identity

Elemental Balancing Ritual Fire Month 12

9-18-12 As this last month with Fire begins, I find myself feeling a little flat in comparison to other years. This is actually reassuring because it means that the internal work and balancing work I am doing is working. And maybe its just fire fading into embers, which would be appropriate enough. I see a year of tempering passion and raising creativity, while coming to grip with the shadows of fire. It feels good to end this elemental balancing work on a note of quiet, much like the crackle of flames that warm you in the night.

9-20-12 Something I've always recognized about my inner motivation is that part of what motivates me is proving other people wrong, specifically in regards to their perspectives about me or what I can or can't do. Undoubtedly this arose as a result of so many people trying to tell me what I couldn't do. When I was told I couldn't do something, it made me do it and do it in a way where I made it very apparent I'd done it and they were wrong. Even with all the internal work I've done I found that this is still an intrinsic motivation and I realize that I like having it as a motivation. It might seem petty, but the truth is showing someone they were wrong about me is empowering, because in the process they learn its better to let me do as I please, instead of trying to get in my way any further. I suppose it's a shadow aspect of fire in a way, but the point isn't to extinguish the shadows, but to learn how to work with them constructively, and this very intrinsic motivation has pushed me to do some awesome things, so I can't say its bad to draw on it or use it to focus my efforts.

9-26-12 I'm reading Love and Awakening by John Welwood with my wife. We read books together and then discuss them, and I've read this book once before, a few years back, but I was the only one who read it, and although I understood some of the concepts then, I find that this current re-reading is allowing me to engage and apply the concepts much more meaningfully as tools that can help my relationship with my wife, especially with how we communicate and work through any issues that arise between us. We've become very proactive and aware of our respective issues and we are able to hold space with each other and create a sense of safety, where even if we feel vulnerable, we know we can be safely vulnerable. Of course this has occurred as a result of reading a number of books on relationships and then discussing and applying what we've read to our own relationship.

At the same time, I was filled with an intense sadness the other day as I felt a sense of empathy toward people I'd been with in the past and thought about how they must have felt dealing with my issues and also with perhaps feeling unsafe with me. This doesn't absolve them of their responsibility, but recognizing how I contributed to the dysfunction on a wholly new level, one where I was putting myself into their perspective makes me sad and helps me realize why things didn't work out. It takes a lot to communicate how vulnerable you feel to someone else and if you don't feel that you can safely do that, the only alternatives are to shut down or leave the relationship. I'm sad that I helped create an environment where someone wouldn't feel safe, because how I was communicating or not communicating was causing them to feel not listened to or respected. My lesson is to take that sadness and use it as a tool to help me understand how to be a better listener, a better person at holding space so that everyone is listened to, respected, and a mutual solution is arrived at.

10-04-12 A while back I started adding push-ups to my daily exercise/meditation. I've noticed lately a distinct difference in how I feel. I feel more in shape, I feel better, and I'm liking how I look as a result. I've always included some level of physical exercise in my spiritual work as I feel my body is a temple and I want it to be in the best shape possible, but how I feel now reminds me that I really do need to keep that exercise at a certain level to fully benefit from it. It feels good to feel this in shape and I want to keep it that way.

I've been doing some further thinking about this year's work. I think for a long time I used fire (as a symbolic force) in my life to justify some of my behaviors and now I can't do that anymore, because I recognize that fire has little to do with it. It occurs to me that in general people do find ways to try and evade responsibility to one degree or another. Such an evasion is unhealthy for everyone involved and yet it's an easy way to avoid feeling vulnerable. Indeed the flipside of taking responsibility is allowing yourself to be vulnerable in that process of taking responsibility. At the same time, going overboard and beating yourself up is really a way to attack your vulnerability...to be truly vulnerable with someone and responsible involves sharing without blaming, acknowledging without judgment. Hard work, but worth doing.

10-08-12 Being vulnerable with someone who is supportive is truly a gift. It's something I've only been able to do in the relationship I'm in now, and it still surprises me. Something that the element of fire has taught me is that to truly feel the fire of love, you have to open up to someone and let them in. If you are always guarded, there will always be some part waiting for when things don't work out. But if you truly commit yourself to a person there is a realization that you are giving yourself over and not planning for when things don't work out. I feel that this year has taught me that.

10-10-12 I'm reading through old journal entries on this blog as I'm compiling them for a book project. when I read the emptiness workings in particular, I see some real progress. I'm not that miserable, empty person that I was then. I'm not feeling the abuse or sensation of being eaten up or anything else I felt back then. It's taken a lot of work, but I am much more at peace with myself than I was three years ago.

10-19-12 The neuro-biology of a human being is something that is responsible for so much of the behavior of people. I'm reading a book on the biology behind sex and how different types of sex affect the behavior of a given person. It's really eye-opening and it helps me understand certain relationship and lifestyle choices that I've made from a different perspective. At the same time, knowing how your biology works can help you anticipate it, and plan accordingly. This is something Kat and I are exploring very intentionally in our relationship and I can already see the benefits.

