The Reluctance to do magic for yourself

Recently I came across a situation where an acquaintance mentioned that s/he was hoping to buy a house, but that s/he was reluctant to do magic to affect the outcome, but was okay with other people doing magical work for him/her. I found it to be a curious statement, and puzzling in a way. Afterall s/he knew what s/he desired and had already done everything that could be mundanely done...why not tip the scales in his/her favor? Readers of my blog know that I'm not hesitant to employ magic to accomplish my goals, but I realize some people are.

I think part of the hesitancy is dependent on ethics. If you subscribe to a do no harm model of magic you may not feel you can do magic for practical purposes if you are concerned it will harm someone. Alternately if you believe that magic is only something that is done for spiritual or religious purposes you may not feel you can do magic for a practical purpose. It would be considered "low" magic after all.

I don't subscribe to either of these beliefs about magic. If I want something and I feel magic is appropriate to use to get it, I'll do magic. I do explore mundane options, but even in that case, I usually do it in tandem with magical work, on the basis that both mundane and magical efforts should support and enhance the effectiveness of each other.

But I find it interesting that there is, depending on your magical background, a perspective that argues against using magic for yourself or using it for practical purposes. When magic is used for such purposes it is frowned upon or called "low" magic, because it isn't oriented toward spiritual purposes, but it seems to me that spirituality needs a solid foundation in the material world and that magic isn't solely a spiritual force precisely because it can be applied, to good effect, to the material world. This doesn't mean I use magic for every single want or need, but I do utilize magic when a situation calls for it, especially if it'll tip the situation in my favor.

I recognize that some people are just uncomfortable with the idea of applying magic to a situation in their lives, but while magic is a means to communicate with the spiritual aspects of the world, it is also a means to communicate with the practical aspects.

What do you think? Do you use magic for practical purposes? Why or why not?

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.



Is initiation required to do a practice?

In the Six Yogas of Naropa, the editor mentions that to do the six yogas it was considered essential to get initiation from a living lineage master, and that this belief is held to this day by the people who practice the six yogas. Reading that got me to thinking about initiation in general and also the fact that although I practice specific Tibetan techniques I have never been initiated into a lineage. I don't even know anyone in person who practices these techniques and I'll admit that I have practiced the techniques based on how I have interpreted the reading I've done, which means my own practice may not be accurate the actual practices (though it still seems to be effective and to generate the results that are supposed to occur).

Still I'm faced with a quandary. I can read this book and take the textual materials and translate them into practices, while accepting that I have not been initiated into a specific lineage, or I can find a way to travel to Tibet or somewhere else and get initiated. Knowing myself as I do, I'll more than likely read the text and do the practices, and not be concerned that I have or haven't been initiated into a lineage. What matters to me is the actual practice, and yet in a real sense I am missing out on that actual practice.

I'd argue that what I'd end up practicing might be similar to the six yogas, but it won't actually be the six yogas, because there will be something missing from the practice. What will be missing is the spiritual context that the initiation provides. I may be able to accurately do each practice and get results that are congruent that one would normally get, and yet nonetheless there will be something missing.

The main point of initiation, in a spiritual working, is that it provides you access to spiritual context, entities, etc. That access confers on you a specific kind of knowledge, a self-secret language, that provides connection with others in a similar way. And it also provides a layer of social access that is denied to just anyone. By being initiated you become part of a social order and culture that is part of the spiritual context.

On the other hand, beyond when I was given Reiki Attunements, I've never been initiated into any magical practice or order. I've taught myself. I've read books, practiced what was written and then modified it to fit my approach to the world. And while I'll admit that I may not have the spiritual context for practices that others might have, I've also created my own context and found that it has worked very well for me.

I see the value of initiation as a spiritual practice, but I'm not sure its essential for being able to do a specific practice. What I think is really essential is the willingness of the practitioner to engage the practices and incorporate them into his/her life. I've begun doing that with the six yogas and already noticed a change in my Tumo workings. What else can be asked beyond the sincere desire to engage the practice as best one can and meaningfully implement in one's life? For me that is the true initiation and it is experienced everyday.

