R-J- Stewart

Why Imagination is essential to magical work


Kat and I are reading The Miracle Tree by R. J. Stewart. There is a chapter in it, which he devotes to the topic of imagination. I like his definition of imagination, in part because its similar to my own, and acknowledges that imagination is a very real element of magic. I think of imagination as the composite super consciousness of all living beings linked together. He calls that the imagination of the universe which works for me. I think that when a person accesses imagination, s/he is accessing this superconsciousness. I suppose the best evidence of that is found where a person will invent something and someone else who s/he doesn't know will also invent it as well. The imagination works through people to bring forth new visions of reality.

And when a person works with his/her imagination s/he is accessing all the creativity that is available, but also the limitations of what people can conceptualize. At the same time the imagination could also be that place where we meet the spirits, a middle ground that they use to present a face to us, and that we use to discover more about them. I think of the astral plane as a good example of that latter idea. It's an experience which is based in the imagination, imo, and we shape it they way you can shape your imagination, but it's also more than that. Maybe the astral plane is one of the more "physical" representations of imagination.

Whatever you think about imagination, the truth is we use it a lot in magic. Visualization, for instance, is an application of imagination. When you visualize that piece of fruit, smell, taste, touch, and hear it, you are imagining it, which doesn't mean its a fantasy...It's a vivid experience that you have.

Still you might wonder what the difference is between fantasy and imagination. Fantasy is another form of imagination, albeit one usually caught up in specific desires. I think of fantasy as non-applied imagination. It's something you day dream about, but it's not the application of imagination to reality, so much as a desire to escape reality. People flee to fantasy to get away from something or to lose themselves in an experience. Applied imagination, on the other hand, always has some level of practical application involved. If you are writing a business plan for example you are using your imagination to help you visualize what the business will be and then you taking action, which starts the process of manifesting imagination into reality.

Imagination is possibility and what a person does is filter all those possibilities into something concrete and then s/he starts the process of applying it to reality. Imagination is the zero, entropic in a way because until action is taken its just endless possibility, but no reality. But imagination is essential to magical work and life in general because it provides us the forum in which we can visualize a different reality. If you had no imagination, you'd have no incentive or creativity to make change happen.

Here's a link to my latest radio interview from Pagan Propensities.

Another Music Magic Experiment

Kat and I are reading the Spiritual Dimension of Music by R. J. Stewart. It has several exercises in it and I've tried them out solo as well as doing them with Kat. One of the exercises involves using different tones of music to raise energy through your body, while humming and/or vocalizing the tones. Another exercises involves using vowels to set up a magical circle, with each vowel representing one of the four cardinal directions and/or spirit.

I've decided to integrate the tonal exercise into my daily practice, and may integrate the vowel exercise as well, as I can distinctly feel the energy that is raised when I do these music magic exercises. I've always had an affinity for singing (I used to be in chorus in high school) and feel that the voice is one of the most powerful tools a magician can have, if properly trained and worked with.

When I've done these practices with Kat, I've noticed an enhancement to the work I'm doing. It seems like we amplify each other's signal and consequently the magical work is also amplified.

I've taken this work and also applied it to existing music magic that I've been doing, specifically working with the Tuvan throat singing.I've tried to integrate the tuvan throat singing with the vowels and tones. I haven't had too much luck with it so far, but it does take some work. Nonetheless its fascinating work and I'll share more as I continue to try things out.


Book Review: When Why...IF by Robin Wood

I'm not a Wiccan and I mention that because it's an important caveat to this review. This book was written for Wiccans and primarily deals with ethics from that perspective. I'll admit that I didn't really care for this book. At times I found the author to be condescending. She came off as a stern mother lecturing her way-ward son about how to behave. I also didn't see a lot of commentary on magic and ethics which I hoped for. I suspect the lack of it has more to do with the fact that its a book on Wiccan ethics, wherein Wicca tends to treat magic as a secondary activity. If you're Wiccan, this could be a useful book for providing some guidance on expected behaviors.  If you're a practitioner of other Pagan religions or more focused on magical practice, this book will probably not be that helpful.

Of Words and Worlds


I've always been fascinated by how words can create worlds. Or maybe its better to say they channel worlds. Regardless, what fascinates me the most is that the word is really an expression of reality that is half way between idea and reality. It is the beginning manifestation of possibility into reality, a way to establish something that is separate and distinct from the entropy of all possibilities.

In the Spiritual Dimension of Music, R. J. notes that "The word is the power exhaled by the mysterious source or Spirit. In physics it is known as the origin of the universe while in metaphysics it its known as the origin of worlds" Reading that made me think of the big bang as this explosive word uttered into the void that turned possibility into reality. And why not?

As a writer and also a bibliophile I really appreciate the power of words, in terms of what they present: Concepts made into inky flesh and shared and spread through the comprehension of the meanings embedded in the words. But it goes beyond that. In Pop Culture Magick, I wrote about how I thought of as Fantasy/SF books as channelings of other worlds or variations of this world that could be accessed through the word and also through imagination and magical work. It's still something I identify with. When I read the Shannara for examples, its not just words I read, but a reality I experience. I am there with the characters, experiencing what they experience and becoming a part of that world while I read about it. The word acts as a reality tunnel bridging the gap between the person's imagination and the actuality of the word s/he is reading about.

