Friday, October 31, 2008

Both/And, Not Either/Or

I came across this comment in an article on Jason Miller's blog, Strategic Sorcery.

You can use magick to aid you in gaining wealth, but it’s not the best way to get wealthy. You can use it to find love, but its not the best way to find that either. In almost every regard, whatever practical results magick can accomplish, is can be done better and surer using non magickal means.

Why bother with it then?

Miller goes on to explain why magick appeals to him, but I'm kind of surprised to see such a comment coming from a practicing magician. The statement is literally true - take two people and charge them with accomplishing some sort of practical task, and explain that one of them must accomplish it using only magical rituals and that the other may only use mundane methods. The person using mundane methods will usually get it done faster unless the task is something for which no clear mundane method exists, like controlling the weather.

However, this artificial situation represents a false dichotomy in the real world. As I've said before, there's a simple answer to the question of "what do I use magick for?" and that answer is "everything!" You still use the appropriate mundane methods to accomplish your goals, but you also use magick so that anything you can't directly control will also break your way. Put me against the "magick" and "mundane" method people above as a "both" person and I'll win every time. That's part of what makes magick so much fun. Used in this way magick can result in improbable levels of success across the board, and I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of high-performing people in the mundane world do some sort of spiritual practice that facilitates their success.

As an example, practices like yoga and meditation are reasonably popular among high achievers, and both practices can produce some pretty impressive results when combined with a high level of natural magical talent. A person who engages in such practices may not think of them as magick, but instead as practices to stay in shape and "keep their mind clear." But these practices have a magical component that naturally unfolds over time, and this component develops the will in such a way that influencing the material world through directed thought becomes easier for the practitioner. They may just figure that "positive thinking" is working for them, without realizing that some magical accomplishment is necessary before that particular method becomes very effective.

If you're not a high achiever by nature, magick can also let you be a little lazy in the mundane sphere - a skilled magician can usually accomplish as much as a non-magician with a lot less effort. If you have a co-worker who seems to not work all that hard but nonetheless do well because he or she is "just lucky," well, you might be working with a magician and not know it. Most of us are pretty quiet about our practices with co-workers. Magically-assisted success often looks like incredibly good luck to an outside observer, especially if it seems to happen for the same person over and over again.

So if you ever find yourself wondering if you should use magical methods or mundane methods to get something done, stop wondering right away. Do both!

Happy Halloween!

Here's a question for you all - if Halloween is another name for Samhain, a cross-quarter day, why is it celebrated on October 31st? The zodiac moves into Scorpio around October 21st and into Sagittarius around November 21st, so if you do the math you wind up with a "real" cross-quarter day 15 1/2 days after October 21st. That's more like November 5th, which means that "real" Samhain is going to be closer to US Election Day than it is to Halloween.

At any rate, I came across this article on Slate which is a little too recognizable to anyone who has organized rituals for the Pagan community. While it's about witches organizing a ritual for Halloween, which is just about the biggest overlap between magick and popular culture that you're likely to find, I still think it's great to see some journalism in the mainstream press that touches on some of the things that actually happen in the course of practicing this sort of alternative spirituality.

Maybe one of these years we'll get an article about ceremonial magicians calling upon the cross-quarter days to power their spells and the various technical aspects that need to be considered in order to make it work, but I'm guessing something like that is a lot further down the road.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Magick Update

Just when I thought that the strange case of Joseph Craig and Joy Johnson, charged with sexual assault in connection with an alleged "Satanic cult" in North Carolina had slipped away into the shadows never to be heard from again, I came across an update on the case. I pointed out in a previous article that as far as I can tell, neither Craig nor Johnson were affiliated with any genuine Satanic group or magical order, and I wondered if the court had just decided to quietly drop the case after the cult allegations failed to hold up to even cursory scrutiny.

It seems that Craig did claim to study magick, though his involvement in this situation suggests he was a really, really bad magician. Not bad as in tough, bad as in ignorant and probably incompetent. I'll say it again - reading a few books won't teach you magick, no matter how interested you happen to be in the subject. And in my experience, nothing like these allegations would ever arise in the life of a serious and competent magical practitioner.

According to the article much of the "cult" hysteria seems to have been dropped from the case, which is a good thing because frankly the earlier allegations along those lines were completely unbelievable. More to the point, it doesn't make any difference to the court whether or not you're performing some kind of ritual when you rape someone. If you don't have consent, it's rape and you're guilty. End of story. The case now seems to hinge on this question of consent, which is exactly where the focus of the trial should be.

As I suspected, this appears to be a BDSM situation that got out of hand, and Craig and Johnson's guilt will be determined based on whether or not they transgressed the agreed-upon boundaries of the scenes in which they participated. I'll continue to follow the case and keep you posted.

