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.

Researching the brain

Although I've already written the first draft of my new book, I'm still continuing to do research on the neuroscience of the brain (one of the books I've recently read is reviewed below). It's a fascinating subject for me, even without writing a book, but writing a book does shape a lot of the reading and experimentation I'm doing. What interests me the most is how much a person's sense of self is wrapped up in the brain and how easily that can be changed by an accident, stroke etc. It demonstrates just how fragile a personality is...its based on biological realities as much as on any metaphysical sense we attribute to it. A lot of my work with the brain has involved being able to go in and interact with the neuro-chemistry in order to effect desired changes in personality. For example, no longer having to suffer a mental disease such as depression involves making changes to the biological aspects of depression. Some people accomplish this through preference has been targeted meditation work with neurotransmitters.

The brain is adaptive enough when it comes to doing such work, because it naturally has the capability to change, thanks to neuro-plasticity. Nonetheless making such changes has to be done carefully and one of the reasons I've read up so much on neuroscience, is to understand the mechanisms of change that are already incorporated in the brain. Even knowing that information, I think its important to carefully experiment with desired changes you want to bring to your brain.

It's also important to recognize that what we know about the brain is still not entirely accurate. Not so long ago, there was a belief that the functions of the brain could be mapped to specific parts...while there's some truth to that, there's also a lot of truth that functions don't solely belong to a specific area, but are shared in part by the neural network and specifically how it shares information across the network. Experimentation needs to be done cautiously, with a recognition that in someways all we have is an idea of how the brain works. We can test that idea...we can experiment with it, but we also need to acknowledge its limitations and recognize that experimentation will take us off the charted edge to the unknown space, with all of its mysteries.

Experimentation should challenge us to go into the unknown, while research grounds us in information we can use to push ourselves toward that unknown space. What we bring back from the unknown space is more information, to provide further grounding and a better sense of what we can do with what we have. I recognize my magical work with my brain will likely never be perceived as scientific or as valid as what actual neuroscientists do in their studies, yet I also know it has brought desirable changes into my life, improving the quality of my circumstances, and that others who have followed my work have also benefited. That's the real test for the magician...not if something fits acceptable scientific paradigms and knowledge, but rather if you can take it, obtain a result, and then share it and help others achieve similar results. Sometimes magicians forget that in their fervor to "scientifically" fit-in with the dominant paradigms of acceptable thought. To them and all others I urge: Take what you can from the system, but don't restrict yourself to what others have told you...try it out yourself, test through your own experience and let that be your record and great work.

Book Review: The Tell-Tale Brain (Affiliate Link) by V. S. Ramachandran

In this book, the author explains what mirror neurons are and presents a variety of case studies on them as well as discussing various neurological diseases and what causes those diseases. He also discusses the connection between linguistics, art, and neuroscience. This book is fascinating and the author presents compelling cases. More importantly, he helps the reader understand some of the science in neuroscience with stories and examples that provide context to the science he is explaining Overall a really good book on a fascinating topic.

Emotions and circuits

I'm reading The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux. It's a fascinating book, which so far has mainly looked at how psychologists and neuroscientists have tried to explain the role of emotions and where emotions reside in the brain. What I find rather interesting is that LeDoux argues that the notion that the emotions are based in the Limbic portion of the brain is inaccurate...and the reason I find this interesting is because if this was true it would torpedo the Leary-Wilson eight circuit model of psychology that many an occultist refers to, which is at least partially based on the idea that the Limbic portion of the brain controls the emotions. In fact, where you get your reptilian brain, mammalian brain etc is from that concept that the emotions reside in the limbic portion of the brain. So if LeDoux is correct (and I imagine as a neuroscientist who has spent a good portion of his career focused on exploring the role of emotions in neuroscience that he might at least have an inkling of what he is talking about) the eight circuit model might be in need of revision. And this is not such a bad thing really, because the eight circuit model is as much a sacred cow for some occultists as Crowley is for others and challenging that sacred cow is much needed.

One of the many reasons I decided to start reading up on neuroscience was to get a better idea of how contemporary science understands the workings of the brain. I've never found the eight-circuit model wholly satisfying, particularly because it seems to compartmentalized and rigid for my tastes. While I think it can offer a better model for understanding the psychology of one's internal workings than say Freud, it still seems to overly mechanize how it all fits together.

And what I've found looking into neuroscience IS fascinating because it provides a unique view of the universe that is a human body, and offers aspiring magicians a different medium to explore magic in. When combined with psychology it can also explain some of the mental disorders people can experience, as well as offer a potential way to heal or mitigate those disorders via medication, but also I think through magical practice (as I've discussed in some depth in Inner Alchemy).

Of course a lot of the thrill is what still can't be explained...mysteries abound, and where there's mystery, there's magic.

Anyway back to the eight circuit model...a lot of it is based on neatly compartmentalizing what part of the brain is the Reptilian brain and what part is the mammalian brain etc. In fact there's a lot of categorization that occurs with the end result being behaviors mapped out like correspondence tables to the different circuit types. And y'know on the one hand that is an awfully handy system, when you can say "That behavior is the first circuit acting out" It has its uses to be sure...and it can provide a useful model for diagnosing behaviors, though not necessarily a model for changing said behaviors. And while knowledge can be good, application of that knowledge is essential to making it useful when it comes to manifesting significant changes in behavior. And that's where the other hand comes down, because the eight circuit model is just one model among many and yet curiously those other models are seemingly ignored much of the time (though NLP and memetics are becoming increasingly popular models for the occult movement). I think if we can balance the eight circuit model with other ways of knowing...make it one among many, it'll still shine, and in fact might prove a better model when it can be intermixed with other models and consequently practically applied (something which Antero Alli does).

As I continue to read up on neuroscience and apply my magical practices to it, I've increasingly become convinced that the psychological models that are used in occultism need some substantial revision, partially on a bio-genetic level, and partially just to keep up with the current studies in psychology and related disciplines. I've some half-baked ideas of where some of this revision needs to occur (for instance considering the role of identity in magical acts), but as I continue to explore, experiment, and research I will post more about where I think some of those revisions could be applied. Certainly it's proving to be an interesting journey so far in terms of considering just how much we have yet to experience the miracle of our own bodies, let alone what else is out there.

Neuro-sorcery Pt 4

A friend of mine asked me recently if I had considered working with the neural network of the brain. The neural network basically is a network that is created by how you learn, but also be the paterns of behavior you engage in. As you continue to repeat a behavior it becomes more and more imprinted in the patterns of psynaptic firing. To change a behavior, the change has to occur in the neural network. The change ends up creating new pattern of pysnaptic firing. That's a rough summary of it. I'm probably not entirely accurate in my description of it, but I'm still doing a lot of research on neuroscience. In anycase, my latest work has involved working with this concept of the neural network. Mainly it's been focused on exploring what it feels like. when I interact with it, I see a web fulls of lights with energy going in particualr directions. I'll be writing more's at an early stage.