10-21-12 I chose my birthday celebration as my way to send off Fire. Kat through me a murder mystery party, with friends from the Magical Experiments group showing up. I remarked to one of them, who I also see in business meetings, how I must present a very different appearance during the magical experiments meeting. She admitted that there was quite a difference. For the actual party I invoked dragon by wearing a dragon ring I have and allowing him to partake in the festivities. To me, fire is a social element, as much as anything and I wanted to show my appreciation for this year's work.

Looking back on this year, I realize that my initial concern about fire being a fiery element that would amplify my emotions was based on a fear I had when I was younger. But working with fire has been illuminating (you know I couldn't resist). I have worked with the shadow side of fire, with my passion, desire, and anger, and I have also worked with fire as a purely physical force, and as a force that can represent love and friendship. I feel I have been tempered this year, and made ready fr the next year which is movement.

How identity can move past the limitation of systems

I got into an interesting conversation with a friend that I don't get to speak with often. When we do get to chat, it's like drinking an especially fine wine of intellect, because we both think in similar ways but are drawn to different angles of research, so we can provide each other perspectives and suggested materials to draw on to further our respective areas of research.

Anyway, we got into a conversation about political systems and why people don't seem to care much about the congress. I pointed out that the apathy is actually favorable for the political system that is set up. The lack of interest and occasional grumble from people is perfectly acceptable to any political system, but its when people get interested and active that politicians start to sweat. In the U.S. elections are coming up soon, but I suspect most people are only focused on the presidential race and only know of the Republicans and Democrats. The other parties have presidential and Vice presidential picks but few people know about them. The same applies for anyone running for congress.

When people talk about politics and voting they talk about voting for the lesser of two evils and the desired outcome is that people will vote for a republican or democrat. There are other choices, but to really break into this political system you need to have a lot of money (like Perot did) and even that isn't enough. Some people might argue that the Tea party is an alternate choice to the Republicans, but its mostly been folded into that party. The occupy movement made politicians nervous for a while, but then they cracked down. The other parties make occasional sounds but for the most part don't matter. Now you have CEO's weighing in and warning their employees that they'll be fired if Obama wins another four years. It's a great big system that has ideal outcomes and like any system its focus is on getting people to move to those outcomes. This system also has countermeasures in place which it employs when people try to find an outcome that isn't desired. Once people vote the ideal outcome is that they mostly ignore what occurs in the political system and if they do notice something that they grumble and wait to vote some other person in, in the hopes that something will change.

Any given system is designed to purposely limit people within it to specific outcomes. If you want outcomes that aren't part of the system, you need to leave the system, or break it, or create your own. The choice to explore identity allows you to recognize how you have been limited by the identities imposed on you by a given system. The application of identity is the creation of your own system with outcomes you've developed for yourself. It has its own limitations, but those limitations are more readily changed because you control the system. At the same time your choice to embrace identity provides you a way to leave the system provided to you by others, or to choose to voluntarily participate in such a system but from an informed perspective that may provide insights and exploration in places that system doesn't want you to go.

For example, the choice to embrace identity can allow you to consider whether the assumption of an identity as a republican or democrat or green party or libertarian really serves you and/or your interests or the interests of others. You may still choose to vote, but you might choose to vote more precisely along the lines of what really supports your vision of reality. Or you might choose to get more involved in the system of politics, or walk away or make other choices, some of which are ideal outcomes, and others of which aren't so ideal.

Or you might examine your identity within a corporate system and explore whether or not that system is really one you want to be part of, or one that you can subvert. The same applies to religious and spiritual systems.

Systems are a result of a need to organize and structure human experience along specific paths of inquiry. The challenge a given person faces is determining whether those specific paths of inquiry are ones that /she wants to explore and/or whether such paths are really beneficial to him/her. Even your own identity is a reflection of this in the sense that familial and cultural influences structure your experience and provide proscribed paths, but your choice to consciously examine your identity and work with the issues and influences that have formed it can help you break away from old patterns and create new ones that reveal outcomes and journeys that take you far from what was established for you and provide you the opportunity to discover your own identity, formed as a conscious relationship between yourself, the various systems you interact with and the universe at large.

The realities of religious persecution

Recently Jason from the Wild Hunt posted some articles about religious persecution which is occurring toward Pagans. Go here, here, and here, to read the articles on the topics. I also read another article on how Pagans in Wyoming are mostly solitaries and are very careful about sharing their beliefs because of the fear of persecution. Folks, even in a seemingly "advanced" country as the U.S. or the European countries there is still persecution if you don't follow the religious practices of the Christian religion.

We can tell ourselves that surely by now people will learn to tolerate each others' beliefs, but its not that simple. The reality of religious persecution is that it is another form of privilege. When a person from a majority religion says they are being persecuted in a place where that majority religion is accepted and tolerated (as some of the religious right like to believe) they are simply deluding themselves. After all they don't have to worry about losing a job because of their beliefs, nor do they have to be careful about the jewelry they wear in public or for that matter they don't have to worry if they bring up their religion at a meeting that isn't about religion. Nor do they have to worry about having their books burned or being threatened by people simply because of what they believe, at least in the countries where they are the majority religion.