Ordinary consciousness as altered consciousness

In Darwin's Pharmacy by Richard Doyle (one of my English Professors from my undergrad days!)  notes that: "Even 'ordinary' consciousness is essentially alterable consciousness, and when asking after the evolution of our capacities it it worth recalling which altered consciousness is repeated (in this instance memories, memories troped and recalled through repetition)." It's an interesting point he makes, and it got me to thinking about ordinary consciousness as a state of altered consciousness.

The truth is that what is considered consciousness could be considered a fairly diverse form of consciousness. After all, if you are recalling a memory or day dreaming about the future that can be considered a form of ordinary consciousness, as can the consciousness one exhibits when grocery shopping, and yet each of the examples I mentioned is different from the others in terms of how consciousness is experienced and exhibited. Could it be that they are really are altered forms of consciousness?

Typically when people think of altered consciousness they think of a state of consciousness altered by entheogens or by ritual, or by sex of some kind or another. And all of those states of consciousness are very obvious forms of altered consciousness. But the magician knows that even ordinary consciousness is just a state of consciousness and one that can worked with as intentionally as any other. A person can achieve gnosis in an ordinary state of consciousness with the right triggers. For example if you get by a car, your state of consciousness will change as you feel shock, fear, and anger over what happened. Indeed, if a person says an insult to you, the anger you feel will still cause an altered state of consciousness that could have aspects of gnosis associated with it, under the right circumstances.

Likewise an experience of joy can also be an altered state of consciousness. The experience of runner's high, or the joy you feel when your favorite team wins can be just as useful as the other examples I've mentioned above. Ordinary consciousness is not a static form of consciousness and can have little shifts and changes that nonetheless can be useful for magical work.

I'd argue that "ordinary" consciousness is anything but ordinary. What makes altered states of consciousness stand out has to more due to with an experience of the extreme as opposed to anything else, and yet ordinary consciousness can be used for magical work and can be alterable in its own right, if one is willing to be creative enough.

How magic can subvert advertising

Since reading Seducing the Subconscious, I've been thinking about advertisements. Over the years I've done my best to limit my exposure to advertisement, in large part because so much of it is banal, but also because I've always appreciated that underneath the banality what makes commercials effective is their ability to influence subconscious beliefs. Even with no cable, I still get exposure to some commercials. Whether its listening to the radio or seeing a billboard, or watching a commercial on hulu, while waiting for the next segment of a show it is near impossible to avoid advertising. I suspect the only way a person could would be to get rid of access to all media.

So what does the magician do to counteract advertising and its potential effect on the subconscious? One possibility can be seen above, where you subvert the message with a different one that attacks what is advertised. Clever use of photoshop or creating a collage can allow you to create your own "advertisement" that you can then spread on the internet. Or simply use it for yourself every time you feel the urge to get something.

Monitoring your thoughts and desires through meditation can also help you subvert advertising. If you get that sudden craving for a burger, ask yourself what's really motivating it. You might be surprised to realize that what motivates isn't your hunger, but advertisements you've seen. By being aware of those advertisements you can critically examine your desire and then choose to do something different.

You can also work with the corporate entity behind the advertisement or a character in it, although that route can be a bit more dangerous as the corporate entity sees no benefit in being subverted, and if anything wants to subvert you to its own desires, i.e. sustaining its life.

Another approach to take would be doing a banishing ritual that focused on banishing advertisements from your life and home. It might be something you do on a daily or weekly or monthly basis. The idea is that you do a banishing of any unwanted influences in your life. If there are particular companies you've lately shopped at and you normally wouldn't shop there, that could be a time to grab some of the advertising and incorporate into the banishing, with you destroying the advertising in some form or manner.

How would you subvert advertising?

A Meditation on Freedom and Responsibility

In the Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte she says the following about Freedom: "In seeking our freedom, we liberate our potential to accomplish incredible things". John Parsons in Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword notes: "Freedom is a two-edged sword of which one edge is liberty and the other responsibility, on which both edges are exceedingly sharp; and which is not easily handled by casual, cowardly, or treacherous hands" He further goes onto argue that to truly be free we first need to master our inner impulses, passions, fears, etc.

Both perspective are valid. I agree with Parsons that true freedom is held by being able to take responsibility for handling it. That responsibility is gained by doing internal work to master yourself, your emotions, desires, beliefs, and values, and to put them to work toward truly experiencing freedom. The experience of freedom is as LaPorte puts it: Its the liberation of our potential to accomplish amazing things. That liberation can only be experienced when we master ourselves and truly identify what it is we want.

