kratos its involved actually calling on him to slow or speed time up for me, which has been useful for reaching several business appointments. I could do it myself, but the point was to see what he could do. When he does it, he projects a cone of greenish energy that is used to either speed up or slow down time. It's projected into the environment, but doesn't effect me. And as with Nathan I hummed the theme music to evoke Kratos.
Those are examples of working with pop culture entities and I used them to show how such entities can be used to effect events as opposed to just personality traits. But I'd be remiss in not including a practical pop culture oriented technique that the magician could do him/herself.
Something I've noticed with blogs is that if you include a picture its more likely to grab the attention of people and get them to go and read your blog. There's nothing inherently magical in that, but it's occurred to me that one way you can charge sigils is to simply share a picture of the sigil on social media. You can even embed the sigil into a picture if you'e got the right skills and then people can charge it up for you. Each sharing of the sigil fires it off while also charging it with the attention of the people who look at it, like it and comment on it.
So those are a few pop culture magic workings I've been working on. There's a few I haven't shared either and those will have to wait until I write the next Pop Culture Magic book. There's a lot to explore with pop culture magic if you have an open mind.
I came across a couple articles decrying the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community. Joseph Nichter discusses his own experiences with intolerance in the Pagan community, while Peter Dybing notes the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community in the last few years. The sad truth is though that this intolerance has been around a lot longer than the last few years. Perhaps, if anything, the internet with its continued evolution has just made it much easier to see the not so pleasant truth of the Pagan community: there is a fair amount of intolerance when it comes to a variety of topics including the practice of one's spirituality, experimentation in magical work, whether magic is even part of Paganism anymore, as well as cultural issues surrounding how Paganism is accepted by mainstream cultures. As someone who has been labeled a fluffy bunny from well before I began professionally writing in 2003, I can tell you that Pagans can be pretty opinionated. I write that tongue in cheek, because I must come off as pretty opinionated in this blog post.
But the reality is that this isn't any different from any other religious community. Christianity has its sects as well, which disagree on matters of doctrine and culture. At least we haven't, as of yet, started calling each other heretics and engaging in more violent activities. Instead it's just online flame wars, and people getting their @$$es handed to them for expressing opinions. I'll probably get some flak for this but I'm used to it. I wish I wasn't though. I wish the Pagan community really was better and not so intolerant. But I learned in the 90's that wasn't the case. I actually went on a hiatus from the community because I was disgusted with the amount of negativity and intolerance being expressed. And in the years since it hasn't changed...This is nothing new under the sun, nothing sudden that has just occurred.
That doesn't mean we just should sit back and not do something about it. However to change it we need to explore what that change would look like. I think a better appreciation for diversity would be a good start. Instead of labeling people as fluffy bunnies or decrying what they choose to do spirituality, we need to accept that even if we don't agree with someone's spiritual choices it doesn't make him/her a fluffy bunny or anything else. Agree to disagree and leave it at that. And if you feel the need to get in a debate ask yourself exactly what that debate is supposed to accomplish. Most like its just you venting hot air because you don't like what someone is saying or doing, but do you really want to invest your time and energy in that way?
And if there are issues to debate let us debate them civilly, with agreed on rules of interaction and dialogue that foster a space of collaboration and cooperation. There are any number of resources that can be explored and used to help accomplish this. The book Dialogue Gap by Peter Nixon, is one such resource. And perhaps most important. Don't let the people who are being intolerant win. Keep doing what you know is right and keep speaking up. I once was interviewed by the Pagan Centered Podcast. Everyone on there was hostile toward my work. It was a great example of Pagan intolerance, but after the interview was over I didn't let it stop me. They could call me names, tell me I was fluffy and hand my @$$ to me, but what they couldn't do was stop me. If anything their intolerance inspired me to continue speaking because I realized that if I did stop speaking up or writing, I'd just be letting them have the final word, and in the process glorify the intolerance that they advocated for. In any given community there will always be those people who are intolerant and have a loud bark. Ignore them and keep doing what you need to do. There will always be intolerance, always be people who will sit in judgement, arguing that they and they alone know best. They are wrong, but you can't change their mind, so focus on your work and make the world a better place. Speak out against the intolerance, as needed, but don't expect to change it, unless they are willing to actually accept that there can be other perspectives in the world that are as valid as their own.