Pagans aren't the only people discriminated against and some religious beliefs have it worse, but it doesn't change the fact that if you are pagan there is a level of persecution that can occur just because you choose to have those beliefs. when you need to hide your beliefs because you are afraid of other how other people will react, and in particular are afraid you will be harmed, that is persecution.

We can hope for a world where people will tolerate each other's beliefs, but to do that we need to really pay attention to how we represent ourselves publicly. Thus, as mentioned in the one article, where the parent got upset and called local authorities, the best way to handle it was to stick to the higher ground. But sticking to the higher ground also must involve raising awareness of these very issues and showing that there are problems that need to be addressed not merely by the community being persecuted, but also by the community doing the persecuting.

 

 

The power of thinking big

One of the business books I'm reading right now is the Magic of Thinking Big. While I definitely think its a book that applies to business, it's also a book I'd recommend every magician read. Reading it has been insightful for me in terms of recognizing just how much I already employ the concepts the book discusses in my magical work. The power of thinking big, as it applies to magic, involves the recognition that your thoughts can either limit or broaden your awareness of possibilities. As magicians we use magic to bring possibilities into reality and one of our greatest tools is our ability to envision those possibilities. I've always found that an approach based on positive thinking (which the book espouses) is useful because it allows you to find possibilities as well as question what is laid out before you.

My approach to experimentation has always been based on possibility, specifically seeking possibilities out. While I have a lot of respect for the ongoing traditions and currents in magical work, I also think its important to examine how magic can evolve with the times and needs. Applying positive thinking to my magical work has always allowed me to see what could occur with my magical practice provided I was willing to explore what might seem like even the most outlandish ideas.

There have always been a few people who've argued that such an approach is fluffy or that someone like me is being so open-minded that their brain has fallen out of their skull. Yet I don't think that is the case. The choice to be open-minded and embrace possibilities is liberating because it allows a person to intentionally explore what might work or might not work. There is no right or wrong answer, not when it comes to spirituality and spiritual practice.

I suggest that being open-minded, thinking big, can be just as valuable a skill for your magical practice as any other skill. You may discover a way of looking at the world and your place in it that drives you to make changes that truly help you embody your desired possibilities. You may discover possibilities you never would entertain if you didn't choose to look at the world and yourself in terms of the possibilities instead of the obvious realities. the obvious realities are only as really as we invest ourselves into them.

 

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 relationship between magic and being

When I think about magic and identity, I think about embodiment and being. In particular with the word being, I think of it as a verb that denotes a person's life as as a process of presence entering into collaboration with reality. The presence of a person contains all the potential of the person, as well as access to possibilities of what the person can become. Magic, when employed, is a melding of the identity of the person (his/her being) with the situation. It is presence joining reality, merging possibility with what already is to create something which nonetheless contains the presence/being of the magician.

When we no longer divorce our actions from our state of being what we find is a different awareness of possibility and magic. No longer is a problem looked at as something external and separate, but instead there is an acknowledgement of the connection between the magician and the problem. The magician examines not merely the problem as it shows up in the world around him/her, but also the problem as it shows up in him/herself, to understand the connection it has to his/her life, and also to understand how to solve it, not merely in the environment around him/her, but also within.

When being is a verb there is a recognition that ontology is not some static image of identity, but an active presence of identity that challenges the magician to know him/herself as a fluid reality that mixes with possibility on a regular basis. We are all gates to possibility, and thus our state of being is one of change. Identity, when perceived this way, is not about attachments but about becoming and unbecoming all at once. Magic is a process of identity, part of the becoming and unbecoming, simultaneously binding us to possibilities while undoing connections to others. Reality itself is no longer perceived as static, so much as it is a canvas to be painted on. What seems real falls away as possibilities are embodied in everyday life. What becomes real is a melding of presence and reality and as such it can become unreal under the right circumstances.

Magical practice based on an ontological approach frees the magician from a doing and having perspective which tends to cause the magician to objectify reality and even him/herself. To have something is to own it and possess it, and yet it also possesses you. To do something is to act on it and yet try and separate yourself from it, ignoring that it has its own influence on you. Such perspectives limit the magician and dull the mind. The ontological approach acknowledges that everything is connected and that what is acted on, also acts on the magician. There is no objectification of reality, but instead a profound realization of connection and understanding that any situation encountered by the magician has a connection that goes deeper than what casual observation displays. And when the magician can make changes to his/her presence, the core of his/her own reality, s/he also makes changes to reality around him/her, changing the ontological state of not only him/herself but also reality as s/he interacts and understands it.

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.

