The Path is Hard

How to deal with depression in a spiritual community

depression Teo Bishop recently wrote a post where he discussed how he was dealing with some depression. He decided to take anti-depressants to help him deal with it, but noted how one of the issues that surrounds depression was one where the spiritual community itself argues that if you're spiritual enough you should be able to handle depression without needing anti-depressants. The problem with this argument is that it assumes that spirituality has the answer to depression and that by having it, you will be free of depression. It's similar to the law of attraction idea that if you don't think you'll get sick, you'll never get sick. It doesn't work. When spiritual communities argue that spirituality alone should be enough to handle depression or anything else along those lines, what they are arguing is that spirituality should somehow solve all problems. But that's not the function of spirituality, and it also ignores the simple fact that each person must develop their own solutions with all the resources they have available to them.

One of my favorite books, Relaxing into Your Being by B. K. Frantzis, demonstrates this understanding. The author explains numerous times that meditation doesn't heal depression and that in fact it may end up causing more depression because of what you are dealing with. He suggests that meditation may not be the best solution for dealing with depression and that therapy and/or medication might be better and that if you are going to use meditation for dealing with internal issues, that you should do it in conjunction with therapy. And I've found, from my own experiences, that such advice is well worth following. Back when I was doing the emptiness working, it became apparent very quickly that I needed therapy as part of the necessary work in order to deal with all the issues that came up around emptiness.

The truth is that when you just turn to spirituality as the solution, you aren't using all the tools at your disposal and you aren't considering the impact it can have on people around you, when they have to deal with you and your issues on a regular basis. Spirituality isn't a universal salve or cure all. It can provide answers and tools for working through things, but its wise to recognize when you need to draw on other resources such as therapy or medication. I also think it's wise to examine your reaction to the feeling of depression. Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with depression that causes people to shy away from acknowledging that they feel depressed. I wonder how much easier it might be to simply acknowledge that you do feel a particular way.

I've had to deal with depression a lot in my life. As I wrote in Inner Alchemy, I did find a way to work with my neurotransmitters which helped me solve an electro chemical imbalance in my brain, but it doesn't mean depression just went away and I never experienced it again. It just means that I no longer had an electro chemical predisposition to being depressed all the time. Nonetheless I still feel depressed on occasion. Even on Friday of last week, I woke up and was in a bit of a funk initially. How I handled it involved first acknowledging that I did feel that way and that it was okay to feel that way. And that's an important first step, which I don't think many people take the time to do. It's ok that you're feeling depressed. There's nothing unnatural about it or wrong with feeling depressed. It can and does effect your functionality and productivity, but maybe that, in and of itself, is worth looking at instead of automatically trying to change it.

One of the problems that people face when it comes to emotions is learning how to sit with those emotions and feel them. We act them out a lot of times, but acting them out isn't necessarily the same as feeling them. Learning how to feel them involves learning to acknowledge that you are feeling the emotion and allowing yourself to feel it.  A lot of people will say, "I don't want to feel depressed" and I can certainly appreciate not wanting to feel that way, but I think so much of the approach to depression is focused on avoiding it that we don't always allow ourselves to fully recognize when we do feel it or consider what it might be trying to tell us.

There are different ways to handle depression. Anti-depressant meds are one way, as therapy is another. I think meditation can be helpful with depression provided some type of oversight is included in the process. I've also found that physical exercise helps me when I'm feeling down, because its causing me to do something that gets me out of whatever mental rut I'm in. Whatever you do to handle depression, just remember that it is okay to feel it, and that acknowledging that you feel it doesn't make you weak, but rather is the first step toward helping you work with those feelings. And don't be afraid to reach out to others who are qualified to help with such feelings, because they can help you make sense of what you are experiencing.

Letting Go

Kat and I came back from Pantheacon to one of our cats dying. It's certainly not the homecoming experience we expected to have, and we've been grieving as we've also been getting him ready for his next journey. Something we've both said to him is that it's ok for him to move on. And we both mean it, because we don't want him to suffer. But we also still feel attachment (quite naturally) and so we're also in this process of letting go of him. We don't want to let go of our memories of him, but we want to honor his passage and need to transition. So letting go for us is recognizing that need to let him move on and honor that passage without clinging to him and making him stay longer just because of us.