Dark Sun Radio recently posted the interview they did with me late last year. You can listen to it here.
Jason recently posted a fantastic post about doubt and why it is useful for your magical work. I agree with his perspective that doubt is useful and that we shouldn't automatically accept that just because we've gotten a result that it is the actual result we wanted. I think magicians are afraid to admit to doubt, or to be critical of their magical work. After all, admitting that you're magic didn't quite work out can make you wonder if it's in your head, or if you really know what you are doing. But that's a negative perspective about doubt. Admitting doubt can also help you recognize where you can improve your magical work, can help you be critical of your process, and can help you recognize when the magic hasn't worked the way you wanted it to.
One element of doubt he didn't touch on, which is just as important as acknowledging the doubt you feel about your magical work, or acknowledging when your magic hasn't stacked up the way you like, is the crisis of faith that inevitably comes along. You know, when you doubt that magic even exists, or you doubt whether or not you really feel the connection to what you're working with. And just as I agree with Jason that not enough people post about their failures, I also think not enough people really post about their crisis of faith or how they work through it.
One of the reasons I write in this blog is to actually share my on-going work, and that includes the moments I feel doubt, or an experiment doesn't work out, or to just show my very fallible nature. I do this for a couple reasons. One I do it to keep myself humble and to recognize that regardless of what anyone else may think of me, I am not always successful with magic or life. No one is, but I do like to think I learn as much, if not more from my failures, as my successes...and that leads to the second reason. I have always wanted to provide people with examples of both success and lack thereof in my work. I want my readers to recognize that there is a magical process and that part of that process involves finding what isn't working and acknowledging it and working on it. I don't just do this with my blog, but also my books, because I don't think it's authentic to just present your successes to other people. Not only does it set an unrealistic standard, but it encourages a mentality of one-upmanship instead of genuine collaboration and improvement.
There have been times I've struggled with my beliefs around magic. There have been times I felt disconnected and wondered if what was I doing was really making a difference. And I'm glad I've had those moments, because they present an alternative perspective, but also when the magic works out, it really allows me to see that it's not all in my head, that there is something going on, and that what I need to do is not give up. I need to improve what I'm doing, and use the doubt I feel to give me some perspective, so I can ask hard questions. I agree with Jason that more people should share what isn't working, and what doubts they feel. Yes it can make you feel vulnerable, but it can also be liberating, and help others see that they aren't alone and that magic isn't always a success. But doubt can also help us become better magicians if we are willing to use it as an opportunity.
Every so often I run a charity special. From now until Monday April 22nd, if you sign up for The Process of Magic class, I will donate half of the class fee to the New Alexandrian Library, which is a non-profit dedicated to creating a library of Esoteric books. They update their Facebook a bit more frequently than the website, and you can see what they are working on now. The class fee for the Process of Magic course is $80, so 40 of that will be donated to this project if you sign up.
What do you get in return? 24 lessons, one e-mailed each week that explores the process of magic, and helps you personalize your process of magic. You also get access to a dedicated e-list, with other members, a bi-monthly teleconference and a free e-book. If you have questions or wish to sign up, please contact me.
I've been reading a book on Tibetan dream yoga and another one on quabalistic practices. What fascinates me the most is that both books discuss dreams and how to work with them in a similar fashion, despite the fact that both authors are from different cultures. As far as I can tell neither author has cited the other and neither seems to be culturally appropriating material from the other. They just seem to be discussing dreams and how to work with dreams in remarkably similar ways. And as I read both books and do the practices in both, I find that I'm getting similar results. So it makes me think, in this case, that the cultural trappings are less important, because the foundational techniques seem to be the same, or at least have enough similarity outside of cultural contexts.
I respect cultural contexts, but I do think that its also possible to encounter techniques that come from multiple cultures and yet have enough similarity that the technique can be understood without the cultural context. In other words, I sometimes think there is an artificial divide created within the context of culture that may bar people from recognizing that a technique can occur in multiple cultures and have similar steps.