When people turn the word into ritual and magic it becomes even more real. The work Storm, I, and others have done with Dehara, a system of magic based off the Wraeththu series is the choice to bring something back from a "fantasy" world and turn it into a reality here that people can interact with more directly. Is it just pop culture, or is it more real? When I take the concepts written about in the DeathGate Series in regards to space/time magic and turn them into viable practices that can actually work, does it matter that the concept was initially found in a fantasy series? I don't think so.

I think that what matters is that we are able to turn words into worlds and then interact with those worlds and bring something back to this reality that is meaningful. I don't want to escape into another world, but I do want to learn from the other worlds out there. Even if they don't seem to be real, there is something we can learn from them, and in truth once they've been written about, they've already started to exist somewhere beyond the imagination of the author. They've become a reality of some sort and we are left to translate that reality to our own, if we so choose.

Elemental Fire Balancing Ritual Month 11

8-22-12 It amazes me how people duck out of being responsible for their actions. I say this statement with an awareness that I have sometimes been one of those people. The level of honesty it takes to be truly responsible for your actions and their consequences is high and can be hard to live with. It is much easier to blame others or to paint your actions in a lesser light, without really acknowledging how you contributed to the situation. I think it is rarely, if at all, ever one person's responsibility for a given situation. Yet it is far easier to paint a person in that light instead of taking your part of the responsibility for the situation or problem that has occurred. The best way to work through this issue is to do internal work and really examine your actions and understand what motivated and then be honest about it with yourself and anyone else affected by the situation. This doesn't mean you beat yourself up, but rather that you can acknowledge your level of responsibility and then discuss what happened with an eye toward resolving it.

8-23-12 If you don't like the direction your life is going in or the people you spend time with, or the situations you put yourself in, then it is your responsibility to change that direction, change who you spend time with, and/or change the situations you find yourself in. You have control over your choices, and if you claim you don't, you are choosing to be a victim.

9-5-12 I think of myself sometimes as a chameleon or changeling. I change to fit the circumstances or fit the person to some degree. It could be that this true of all people, but I'm not sure if it really is true. I know it is for me in the sense that what I am into or interested in is shaped to some degree by the person I am with. In one sense it creates a plastic kind of identity, something that is molded. Certainly I see this occurring in the changes in my lifestyle and choices based on my current circumstances and it causes me to feel some degree of wonder at the adaptability a person can have if s/he chooses to.

9-7-12 Attitude is the internal fire of a person. If the attitude is negative, the fire burns low, becoming embers that could be snuffed out any moment. If it is positive it can blaze you'd never believe, shining so bright, a light to draw the eyes and attention of others.

9-9-12 Sometimes being involved with someone and dealing with their issues doesn't mean that you need to learn some cosmic issue or see it as a message from the universe trying to teach you something. Sometimes a person is just not a good fit for you and vice versa and sticking with the relationship is a mistake that causes more pain for all involved. I figure when you are with the right person/people, you'll know because even when there is effort involved, it will be something all are fully committed to working through, because they'll know the resulting harmony is worth it.

9-17-12 I've just gotten back from my annual trip up to the Esoteric Book convention. There's a lot to write, so bear with me...I stayed at this place in Milton, called Camp Edgewood, a Spiritualist camp sight, and there was definitely a distinct energy, a kind of cocoon about the place which was helpful to me.

The book convention itself, was as always an amazing event. I got to meet Greg Kaminsky in person (the occult of Personality podcaster) as well as Clint Marsh, and several other people, as well as see familiar faces. I also ended up adding a few books to my collection, including two books on alchemy, a neurotransmitter book, one on hermetics, and one that was actually gifted to me called Divine Healing Hands. Its particularly notable for two reasons. One it was a reminder by my spiritual allies to continue working with the Taoist, Tantric, and Tibetan skills I'm learning (This is important in context to another event that occurred this weekend) and secondly it's notable because the person who gave it to me clearly recognized that I was doing Taoist internal work and mentioned that it might be helpful and that he expected nothing in return. I was deeply honored as its not every day someone gives me a book, so it's on the reading pile as well (along with so many more).

Saturday night, I finally got to meet R. J. Stewart in person, as well as Anastacia Nutt. They both know my wife, as she does spiritual work with them, and as readers of my blog know, I've been reading R. J.'s books and writing my own observations, so I was greatly looking forward to meeting him. We had dinner with them and it was interesting. I felt this instant exchange of energy, a kind of spiritual transmission between the four of us, as well as a rapport that I normally don't feel with most people (and even when I do feel it, it takes a while to establish). Perhaps it helped that we had a lineage of sorts in common, i.e. his work with William Gray and my work with Gray's material, but I felt it was more than that. We talked magic, publishing, current events etc., and throughout I felt a strong sense of connection and community. R.J. gave us his latest book, which is about Ronald Heaver. I'd planned to give him a copy of Magical Identity, but we'd forgotten it when we left the conference on Saturday so they told us to drop it off on Sunday.