The value of being unconventional

I've been reading the Tao of Deception by Ralph Sawyer. It's a book about Chinese military history and unconventional warfare. It advocates the value of applying unconventional thinking for solving problems, and provides examples of unconventional warfare and how battles were won by applying unconventional tactics. In the book, the author cites examples of how the environment was used to win a battle, or how a clever psychological ploy put the enemy into an exposed situation. and in each example its clear the strategists who chose to go down an unconventional route did so because they understood the limitations of conventional tactics as well as the people employing those tactics. I've always applied unconventional thinking to my magical practice and how I live life in general. It's the unusual perspectives that fascinate me, because they aren't expected. Going with what's expected is easy. Anyone can do it, but seeking and using the unconventional is fun and allows you to discover possibilities you'd otherwise ignore.

The application of the unconventional to magic involves developing a spiritual practice and process that doesn't stick to tried and true. Thus a person will recognize conventional associations and correspondences, while useful to learn, at a certain point stifle the creativity. The answer is to develop your own associations and correspondences. Go your own way, after you've learned enough to know what the rules are, and how to bend and break them and still get results. You can't explore the unconventional until you know the conventional, but once you know the conventional you also know its limits and you can move beyond the limits to discover new paths for exploration.

The unconventional is part of the unknown, in a sense, because it's not something everyone is doing. It's uncharted, or it only has a few markers to indicate possible paths. And you have to be wary of the paths, because even they can lead back to the conventional. The entire point is to do something original and innovative.

Change and magic

Change is one of those understated elements of magic that is part of any and everyone's process. That's probably why its understated, because change of some kind or another is expected to occur when you do magical work. So why even focus on it?

I think it is worth focusing on, especially when we look at change in conjunction with results. Your result is the explicit indicator that change has occurred. Without a result you wouldn't really know if your magic worked. But change is more than just a result. Change is a transformation of the environment around you and within you.Respecting that aspect of the magical process is really important for understanding how magic work. There needs to be a change built into your process. Magic is a causative agent of change, and the employment of it is a signal that you want to bring change into your life. But its also worth noting that even though you might get a specific result, you might also get other changes that are connected to the result, but weren't necessarily desired. This occurs, not because of the magic, but because of a lack of specificity about the result, or because specific consequences are triggered when a specific result occurs.

Change is a constant in our lives. We change moment to moment, but intentional change is something a person chooses to create, and that's what makes magic distinct. It's a methodology used to to produce intentional changes. When we recognize that change is intentional, then perhaps we consider it more carefully, recognizing that what it brings isn't just a result, but also the consequences that come with that result.

Radio Interview

If you missed the interview on Stirring the Cauldron you can listen to it here. It was a good interview with some great questions.

Book Review: Rebounders by Rick Newman

In this book, Newman discusses the characteristics of the rebounder, a person who is able to take failure and turn it into success by learning from it. Newman uses over nine case studies to demonstrate how various people have rebounded from failures and mistakes to become successful in their fields, while highlighting the mental skills and tools that are necessary to accomplish this. I found the stories to be inspiring and useful for helping me see how I could become a better rebounder.

Do you Rebound or Wallow?

I'm reading Rebounders by Rick Newman. He offers some fascinating case studies about people who taken failure and used it to learn from their mistakes and become successful. He also divides people into two categories: Rebounders and Wallowers. It reminds of what I wrote about in Magical Identity, in regards to people who are professional victims versus people who choose to learn from tough circumstances and make changes accordingly. According to Newman "Rebounders know how to solve problems and overcome setbacks, often because they've done it before. So they tend to react with calm determination, and even a sense of humor...They'd rather solve problems then complain about them or blame someone else...They analyze their mistakes and learn from them, and change their mind when new information turns out to be better than old information.

Wallowers, by contrast, often do the opposite. They get rattled when something goes wrong, even something small, because they're not accustomed to solving their own problems. They complain or get indignant instead of simply trying to fix things. They spend a lot of time figuring out who to blame for a problem usually absolving themselves...they tend to be the people who get stuck in their careers and don't understand why, and who remained convinced that their tribulations are somebody else's fault"

The rebounder learns to take responsibility for him/herself and solves problems, while the wallower makes lots of excuses, blames everyone else, and acts passive aggressively when problems occur.

The magician is ideally a rebounder, instead of a wallower. Wallowing is a waste of time and effort. It's something the professional victim does, crying "poor me, Poor me." But what goes does that do? You might get some attention, but in the end the problem is still there, still present. The problem can only be solved when you take responsibility for it and determine a course of action to make a change. Whether that's magic, something, or a combination thereof, the point is that it's better to focus on solving the problem than just wallowing in it and letting it define your reality.

Act instead of reacting.

Speaking of Magical Identity, this Thursday I'll be interviewed on the Stirring the Cauldron radio show at 9pm EST and 6pm PST, where I'll be discussing my new book and ongoing projects and other fun magical topics.