I've been doing some meditation and breath work on this as I've been letting go of my attachments to Caspian. I'll admit that I've only known him for 8 months, since we first moved him up here, but in that time I've come to love him and consider him one of my furkids. Letting go has involved releasing that energetic connection to him, in part to give him some healing energy to aide in his passing, and in part to give myself closure to his place in my life. With each breath I've allowed myself to grieve and to release, To honor and to know.

In magical work it is urged that a person doesn't become attached to their results. This is wisely done, because when we get attached, we can become obsessive about what we desire. Learning to let go can mean that you also let go of your need to have control and recognize that it can be just as powerful to step back.

I'm letting go of Caspian but I'm not forgetting him or his significance to my life. He'll always be one of my cats, no matter where he goes...just as I'll always be one of his humans. But by letting go of him in this moment, I can help him pass with peace.

Why therapy needs to complement internal work

I've been starting to do some internal work on an issue that was brought to my attention by my significant other. I also decided to book an appointment with my therapist. Back when I was doing the Emptiness working, my ex told me near the beginning of it that she needed me to go see a therapist as I worked through it, because it was clear to her that I was digging through a lot of emotional wounds. She was right. Since that time I've realized that while doing internal work is important, having someone to go to share that work with who isn't emotionally involved is also equally important. An objective perspective can help you keep on track and also help you deal with the rough times that inevitably occur as you deal with the internal work. A therapist can provide that, provided s/he understands the kind of work you are doing.

It is important to explain what kind of mediation you are doing, how it works etc., so that you can provide some context for how you are arriving at the conclusions you have.

The therapist I go to has been invaluable for raising perspectives and helping me understand some of the emotions that have arisen as I've dealt with my internal issues. The meditation I do has helped me unearth those issues, but having the therapist available has helped me make sense of them and come to a place of resolution with them. So if you're doing a lot of internal work, it can be useful to also see a therapist in conjunction with the work you do.

The hand-parting

On Sunday, my ex-wife Lupa and I did our hand-parting. We've ended the marriage in a very amicable way and are still friends. In fact, we both recognize that we make great friends, but lousy spouses. Since the hand-parting happened, I've noticed a definite shift in my sense of identity, as well as on an energetic level. In my chest, when we did the hand-parting, I felt a loosening up of energy, a final uncoiling of everything that had previously held us together.

Since then I've felt a wide range of emotions. There's some lingering sadness, and also a lot of relief. There's a lot I learned in this marriage, in the life we shared together, and a lot I take away in recognition of that. The biggest lesson I've learned is to be honest with myself as completely as possible, especially if I hope to have a good relationship with someone else. That applies to friendships as much as any other kind of relationship, but it was in my marriage to Lupa that I really learned this lesson...and she expressed similar sentiments at the hand-parting, which tells me I was in good company through this.

Seriously though...For what this relationship with her was, it was what I needed, when I needed it. I wish Lupa the best in her life and I'm glad we're still friends.

She came to me

She came to me tonight as I was being massaged and said, "I would have an audience with you tonight." I said I'd prefer if this audience occurred when I was alone, for since this was part of my emptiness work, that needed to be part of it. She smiled and said, "I'll get you some alone time in a bit." And she did deliver for Lupa was contacted and asked to help with something that needed to be taken care of tonight. "Will you be okay with that?"

"Certainly, go ahead."

After Lupa left, she came back and said, "So about that audience." I nodded, and went over to the guest bathroom and started up the bath water, mixing in oils as well. Once the bath was ready, I sank into the hot world, and she appeared before me, in all of her awful lady Babalon. Her eyes were as red as blood, her hair the darkness of pitch, her skin ivory...and she looked through my soul and words poured forth from her perfect lips:

"Almost a year ago you entered into me, and through me descended into the abyss. You took on the rotting that was predicted to you, when you chose to stay here."

I nodded.

"You've come through this admirably. You've rotted and that was my gift to you, not a punishment, but a gift, for you fully needed to feel helpless, fully needed to feel the strength of your desires even onto addiction itself, to fully come to to the root of what has caused your pain and emptiness. You never would've come to this realization if you'd gone out there, and so you would have remained a beast...but now you have traveled through your abyss, through your own rot and dis-ease, and horror and fear, and come through it with a clear understanding of what has held you back."