After we packed up at the conference, we headed over to drop the book off. We thought it'd be a quick knock on the door and then drop the book off, but when we got there, we were invited in. I gave them the book and we chatted a bit. My wife asked if she could visit the sanctuary and they said sure, and then asked me if I'd like to. I said yes. Later my wife told me that they don't let people outside their magical order into the sanctuary and that their invitation to do so was deeply significant. I agreed. I went into the sanctuary. Silent, still meditation. I did Taoist water breathing, and let myself feel the energy. Very clean, pure energy, A permanent sphere of art. I felt my spiritual allies connect with me and tell me that I needed to work with R.J. and Anastacia directly. I walked out and told them that I wanted to learn directly from them.

Now I want to pause my narrative and point out I've only ever had two mentors for my magical practice and both disappointed me. I learned early on that I was better off teaching myself and going my way instead of letting someone try and dictate how I should practice magic. For me to want to learn from someone directly, to really learn from them and work with them is very rare. It's a level of trust I rarely give out. But my spiritual guides and really my connection with them, and the sense of a magical lineage...lets just say it's the counter point to my Eastern studies, the continuation of my western studies with people I know will provide some interesting direction and challenge for me. Plus I feel that R. J. and Anastacia has an open approach to magic, open enough for me and that's what matters, so basically I asked them to be my mentors, and I plan to go to their workshops and learn from them. And again I felt a spiritual transmission occurring on Sunday, a sharing of energy, a connection that went really deep. My wife was surprised, both by my desire to learn from them (and consequently engage in the same spiritual work she's involved in) and in the fact they'd invited me to the sanctuary and really invited me into their lives. To be honest, I was surprised to and honored as well, but there is something there. My spiritual allies wouldn't have spoken up if there wasn't. More than that, he's the one person I can actually meet in the flesh who worked with Gray face to face, and in that sense the opportunity also allows me to continue work in that vein. I have no idea where this will take me, but I am excited and I feel changed. As we drove my wife said my energy felt softer, like something hard in me had cracked...and I agree with that. For me to really ask someone to teach me, to work with me as a mentor...that's unprecedented. I feel touched on a deep level. I am glad I am taking step, not only as a way to better know my wife and what and who she values, but also for my own spiritual and magical evolution.

Is there tolerance in the Pagan community?

I came across this article yesterday which focused on the lack of tolerance that arises between different Pagan groups, both towards each other and toward other religions. I think its an insightful article that captures an issue that is sometimes swept under the rug in Paganism. I found myself empathizing with the author, having had my own experiences with intolerance in the Pagan community. Indeed one of the reasons I tend to consider myself more of an outsider is because of those experiences.

I think that tolerance, as a skill, is something that people need to practice on a very conscious level. It is much easier to make fun of someone else's beliefs than to consciously accept a person's beliefs, even if you don't agree with them. And consciously accepting a person's belief doesn't mean you agree with that belief...it means you agree and accept that person has the right to belief what s/he will. The problem is that people are so invested in being right that instead of accepting that someone has different beliefs, they insist on shoving their own beliefs down your throat while also trying to prove that your beliefs suck.

Within the Pagan community I have been told at various times that I am a fluffy bunny, a flake, or that I'm reinventing the wheel. I even had a pagan podcast where the people involved decided to attack me on their show because I couldn't be a nice traditional pagan like them. And what all this taught me is that even within Paganism, if you aren't the same type of Pagan as others, then some people will take exception to it.

In the post I linked to the author notes the following:

I don't see how replacing 'One True God(s)' with another 'One True God(s)' is going to change anything. The persecution might switch for a couple of thousand years but after that, it's the same thing all over again. I wish we could all let go of 'One True'. Then there would just be God and Gods and we could finally stop trying to carve out a place for our religion from someone else's hands and focus on creating a space for ourselves separate from the religion of others

It's a good point and one worth considering. You don't have to believe what I believe, but you could accept that I believe it and practice it without judging it or me. The people who try to get others to believe what they believe or try and disprove someone else's beliefs are just creating more intolerance because of a need to have other people be like them, or because they think their God demands or, or they don't believe in any gods and think everyone should be just like them.

I'm of the opinion that you can believe what you want...I may not agree with your belief, but I do accept you have the right to believe it and I'm not going to try and argue against it or convince you my beliefs are better. I have better things to do than try and force my views on someone else. That's not what my spiritual path or life is about. I'd rather devote myself to my practice and share my ideas with whoever wants to discuss them in an intelligent manner. Isn't that better than all the fussin' and feudin'?

Book Review: Living Magical Arts by R. J. Stewart

This is a definite must have book in my opinion. I see it as a successor to William G Gray's "Magical ritual Methods" Stewart does an excellent job of discussing practical magical work, particularly in describing how magic works and what the practitioner can do to refine his/her approach to magical work. I liked the methodologies presented in the book as well as the author's perspectives on different topics within magical work. This book will provide a solid grounding in how magic works and will help you improve your practice.

The reality of overnight success in magic

R. J. Stewart, in Sphere of Art 2 notes: "It takes a long time to make something happen instantly by magic." I smiled when I read that, because it reminded me of what's said about overnight success, but also because it's true about magic. Magic doesn't just happen. There is a level of preparation and work that goes into a magical working that is important to consider. And even beyond there is also all the other experiences and training a person has which informs his/her approach to magic. It takes a long time to make something happen instantly speaks really to the experience of the magician, and the realization that even a unplanned, on the spot act of magic nonetheless has a history behind it that informs what's happening.