With that said, I want to make it clear that I'm not dismissing the concerns about cultural appropriation. These are valid concerns, and when a person learns a technique s/he should be mindful of the culture where it comes from. The cultural context does have some impact on the technique, and your experience of it. For example, while I can understand certain aspects of the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and sleep there are other aspects, cultural ones, I don't get, which does effect how I work with the technique. If I were to learn from a lama directly it might be different, but I suspect even then I'd still only have a partial understanding when it comes to the cultural aspects, because I'm not from that culture.
Is there really an artificial divide? Only in the sense that if you can find a technique that is similar across cultures, then perhaps what you are really dealing with is the technique in and of itself, as opposed to the cultural perspective. Recognizing that can be helpful in learning the technique and also understanding that nothing is so original that it can't be found elsewhere.
There's been a lot of discussion about privilege in the Pagan community following Pantheacon. Or rather Pantheacon just happened to be the place where the conversation came to the surface more, because the conversation has been happening for a while now. And such conversations are important because ideally it brings to light the inequities in the community. I'm a middle class white man that has the fortune of living in a first world country with running water, heat, and a number of other resources that are available to me. The level of privilege that I have is staggering and likely I'm not even fully aware of it. Yet what I am aware of is that there are other people that don't have that same level of privilege, who for reasons of gender or skin color or whatever else don't have the same level of access to resources, education, and opportunities that I have, and also face more situations where their appearance is used to judge them.
I feel that one of the ways I can leverage my privilege is to turn around and use it for the greater good. I'm not doing this out of a sense of white guilt, but rather because I don't believe that inequity of any sort should continue to flourish. And while my actions can't make everything right, I feel that what I can do is help make people more aware of the issues as well as continue to educate myself. One of the reasons Immanion Press has published several anthologies focused on issues of privilege as it applies to occultism and Paganism is because by doing so other people get their voice heard and hopefully they are inspired to continue writing and discussing because they recognize why it is so important.
And while I don't think addressing privilege in Paganism will make everything right, I think it's a start. If you want to make change happen, start with your community and build from there. That kind of change is slow, but it also builds momentum. I know that whatever change I facilitate will best occur by working with what I know.
In a lot of ways, it's interesting to observe the Pagan community and how it is dealing with the issue of privilege. Pagans, by and large, like to think of themselves as progressive people. And yet its clear that privilege still operates on certain levels. At this year's Pantheacon the Pagans and Privilege panel had to be held in a hospitality suite and the People of Color hospitality suite got a lot of resistance from the Pantheacon staff. At the same time the conversations are happening, and people are becoming more aware of the issues. Change is happening, as long as we are willing to continue to make it happen by confronting the issues and how they effect all of us as a community, and as individuals.
Over on the Wild Hunt, Jason wrote a post recently about the fact that the book industry Study Group has recently moved some of the books that are considered Paganism/Wicca from the Occult/New Age section over to the Religion section. He sees this as a good thing, and I would agree, if it wasn't for the following:
Throughout those years I remember often voicing a common complaint: “Why are books about Pagan religions shelved next to crystal healing and channeled hidden masters instead of in the religion section where they belong.” I felt, as many others did, that it created a two-tiered hierarchy: “real” religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and those religions relegated to what was once known as the “occult” section.
I'd ask why is there an assumption that crystal healing and channeling hidden masters couldn't be consider a form of religion in its own right, or at the least part of the religious practices? Or perhaps also why the occult is so stigmatized and seen as a bad thing that hurts paganism, especially given many of the religious and spiritual practices are occult oriented? Isn't the occult a real "religion"?
Now I'll admit that I don't consider what I practice to really be a religion, but at the same time I wouldn't mind seeing occult books given a bit more respect in general...and my concern is that while books that are considered overtly Pagan or Wicca will now be labeled as a religion, other books will continue to be relegated to a label that is less than flattering, and will also provide further fuel for what I think of as the segregation of magic from Paganism. It seems to me that occult/magic practices are considered the bastard child of Paganism, something to be dusted under the rug because it hurts the image of Paganism as more of a mainstream religion. Yet I'd argue that those very practices define the spiritual work and that the various books on Paganism and Wicca that reference magic and the occult shouldn't suddenly be removed from a section, unless you are going to remove all the books found in that section, or at least categorize them more effectively.