World Safe for Voodoo Dolls

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost his case against the company that is manufacturing a voodoo doll in his image. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that such a complaint would never hold up in the United States, and from this ruling it appears the same is true in France.

Sarkozy's rival Segolene Royal said that she never planned to take any action against the company, which also sells a doll bearing her image.

"I have a sense of humour," said Segolene Royal, Sarkozy's Socialist opponent in last year's election, when asked if she planned to take action against her own voodoo doll, which is sold alongside Sarkozy's.

Words to live by in a world that is now safe for voodoo dolls.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Erasing Conditioning

One of the less controversial powers related to magical work is the ability to work through conditioning in the mind. While the neocortex in humans is much more sophisticated than that of other animals, when we look at the older portions of the brain what we see is not that much different from what we see in rats or pigeons. Conditioning loops work pretty much the same in most organisms with any sort of nervous system, and in fact research on conditioning has been done with aplysia, a sea slug with a nervous system composed of just 26 neurons.

This power is not unique to magick. The various systems of psychotherapy claim to be able to do the same thing. For some systems the evidence is weak at best, but there is one system that seems to hold up to scientific scrutiny - cognitive-behavioral therapy, a system that specifically addresses the effects of conditioning. Whatever the method, the elimination of conditioning contributes greatly to the magical and mystical goal of mindfulness. In Thelema, conditioning is seen as an impediment to the will.

Of course, the conditioning we're talking about is not useful stuff like understanding that fire is hot or knowing how to speak a language. It's the stuff that gets in the way - irrational aversions, addictions, bad habits, and so forth. These reactive conditioning loops are part of our older brain systems and much of the time they make our lives a lot more difficult. Magick can be used to break them, just like cognitive-behavioral therapy, but wouldn't it be nice if there were an easier way?

Well, there might be. Researchers have discovered how to erase conditioning in mice by manipulating a specific brain protein. The headline of the article bills it as "erasing memories" but that just goes to show ignorance on the part of the reporter. There are two kinds of memory - declarative and non-declarative. Declarative memories are those that can be experienced and described, and are usually what we mean when we talk about remembering things. Non-declarative memories are made up of things like skills and conditioning loops, and such memories are not stored the same way or even in the same area of the brain as declarative memories.

The researchers mentioned in this article are "erasing" the memory of an electric shock from the brains of these mice, which clearly falls into the "non-declarative" category, and in fact its unclear whether or not animals like mice have anything resembling declarative memory at all. So this suggests that the technique would work on conditioning, but probably not on declarative memories. For magicians, that could be pretty useful.

Imagine - a pill that you could take whenever a conditioning loop trips you up in your day-to-day life that would erase that particular loop and nothing else. There's a lot of research left to do in order to find out if it really is possible in humans, but at some point in the future it might be.

Voodoo Doll Business is Booming

In a follow-up to my article on political voodoo dolls, reports are now coming in that the Nicolas Sarkozy voodoo doll is now a top seller on Amazon France. A voodoo doll from the same company bearing the likeness of rival French politician Segolene Royal is also selling well.

I don't read French, but all three commenters on Sarkozy kit rated it as one star, as did the lone commenter on the Royal kit. I guess I was right in my initial assessment and they just don't work.

The more I look at it, the more I think this could be an American business opportunity just waiting to happen. And of course, if I were making them they would be constructed from natural materials, properly enchanted, and linked to their targets.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enochian Magical Fields

My Enochian pentagram and hexagram rituals can be used to open an operant field or any of the other magical fields just like the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram/Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram or the Star Ruby/Star Sapphire combinations. However, they are designed slightly differently from the other similar rituals found in the tradition in order to streamline magical operations.

The main innovation I wanted to incorporate was to encapsulate my ritual work within both rituals rather than repeating them to close down a rite. As a result, the basic structure works like this.
  1. AOIVEAE steps 1 to 7.
  2. MADRIAX steps 1-9.
  3. MADRIAX step 10 is the Enochian ritual itself.
  4. MADRIAX step 11.
  5. AOIVEAE step 8.
So according to this structure (1) and (2) are the opening, (3) is the ritual work, and (4) and (5) are the closing. It's an elegant way of doing the ceremonial forms and it is quite fast and efficient.

These two rituals can also be used to create stand-alone fields without additional ritual components. In this case, the invoking form of the MADRIAX omits steps 10 and 11 and the banishing form omits steps 9 and 10. So a standalone invoking MADRIAX would end with "MADRIAX CARMARA, YOLCAM LONSHI" while the banishing version would drop the "YOLCAM" line completely and follow the circumambulation with "MADRIAX CARMARA, ADRPAN LONSHI."