Experiences are the core building block for a magician. Reading books and understanding the principles of magic are important, but experiences are how you make magic your own and how you really come to know it. You can't know something you've experienced it...until it becomes a part of you and your outlook on the world. It's that knowing which allows you to express it in the world, and in yourself. And through that knowing magic can instantly happen because you've invested the time and experience into the magical work you do.

Book Review: After the Honeymoon by Daniel Wile

This is a must read book for anyone who is married or is in a serious relationships and wants to learn how to use conflict to improve your relationship. The skills in this books can also be applied to friendships, and business relationships. What I like about this book is that the author really explores the anatomy of conflicts, and how it shows up. He provides case studies and examples. Best of all, following the advice in the book works. You can turn conflict into a conversation that really gets to the heart of the issues being expressed in the conflict.

An intriguing definition of magic

In Living Magical Arts, R.J. Stewart offers the following definition about magic: "Magic is a set of methods arranging awareness according to patterns" Its an interesting definition of magic because it acknowledges that there is kind of symmetry to magical work that can be found through the creation or apprehension of patterns. When we consider magical techniques from this definition, what is clear is that the techniques are used to create a specific way to relate to the universe. Magic, in that sense, can be considered a methodology for relating to the universe by arranging pattens via techniques that produce changes in reality.

Why I find this definition intriguing is because its an elegant way to consider how magic works, and depicts the way it works in terms of recognizing how a pattern can change through manipulation. It's not necessarily a better definition than other ones out there, but its a definition that cuts to the heart of what magic does and how it works, and that is not something easily found in most definitions. That kind of clarity is what is needed when discussing magic and the practice of it. I like it a lot and although its not necessarily my definition of magic, it makes sense and its one I'd favor over others.

Inner Transformation

In Magical Identity, I discussed at length the importance of internal work to the magical process, and to creating an empowered identity for the magician. I also noted that at least in Western Magic there seemed to be a tendency to gloss over the internal work in favor of achieving practical results. Or on the opposite end, the focus would be on a model such as the Tree of Life, but with little focus on doing internal work. I've found a couple of exceptions, and one of those is R. J. Stewart's work. Actually reading him, in some ways, is like reading William G Gray's work, which makes sense when you consider that Gray was one of Stewart's mentors. But I think the difference I see is a much more articulate focus on internal work.

In Living Magical Arts, Stewart discusses the following about transformation: "Magic begins by changing yourself, but eventually it changes the whole world if enough selves partake of it." He goes onto to note the following about magical symbols (which would includes physical tools such as your cup, rod, sword, wand, etc.: "The main, indeed the only, real function of magical symbols is to transform the magician." This is where he reminds me of William Gray, especially in Magical Ritual Methods, because Gray discusses at length that for the magician to master a tool, s/he ultimately needs to make it part of his/her consciousness.

Now on an aside, one of the reasons I favor a paintbrush as a magical tool is because there is a level or practical work that can be done with it that goes beyond being a symbol. A paintbrush or pen for that matter is a more potent tool and symbol precisely because it offers a level of transformation that goes beyond the symbolic. There is something very magical about touching a pen on paper or a brush on canvas and consequently transforming something into something else. In fact, there's a level of internal work that occurs in such artistic expressions (more on that in a later post).

But getting back to the original topic, I think that magic becomes truly effective when you understand that it fundamentally involves change through intentional transformation, and when you also realize that the most effective magic works by changing the internal reality of the magician first, and then changing the environment around him/her. Results based magic that doesn't factor in the needed internal work is typically reactive magic, done more as a reaction to a problem and as an attempt to solve said problem. Results obtained through a reactive approach to magic don't last long. The magician will sabotage him/herself because some part of his/her internal reality doesn't agree with the obtained result.

To truly understand transformation and change, you must be willing to shape yourself as well as shape the environment around you. It might even be argued that you need to be willing to be shaped by the magic, in order to truly benefit from it. Fundamentally what is being asked is: "Are you truly ready and willing to handle the responsibility of changing your reality?" You can only answer yes when you've done the internal work that allows you to critically examine your place in the universe and willingly change that place by changing your internal reality. Place, or space isn't just a physical placement...it is a metaphysical, emotional, and mental place as well. It is the embodiment of your relationship with the universe. To change your place, work from within, and let it manifest without.

In the majority of the magical work I currently do the focus is on embodying the magic, starting from within, or bringing the desired possibility into my space, and choosing to become it and letting it move me accordingly. Genuine transformation is the understanding that you are moved by the magic and by your own commitment to doing the necessary internal work that paves the way to the new expression of reality that expresses your connection with the universe and the space you embody.

Limitation and how to work around it

I've been thinking about this post I wrote recently on limitation, especially in conjunction with my evocation practices. My approach to evocation, whether its evoking an entity or a specific type of energy, involves the use of a painting or drawing as a gateway. The act of creating the drawing or painting is the initial evocation of the entity, usually finalized with a consecration of some sort.

However, once the drawing or painting is created, the evocation portal is also created. Nothing else needs to be done, save to make sure you close it when not evoking the entity or energy in question. The entire point of it is to remove a lot of effort out of the equation, by making it simple to access to the entity or energy in question when needed, whether in a strict evocation, or to enhance a magical working being done at the time. But it occurs to me that this is also a way around limitation, as R. J. Stewart discussed it. Specifically if the spirits you work with are going to limit how much you can draw on, why not instead create a way to tap into the power current when you need it, where you have a consistent flow of energy or access to enhance or power up your magical workings? You won't necessarily move beyond the limitations imposed, but instead of having to do a lot of work each time, cut down on the effort involved and get the same return you'd have gotten before. It seems like a short cut, but my reason for creating such an approach to evocation was to make it easy to access whatever it was I wanted to work with. I figure if such an entity is willing to work with me, I have its blessing to make that process easier for both of us.