My question is: Why is there such an emphasis on removing the occult from Paganism? I think its because Paganism is making some strides and getting some good recognition and the last thing the people, working on making Paganism more mainstream and acceptable, want is to be associated with magic and the occult. But when we remove magic from the picture we are removing something essential and while Paganism may look more acceptable, denying its roots, and looking down on certain practices just creates a rift that does more to hurt the community than actually help it. We shouldn't strive so hard for acceptance if we aren't willing to ask that everything we do be accepted, as opposed to only the parts that are considered "safe"
I have a confession to make. I have never given myself a magical name. My magical name is my actual name and I think that name is magical enough that I don't need to come up with something else. Recently I came across an article where the author mentions that he'd never realized that shifting from a magical name to your mundane name could be a form of grounding that separates your magical persona from your regular persona. He cited an article by Frater Barrabbas that discusses this aspect further and I found the argument intriguing.
Frater Barrabbas's argument is that if a magician uses his/her mundane name as his/her craft name, s/he runs the risk of believing his/her own pr and can become deluded about his/her magical achievements and also the reality of his/her situation. The adoption of a magical name and motto allows the magician to create a persona for his/her magical self. This in turns allows the magician to turn off that persona as needed and keep him/her grounded in reality. I see his point and I agree with it to a degree, especially because he cites how actors and other famous people also experience this kind of delusion, as I've noted in Pop Culture Magick, and as can be seen in any number of bizarre behaviors famous people end up doing. The amount of energy and attention thrown their way affects who they are and causes them to buy into the image as reality, instead of remembering that they are mortal. Sadly unless you are a triumphant roman general, you probably won't have someone whispering in your ear that you are mortal.
At the same time I have always considered magical names to be a conceit of sorts, a way for someone to give themselves a self important title. And because of that and also because I believe that the only way people in general will become more accepting of magic, Paganism, and alternative beliefs in general, I've chosen to use my own name as my magical name. Anyone who does a Google search on my name discovers that I'm an occultist, which has lead to some interesting discussions, but also provided me a sense of freedom because I am choosing not to hide what I believe or practice. That's my choice and yet it also serves to keep me humble.
If you read this journal you'll inevitably come across entries where I detail some of my personal struggles, failures, or magical workings that just didn't work out the way I hoped. Nor do I consider myself to be famous. I'm at most kinda famous, on the fringe of the occult community. And on a mundane level, I've gone through a divorce and made my share of mistakes with finances, work, life, and love. I can be petty, vengeful, and quick to anger, and my people skills could use work. On the other hand I can also be compassionate, caring, and generous. I've made an ass of myself on multiple occasions and I've lost friends, made enemies, and had other mundane issues come up. In short I am a fallible person and I don't buy into any pr about me because I know at the end of the day that any enlightenment I've experienced has been worked for...hard. And on the rare occasion I meet someone who acts impressed by who I am (it doesn't happen often, though I'll admit social media has been a nice shot to my self-esteem as a writer) what I try to do, more than anything, is get them to meet the real me. Not the author, not the magician, but Taylor Ellwood the person. Because Taylor Ellwood the person is a lot less likely to let them down, and because when they get to know me as a person they realize that while I'm a pretty interesting person, I am just another person at the end of the day.
I keep my name because it reminds me to be humble. The assumption of a magical name doesn't ground me...it just creates another level of occult BS that I dislike with an intense passion. Now to be clear I do respect why Frater Barrabbas has chosen to take on a magical name. I respect it because I think that is the intention behind taking on such a name. I just don't know that many people hold to that same standard. He does, and I can safely say that because I know him and we've had a few conversations both with his persona on, and off. If you want to take on a magical name, then do it, but do it for the right reasons.
The truth is that we all take a risk of believing our own pr. Occultists can be pretty arrogant and I've definitely been arrogant at times. I've just learned that being arrogant doesn't really help. It just makes you into an asshole that everyone else dislikes and avoids. Lucky for me I've moved out of that stage of life and actually have people who want to hang with Taylor Ellwood the person. I'll never be the most popular guy, but that's ok too. I am an acquired taste and I know it and I'm satisfied with being that way. So whatever way you choose to keep yourself humble...remember you are but mortal...
The end of the current Baktun (Mayan Cycle) is today and a new one starts on Saturday. Some people are getting ready to hold end of the world parties while other people are telling us that its the end of the age of Pisces and the true beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Some people may very well believe that the end times are here and the end of the world is happening. Who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and the rapture will finally happen. You know what I say to all that? Whatever. It's a load of BS.