The main reason that I developed these rituals was, first of all, to streamline Enochian evocations, and second of all because I like the idea of matching your ceremonial forms to the magical system that you are using. For Qabalistic rituals I use the LRP/LRH and for Thelemic rituals I use the Star Ruby/Star Sapphire, so I wanted something similar that was directly related to my Enochian work. Truth be told, you can do Enochian work with the Qabalistic or Thelemic rituals, but at least for me matching up the opening rituals to the system works better in terms of objective results.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MADRIAX: An Enochian Hexagram Ritual

This ritual has been in development for a long time. I published the original version on the Internet in 2000, and a number of different web sites have archived that version. That older version can be found here, among other places. The link is to a Wiccan ritual site, and while I have to admit I find the idea of Wiccan Enochian magicians kind of incongruous, I think it's great that they were willing to archive it and keep it available for interested students. The 2000 version of this ritual has a number of issues, though I will say that I was still able to get pretty good results with it for a number of years. I've recently rethought various things based on my revisions to the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram that I think will make it work a lot better. I'm not going to go through a step-by-step comparisons of the 2000 version and this 2008 version, but since the previous version has been archived you can do that yourself.

One of the biggest changes is the use of the unicursal hexagram, which I have found to work well with the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram as well. A while back Michael Sanborn put up an article suggesting that the unicursal hexagram represents a hyperbola. Unfortunately, Sanborn's article does not seem to be available online at present, so I will summarize the basic idea. A quick look at the hyperbola confirms that the unicursal hexagram maps onto it particularly well.

Just imagine the upward and downward curves overlapping while the dotted red cross stays where it is and becomes solid.

Sanborn goes on to explain that he feels the unicursal hexagram is more elemental than planetary. I'll go further - I think that the unicursal hexagram specifically represents the macrocosmic aspect of the elements, much like the elemental hexagrams of the original Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. The hyperbola is an excellent representation of the microcosm and macrocosm with one side of the curve representing "above" and the other "below." Overlap the two, as in the unicursal hexagram, and there you have it - an operant field.

Aleister Crowley outlined the elemental associations of the unicursal hexagram in The Book of Thoth. What you do is map the figure onto the Tree of Life centered on Tiphareth, so the upper point on the left side is Fire (Geburah, Mars), the upper point on the right side is Water (Chesed, Jupiter), the lower point on the left side is Air (Hod, Mercury) and the lower point on the right side is Earth (Netzach, Venus). As far as tracing the figure goes for each element, I have adapted the basic Golden Dawn principle that for elemental figures you trace toward the associated point to invoke and away from the associated point to banish. In addition, in keeping with the hyperbola association, you always trace to or away from the top or bottom point. The invoking form may be thought of as bringing the two curves into an overlapping position, while the banishing form may be thought of as separating them back into the normal hyperbola configuration.

In this revised ritual the four elements are arranged in the standard zodiacal order as in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram - Fire = East, Earth = South, Air = West, and Water = North. The names vibrated are those of the Kings from the Heptarchia Mystica, Fire = BABALEL (Mars), Earth = BALIGON (Venus), Air = BNASPOL (Mercury), and Water = BYNEPOR (Jupiter). The use of planetary names with the elemental unicursal hexagram represets the union of the planetary and elemental realms, the microcosm and macrocosm. The "above" and "below" points of the ritual are then attributed to BNAPSEN (Saturn) and BLUMAZA (Luna). The figures traced for these points are the usual planetary hexagrams, not the unicursal. When working with the Holy Table the figures form a column running from the heavens to the earth with the hexagram on the Holy Table itself at its midpoint. When working without the table, the column is centered on and surrounds the magician as in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram ("and in the column stands the six-rayed star").

The final figure in this ritual is attributed to BOBOGEL (Sol). In the 2000 version of the ritual the heptagram of Sol was traced over the magician following the other heptagrams, but I have now moved it to the beginning of the rite replacing the Keyword Analysis in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. It is combined with the invoking unicursal hexagram of Earth to symbolize the invocation and grounding of the solar force.

In this version of the ritual I have removed the calling upon of the Governors at the directions to focus solely on the Heptarchial symbolism.

The revised ritual follows.
  1. Trace the invoking unicursal hexagram of Earth over yourself while vibrating BOBOGEL. This tracing is done is the following manner: forehead -> left hip -> right shoulder -> genitals -> left shoulder -> right hip -> forehead. This hexagram is visualized in yellow-gold as opposed to the usual green. It is always traced in the invoking form, even for the banishing form of the ritual.