Freedom isn't necessarily about doing anything you want, which is a rather vague statement, but rather is about identifying what truly brings you alive and then choosing to do it, with an understanding that you must take responsibility for doing it and for the consequences of seeking it. And this applies to magic as a methodology used to help achieve that freedom. If we want to experience liberation, then we need to know what tools to use that will get us that liberation.

Liberation is the choice to do what you love, and freedom is the experience of embodying what you love as an active and passive principle of your life. Responsibility is holding yourself accountable to continue to do and be what you love, even and especially in the face of resistance.

I value liberation above all else because it is the realization of potential, and the empowerment that comes with it is unlike any other experience out there. To truly be liberated is, in my opinion, to experience fulfillment and happiness. It's not always an easy road, but its a road that embodies the best of yourself and the realization that what you truly want can be experienced and achieved if you are willing to take the risks and truly give your liberation what it deserves: Your full and undivided attention.

A Commentary on Witch Hunts in Africa

I was pointed to this documentary video about witch hunts in Africa. And if you go to this link you'll see an article that discusses how witch hunting is alive and well in Africa.

This is sickening  because these children aren't identifying as witches. Instead they have been labeled as such in order by people who are choosing to use those labels to get rid of children they don't want, or because some Christian pastor has decided to demonize them. The end result isn't just intolerance...its death. It's people being persecuted for beliefs and practices that they don't even do.

It makes me realize how fortunate I am. I've experienced some discrimination for my beliefs, but I don't face it on a daily basis, and I'm not being accused of something I don't actually believe in. Any of us are lucky to be able to practice our beliefs. Whatever discrimination we might face, its nothing like this. These are people who are killed for superstitious beliefs. When you watch the videos for the documentary you'll see such ignorance displayed it will sicken you as well it should.

It is important to raise awareness of this issue. I'm also looking into how to donate to this cause and will post details in a later post.





Is Magic a luxury of modern times?

Mike posted a thought provoking entry recently on the luxury of energy, noting that the fact that so many people can study magic is a luxury of time that we have access to, that previous generations didn't have. I agree with him. If you look at the people who were in the Golden Dawn in the late Nineteenth century, all of them were very well off and had the time to study magic. You didn't see people working at factories having time to study magic (and probably didn't even know about it, beyond superstitious beliefs).

We do have the gift of free time, but its not just the luxury of time, it's also the luxury of education and information. We have a level of access to education and information that makes it much easier to find information out on just about any subject out there. The real challenge is sifting through the information to find what's really useful.

Nick Farrell also made an intriguing point when he notes that the best time to be involved in magic isn't in centuries past, but in the present. There's definitely some truth to that, when you consider that the level of information and collaboration that's available is much higher than it likely would have been in the past. The fact is most modern magicians are fortunate because we have an availability of time and energy we'd likely not have if we lived one hundred years in the past. The immediate needs of survival are much easier to meet when everything that's needed for survival is easy to access.

So yeah I think a magic is a luxury of modern times. And I have no problem with that because having that luxury is something I enjoy immensely. It's a significant part of my life and having the time to study and experiment has enriched the quality of life beyond measure.

Further thoughts on being out of the closet

Last week I wrote about why its important to be out of the closet. Since writing it, I've reflected further on the importance on being out of the closet, as have others. In this blog post that the author wrote in response to mine. As he notes there is a risk run with being out of the closet. Being out of the closet about your beliefs, sexuality, or whatever else can have negative consequences, and although it'd be nice to believe that the world is a tolerant place, the truth is that it isn't always a nice place. There will always be some people who will say, in ignorance and stupidity, that some people should stay in the closet. They make statements like that because they occupy a position of privilege. They've never had to face persecution for their beliefs or other choices. They are part of a majority, and they smugly pass judgement on issues they don't really understand.

As the author of the other blog entry notes, its important to stand up and be counted especially when you don't fit into the dominant culture. It's a social responsibility and a method of social transformation that pushes for the world to be a more tolerant, and easier place to live in. When you don't stand up, you essentially are condoning the way things are, and the intolerance and prejudice that comes with it. And it's not easy to stand up, to be out of the closet, but its importance because it raises awareness and it calls on us to be excellent to each other. It calls on us to be better to each other, to aspire for a more tolerant world that accepts people of different walks of life, with the understanding that while you might not make those particular choices, each person has a right to make the life choices s/he has made and be able to live those choices without fear of being persecuted for them.