Even if the world did end today, would it really matter? Not really, not in the cosmic scale of things. Contrary to what many people like to believe the Earth and all the people on it aren't all that significant really. We live our lives, we make our mistakes and have our fun and when we are gone the universe continues without us. At some point the human race will go extinct and the cockroaches will take over or aliens will finally visit and ponder what happened to whatever lived on this planet. And the universe will go on.
And if the world doesn't end today (as it more than likely won't), some crackpot will come up with a prediction to say when it'll end. Or you'll have some evangelist who will proclaim the end times are here. And so what? All of these people eager for the end times have bought into a mythical belief of a better after life. And yet there's been talk about the end of the world for longer than any of us have been alive...and it still hasn't happened. It never will happen. And that's the problem when you put so much meaning into a date or a prophecy...inevitably you realize that whatever you read into it was inaccurate, a pipe dream.
We're all still here...so instead of focusing on the end times or whether this or that date will signify the end of the world, lets focus on what's really important: Living a meaningful life.
As I'm writing the wealth magic book and getting some feedback from prospective readers, one of the themes coming up is cultural identity vs personal identity, specifically how people define their own identity and definition about wealth in context to their environment, people in their lives, as well as what our culture says people should want. In Magical Identity, I explored how culture, family, environment, etc., shape a person's identity and this can and is easily extended to wealth as well. The perception of wealth that we're shown isn't necessarily the same as the reality of wealth for any given person. I think that truly understanding the concept of wealth as it applies to an individual's life involves some level of internal work that factors in the cultural theme of wealth and explores how much that theme really applies to the person's life.
I use myself as an example. Strictly examining my life by the cultural theme of wealth that is prevalent in the U.S. I wouldn't be considered wealthy. I'm not a multimillionaire, nor am I really obsessed with making lots and lots of money. I even have some debt that I'm paying off. My businesses are gradually becoming more successful, but I've made a few mistakes along the way. I've dropped out of graduate school, worked in the tech writing industry a couple of years and I've written a few books, but I'm not even all that well known in the occult community. By the cultural theme of wealth in the U.S. I would not be considered wealthy.
But by my theme/definition of wealth, I do consider myself wealthy. I am able to live on my own schedule, by my own rules, doing something I love to do. I am supported by someone who believes in me, and in turn I support her in a variety of ways that while not financial, nonetheless are significant to her because they make her life easier and bring her a sense of peace and contentment. I am able to work on my projects and I am happier than I have ever been. I have friends I care about, who also care about me. And while I have some debt, I also have some investments, and a financial plan that is moving me out of debt.
I am wealthy because I choose to define myself by the wealth I have in my life, which is more than just how much money I make. I am also wealthy because I have a plan that I am following, which is slowly but surely producing results. I am wealthy because I am doing what I feel called to do instead of settling for doing something that I don't want to do. I am wealthy because I have support from people who believe in me and are invested in my success, enough so that even when I have doubts, they don't and help me see what I have going in my favor.
I see cultural identity as a mirror of sorts. It shows me what the culture values and allows me to evaluate those values as they apply to my life, but in the end I think it is far more important to define your own values around wealth. This doesn't mean that I advocate believing in the virtue of being poor as a form of wealth, but rather I think that to truly understand wealth you need to understand how it applies to your life and this means consciously creating an identity and definition of wealth that gives you a way to meaningfully interact with what constitutes wealth in your life.
There's a lot of pressure to adhere to cultural standards of wealth, health, and everything else in between, but I don't think you can meaningfully get a lot from those standards because if you examine them you realize they create a lot more stress and unhappiness than anything else. People are so busy trying to fit into those standards that they lose themselves along the way. They can't keep up with the Jones, and they don't even know what they really want.
What really makes your life meaningful is how you define your life in context to how you want it to show up. Are you doing what you love to do? Are you happy with how your life is manifesting? Are you being true to your calling? Those are the questions I'm interested in, as they apply to my life and the lives of others, with wealth as a focus. I figure if you really get wealth, you know it when what you are doing is bringing you to life and who you are doing it with is what motivates you to do it. I admit its not a conventional approach to wealth, but I've never settled for conventional, because conventional is usually flawed.