Being Magic vs doing magic

I'm reading the Sphere of Art by R. J. Stewart. It's a fascinating book and I can see William Gray's influence in both the writing and in how Stewart explains the magical concepts he's working with. Initial experimentation with the technique, on my part, has built off of Gray's Omnil technique and the Sphere fits the Omnil technique like a well crafted glove fits a hand. There's a point that Stewart makes about magic which I really like because it hits on the difference between an ontological approach to magic and an approach that's focused on doing magic.

Most powerful magic involves not willing things to be but allowing them to be what they already are. This process of allowing is not easily understood, for if it is assessed by the mind alone, it creates a minor paradox. The mind has to be stilled, the will set at peace, within conditions of attuned energy. Not as a meditative process alone, for this merely preliminary training, but as a sacromagical process that uplifts our manifest creation into another octave of being. Only when we allow this do we discover that there is no paradox and that the other octave of being has always resonated and interleaved with our manifest nature.

My own work in Magical Identity involved learning how to let go of doing magic and focus on allowing situations, circumstances, etc.,  to be what they are, while aligning my ontological state of being to the desired state of being that I wanted to have access to. By taking such an approach and embodying the desired reality I learned how to enter into the right time and space that fit the desired state of being I wanted to access. So instead of trying to will something to change externally, I allowed myself to change to fit what I needed. It's a different approach to magic because its based on an internal approach to magic. This isn't to say that I've stopped creating sigils or entities or doing other forms of magical work, but the need to do that type of work has diminished by applying an ontological perspective to magic and myself.

An ontological approach to magic enables you to enter into a receptive awareness of possibilities that allows you to form a specialized state of being (sacromagical perhaps) with the desired possibility. This state of being initially involves emptying yourself of everything and then inviting into your magical space the specific possibility you want to manifest into your life. You become that possibility, and give yourself over to the expression of it, allowing it to express itself in your life and actions. Instead of trying to force it, you become the possibility, letting it guide your choices, until it is realized. It's not a passive approach to magic, but instead is an approach that involves shifting your entire state of being into the preferred space/time you want to embody.  It recognizes that magic is an integral part of your being as opposed to an activity you do.

Doubt and magical workings

Mike has posted some interesting thoughts about doubt in magical works. You can find them here and here. When I think about doubt and magical workings, I think that if doubt is entering into the picture, it's better to not do the magical working and instead really examine your doubts and why they are coming up. When I do a practical magic working I don't want doubt to be in the picture, and for me it isn't. I know what I want, I understand the consequences around getting it and I'm ready to handle the reality of achieving it. Doubt is a sabotager...its that little voice that says, "You don't deserve this." And if you hear that voice, then you haven't done your due diligence.

What is due diligence? It's doing the internal work necessary to ensure that the desired result (or manifestation) is something you truly want with all of your being. It's addressing the doubts and resolving them before you even do your magical work.

It doesn't surprise me that some magicians experience doubt and have it sabotage their workings. I think this is due to the fact that they haven't done that necessary level of internal work that's needed to make sure everything is in alignment with the desired outcome. Without a process for doing dedicated internal work to address doubt and other sabotage emotions, those emotions will present themselves in your working and undermine your results. But with a dedicated process for internal work, its easy to deal directly with any doubts or other emotions and resolve them in your favor. Then do the magical working and you'll get consistent results.

This actually applies to decisions you make in general. For example, when I decided to rebrand my one business, I had already gone in and done the internal work to deal with any doubt or fear I may have felt. Once that was cleared out of the way, I started my rebranding and pursued it wholeheartedly. I didn't leave myself room for doubt, because it would've slowed me down. I knew what I wanted and I knew I could do it. The business is rebranded in terms of content and message (The visual design is still being reworked) and the previous services have been let go of.

If we look at this from a process approach what we get is assess the change you want to make. Determine if there is internal resistance (i.e. doubt). Resolve the internal resistance or make a different choice (sometimes there are good reasons not to do a magical working or life change). Do the magical working and any other actions needed to manifest the desired result. Simple, effective...and the doubt is dealt without having to continue entertaining it. There should be no room for doubt if you really want to manifest a desired result.

Magic as a Transformative Process

If there's one description I'd use about Magical Identity is that its really an exploration of magic as a transformative process. So what does that mean? When I think about western magical practices mostly what I think of is a fixation on achieving measurable results, but I think that's what missing is an exploration of transformation and the role magic can play in the transformation of your life. I'd argue that any result you achieve isn't merely a change in the external environment that happens to suit you, but is also a transformation of you as both a person and magician. That this transformation isn't considered is always a cause for concern, because its something that shouldn't be ignored.

If we look at the anatomy of a magical act, there is a focus on change. Something needs to be changed in order to bring the world back into balance for the magician. But assuming that the change only occurs in the external environment is a mistake. The magician is also changing his/her internal reality in order to align it with the desired external result. And if s/he can't change the internal reality, the external result may manifest, but it won't last. At a recent talk I asked attendees how many had manifested a desired result only to have it go away without bringing the desired change they wanted. Most nodded their heads and the reason for that is simple. Their internal reality didn't align with the desired external reality they wanted.