  2. In the east, trace the unicursal hexagram of Fire in scarlet red as you vibrate BABALEL.

  3. In the south, trace the unicursal hexagram of Earth in emerald green as you vibrate BALIGON.

  4. In the west, trace the unicursal hexagram of Air in orange as you vibrate BNASPOL.

  5. In the north, trace the unicursal hexagram of Water in blue as you vibrate BYNEPOR.

  6. Above you, trace the hexagram of Saturn in black as you vibrate BNAPSEN.

  7. Below you, trace the hexagram of Luna in violet as you vibrate BLUMAZA.

  8. Extend your arms and make one full clockwise rotation (or circumambulation of the temple if you are using the Holy Table) as you vibrate TA CALZ I OROCHA ("as above the firmament so beneath you", probably the best Enochian rendering of "as above, so below"). Then clasp your hands over your heart for a moment and hold the full visualization of the rite.

  9. For the invoking form, hold your hands in front of you with the palms facing outwards and then separate them as though opening a heavy curtain as you vibrate MADRIAX CARMARA, YOLCAM LONSHI ("o ye heavens of Carmara, bring forth power"). Carmara is the eighth Heparchial King who rules over the other seven.

  10. The ritual work for which you opened the field goes here.

  11. At the conclusion of this work, hold your hands in front of you and to either side with palms facing inwards, and then bring them together as though closing a heavy curtain as you vibrate MADRIAX CARMARA, ADRPAN LONSHI ("o ye heavens of Carmara, cast down power").

This is the invoking form of the ritual. For the banishing form, you would turn to each direction going in a counter-clockwise order (East -> North -> West -> South -> East), trace banishing hexagrams (aside from the opening Earth hexagram which should always be the invoking form), and make the final rotation/circumambulation counter-clockwise.

This ritual works with the AOIVEAE to open and close magical fields. Tomorrow I'll post a more detailed explanation of how the two rituals can be used together.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Political Voodoo Dolls

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a company that manufactures a voodoo doll bearing his likeness. The doll includes "instructions for use" and pins that can be stuck into the doll in places representing various Sarkozy quotes. The French President contends that he owns his likeness and as a result the company cannot legally make use of it.

Voodoo dolls actually have little to do with real voodoo practices. The idea that you can fashion a doll into the likeness of a person in order to create a magical link to them is found in a number of different traditions, but as far as I know the movie idea of sticking pins into the doll was concocted because it looked menacing on screen. Sticking a pin through a magical link to a person doesn't do anything to the person, it just damages the link. You have to cast an actual spell in order to affect a target through the use of a doll or poppet, though I suppose the pins could be specially charged so that they unleash a curse on the target when they make contact with the doll.

Legal questions aside, political voodoo dolls are a great idea - so long as they actually work. If nothing else, it would keep politicians more honest to have an army of magicians out there ready to poke them at a moment's notice. Of course, this thing probably doesn't fit the bill because I'm guessing that it's made from cheap plastic and polyester, neither of which hold enough of a magical charge to create a link, and that the pins are just ordinary pins. Nonetheless, at least the thought is present.

Somebody should try this here in the States. Or maybe they have, and I just have never heard about it. There couldn't be a legal challenge over here because in the United States public figures don't have any sort of veto power over the use of their likenesses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Exactly Backwards

After writing the previous article, I came across this article on "Manifestation vs. Magick." I've written about this topic before in the context of comparing the "Law of Attraction" explained in books like The Secret to formal ceremonial rituals. While the author sees a connection between the two concepts just like I do, he comes at it from the opposite direction.

The article defines the two terms thus:

Manifestation is the sponataneous creation of the things we need in our lives, generally something we've wished for or something necessary for our path. This can be as simple as having a lane suddenly open up for us in busy traffic or as unexpected as having a job offer drop into our lap from out of the blue.
Magick is the conscious and intentional attempt to manifest that change through energetic means. It is always something we're aware of and something that stays with us after the moment of its working has passed.

Energetically speaking, the process behind each is almost identical.

Let's be clear on our definitions:

Magick = creating change using ceremonial forms.
Manifestation = creating change without using ceremonial forms.

So far, so good. But then we get to this:

So why is manifestation so successful and magick usually subtle, at best?

Um, because you're doing it wrong?

According to all of my empirical trials, forms work much better. There's really little comparison between form and no-form. You have to do magick for years before you get good enough to reliably "manifest" things by just willing them to happen unless you have a lot of natural talent, and even then forms make everything work better. What universe is this author living in?