Yesterday, I came across an entry that had been written in May of 2011 about the fact that entries about Pagan authors and pagan culture are deleted fairly frequently on wikipedia because not enough "reliable" resources have been written about the topic. The author of that post notes " Not enough sources they consider ‘reliable’ have written about Paganistan, which is short hand for saying the mainstream press hasn’t written much about us and the other sources listed aren’t reliable for one reason or another" Now it could be argued that much ado is being made about very little, but I'd argue that if anything when a subculture tries to carve out its own space in dominant culture and in media outlets of dominant culture there is always some kind of push back. Cara, the author of the second entry I linked to notes:

One of the reasons Pagan articles get put onto the fast track to deletion is that they lack sources Wikipedia considers reliable, which then makes the entire topic ‘not worthy of note.’  After all, if it was worth noting, people would write about it, right?

On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this policy as it helps ensure that the articles and sources are solid.  When this policy is put into practice with under-reported minority groups such as modern Pagans, that’s where the unintentional discrimination happens.

That unintentional, and in some cases, intentional discrimination is why its important to come out of the closet and stay out. Change doesn't occur when people hide for fear of persecution or discrimination.

In my last post on this topic I mentioned I'd been outed by my friend's family to my mom when I was 18. She didn't handle it well. She told me I had to either move out or burn my books. I opted at the time to burn my books (only the ones I'd already read). I did it because I didn't have a job, I was in high school and I had half a tank of gas in my car. I didn't have a lot of options open to me, but it was a hard experience to realize I had to burn my books because my mom's Christian fundamentalism wouldn't tolerate my choice to believe in magic. I promised myself, after that experience, that I wouldn't hide. And later that year, when the step-father of the aforementioned friend teamed up with the father of that friend to call me on the phone and threaten to kill me for my beliefs, I didn't back down. I called the police and I let them know that their attempts to attack me weren't going to work. They backed down, probably because both of them were drunk and acting out their prejudice. But I learned a valuable lesson from it. You stand up and you be proud and you don't let ignorant idiots like that think they can get away with pulling stupid shit.

Even to this day I can't talk with my mom about my books or my beliefs, and even the rest of my family prefers to avoid talking about it. They just want this partial experience of me, of who I am, instead of really getting to know the real me. It's their choice, and their loss, because I can't not be me. I can't just hide in the closet because it makes someone else's life a bit more convenient. I won't inflict my choices on someone else, but I don't hide who I am to just make someone else happier. That's not how acceptance is won and when you are in a minority keeping silent to curry the favor of the majority doesn't get you very far. It just keeps you in a place that's convenient for them. So I'm out of the closet and to anyone who thinks I should be in a closet, all I really have to say is "Must be nice to be a bigot."

Edit: Another post can be found here about an issue occurring in South Carolina which highlights discrimination against Pagans in a school setting.




Why I'm out of the closet

Since I was eighteen I've been out of the closet when it comes to my magical work, and chosen lifestyle. That choice was forced on me initially when a friend's family outed me to my mom, but that situation made me realize that hiding my beliefs was denying who I am and was also helping to create an environment of intolerance.

Recently I have re come out of the closet. I've been rebranding my core business and in the process of doing that, I've realized that I'd hidden part of myself away to fit in, and it didn't make me feel good, because not only was it denying a past choice I'd made, but because it wasn't realistic. If you search for me on Google, you'll find evidence that I'm an occultist fairly quickly.

Re-coming out the closet has been good for me. I feel like I'm in touch with a part of myself that I'd buried away and allowed to be buried. I'm not listening to fears or worries because I realize that if people choose to not do business with me because of my choices its actually better for me.

I'm out of the closet because I'm proud to be an occultist. I'm proud to be myself. There's no shame in my choices and the intolerance of others is not something I will support by choosing to hide myself for their benefit. If I make that choice I am denying an essential part of who I am and denying my community as well.