"I agree. I felt a lot of regret and guilt over what happened, but as I went through this year and came to fully face what has haunted me so much of my life, as I rotted, I finally could find resolution to so much of the pain and emptiness that had previously driven me on. I finally came face to face with each of my core wounds and came away healed."

"This year was your abyss walk, but also the culmination of the previous four years of work. You chose to walk into the abyss through me, as all magicians must, for it is only in facing your desires and facing the shadow behind them that you can move to the next step of your journey. You are no longer a beast, a pashu. You are now a person, a human."

And then I said, "And if still I have the same desire after all of this. I've accepted I may never have that desire fulfilled and accepted that its best to enjoy what comes my way, but still I feel it, even after all of this. I feel it in a conscious way...recognize it as more than just an attempt to fill something up."

She smiled gently. "After all of this, I will tell you enjoy what comes your way and what you have, but I will also say that what you desire will come when the time is right, and in a way that doesn't involve you leaving the Earth you've come to call as your home, and also in a way that respects fully what is already there."

"I'm still one of yours aren't I?"

She smiled again, and said, "You never stopped being one of mine. But you are not a beast to be ridden either. Remember what you've said yourself, 'Both parties create the relationship and choose what it will be.' And what have you chosen with me?"

"For you and I, Milady," I said, "I choose to walk with you at my side, even as I am at yours, devoted to you and your mysteries, but also free to be me and continue on with the journey I've chosen."

"And that is how it should be with you. For you are your own star, and must shine that light on the path you walk. And you and I both know that you've chosen to walk a very particular path, to bring forth the unorthodox and unusual, and manifest as well that success which is yours to claim."

Then she kissed me on the lips, her energy melding with my own, and looked into my eyes with her red eyes and said," Tomorrow you'll move from Zero to One, from Something to Nothing, and mark it with the sign of Xah....Tomorrow you will start your re-birth, and claim your freedom from the abyss. Remember, I'm always at your side, never too far away...and you are one of mine, even as you are your very own self. Enjoy what's coming've earned it."

Then she left, milady Babalon, just like that...and I climbed out of the bath...and readied myself for tomorrow, purified and ready for the rebirth.

The connection between internal work and external reality

Today I got to meet Paul Levy, who kindly enough gave me a copy of his book The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our collective psychosis. It was a real pleasure to meet's clear we are on similar journeys of internal exploration and change. His work with the concept of the awakening dream is really interesting. We both agreed that to see change occur in the external world, we had to change the consensus reality on the internal level and doing that involved a lot of work with meditation, but also with cultivating conscious awareness of our actions and the effect those actions have as well as actively working with the shadow self instead of repressing it. Later today, one of my magical brothers made a post about how people criticized his concern for political issues as a distraction from doing internal work. He rightly noted that doing internal work necessarily should impact the relationship a person has with the external world. That, I might add, includes one's concern and activism with politics. I'll also just say I have the utmost admiration for this person and the charitable and activist work he does. He's one of my role models, actually.

Although I've only skimmed Levy's work, he makes an interesting point when he argues that Bush is a dysfunctional archetypal manifestation of the collective consciousness. His actions and words are representative of the overall psychosis that infects all of us, and yet is representative of the shadow work we all need to do, in order to not let someone like him come into power. He notes similar parallels with Hitler and the Germaqn people manifesting a person who embodied the dysfunctions of the time in his actions and words. Now, frankly I feel that doing internal work is important in terms of changing not only one's own internal landscape, but also the collective consciousness at large...but for that change to really be felt action has to occur in the external. In fact, if you are doing it right, you will find that your internal reality aligns you with the external reality that you not only need to experience, but also that which needs to experience you.

We are connected. The internal work is not divorced from the external work. They are a continuum of interaction. So when someone is doing political activism don't presume to tell him he's not doing his internal work. For all you know that's his external manifestation of that internal work.