Effective transformation calls on the magician to be in touch with his/her internal reality so that s/he can truly determine if a desired result is in alignment with his/her life. The magical act is a transformation of the life of the magician as well as the environment. The two aren't separate, and whatever separation we assign is a convenient illusion used to avoid understanding the act of transformation.

This doesn't mean magic involves the law of attraction or other newagey concepts. Rather what it means is that achieving a result involves a level of internal work that complements any external work that is done to achieve the result. The recognition that magic is a transformative process is a recognition that a given magical act occurs on an ontological level and involves a recognition of embodiment as a principle for manifestation. The result you desire is something that you need to embody in your existence, write it in your code to use a technology metaphor.

 

My books are now available on Kindle and newest radio interview

I'm pleased to announce that my books are now available on Amazon Kindle. We recently were able to work out a deal where we could get them  placed on Kindle. We'll also be converting other Immanion Press books into Kindle files as well, so be on the look out for those in the near future. My latest book, Magical Identity, is now available in print, on smashwords, and Kindle.

In other recent publishing news, I was pleased to hear that smashwords was able to come to an agreement with Paypal where paypal will continue to accept payments on books published on smashwords. It's definitely a victory for free speech.

I was recently interviewed on The Infinite Beyond radio show about my newest book Magical Identity. Take a listen. It was a fun show to be interviewed on, and we got into some interesting discussions about identity and magic.

Elemental Balancing Ritual Fire Month 4

1-27-12 Since doing the ritual of dedication to Dragon I've been feeling very creative and have put in a lot of work on Magical Identity. Feels good to see the revisions coming together. I also got into an interesting discussion where a person noted that most times I'm open-hearted, warm, etc., but that occasionally I come across as contemptuous. She's right. I do.  I know it and I even know where it originates from. But seeing someone else recognize it helps me see the need to do some work on it. It's not exactly how I want to come across to people and its not even how I feel, so much as its an automatic habit. 2-1-12 When I get overwhelmed by everything I need to do, it prompts a craving for an experience that allows me to quiet the mind through the culmination of sensation. It's an interesting insight and one I realized through meditation. On a different note, my continued work with fire has hit a stage of quiet contemplation as I focus on just being present with fire and the shadows of fire. Fire can be about action and activity, but it can also simply be experienced, much like when you enjoy a fire in the fireplace or at a camp site.

2-6-12 Tracing a habit's cycle can be a very useful experience. You start to track it into your past, and you discover what caused it to start, and why it continues to exist. I've also hit a creative state, which has been exhilarating to experience. Seeing writing coming together, seeing creative ideas flourishing is just beautiful. I feel like my creativity is truly back where it belongs. Now I need to feed the fire carefully, so I can sustain it, instead of having it burn out or fade away.

2-11-12 Creativity is sustained with focus, and with knowing how to back off and just let it breathe sometimes. I have a list and each day if I get a couple items done, then I'm happy, and I know my creativity is fed by getting just a couple of things done, instead of stressing about everything. No more frantic workaholicism, trying to get every thing done. The work will get done, but feeding my creativity is just as important. Feeding my fire involves recognizing how to sustain it instead of letting it burn out.

2-15-12 I see creativity applied to not just my writing, but all of my business activities, and even in my life in general. Since doing the ritual to Dragon, it's like a switch was turned on. I'm brimming with confidence, happiness, and power. Everything appears to be in reach and I know it is, if I apply the right effort. More than that though, I feel freed from the period of non-creativity I was in for a while. I feel this sense of giddiness as I realize its still here. I've still got it. And the closer Magical Identity comes to being finished, the more I realize that it's really true. I'm still a writer. One other thing. I promise to never let someone else's fear dictate my life or choices. When you allow fear to control you that's when you start dying.

2-16-12 I realized something yesterday. I don't feel like my work has been relevant, for a little while now. Which makes sense. I just disappeared for a while. So publishing Magical Identity is re-staking my claim to relevance. It's a big deal to me, even if it isn't for anyone else, because it's a reminder that I am relevant. I guess where this comes from is realizing that for a while I felt overshadowed, but its more than just that feeling. It's reading these various blogs, and realizing that the conversation has passed me by as it were. And I can be perfectly comfortable admitting that, because the recognition of it doesn't diminish me, so much as it indicates a weakness in marketing on my part. I'm changing that, and in a sense this year of fire is as much about that as it is about re-discovering my creativity. It's about sparking that fire and keeping it lit. I won't be overshadowed again, I won't let my fire get snuffed out, by myself or anyone else.

2-17-12 No pantheacon this year. It's kind of odd not being there, but I'm also glad I'm taking a year off. Magical Identity isn't published yet, and just as importantly I've got other priorities that need to be attended to first and going to a convention where I have to pay my way to present every year is a low priority this time around.