Secrecy and Magic

Mike posted some excellent thoughts about how secrecy destroys knowledge. I agree with him. I've always found the culture of secrecy within the occult to be problematic. I get that, at least as it pertains to magical orders, that the secrets of those orders are maintained to determine who gets into the magical clubhouse and also to demonstrate proficiency in that order. But the dare to be silent aspect of magic has always struck as a form of false modesty, inspired by a desire to posture and smile cryptically, knowing that you are special because you reveal no secrets.

That's a bit exaggerated, but I've never bought into the dare to be silent schtick. Certainly Crowley, one of the proponents of that rule had no problem being anything but silent when it came to his practices. I say dare to be vocal, dare to share your ideas. Dare to share your experiences so others can learn and in turn share their own.

I was reading recently about a scientist in the mid 16th or 17th century. He'd developed this microscope, one of a kind, that provided a level of accuracy that had previously been missing. He wouldn't share the design. He wanted to keep it secret. To this day no one has any idea how he built his microscope. Since then better microscopes have been developed, but what a waste of knowledge, because of need to keep the technology secret.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to share my ideas and current projects. I realize that some reader or another could take the idea and do something with it. I want them to actually. Same for the reason I write my books. Secrecy does destroy knowledge.

What's so special about secrecy anyway? I've never seen the point, which is probably why I never joined a magical order either. It would be too hard for me to keep secrets that, imo, shouldn't be kept. I'd make a bad lodge member.

What's your take on secrecy in the occult?

Why Magic is ultimately a personal experience

I've been reading Magick of Thought, a blog by Mike Sententia. It's an interesting blog and his approach to magic is innovative, but it also highlights why I think of magic as a more of a personal experience. When I read his work, I get where he's coming from, but I wouldn't really approach magic from that angle, and I don't think he'd really approach magic from the angle that I take. I find his approach to be a very technical process, that relies on a very precise and somewhat scientific defining of reality and how everything works. Ironically, my own process is not too dissimilar. Much like Mike, I'm a stickler for definitions and my own process is again based on a very precise understanding of how magic works and where it fits into the rest of life. But there are differences, and when I read his blog I see those differences and I actually appreciate them, both in terms of providing me topics to write on, and also for the fact that Mike conveys a very unique vision and approach to magic, which is not something  come across everyday.

But what stands out the most to me is that ultimately for Mike, myself, and for  many other magicians I know is this: The process of magic, the defining of magic...all of it is a personal experience. You know the joke: Ask five Pagans what Magic is and you'll get six definitions. Actually you'll probably get more. It's the diversity of those experiences which is so important, because it provides a variety of experiences that other people can learn from. Certainly in reading Mike's blog, I've had an opportunity to look at magic from his perspective, and although it doesn't necessarily quite fit into my experiences, it nonetheless provides some perspective that I can and apply to my magical work.

When I first started experimenting with pop culture and magic, what I cam to realize is that all the ritual finery, actions etc., are just props. What matters is the underlying principles. If you understand the principles of magic, you can personalize the props and you can even personalize the principles. I certainly have and nothing has happened beyond what I wanted to have happen.

Magic is a personal experience and although we can provide a methodology and process to explain it, its still subject to interpretation and ultimately to personalization. The effective magician takes what someone else has put out there, and modifies it to fit his/her understanding of magic. And the test: does it still work? If that test is passed, that is what matters.That is what proves it works.


System or process, its still the same issue

  It seems like I've gotten into quite a discourse. In his latest post, Mike argues that magicians don't experiment because most of them ignore 2/3rds of how magic work. He also argues that in my last post, I only argued that people don't experiment because they perceive it as not fun. Actually, I spent the majority of the post discussing at some length that they don't experiment because they don't understand a process oriented approach to magic and they are encouraged to not approach magic from a process oriented perspective. I think that what Mike means by system is what I mean when I discuss process...kind of, because this what he says:

  1. Your conscious mind uses some form of symbolism (either traditional or personal) to signal your goal to your unconscious mental muscles.
  2. Your mental muscles act on this goal, usually by sending instructions to an external force (a “system”).
  3. The system shifts probabilities, produces energy, or does whatever else to make the magick happen.

I take a different approach, which goes like this:

Step 1: Define your result. What it is you want to accomplish and what will the consequences be? Many magicians focus only on what they want to accomplish, and don't consider the consequences of achieving said result. Defining the result is a necessary step, as we need to know what we want, before we can even do the magical work.