This also depends on whether or not you accept that such limitations occur when you evoke or invoke an entity. Personally I'm inclined to believe in those limitations as my own experiences suggest just that. For example invoking an entity to do a full on possession of the body takes up a lot of energy, and not just for myself but also the entity. At a certain point there is a strain for the entity as well because it is placing itself in a foreign environment that its not necessarily suited to. An evocation portal provides a different level of interaction and one that's not as demanding on either side of the equation. The limitation may still be there, but it'll take longer to come up against, which can be useful for prolonged magical workings. It comes down to being aware of a limitation and the figuring out how to bend it, to make it work for you, instead of against you.

Book Review: The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

This was an intriguing and occasionally amusing book about the behavior of dishonesty and how dishonest people are in general. The author provided a variety of experiments and show cases where he demonstrated that there is some degree of dishonest in most people's behavior, though not so much that everyone is a thief or a crook. A lot of dishonesty ends up being based partially on altruism and in general people don't always weigh the benefit of being dishonest, so much as decide to do so for less rational reasons. It's a book I'd recommend anyone read to better understand the role of dishonesty in our lives, and how it shows up in our own behaviors as well as the behavior of people around us. It can also be useful as a way of looking at dishonesty on the level of an organization and business, though the author doesn't offer too much in the ways of solutions for handling dishonesty, so much as demonstrating its presence in our lives.

The value of limitation in magic

The first time I encountered the principle of limitation it was in The Cube of Space by Kevin Townley, where he discussed a little known quabalistic glyph and the principle of limitation as it applied to magical work. Recently, in reading R. J. Stewart's The Sphere of Art 2, he also discusses the role of limitation in magic:

Only when we understand how protected, how beneficially limited we are, in our sacromagical work, can we begin to be truly effective. In the classical magical worldview, such wise limitation is often associated with the North, the cosmic Laws of Being the element of Earth. Such limitations associated with Earth require that to take form we must limit force.

It's a point well made that often isn't as appreciated as it could be. Limitation has value as a principle precisely because the movement from potential into reality involves the focus of force into the creation of form. Magic isn't about tossing fireballs or levitating. It's about the focus of force to create measurable results or changes within a person's life, but even change is limited to some degree by the physicality in which it is expressed in.

The realm of ideas is also the realm of endless possibilities or chaos. Nothing is true and everything is permitted, but without limitation all that exists is endless potential. The change from possibility to reality involves some form of limitation. This is why a magical working is really a descriptor and definer of the possibility being brought into reality. In other words, a magical working in and of itself limits the expression of possibility into specific results. The benefit of this is that you achieve a specific result that can be applied to your life, other people's lives etc. The more improbable your possibility, the harder it is to bring into reality, for the simple fact is that it requires more "energy" to overcome the distinct limitations that we deal with on a practical level. At a certain point the exertion of so much "energy" becomes more and more impractical.

Limitation provides an awareness of boundaries, but also provides the magician something to strive for, in terms of bending the rules. While force must be limited in order to manifest form, drawing on force is necessary to create form. Potential doesn't become reality unless force is applied to potential. The realization of form, or the result, is due to the application of force to potential, shaping it, defining it, limiting it, and thus creating form. Force is needed to create form, but the application of force necessarily is a fixation on a specific form or result.

Limitation, in and of itself, is a form of force, in the sense that the limits we encounter actually serve to create possibilities that we can interact with. Sheer potential, which has no limitation, can't really be worked with, until some form of limitation is imposed on it. A blank sheet of paper is raw potential, but once you draw a line, you've limited the potential and started to create the form. The limitation of potential still creates possibilities, but those possibilities are defined by the limitation, and have a relationship with it. The exploration of that relationship is what allows a magician to discover possibilities and begin to move them from potential into reality via magic.

Book Review: The Scientific American Healthy Aging Brain by Judith Horstman

This was a fascinating book to read because of the information it provides on the brain in general, as well as what occurs as your brain ages. The author provided useful advice for keeping your brain sharp as you age and reducing the risks of Alzheimers and Dementia, as well as explaining what types of activity keep the brain stimulated. What I enjoyed the most was how the information was presented without a lot of technical terms or jargon. Anyone could pick this book up and learn a wealth of information about the brain and how it works as well as how aging effects it.

Video games, exploration, and the occluded mind

I'm playing Max Payne 3 and Metal Gear Solid 3 right now. In playing both games, I've had to do a fair amount of exploration to find things that the characters could use to help them through their various quests. That's actually a common feature of video games. Most games, at least current games, involve some level of exploration of the actual game levels in order to discover essential items to your quest or Easter eggs that game developers have placed into the game. If the player just relies on the map, s/he won't necessarily find or experience all of the treasures of the game. Those can only be experienced by choosing to experience the territory of the game as it is, while only using the map as a superficial guide. The experience of the game is what makes it enjoyable.