Well, maybe this helps:

While we can almost always look back and find the exact moment we consciously wanted the shift in energy to take place, it is usually not something we place any amount of thought into and generally something we forget about in the next moment.

So apparently, anything positive that happens to you is "manifestation" regardless of whether or not you willed it to happen. Seeing as life is a mixture of positive and negative experiences, if you assume manifestation "succeeds" whenever good things happen to you it is certainly possible to rack up a success rate higher than what magicians can generally produce. Not only that, but as the quote makes clear this determination rests on hindsight, which psychologists have found to be notoriously inaccurate.

In the light of this, the author's recommendation makes little sense.

If you were to pay attention to your own energy when manifesting, you'd realize that it comes from a completely different area than when you're consciously working a rite. We'll look at this in later material. The key isn't to find some missing incantation to power your intentional workings. The key is in projecting energy from the same place you do when you're manifesting changes to your path. And when you're capable of projecting energy in the same way for your rites, you'll discover that your magick begins to work in ways you never imagined possible.

Trust me, doing magick from a place of selective memory is useless. The only reason that "manifesting" looks more effective is that according to the author's model it is given credit for all sorts of things that really are unrelated to any sort of psychic or magical energy. Something good happened? "My manifestation succeeded!" Something bad happened? "My manifestation didn't work that time." Do you see how silly this gets?

The key to making your magick work has nothing to do with this sort of psychological trickery, and everything to do with maintaining regular magical practices and learning to use the ceremonial forms properly. One of the side effects of diligent practice is that over time things will begin to go more your way in general and you will experience more serendipity in your life, but that's more of a secondary goal and doesn't depend on some mysterious energy that's different than the energy you use when working magick. It's more like a general tendency that surrounds anyone who is really walking the path.

A Lens, Not a Crutch

Ever since chaos magick first emerged as a coherent metaphysical paradigm, some magicians have insisted that "less is more" when it comes to the use of magical forms such as the basic pentagram and hexagram rituals. The idea that the forms can be discarded for specific magical operations once you reach a certain level of proficiency is true - but I don't think that means what they think it means.

Thanks to empirical investigation, I can say pretty definitively that after practicing for many years I can do quite a bit just by directing my thoughts and willing things to happen, my spells still work better if I open an operant field, which involves the pentagram and hexagram rituals. I firmly believe that the forms are not something you use until you somehow "get it" and then can toss them aside. The forms focus your magical power regardless of how good you are, so they work more like a lens than a crutch.

Forms are usually necessary for beginning magicians to get solid results, but that's because the amount of power that beginners can summon is limited. Without the additional focus provided by the forms this power is not strong enough to do much, at least at first. After years of diligent practice it increases, and eventually reaches a point where a single directed thought can do the same work that the forms did when that magician is starting out.

However, anyone who believes that this means they can stop practicing forms is missing the big picture. By using the forms properly, the experienced magician can do much more than he or she could with a simple directed thought. Ceremonial forms are like katas in Karate - every practitioner uses them, from the rank beginner to the highest-ranking black belt. A master of Karate is going to be good in a fight with or without katas, but the katas are used precisely because they are especially effective.

The same is true of magical tools. The school of thought suggesting that magical tools simply represent ideas and as a result you don't absolutely need them goes back to Aleister Crowley, who wrote about performing the Abramelin operation astrally without any of the physical materials. Again, while this is literally true, the tools are around because they work. Even if you are at a place where you can get results without them, you'll be able to accomplish a lot more with them.

So keep up those practices and don't become complacent just when you start to experience some success. We've got a whole world to transform!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Magick for Profit

This article showed up today in my news alerts. I took a look through it, decided to comment on it, and then... well, I'll get to that.

Looking for free witchcraft spells? Many people are.

Sure! Why not? While I'm not precisely into "witchcraft" I'm always interested in checking out techniques that have worked for other magicians and comparing methods.

And why do you want free witchcraft spells? Do you want free witchcraft spells to find “true love”, free witchcraft spells to hog-tie that wayward ex and drag them back, free witchcraft spells to make you sexier, smarter, stronger, healthier and, of course, free witchcraft spells to make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams?

Definitely! Or at least I'm interested in magick that could in theory help me do all these things and augment the techniques that I've already developed to accomplish similar goals.

The problem with free witchcraft spells is that they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

I'm sure this is news to all of the traditional witches out there who maintain that teachings about the craft should be offered free of charge. While I agree that there are a lot of published spells out that are not all that useful, in my experience the cost of said spells has little to do with their usefulness.

For that matter, this is news to me. The spells I publish on this website and offer for free have worked well for me in the past, and I think it's great to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with other practitioners.