Step 2 is Define the actions (both mundane and magical) you will take to achieve this result. I include mundane actions because they are an integral part of what makes magic work. What you are on the mundane level contributes to the overall process of magic, and must be factored in order to understand your process. Magical actions refers to the actual magical act you will do. A magical act could be an invocation, evocation, enchantment etc. When you define the magical act, you need to define all of the contributing factors, which includes tools used, spiritual entities worked with, symbols, etc. You do this, so that you can you understand how they all fit into your process, and into the magical action. Most important note: Everything this step is really a way for you to communicate with your identity and the external systems its connected to (see step 3)

Step 3: Define your beliefs and values and how they contribute to the achievement of the defined result. This where you do the internal work. Before you even begin your act of magic, you need to determine if your values and beliefs and values align with the desired result. Note that I'm not just talking about examining beliefs and values on the level of consciousness or even unconsciousness. That's a good place to start, but you need to dig in further and explore this from an ontological perspective, aka identity. Is your identity in alignment with the result? Your identity, which is really your connection to the systems or external forces is where the magic begins and ends. Beliefs and values are just the tip of the iceberg with identity, which is why you need to do a lot of internal work. In my forthcoming book Magical Identity (due out in January 2012), I discuss at some length why magicians need to incorporate identity into their magical process, and why the psychological model of consciousness and unconsciousness is out of date.I'd argue what makes magic work, and really what drives change in general is a person's ability to make changes to his/her ontological identity and its agreement with the universe.

Step 4: Do your process and observe both the process and result. If you don't get the result you want, its time to look at your process and determine where the problem is. Chances are its step 3, but don't rule steps 1 or 2 either.

That's what I mean by process and it looks like Mike and I are discussing the same thing, but using different words. Regardless of the words, its still the same issue: The reason experimentation doesn't occur is because of an inadequate understanding of the process of magic.



The disappointment of magic

I came across an intriguing blog where the author discusses why chaos magic disappoints him, as well as why that disappointment is good. As I read his posts I found myself nodding in agreement, seeing some of my own frustrations expressed. Like me, he recognized that there has been a distinct lack of inquiry into why and how magic works in favor of simply shrugging off that it does work. It's the lack of questioning and critical inquiry that bothers me, and not just in chaos magic, but really in just about any system of magic that's currently out there. What I want to know, and what he doesn't really discuss, is why there isn't more experimentation with magic? And let me be clear: I don't think of chaos magic as a form of experimental magic at this point and I don't think it's been that way for quite a while. Ok you can borrow from other systems and put together a ritual that's a combination of those systems or you can create an entity or do a sigil. But that's the extent of it, and the extent is focused on obtaining a result. Being a process oriented magician, I think of a result as an indicator about the process, and useful in its benefits to my life, but I want more...I want a process I can use to achieve consistent results, and where if something doesn't occur, I can go in and fix it.

The process is more than just that. It's coming up with an idea and then testing that idea by developing a process to support the implementation of it into your life. It's experimenting with the idea, testing the idea and the process, until you are satisfied you've gotten everything out of it that you can achieve.

I see a lot of contemporary work that I'd label as experimental magic, which others would label as chaos magic. And I've been labeled a chaos magician even though its not a label I hold to. I think the difference comes down to an orientation on process. I care about the result, but it's not the only reason I'm practicing magic.




The Sacred Cow of Science

I've written before about the tendency for some occultists to value science over magic and their attempts to apply the scientific method to magic, to the point, where they end up disillusioned with magic, because it doesn't really conform to science (nor was it ever meant to). This passage, I think explains part of the problem as well:

An all too common perception of science is that it deals in authoritative facts - truths that are immutably recorded in peer-reviewed journals and blessed by academia. In actuality, science is a method of inquiry that generates theories. Theories are forms of metaphors that explain a body of data, although scientists often may shy away from admitting the metaphoric quality. Metaphors are rarely perfect and almost always leave a lot of room for interpretation. theories are updated, hopefully on a regular basis, to best fit the map of the world we operate from.