In the Sphere of Art 2 by R. J. Stewart, He makes some interesting points about maps and territories:

When we begin to relate to the territory as it really is, we swiftly begin to lose our limited map. This can be a fearful experience of a joyous one, depending on our individual training, preparation and understanding. To be cast loose without the map that you need for for stability is at risk of going mad in unknown territory, while to throw the map away willingly in full awareness is to embrace risk and enter a new condition of sanity.

The experience of the territory is different from the map, because the territory is the actual experience, while the map is just a description, and not always an accurate one. Usually the map isn't accurate because it can't really show everything that is actually in the territory. This truth applies to video games, mystical secrets, trips on the road, any really any other experience you can have in life. The tendency to rely on the map isn't necessarily bad or wrong. The map can be useful in terms of providing guidance and helpful hints for navigating the territory. But ultimately the map the can only provide a vague sense of the territory.

The experience of the territory is where the magician discovers the secrets and treasures that can only be found by choosing to explore what's in the territory. Just as with a video game character, the magician needs to thoroughly explore the territory of the ritual. The magician needs to be curious and not settle for what is in front of him/herself. After all there are potential Easter eggs just waiting to be found, as well as story elements that might be missed if a thorough investigation isn't performed.

What video games have taught me is that unless you fully explore the environment and get very curious you'll likely miss key clues and information and resources that could help you with the game. I find the same is true with magical work, and while I wouldn't necessarily say a magical working is exactly like a video game, there's something to be said for cultivating curiosity in your magical work, to embrace risk and discover what is hidden away.

Meeting the author through writing

I can't say all writing does this for me, but I've had a few experiences in my life where I've felt that reading the books of a given author has put me in touch with that author directly, in a way that I'd think of as spiritual transmission of sorts. It's actually happened with four different authors, although I've only actually met one of those authors in the flesh. The first author it ever happened with was William S. Burroughs. He was dead by the time I read his books, but reading his books put me in touch with the Old Man on the Mountain. Burroughs was there in the text, ready to come forth if the right person read his works. It's no surprise to me that his work has influenced my own approaches to magic, both in terms of textual magic and design and in other forms of practical magic. Even though I never met him in person, my encounter with him via text was one I've never forgotten. He is always there, ready to be found in his writing.

The second author and the only one I've ever met is Storm Constantine. I read her Wraeththu series and while it was a fantasy series, it was one that nonetheless felt channeled. My encounter with the spirit of Thiede, who became a permanent part of my pantheon was a powerful one, and subsequent books in the series have continued to embody that. But I also got a sense of Storm the writer and when I contacted her via email there was an immediate connection between us that is sustained to this day in the work we do together via Immanion Press. It's fair to say that Storm is one of those people I needed to meet in order to move forward with my calling and spiritual process.

William G. Gray is another author who's spirit I've encountered via his books. It's fair to say that there has been something of a spiritual transmission, at least in terms of how I approach the process of magic. Gray, in his own writing, is very systematic in his description of magical processes and I've felt his presence as I've read the books. In discussions with several people who actually knew him, I've described his presence and they've indicated it was an accurate description of him. I don't feel his presence as much now, because I think I've gotten the gist of what he wanted me to know via his writing, but as with Burroughs I can still sense his presence when I read his works.

The last author is one I've recently started reading, and I'm not sure if it's so much a spiritual transmission from him or just the fact that I can pick up something of William Gray's influence in the writing. I haven't met R. J. Stewart at this point, but when I read his writing I feel a sense of familiarity with it, and with the systematic descriptions that he provides, and it turns out that at one time he did study under Gray. So with this one I'm less certain as to whether its really a spiritual transmission or just the fact that there is some resonance in the writing that reminds me of the spirit of an author I have encountered.

I've met many other occult writers and read their books and I've gotten a lot from their works, but this kind of intimate connection is something that has been rare for me to experience. Have any of you had such experiences?

Can spirits evolve?

In reading Mike's Blog as well as R J Stewart's books, one question that has come up for me is, Can spirits evolve? Mike seems to argue that spirits don't evolve and that the ethereal software they create is based off their understanding of the world and needs to be updated by people to understand contemporary concepts. R. J. Stewart discusses them in context of what they do and the sense that I get is that they might not evolve in a way that we understand, but that doesn't mean they don't evolve. That and applying a human centric perspective to the spirits is limiting because it is human centric.

My various experiences with the Goetia, elemental spirits, and even pop culture spirits is one that leads me to think that spirits are defined by function, but that the function can evolve. To argue that a spirit doesn't really understand modern day concepts could be accurate, but it might be even better to ask if it cares or if those concepts are relevant to its function. It might also be useful to ask how relevant humans are to its function?

When I've worked with Purson or Bune the experience I've had with them is one where they seem very up to date with the times. When I've worked with elemental spirits, that hasn't been the case from a human centric perspective, but the kind of information they provide me from an elemental perspective about technology and the environment suggests they have evolved as a result of changes brought about by people.

I think spirits can evolve, but that their evolution is defined by their function, and the domain that function operates in. I say that with a caveat, because I'm applying my own human centric perspective to this question, but based on my experiences I don't think of spirits as static or out of touch with the changing times and concepts...it just might be a question of what's really relevant.