These days, if you were to toddle into your local bookshop, close your eyes and fling a dart, there’s a reasonably good chance you’d hit a spell book. There’s an even better chance that you’d be forcibly ejected from the shop shortly thereafter, so I’m not advocating this practice. It does, though, make the point that this literary genre has never been more popular.

Maybe if you're at Magus Books (I couldn't resist inserting a plug for my favorite occult bookstore here in the Twin Cities), but in fact the occult sections at stores like Barnes and Noble or Borders are pretty small, one or two shelving units at most. And not all of the occult books they sell are "spell books" in the conventional sense.

I suppose that one could argue that such books have never been more popular, but that's because they never have been all that popular. The interest today still represents a tiny percentage of the reading market.

Everybody wants witchcraft spells, but nobody want to go into the bookshops and pay for them. Which is just as well, really, since that would be a pointless waste of money in most cases.

I'm beginning to think that the author of this article must live in a community composed solely of impoverished pagans who can't afford to stock their libraries. "Everybody" wants spells? Really?

Most people in Western societies don't even believe that magick works. The ratio of spirit workers to non-magical people has varied between about 1 in 30 and 1 in 50 throughout human history, from societies with tribal Shamans to the priesthood of ancient Egypt. That suggests to me that the segment of humanity interested in magical spirituality is and has always been a tiny minority of the population - 2-3% at most.

The biggest Witchy complaint against spell books or free witchcraft spells online is that the spells don’t (or possibly can’t) work. The spell in the spell book or the free witchcraft spell on the web page looks comparable to a recipe, but whereas Delia Smith can reliably lead most of us through the creation of an omelette, the compiler of spells is less likely to guide the average punter to health, wealth and insuperable sexual charisma.

Let's see, I publish free spells on this blog, so I guess the author is calling me a loser. Nice.

The better authors in the field make it clear that the spell isn’t really the equivalent of the recipe for “Grandma’s Mushroom Meatloaf”. It’s more like sheet music: valuable to those who have put the effort into learning how to read music and perhaps play an instrument, but bookshelf clutter to those who haven’t.

Finally, here's something that I agree with completely. A spell made up of the best techniques in the world is useless to somebody who hasn't developed their magical abilities. That's why I recommend a serious period of daily practices to rank beginners prior to the use of any of the free spells that I have available here. You need to get yourself in shape before you try to lift heavy weights.

Free witchcraft spells as no more than electronic bookmark clutter if you haven’t learned how to work magic. The free witchcraft spells you will find online often contain expensive ingredients which, co-incidentally, are supplied BY the writer of the free witchcraft spells. Go figure.

Again, correct as far as it goes. You need to learn to use spells properly in order to get decent results with them. And it's pretty cynical to imagine people putting spells out there in order to sell spell materials, even though I'm guessing that plenty of such folks exist.

But what's going on here? Does the author think it's bad that people who post spells want to find a way to make money, or bad that people aren't willing to pay for the spells? Which one is it?

Well, clicking on this link at the end of the article I found out. THE WEBSITE IS A FREAKING INFOMERCIAL! See, the problem is not that people should pay for books, or that they should pay for materials, or that they want to learn magick for free, but that they want to do it all without paying the author of the website. And wow, does she sound like a pro:

"Who Else Wants To Know How To use the ultimate power of awesome magical forces to lift your vital energies, find and keep your perfect partner and become a MONEY MAGNET!?"

To get the proper effect, imagine the quote in big letters that would do Billy Mays proud. The promo goes on to explain how much the author's book is really "worth" and then asserts it to be a bargain at ONLY $27, just like the claims you might find in an ad for a salad shooter. "But wait! You also get..."

I suppose being a hypocrite must be fun, or at least profitable. After all, why else would there be so many of them around?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Suing God?

Yesterday a lawsuit filed by Ernie Chambers, a Nebraska state senator, was thrown out because the court ruled that defendant could not be properly served. Why not? Well, the defendant in this particular case is God. Chambers filed his lawsuit seeking an injunction against God for causing natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes. While I realize that Chambers is not serious and that this is essentially a publicity stunt highlighting frivolous lawsuits, my mind as always turns to the technical.

First off, in terms of serving papers on a deity, all the court needs to do is hire a magician. In fact, I'd be happy to take the job myself. If the law specifies that the papers need to be retained by the defendant, I'd still be out of luck, but so long as the law only states that the defendant must see said papers we're good to go. You place the necessary papers into your containment structure, perform your conjuration, and you're good to go. Even if God doesn't show up physically you can still be pretty sure that an attempted conjuration would get his attention, and with the papers in the structure that's all you need. So the lawsuit could go forward.