Disillusionment: A different take

I was listening to an episode of Catnip Brew, a podcast that I just found tonight. One of the episodes was about apathy and disillusionment in the pagan culture. Now, as it so happens, the most read post on the blog, at this point, is the post I wrote about my own disillusionment about the occult scene. So hearing that podcast episode generated some empathy on my part. I think it's fair to say that disillusionment of some kind is an inevitable reality of a spiritual path. It's a test of that spiritual path...and could be a kind of dark night of the soul. Some people never come out of that disillusionment. They give up, or turn away in disgust because whatever they are looking for can't be found in the spiritual path being explored. They forget that you can't always look around to find something to answer the questions. Sometimes you have to create the answers.

In fact it is creating the answers that usually leads a person out of apathy or disillusionment. The person may feel jaded and cynical and yet at some point realizes that no matter where s/he looks, the answer ultimately lies within. Yes we can read books, do what the books tell us to do and even interact with other people in an organization and yet at some point the challenge for a practitioner of magic is to define his or her own path. Some never do that, and others do. I think that the apathy and disillusionment is a sign for when it is time to look toward creating your own path. At that point, you realize that whatever is out there won't answer your questions and may not even have the questions you need to ask.

My disillusionment with the occult scene started in the late nineties. I took a two year hiatus from the occult community, from 2000 to 2002, but even when I came back it hadn't really changed. All that had changed was that I was starting to develop my own path. I had read the books and practiced the exercises and rituals, and had some definite results and life changing experiences, but until I struck out on my own, I didn't really start to find or develop the questions and answers that have informed my own life journey. Even after I struck out on my own and eventually helped found the esoteric portion of Immanion Press, there was still a lot of disillusionment to work through. Some of it was from Graduate school and my choice to drop out of it...the feeling of failure and anger over that took a long time to heal. Some of it was disillusionment with myself as a person, realizing just how much I didn't like myself or how I presented myself to others, and some of it of course was magic, because even while I was writing my books, there was a part of me that felt alienated and angry with the entire occult community.

Over time, I found my path. It took years. My elemental work and the Taoist meditations was my answer to the disillusionment I felt about myself. Instead of choosing to remain apathetic about who I was, I decided to change myself, to take a much more active role in shaping myself into a person I could like, love, and be proud of. The process is ongoing, likely always will be, but as i've stated before, i'm happier with myself now than ever before. Even the emptiness working is ultimately a proactive approach toward redefining what I am doing and who I choose to be.

With the Ph.d, my answer to the disillusionment I felt was to ultimately take the skills I learned and apply them to the editing and writing I did, and in the case of several articles and my book, Multi-Media Magic, put to rest my feelings about academia, so I could move on with my life and no longer dwell on something not important.

And with magic? It's ironic that as I started in on the emptiness working, I at the same time finally found my answer to the disillusionment I've felt about the occult scene for so long. When I realized that other people felt the same way as I have, I considered that to be an indication that my dissatisfaction and concern wasn't just in my head. And that allowed me to consider taking a step in a different direction that I previously entertained much, while also finding my answer in that direction. And that direction? For now it's a bit of a secret, though one I've already dropped hints of elsewhere. I'll be more open about it eventually, but I will say that for the first time in a long time, I spiritually feel at peace with the occult community as a whole, because I'm realizing the benefit of continuing to carve my own niche, and find my own path to get the answers I seek as well as continue asking questions.

But I also know the disillusionment I felt, while not fun to experience, has helped me recognize the value of creating my own answers. To some degree, creating the non-fiction line of books in Immanion Press was my answer to that disillusionment, for it gave me an opportunity to promote what I believe is essential to the evolution of the occult subculture as well as the evolution of humanity in general. That was a partial answer and the value of that answer to myself is evident in the comfort I take in not just publishing my own writing but providing a forum for other writers to publish and share their works. The happiness I have seen in those writers when their works were published in a way that respected and valued what they had to say has often provided me hope at times when I sorely needed that hope.

And yet the full answer couldn't be arrived at until recently, until I was ready to take another step forward in service not just to myself but also others. Some of that answer arose out of my life coaching and the networking I've been doing with other businesses. And some of that answer continues to come from my own experimentation, but also work with others. It is in fellowship with others that some answers can be created. The interchange of ideas, the exchange of energy, etc. The magician is not some lone wanderer on a path, not always...Sometimes the path turns and you find there's another person or people there ready to walk for a turn with you. It is the creation of an answer that provides you the light at the end of the tunnel, the dawn rays of the sun ending that long night. What will come after that? Who knows...but I'm ready to step forward and find out.