Divine Union

The Dance of the Day is sponsored by the song of the Night,The Twilight times are when the courts meet and share a moment of respect urging each other on in their chosen duties longing for the next moment when they meet exchanging brief pleasantries in an exhausted daze before resuming the festivities that move the natural rhythm of life.

You and I find glimpses of the divine gathering in our eyes when we look at each other in a moment of connection that is both empowering and vulnerable within you I see the secrets of the universe revealed in a moment of ecstasy that is less about doing and trying to reach an outcome and more about being just being with you without expectation without need just perfection in that moment of union and bliss

We see the coming of the day, the departure of the night the spirits of the air drifting lazily over the solid sentinels of the Earth The spirits of water splashing to touch daringly, fleetingly the sandy toes of the Earth The spirits of fire lighting up a plume of creativity and destruction promises of oblivion wrapped in promises of warmth.

In each others' eyes we see all the spirits, the fey, demons, angels, and deities parade before us, promising something that is intangible the rise of the Kundalini serpent fills us with a quiet heat spreading through every part of us in your eyes I see life and death, everything and nothing all possibilities and none

This is divine union not having, not doing being, just being.

Book Reviews

Ghost Story (affiliate Link) by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files is one of my favorite Occult detective series. I think its the best out there and this novel continues to show why I do. Butcher crafts a story with surprising plot twists, while exploring the afterlife in a manner that reveals that even when Dresden dies, he hasn't left behind his triumphs or his follies. If you haven't read the rest of the series, start with Stormfront...otherwise pick this one up and enjoy!

Power within the Land (Affiliate Link) by R.J. Stewart

In this book, R. J. Stewart explores concepts of time as well as working with the spirits of the land and how all of that fits into the underworld tradition, and how it fits into doing work to heal the land and our connection to it. The exercises are useful for demonstrating how to work with all of these elements, but what I found even more useful was his detailed explanation of working with the spirits and how it applied to his tradition.

I stand on the outside looking in

I've never really felt that I've fit in with the Occult or Pagan communities. I hold some rather unorthodox views including a vehement dislike of Aleister Crowley's influence on occultism. I've also managed to get into some heated arguments about my practice of magic (specifically pop culture magic) on at least one podcast, where they felt compelled to argue that because what I practiced was partially based on pop culture, it wasn't as valid as more "traditional" perspectives of magic. My writing has been called chaos magic for dummies and I've been told it hasn't broken much ground by people who have as much admitted they don't really practice magic (that one still boggles me). I maintain I'm not a chaos magician. I'm an experimental magician. Chaos magic is  just one of many systems I've drawn on, and not even the most significant, but I guess when you don't do anything that's considered traditional, its get lumped in as chaos magic. Regardless if it isn't traditional, you will get flak for it, or be ignored...

I get my books published by a small independent press, that I co-own, in part because I don't trust large publishers who seem more interested in the bottom line and in the broadest possible audience than in anything I might have to write. I've built the non-fiction line of Immanion Press based on the belief and idea that there is an audience for niche and advanced topics. It's something I continue to hold to and as a result we've been able to publish books and anthologies that likely would never be published otherwise.

I'm saying all this because I am a contrary person and I don't regret any of it. I'm saying this because fitting in isn't all that important. I fully acknowledge my responsibility for not fitting in...because it's a choice.

I stand on the outside looking in. I have stood on the outside looking in many, many times during my life, and in many different communities.I stand on the outside and I welcome it because of the perspectives it has brought me. I welcome it because being outside the mainstream of a subculture or culture can take you some interesting places and can cause you to challenge what is accepted in a way that forces whatever is accepted to really examine itself.

I don't know that I will ever fit in to the pagan or occult communities. I'm grateful that I have, over the years, gained some recognition from people who have found real value in my work. There is something very humbling about hearing someone tell you that you've inspired his/her's magical practice and even life choices. It makes you realize that you can have a positive effect on people's lives.

I have always advocated that people should challenge authority, and should go their own way. My entire life has been about going my own way, even though going my own way hasn't involved taking the obvious routes of rebellion that some occultists take. I've had many people try and discourage my vision for my life. "That book will never get published" or "your reinventing the wheel" or "Your not hardcore enough" or any number of other things. I've always maintained they're wrong and I'm right...because when it applies to my life, the only person who can really make a judgment call on if what I'm doing is right or wrong is me. The people who have tried to discourage me are people who just don't get it...they don't get that you don't need to fit in with what everyone else is doing. You just need to be who you want to be...and let that manifest in your choices. You also have to accept the consequences, like some of the ones I mentioned above. You have to accept that you won't fit in, that you will be disliked and that what's more important is your vision. Life isn't about pleasing everyone...it's about being true to yourself so you can also be true to the people who really matter.

I stand on the outside looking in...It's a pretty damn good view, if I say so myself.

Book Review Earth Light (Affiliate Link) by R. J. Stewart

This book is a continuation of Underworld Initiation. In this book Stewart presents further refinements to his system as well as explaining and presenting information about the faery and how they can be worked with. The pathworkings he provides are useful for exploring the tradition further. I'll admit that my main interest is in the techniques and I found these to be solid and very helpful for some of my ongoing work. I highly recommend this book.

pop culture magic and magical traditions

An intellectual interpretation of a symbol is by no means identical to experiencing the energy embodied by the symbol, particularly when the interpretation involves offhand alterations of basic meaning in respect or relevant words that should describe the subject matter accurately...a magical image, by way of contrast, may or may not have similar attributes to any specific psychological archetype, which persists in the innerworlds or shared imagination for immense periods of time.