The biggest problem, though, remains collecting on the lawsuit. If God doesn't honor it, what are you going to do? If the monotheistic model is fundamentally correct then you're out of luck because there isn't a force in the universe that's bigger than God. After all, you can't exactly send the sheriff out to arrest him. Even a magician is of limited assistance against a truly omnipotent being. On the other hand, if God is a more localized theistic deity I might be able to call him into some sort of containment structure and hold him there if he loses the case and refuses to pay up.

You wind up stuck in a bit of a loop, actually, given the contents of the lawsuit. If God is not really all-powerful and thus can be contained by a magician, it probably also follows that he can't be held liable for every natural disaster. However, if God is indeed omnipotent no magick in the universe could ever enforce a judgement against him. In technical terms, that means the lawsuit is pretty much doomed either way. If it's possible for Chambers to win he can't collect, and if it's possible for him to collect he can't win.

Maybe Chambers should try suing Satan instead. There are a number of Christian groups who teach that the devil is behind natural disasters and the magical procedure for summoning and binding demons, even very powerful ones, is much better understood.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Tearing the Veil Between the Worlds"

In response to Rufus Opus' article about the folks who wanted to end the world because "they were bored" I came across the following comment from reader Patrick:

So, I found this group in Chicago which shall go nameless. So I figured, "hey, I'll meet them." Chaos mages and all, you know. So I go to Chicago with a friend, meet them up in a coffee shop. The first item on their agenda? "Tearing the veil between the worlds." Ahem. As if that's a *thing*.

While this particular group of magicians were probably completely ignorant of what they wanted to do aside from talking about something that sounded "edgy," the idea nonetheless has me thinking.

The "veil between worlds" is called the Veil of Paroketh in Qabalah and represents the boundary between the microcosm and macrocosm. According to my operant field model of magick, transcending this boundary is exactly what the operant field does, so in effect one could think of "tearing the veil" as the creation of a permanent operant field in a specific place or region. This requires some work, but it is by no means impossible or even that difficult if you know what you're doing.

Whether or not this is a good idea remains an open question in my mind. On the one hand, it would be convenient to just be able to do effective practical magick without having to open a field at all, but on the other hand anyone could use the field and in fact it might be hard for them to avoid doing so. Within an operant field thoughts have a natural tendency to influence physical reality, so dropping such a field over a bunch of chronic worriers might have nastier results for them than the biggest curse I can summon.

A related issue that I'm not clear on is whether thoughts within the field will affect reality to a degree that is proportionate to the magical aptitude of the individual thinking them or to a degree proportionate to the magical aptitude of the magician initially casting the field. The latter is more dangerous because in that case the field would in effect turn everyone within it into operant magicians without the benefit of the mind training that is developed by practice. I think the former is more likely, but you never really know until you have experimental data in front of you.

None of these issues represent a technical barrier to creating such a field. In fact, there are almost certainly more ways to open an operant field than just using the Golden Dawn ritual forms and I suspect many of the "power sites" around the world actually do possess localized operant fields that were created at some point in the past. Many ritual temple spaces will build up such a field as operant spells are cast within them over and over again, and it is likely that religious rituals of various sorts can have a similar effect. We're looking for a technique, though, that would be more immediate.

What I'm envisioning is a collection of four small talismans, each representing one of the four elements, and a "master" talisman representing spirit. You would want to make them from a single piece of metal, probably brass. Brass is easy to find at craft and home improvement stores and has a solar association due to its color. It is also an alloy (Mercury) of copper (Venus) and zinc. The upward triangle formed on the Tree of Life between Mercury, Venus, and the Sun (Hod, Netzach, and Tiphareth) crosses the Veil of Paroketh, which is exactly the symbolism that we want.

After engraving the appropriate elemental symbols on each talisman, they would then be charged with their respective elements, just as if you were making elemental tools. Following these five operations you then perform a sixth (5=6? I just thought of that as I was writing it) to empower the whole thing and bind all the talismans together. As part of this operation I would create a servitor that would be charged with gathering energy from the environment and using that energy to sustain both itself and the operant field. The servitor would be bound to the spirit talisman and from there would distribute energy to the other four.

Once you have your operant field array set up, all that remains is for you to place it where you want it to be operational. The four small talismans will constitute the corners of a square, much like the quarters in the LBRP and LIRH, and the master talisman should be kept within the square's boundaries. For example, if you wanted to set up this field over your neighborhood, you would plant each talisman in the ground a couple blocks from your house and keep the master in your temple. Place the small talismans to the four directions using the macrocosmic arrangement - Fire = East, Earth = South, Air = West, Water = North.