Elemental Love Work Month Ten

I have two more months left to the elemental love working. It kind of amazes me that in such a short, but also long time, my yearlong working with babalon and the element of love will be receding into the background to make way for the next element to be worked with. This month has been interesting in Three different ways.

1. I recently had an opportunity to choose to be honest about a situation...and I chose honesty. I have to admit, making that choice is when it comes to personal matters is not very easy for me. I've sometimes lied or concealed things to my later detriment, because there's that distinct voice within which says, better to keep this from someone then let them find out and see the real you. The real detriment of lying isn't even the broken trust of the other person, though that is definitely detrimental. It is the punishment one puts him/herself under every time the truth could come up...because make no mistake a liar does punish him/herself because no matter how well hidden a truth one person always knows it and that's the liar.

For me, honesty in love has been one of the hardest lessons to learn. I can easily point to my past and say that it was because of my past, what I learned early on, which was that lying sometimes ensured I didn't get caught, didn't get grounded, didn't get told I was a disappointment, and most importantly I didn't get hurt if I lied good enough. If I lied and no one else knew, they might even accept it's not rational, and it may not make much sense, but it is a reaction that is writ deep within me, and so naturally is something that has come up time and again throughout these ten months, in various different forms and flavors. Coming to grips with the lie of lying, and really seeing how much the truth can set a person free is in someways the central theme of this year's lesson for me. And of course Babalon has been very insistent I learn this lesson, which completely makes sense, because she is a goddess of desire, and desire is only truely known when you can be true with yourself and others.

So earlier this month, an opportunity came up to be honest about some things and I decided to take it. It wasn't easy. There were a couple moments where I felt like it took everything I had to say a simple sentence. Yet the feeling afterwards, of relief, of release, of no longer keeping something in secret, of being able to really open was so empowering, so strong, so different from keeping something to myself. I felt liberated...and in one respect I felt as well that my word as a magician was strengthened. I believe both William G. Gray and Franz Bardon wrote something to the effect that the magician's power is only as strong as his word. The truth does set you free, from your fear, from your worry...but it takes a lot of work. I wish I could say that being honest is an easy thing for most areas of my life it is...but love is deep...there's deep wounds and letting them heal takes work, takes trust...I'm learning that trust, learning how to trust myself so I can trust others. Trust and love start from within. Before you can have trust or love with someone else you really have to trust yourself and love yourself. For me, the sign that I'm changing is that while I still struggle with myself sometimes to tell someone else how I feel or about something I did that I know wasn't good to do, 9 out 10 times I succeed in telling that someone...and that one time it doesn't occur right away, it does happen, if a bit later down the line. It's an accomplishment for me to be at this point of honesty with myself. And yes sometimes I still lie...but it's less and less.

2. In a conversation with a friend I was told I'm trying too hard...specially trying too hard to be his friend, which accounted for his tenseness around me. I really appreciated his honesty with me and ended up agreeing that was the case, so I relaxed and that friendship is getting better. But in thinking about his comment, I can say it's been true in other situations as well. I've caught myself a few times this month trying too hard when it came to other matters. So I'm learning to relax more...try less, do's interesting and it's given me a better look at some of the ol' thought stream in my head, and what it is I tell myself sometimes. Not sure where this will go beyond just trying less, and relaxing more in my relationships with others and myself.

3. finally read this in a book. Sex and love are two different needs. You might think this would be obvious, but I don't much focus in this culture on true love and what constitutes true love, including all the sex that is supposed to happen all the time. I'm not saying sex can't be something important to a relationship you have with someone, but sex and love aren't the same need. Sex can be an expression of love, but it can also be an expression of hate or lust, even sorrow (in one case I heard of). And sex is its own need, something which we need, but love is also its own need and again something we need. It's funny, but as I've done this love working and really faced what love seems to be for me, I've seen the difference in these needs more clearly. Yes I like both love and sex and want both in my life, but they are different. Sex doesn't always bring love with it and yes I've known this for a while, but reading that sex and love are different kinda hit me with a clue by four that helped me get this understanding in a different way that all my prior experiences never really showed me.