2-22-12 Two years after I started writing Magical Identity, I'm working on the Layout. There's a palpable feeling of triumph as I finish this book. It's significant triumph, because it's taken five years to get this book together and to know its finally coming to an end. This was the hardest book I've written yet and the ones I'm already planning to write are by comparison easier...not nearly so heady anyway. Its so appropriate that I finish this book in the year of the Dragon, MY year. My fire is surging, my creativity is back. I'm back. I've crossed the abyss, and come out the other side. I've won.

 

Priming the Pump: An Excerpt from Magical Identity

Note from Taylor: This is an appendix in Magical Identity. Thought I'd give a little teaser of what to expect in the book. I hope you enjoy!

In this book I've discussed identity and how it applies to magic. Now I want to present an example of how magic can be applied to identity. One of the biological features of identity is associative activation:

Ideas that have been evoked trigger many other ideas, in a spreading cascade of activity in your brain. The essential feature of this complex set of mental events is coherence. Each element is connected, and each supports and strengthens the others. The word evokes memories, which evoke emotions, which in turn evoke facial expressions and other reactions, such as a general tensing up and an avoidance tendency.  The facial expression and the avoidance motion intensify the feelings to which they are linked, and the feelings in turn reinforce compatible ideas. all this happens quickly and all at once, yielding a self-reinforcing pattern of cognitive, emotional, and physical responses that is both diverse and integrated (Kahneman 2011, P. 51).

Associative activation triggers a flood of ideas. A few of them register with us consciously, but the majority of them aren't consciously thought of, but nonetheless are integrated into our identity. What this means is that we have a variety of associated ideas with a given stimulus that we may not have conscious access to, but nonetheless influence our activities and choices. This is known as a priming effect. For example, if you saw the word EAT and then saw a word fragment SO_P, you are more likely to fill in the blank with U, creating SOUP, than with A, which would would create SOAP (Kahneman 2011). The word eat primes associated ideas and experiences that are evoked by seeing the word and considering it. You might feel a sensation of hunger as you've read the last couple of sentences, and this also is a result of priming. This effect occurs in a variety of ways. Kahneman cites another case study where a group of students were given scrambled sentences, half of which included the words Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, or wrinkle. Once the task was completed, the students were asked to walk to another place to do another task. The scientists observed how they walked and found that people who'd formed sentences using one or more of those walked significantly slower than people who did not (Kahneman 2011). The reason is that they'd been primed by the experiment, and even though they didn't consciously think about it, their identities embodied the associated ideas with the words. Their actions were influenced by the idea.

Priming is used in marketing, both in politics and in business. For instance, if a school wants to improve the chance of getting more funding, having a voting booth at the school will significantly increase the votes in favor of the funding, even from non-parents (Kahneman 2011). The reason is simple. Being surrounded by imagery associated with schools evokes memories and other ideas about education that prompts a desire to improve funding. We see this effect in commercials as well. Watch a fast food commercial and you may feel a sudden hunger pang and craving for that food, even if you'd recently eaten. Even when we consciously think about the fast food, we're still priming ourselves in favor of it to some degree, unless of course you have associations that are unpleasant. The point is that we are primed on a daily basis and don't even realize it. Consciousness allows us to recognize some of the associations, but others are experienced and acted on without consciously considering why. After all, if you're hungry you won't spend much time thinking about why you are hungry. Instead you'll satiate that hunger.

Priming is even used in social media. Facebook ads is a great example of priming at works. The ads you see on Facebook are targeted toward you based on your interests and your friends interests. Additionally if a friend of yours likes the service or product featured in the ad, it's indicated as a way of building further association. You are primed, so that even if you don't click on the ad, it's still may an associative impression with not just your interests but also with the idea that the next time you see or hear from that friend it'll trigger an association with what was advertised.

So how can we apply priming to magical work. We understand that a given idea will trigger an association of ideas, some of which will be integrated into our identity. There are two approaches we can take to this matter. First we can be selective about what we allow to influence us. For example, I don't have cable TV. I've purposely chosen not to in order to save money, but also to limit the exposure to commercials. The result is that I only encounter commercials if I watch a show on Hulu, turn the radio on or see them on a bill board or on the internet. I keep my radio off, limit my access to social media sites and while I enjoy a good show on Hulu, I also tend to ignore the commercials by focusing on something else at the time. Conscious actions can limit associations, if done right. At the same time, I know I'm going to be influenced to some degree and I accept that such an influence will be there. What I try to do is question why I'm feeling hunger for a particular food as opposed to just being hungry. This kind of question can be effective for helping to limit the effects of priming.

The second approach involves actually using priming to prime the pump of your identity and set up associations that are favorable for you and motivate you to do activities that will help you accomplish goals you set for yourself. Recently I acquired a whiteboard to use as a priming tool. It's set up so that I have to look at it when I come into my office and it reminds me of various projects I need to work. It primes the pump because when I see the tasks I need to do it consciously evokes the given task as well as associated ideas and experiences that are relevant to that task. I see it as being a useful stress tool in the sense that it keeps my attention consistently focused on the goals I want to achieve.