From Brain Magick (Affiliate link) by Phil Farber

There is a perception that science deals in authoritative facts, because of how the scientific method works, but what people forget is that the method accepts that there is no's all theory, which means it could be changed down the line with new discoveries. As Farber puts it theories are used to explain and interpret data. And that's really what science boils down to...a way to explain data based on repeated practices that seem to verify a consistent outcome.

Magic doesn't work that way. I can give you a technique I've done and you can do it and get consistent results, but you can also modify that technique to get better results that fit your personality, nature, etc. Magic is personalized, and that's what makes it work. We have techniques, we have foundational principles, but when it comes down to it, magic is much more of a personal experience.

Trying to fit magic into science doesn't work so well because of that personalization. I favor the opposite. Take scientific principles and concepts and fit them into your magical work, without trying to make magic fit those scientific principles and concepts. Science is about laws, rules, and until proven otherwise those laws and rules are what people rely upon to understand the world. Magic is about breaking and bending rules. It's about making possibilities happen even if those possibilities don't exactly align with scientific principles.

There's nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from scientific principles and practices, but the magician should never allow those principles and practices to dictate how s/he practices magic. Keep yourself open to the possibilities and use that to create opportunities!

My Experiences with Persecution

When I was 18, and still in high school, I dealt with my first experience of being persecuted for my spiritual beliefs. I'd been careful about hiding what I believed from my mom, and from most others, but I had a few friends and one of those friends had fundamentalist Christians for parents. They found a book I'd let him borrow and he told them it was mine. They contacted my mother, who was furious. She is a hardcore Christian herself. My friend told me that they had told her about my beliefs and I remember going home, dreading what would happen. She didn't bring it up. She'd been acting weird the last couple of days, and I realize she must have known and been chewing on it. I actually wrote her a letter, explaining my choices and why I'd chosen not to tell her...when I got home, I was greeted to an ultimatum. I had a half hour to choose. I could choose to move out, and no longer live with my mom, or I could choose to burn my books. This was a hard choice, because I didn't have a job at the time and I had no way of knowing if she'd even let me take the car I usually drove. I made the most practical choice, and allowed her to burn my books (most of them anyway). There were a few books I was working my way through or hadn't read, so I hid them carefully, and the ones I burned were ones where I'd already mastered the exercises. When I told her my decision she searched my room carefully, and even made me burn The Books of Magic comics. It was a shameful experience and one I've never forgotten. She grounded me for a week and several days into it, I told her if she ever made an ultimatum like that again I would disown her for the rest of my life.

Why did I do it? I did it because I didn't have much money or a place to live. I was still in high school and I wanted to graduate. I wasn't about to ask one of my friends for a place to stay. I did it because it was the practical choice, but making that choice forced me to evaluate why I was hiding my beliefs. My mom burned my books because she was a Christian and had been taught ignorance through her own beliefs. Even to this day, I don't talk my spirituality with her, because she judges me for it. She knows I've written books, knows I don't believe in her God or the values she ascribes to. She doesn't approve of my choices. Then again I don't approve of her being Christian and I've made it clear I don't want to hear about her beliefs. Most of the time she honors that request...and occasionally she doesn't.

My second experience with persecution occurred later that year. The father and step-father of my friend decided that they should kill me for my beliefs. My friend's father called me once on the hour, every hour, telling me how he was going to kill me, and how I was going to hell. I told him I had a cross bow bolt just for him, and I called the police. He didn't call after that, and my friend later told me that his father had called me, and that his step-father was in on it. Nothing else ever happened, but I still remember those calls.

That experience convinced me that hiding my beliefs was wrong. If people were going to judge me for those beliefs and possibly harm me, it was better to be completely in the open about my choices. It was better to come out of the closet. I went public from the late 1990's and on.

Currently I have somewhat different feelings about that choice. I'm still open about my beliefs, but I don't go out of my way to talk about them. If you Googled my name, you'd find out quickly what my beliefs are, but I've found most people don't go out of their way to do so. I think most people aren't that curious, unless its for a job search. Good thing I've chosen to go self-employed, as I'm willing to bet that many companies would hesitate to hire me on the basis of my spiritual choices. Occasionally I do have people Google me and it always prompts some interesting conversations, but I notice that people seem to be more tolerant and accepting. I factor it in large part to where I live. I know in other parts of the country people are less accepting and willing to tolerate beliefs that run counter to the mainstream religions.