I won't say love is more valuable than sex or vise versa, but feeling that need for love is a different than needing sex and in retrospect sex definitely fills or hits a different area of the psyche than is much more subtle, less does something, but it also takes a lot more work than sex might.

So that's month ten for me...each month is really amazing...I've learned so much in each month, in each moment of vulnerability that working with this element has provided.

Ethics and the Development of Will

"The Will" is an important component of Western Magic, if often ill-defined in practice and discussion. I have defined it as a personal coherence, wherein ones self is so unified that its directives and activities produce clear results - be that in magic or other activities. I consider it essentially the same as "Te" in Chinese culture, the Self of Jungian psychology, or the Freudian ideal where an aware Ego replaces incoherent Id and mechanical Superego.

Building Will, exploring Will, etc. is of course something important to a Magician - that quality is what lets us achieve results as well as personal well-being. There are meditations, exercises, goal-directings, banishing of demons internal and external, etc. that people apply to clear their minds and develop that curious, important quality.

One technique I find useful in developing the Will, is ethical self-analysis and adaption of ethical stances.

Our initial ethical stances and beliefs do not come to us by choice, of course. If we are lucky our parents, peers, and culture provided us a useful ethical system and encouraged us to analyze, understand, and improve our stances. Or if we're unlucky, we get something, to put it charitably, that is less than ideal and is more pure imprinting than anything else.

Unfortunately I think a lot of us aren't overly fortunate in our ethical upbringing and experiences. Ethical situations and issues can be unpleasant, constricting, and confusing because of our pasts and our culture. Trying to imagine a sane discussion of ethical issues on American News, for instance, is something I put in the realm of "extremely unlikely".

So, let's work on our own ethics. When one examines ethical situations and choices, when one decides ones stances and decides on ones codes, one can actually have very profound experiences:

  • To understand why one holds beliefs is very informative - even if at times one discovers unpleasant truths.
  • To confront unpleasant situations and analyze ones beliefs and actions is informative and strengthens one's resolve.
  • To make conscious decisions as to how one can and will behave - and why - is to take responsibility for oneself, providing freedom from unconscious imprinting and making choices conscious.
  • To understand how ones magical system(s) affect and recommend ethics helps one connect themselves to that paradigm.
  • The exploration of ethics allows the exposure of deep psychological structures so they may be leveraged, addressed, or healed.
  • Exercising and developing one's ethics also lets one be "inoculated" against surprises in the future where one can be paralyzed by an unexpected ethical conflict.

I myself find a good sit-down with ethically stimulating literature to be great for personal growth - a little Confucius, a book of classic tales and legends, etc. can provide wonderful fodder for consideration and analysis.

Working actively on my ethical development and contemplation has been helpful to my magical work, especially that of a psychological nature and in my energy work (obviously). I'm more comfortable with myself, more sure of my choices, and better able to rally my resources, and feel more 'in place' in the magical systems I work within. In short, it helps develop my Will.

So next time, before that meditation or work at banishing that personal demon, consider a read of a good classic on ethics or similar.

Enlightenment does not take you off the hook!

Sometimes people have funny definitions of enlightenment, as in if I'm enlightened I can do no more wrong. I've never thought of enlightenment as that. Rather to me is it: Once you are aware, i.e. enlightened, you can no longer use ignorance to excuse your actions. You have to take full responsibility. In Psychology without the self, by Mark Epstein, this is phrased much better: "Before Awakening, one can easily ignore or rationalize his shortcomings, but after enlightenment this is no longer possible. One's failings are painfully evident. Yet at the time a strong determination develops to rid oneself of them...Continuous training after enlightenment is required to purify the emotions so that our behaviors accord with our understanding."

That's pretty much the truth of enlightenment. You wake up and suddenly you recognize the effect your behavior has on you and others and you can't hide behind it anymore. The path is hard because once you recognize your failings you have to face them. And continuous training is a reality of enlightenment. Just because you are aware doesn't mean your behaviors automatically stop. I'm an excellent example of that because while I can definitely say I'm more aware of my behaviors, I'm also really having to work hard to change those behaviors and isn't easy. Knowledge does not equal wisdom...wisdom is only found after a person has actively chosen to change those behaviors by using that awareness to mindfully temper how s/he interacts.  And that tempering usually involves making more mistakes, facing in full how you act, and then motivating yourself to change because you realize you don't want to be that way any more.