From The Underworld Initiation (Affiliate link) by R. J. Stewart

This is an interesting quote from Stewart and one I found useful for understanding Pop Culture Magic from a different perspective. I've never favored the psychological approach to magic, and neither does Stewart. He discusses the concept of inner worlds, which are worlds accessed through specific media such as story, myth, or song. The characters in myths, stories, and song are symbolic, but also represent an energetic connection to the inner world that a person can use to bring meaningful change into his/her life. Stewart explains the following about inner worlds:

Many Innerworlds are intentional structures built through group visualization, linked to specific life-energies. They are given their stability not only by the beings that occupy them, but by the active co-operation of humans...Most of the Innerworlds that we can enter are reflections of patterns that appear, or have appeared, or will appear, in our outer world. Some act as matrices for creative energies, which mould the generation of the outer world, both social and environmental.

This concept can be applied to pop culture. Grant Morrison's The Invisibles explores it in terms of using the characters to reveal the inner world of London, but also to examine the Beatles, especially John Lennon, as a viable contact to a type of godhead that again allows another way to contact the Hidden London. You can also see it with other pop culture and even corporate culture. Storm Constantine and I have worked with this concept via the Wraeththu series, and I've also used it with the Harry Potter universe. Imagination is the key to the gate, and helps bring to life the characters that people interact with. It also brings to life the world those characters inhabit.

Pop Culture can present viable inner worlds that the magician can explore. The reason they are viable is because they are part of the cultural consciousness, and are supported by people interacting with them. Thus Harry Potter, as an example, is a viable Inner World that can be worked with in part because so many people already have invested some belief into it, and also because the characters have become real for people. They may not be real in the same sense as you and I are, but on some level they exist and when people interact with them, they are also able to interact with the meanings associated with the characters. Their is intentional visualization associated with such worlds, even if that intentional visualization is only to interact with those worlds via one's imagination.

The logo for a corporation can also be a gatekeeper to the inner world of that corporation. Corporations can have an inner world, in part because of the investment of the people that work in them and by the consumers, and even by the people and other corporations who are against a corporation. Such interactions are a form of intentional visualization that is sustained by the commercials and brand activity, as well as by how people participate in the corporations. They can be worked with on a magical level, though caution should be applied. A corporation is always out to get more from you than it is willing to give in return.

A magical tradition might not look at pop culture as a viable representation or means of magical work, but the methodology of a magical tradition can be applied to pop culture and it'll work, because pop culture, and even corporate culture are to some degree formulaic. The themes we find in older cultural traditions can be found in newer culture as well, and such themes can be used to provide a meaningful structure for an inner world to be worked with. Identifying such themes can take some research, but they aren't hard to find, precisely because they are formulaic. One might then question why even look to pop culture and in my experience it comes down to what is relevant to a person and will help him/her learn and grow. If Harry Potter is more relevant to someone, it doesn't make it less magical as a result.

Book Review: The Underworld Initiation (Affiliate link) by R. J. Stewart

This is an interesting book that examines the concepts of symbolic meaning and archetypes from a non-psychological stance, while showing the weaknesses in the psychological model of magic. Stewart presents a solid methodology of magical practice that can be applied to the examples he provides, but can also be applied to any story or myth that a person finds meaningful. I highly recommend this book for its solid approach to magical theory and practice.

Liberation and Tradition

The value of any transcendent tradition should be found within its liberating qualities. A tradition, of any sort, has no other ultimate value. The use of tradition for tradition's sake is a perversion, a tool of suppression.

From The UnderWorld Initiation (affiliate link) by R.J. Stewart

I've just started reading this book, but I found this paragraph to be tantalizing because of what it says that a magical tradition should do, i.e. provide some form of liberation or freedom through the magical work a person does. That theme is present in a variety of different occult subgenres. Chaos magic advocates for it, as does Thelema, but the danger within any subgenre is the blind adherence to tradition because that's the way it's been done and that's how we should do it.

The idea of examining a tradition or practice of any kind for its liberating qualities is something I agree with, because ideally any magical working you do will be meaningful in a personal way that improves your life by freeing you of limitations either imposed on you by other people or self-imposed due to your own circumstances. When a tradition fails, it is because it actually imposes limitations in the form of dogma and non-questioning. It's easy to fall into those traps, particularly if you are in a group setting and want to "belong" to the group, but when such belonging becomes the priority, the liberation the tradition might offers falls to the wayside in favor of trying to fit into what you think others want.

One of the reasons I've pushed for experimentation with magic is to get out of such group think dynamics. Its good to work with people, when you do so with a spirit of inquiry and acceptance that the experience one person has doesn't need to apply to everyone else, to be valid and useful for that person. Experimentation encourages the idea that magic is best experienced in an environment where a person can try an idea out without getting shut down. When people try to shut you down, it is usually because they feel threatened by your desire to liberate your preconceptions by challenging them through experience. They may feel that by challenging your own preconceptions, you challenge their own, but this is projection on their part, done as a way of preserving a cherished image they want to cling to, without recognizing that the value of experience is that it allows us to shatter what we hold onto, in order to discover how much it may have held us back.