Even to this day I am wary of Christians. I have seen too much of their fanaticism and willingness to forcibly convert people to their beliefs. I know some who don't act that way, but my experiences with the religion, both in growing up, and in the recent past and present has shaped my perspective. I can accept their choice to believe what they want, but I want them to leave me alone and allow me to follow my beliefs.


Radio interview with Crystal Blanton part 1

In this show, I interview Crystal Blanton about Pagan Group Dynamics, instagroups, and her book Bridging the Gap. Next week I'll be interviewing her about the upcoming Shades of Faith Anthology. Click below, to listen to this week's show!

Listen to internet radio with Experimental Magic on Blog Talk Radio

Belonging and Occult groups

I've never belonged to an occult group, and only briefly considered joining two, before I determined that I'd rather just pursue my own path. But recently on Facebook someone revived the Zee List and for a time I participated on that list way back when and it was interesting to observe how different people responded to the revival of the list in a different forum. The desire to belong is a current that seems to run strong in general in occultism and the forms it takes, whether it's a virtual community such as the Zee list or the more formal organizations such as the OTO or Golden Dawn. The desire to belong isn't the only reason someone will join an occult group, but I think it's fair to say it's a major reason people join. It's not a bad reason to join either, but it is an interesting one, because so much of the occult memes about being on the fringe. At the same time, it's natural that people will want to group together based on similar interests.

I never joined an occult group or lodge because I've always preferred my independence. Even with the zee list, which was never a formal group, it was more about sharing experiments, than actually being part of the group. My experiences with occult lodges in passing has been mostly negative, but I'm always open to the idea that someday I could change my mind.  But I don't think belonging to an occult group is an absolute essential. It's something many occultists do, but its equally possible to focus on your own studies or getting together with friends to discuss experiments without necessarily making it into a group organization.


Tomorrow is supposedly doomsday for the Christians, where they will be raptured away and leave the rest of us alone. I'm skeptical of it happening, and I think it's silly how much people are focused on trying to get to some after life, instead of focusing on living their lives. Their's nothing rapturous about giving up the gift of life. And no matter what you believe or don't believe, life is a gift, and an experience, and not something to be so casually discarded. Some Christians claim that only God knows when the final day will occur, but the way I figure it is that the need to even have such a day is symptomatic of a disease, a kind of nihilism that focuses on debasing the human experience n favor of trying to discover a state of being that will supposedly take away all the worries and fears people have.

What about living life for the sake of living it? What about learning what this life has to offer? I'm preaching to the choir in a lot of ways, but I think there is value in this life with its follies and its triumphs.


Some observations about on Religion and business

In my other business I go to a lot of networking meetings and it's always interesting to observe the intersection between religion and business. At a recent meeting, a person brought up that he was making Christian movies, which most everyone there seemed fine with, and in other meetings I've heard other people mention the intersection of business and Christianity as a matter of fact kind of reality for them. At the same time, I've also seen the intersection of new age beliefs in business as well, with people talking about mindful awareness and conscious intent or discussing their healing practice and how they use energy work. It seems to me that there is this interesting place where business and spirituality or religion come in side by side. At the same time, I'd have to admit that unless people asked I never volunteer information about my own beliefs or spiritual practices. It's not really anyone else's business and more importantly it's not relevant to my other business. I favor a partitioned existence when it comes to my different businesses. What I do with one business has little to do with what I do for another business, so it isn't important overall. But I also realize that because my beliefs aren't necessarily accepted by the mainstream that I also don't have the same comfort or freedom to express my beliefs that a Christian has. I could couch my phrases in new age terminology, which is a bit more acceptable, or I could use NLP as a descriptor of techniques, but being able to mention my beliefs, or spiritual practices at a business networking event is just asking for problems. Christians, on the other, can discuss their religion with impunity at such meetings. They are the dominant religion, so its perfectly acceptable for them to speak up and while it might make a few people uncomfortable, it won't be something people comment on, unless it gets excessive.

Personally, I don't think religion and business should mix anymore than government and religion should mix. It's best to just keep it that's what I do. It works overall, and I've never had anyone ask about my beliefs. And if they do ask, I'll be honest, because it's not like they couldn't find out anyway...all they have to do is a google search and there my beliefs are. But I never volunteer, and so it never comes up.