Enlightenment doesn't take you off the hook. It demands more of you. Edited to add: As an interesting side note, just as I finished writing this post, I got thwacked by reality over something that definitely falls into this category. never get let off the hook.

The Path is Hard

I'm reading The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire by Storm Constantine now, for my pleasure reading, but also to get reacquainted with a magical system I work in, called Dehara. There's a lot of magic in the books themselves, but continuing to develop a magical system around those books is something I've felt called to do lately. Some of that actually relates to a couple of my previous posts about service and deity, and being pinged about this particular matter. But more on Dehara later...this is a post about something else. I've been thinking lately about the characters in the Wraeththu series, and in particualr Cal's journey. I have a lot of empathy for Cal, because I definitely feel like I'm on a similar journey of purification and self-knowledge. At one point Cal is told, "The Path is Hard," when he complains about it.

Yep...the path is hard. Really hard sometimes. A person might be tempted to say, "Well it's only as hard as you make it". A flippant response, but not entirely incorrect. There is some truth that the hardness of any task is at least partially determined by the person doing the task. But even when a task could be easier, that doesn't mean it's not hard. A good example, for me, comes from earlier today, when I meditated and was confronted by an aspect of myself, which essentially said, "Stop pretending I don't exist, or I'll continue sabotaging you." Certainly it was easier to dialogue with that aspect, then continue denying it. But that didn't mean it was easy to face that aspect. Suddenly, I was facing again all those times where I hadn't really been honest with myself about it or the needs it embodied, and well...some problems occurred, because of actiosn I took. I'm responsible for those actions and the effect they had on others, but moreso I'm responsible for the effect it's had on me. The denial I've caused to myself inevitably inflicts harm on myself, and so while my path is easier, it still involves facing that harm, coming to peace with that as part of coming to peace with the aspect.

Throughout the original trilogy and even to some degree in the second trilogy, Cal is portrayed as a toxic character. He embodies what happens when you do not know yourself...the toxicity he spreads is chaotic. He shakes up the lives of everyone. Even in the process of learning to be honest with himself, to cleanse himself, to come peace with everything that occurred in the past, he's still a chaotic influence, but he begins to stabilize as he continues on this path of self-realization.

Sometimes I think what makes the path so hard is that awareness of toxicity in myself. I can be toxic, to myself or to others. The potential is there for everyone. I can be a toxic flower, beautiful to behold, but taste of me and I will surely wreck your life. That's one way to look at it.

But I also have to remind myself that it's growing pains, don'tcha know? Really. I'm not always toxic...I might not be at all. I'm just someone muddling my way on this path I call life, learning as best I can...It's far easier to be hard on myself than to recognize that in fact I don't have to be that hard. So where does magic fit into all of this?

Magic, in my experience of the last few years, involves a lot of internal work, a lot of internal change. I can't say I always felt that way...For a long time I considered magic to be more or less external. Some internal awareness was there, but I was mostly concerned with getting results. I could summon up entities, do sigils, etc, and get results, and that was all that mattered. Magic was great for solving external problems, but I didn't really think about where the root of those problems was coming from (or at least my responsibility for those problems). Only in the last few years did my magical approach shift to the internal, so that I do most of my work internally and then let the changes manifest externally. Doing the internal work meant really starting to be honest with myself about why I was even doing magic in the first place and what it was I was hoping to get out of it.

I've come face to face with a lot in the last few years. I'm currently working with the element of love and facing all of the internal demons associated with that concept for me. And so, just as Cal discovers, the path is hard...but it does get easier as time goes on. Because the more you work through, the less baggage you have holding you down, and the easier the external situations get...and then you realize the real strength of magic isn't found in the neat special effects or even in making results happen (Though those are always nice perks)...its found in really embracing the reality of yourself on all levels, without attachment...without lust for results...

Not being...not doing, and in all of that finding something we could call freedom, self knowledge, enlightenment...whatever you want, or not. I'll call it a lifetime of adventure, discovery, and experience. Or walking the does get easier, really.