You can set your own environment up with similar cues that prime you. For example laying clothes out the night before primes you in the morning when you wake up. The clothes have associations with your professional life and activities and can even evoke associations of whatever you were thinking about when you laid them out. Putting an open recipe book with ingredients nearby can be useful for priming you toward cooking at home. In essence you learn to use priming to remind you of what you want to do, both in terms of actual activities and lifestyle choices. You prime your identity to keep your consciousness on task.

You can also use priming in your magical process. In fact the use of sigils works on the principle of priming. The sigil is associated with the desired result as well as the process that will be used to obtain that result. Every time you see the sigil you are primed toward achieving that result. Similarly if you ritual tools or other props you can create specific associations with those tools that will prime you. The different attributions we associate with tools are essentially primed ideas that prompt action, and we don't have to limit them to magical actions. We can deliberately create mundane actions that we associate with a given tool that prompts follow-up actions on our part to create a path of least resistance for the magic to manifest through.

The deliberate set-up of your environment as well as the crafting of chosen associations is how you turn priming into a magical tool and make your identity into an ally that supports your conscious goals and activities. If we're going to have associations that effect us on an identity level then we should do our best to pick those associations so we can prime the pump and create an embodied identity that enables us to achieve the results we desire and sustain the life we want to live.

Consciousness isn't special

Mike made another post on his blog (can you tell I like this guy's work?) and it prompted some thoughts. He notes that consciousness isn't special and I agree. In Magical Identity, I discuss at some length why consciousness isn't special. Consciousness is the apprehension of our activities and the application of a rational explanation for why those activities occur. It's basically a filtered awareness and explanation of what we do and why we do it.

That said, what makes consciousness important for magical work is the fact that we can experienced altered states of conscious awareness, and while consciousness is a ultimately a filter, it nonetheless is also what provides a sense of self-awareness and an ability to question and examine what we are doing.

Situating consciousness in the proper context is useful because then we know its limitations as well as what it can do within those limitations. That understanding allows us to apply it toward our magical processes at just the right place to use it effectively, while also enabling us to be skeptical of it, as it is ultimately a very subjective experience.

 

 

Self-Evocation 2011

Here's my latest painting. It's a self-Evocation painting. I do these occasionally and I use them to paint an internal landscape of my consciousness. This one is actually quite nice and feels much more peaceful compared to some of the other ones.

A self-evocation is really a snapshot of time, a way to connect with a particular moment of my life. I've used the paintings occasionally to interact with younger versions of myself. In a sense the paintings act as a temporal powerspot. It's not the only method I use for accessing past versions of myself, but it is a useful method to use, and one that provides something to focus on to help you reach that past point of existence.

Spatial Dynamics and Magic

Space is one of those elements that continues to fascinate me, especially when I look at how people use space to situate and express their own identity. I came to this perspective through the anthropological of Edward T. Hall and Alexander Laban's perspectives on space and movement. The occupation of space whether with objects or with politics or spirituality. The application of space in a person's sense of identity via home, work, car, etc. Now apply this to magic. Magic is about changing a space. It changes a space by turning possibility into reality. Space changes, becomes a different space when a possibility is brought into reality. Space is changed by time, with the understanding that time is what brings possibility into reality, while space provides the necessary anchor for reality to exist in.

A person is his/her own space. Space acts on space and in turn is acted on by space. The person expresses his/her space in the external space, but that same space also shapes the person's identity. When a person performs an act of magic s/her is inviting in both time, and specific defined spaces to modify the current space s/he inhabits, both in terms of identity, and in terms of circumstances the person is in.

 

Fear and Magic

I read a post where the writer argued that if you weren't feeling fear in your magical practice, you either aren't human, or you are trying hard to stay in your safety zone. I get the point of this post, and to some degree I agree with it. Feeling some fear as you break your boundaries and challenge your identity is a good thing. It means you're doing the hard work. Challenging yourself to move forward when you feel fear is a necessary part of life in general. When I practice magic though, I don't feel fear. I feel empowerment. I feel excited, alive, vibrant. Magic is life, magic is power, magic is turning the impossible into reality. When I feel fear, I feel it in the moments when I do internal work, and I face within myself those weaknesses and issues and hurts and pains. That's when I feel fear. That's why I do my internal work...to reach a place of understanding and resolution with those fears so that when I practice my magical work, there is resolve and knowing that what I do aligns to my identity.

We all approach magical work differently. When I work with the elementals and spirits I approach them as friends, as companions. Other people do not. I think how you approach such beings sets the tone for the type of interaction you'll have with them. Thus to approach them as friends, to approach them with confidence is my own way of knowing them. It works because it's something I feel confident in. It works because I know my place in relationship to their own.

Fear is a funny emotion. It can paralyze a person, motivate a person...it can block and push. I find that knowing where to encounter fear changes your magical practice. Encountering it in my internal work and making it an active part of that work has changed the external work and the need to do the external work, and changed my life...its much quieter now than it was before.