There you go - the veil is officially "torn," at least within the area defined by the talismans. An experimental question would be whether or not the field loses intensity as it gets larger. I've done some similar work with talismans defining an area in the past, but my results are inconclusive on that particular point. This would be easier to test with something more general like the operant field idea presented here. If any readers want to try it out and let me know how it works, that would be great.

So, will I try it myself? An important question for me would be whether or not this permanent operant field would be stronger than one that I could create myself using the LBRP/LIRH or Star Ruby/Star Sapphire combination. If not, such a field would be of little use to me. Generally speaking, the magical influence of a talisman winds up being only about 80% as effective as an individual spell directed toward the same goal. The permanence of the talisman seems to detract from its strength in any specific instance, with the tradeoff being that the influence persists longer than that of a spell. This suggests that if I did it myself the field would be weaker than the fields I normally conjure when starting any practical operation, so that would argue against it.

The only case in which I think it might be worthwhile would be to try it out with my magical working group. Several of us are pretty accomplished ritual magicians, and if we all worked together we could probably make a talisman that would be stronger than the fields we can cast individually. Building a permanent field under those conditions at least merits consideration.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Low-Budget Apocalypse Update

More dramatic low-budget apocalypse news - "We're trying to end the world because we're bored!"

From the article:

Remember dude I mentioned that wanted to be a Moonchild? I got that all wrong. He corrected me. Seems they weren't trying to be Moonchildren at all. Oh no, nothing so puerile, he assured me. No, these two geniuses were trying to start the Apocalypse!!! The end of the WORLD!!! For Serious.

Because, you know, they were bored.

So could these same "geniuses" be behind the other signs of the low-budget apocalypse? Perhaps when the urge to unleash the End of Days comes from a place of supreme dumbassery all that can be accomplished magically is the creation of a sad, eminently mockable facsimile thereof. Of course, to be sure I'd need to know when their "operation" actually started to make sure that the other "signs" didn't precede it.

Just as a point, to my knowledge the only magicians to ever attempt the Moonchild operation were Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, and rather than an all-powerful messiah-like being the operation actually gave birth to the Church of Scientology. To my way of thinking, that's a compelling enough reason to never attempt it again.

"Magick": Not Another One!

I've complained before about people on the Internet using "magick" as a term for various things unrelated to esoteric practices, including music albums and stage magic shows. Now a software developer has decided to use it as the name for a new Linux distribution. I'm an old Unix hacker from way back and like Linux as much as the next person, but I seriously wish people would quit making esotericists' keyword searches more difficult. As it is the Google Newsreel is already worthless in that regard.

I mean, this is a Linux distribution - couldn't it have been called "Magix" or something? It's kind of cute and has the added advantage that people looking for Linux information won't be getting back links to my blog. Or maybe it could have been named using one of the poser spellings like "magik" or "majik." Any of those would be preferable from a search engine standpoint.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Norwegian Politician's Psychic Advisors

Saera Khaen, a Norwegian politician, has announced that she will not seek re-election after it was discovered that she racked up a bill of over 48,000 kroner (approximately $7800 US) calling a psychic hotline from a government mobile phone over a one-quarter period. The calls came to light when the Norwegian parliament refused to cover the bill. Khaen first claimed that she was making calls to her boyfriend's satellite phone, but when that was investigated and found to be implausible she came clean.

Finally, she released a statement late Wednesday confirming news reports that her bills were so high because she called pay-by-the-minute fortune tellers 793 times in one nine-month period. She said she paid back the amount.

'A large part of the cost was due to calls to alternative advisers: so called fortune tellers,' she wrote. 'I apologize.'

Let's hope that the advice was worth it! Also, wouldn't you think the psychics would have seen this coming and told her not to call? As a matter of fact, according to the Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, they did. Khaen just wouldn't listen.

Her calls became so frequent that many fortune-tellers told her to stop ringing, the Norwegian daily said.

What's the point of calling psychics if you won't take their advice anyway? It seems kind of pointless to me. There's also no word on any other advice she was given by her psychic friends, though her party insists that their policies were not influenced by Khaen's calls.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thoughts on Theurgy and Thaumaturgy

I came across this article the other day from back in July. I consider myself a pretty serious thaumaturgist, so what particularly struck me was this comment:

I am now of the opinion that the work leads the ego to pull out all of the stops. It starts to lay at your feet whatever it is that you think you want. Sex, money, accolades, acceptance... whatever you WANT. If your universe is in balance and your link with your HGA is firmly made, then you take what you want and keep walking. If not this trap of satisfying your lower needs becomes the Hotel California. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."

So what is the big deal? I mean isn't that a PERK of the work? I would say yes and no. When that perk becomes a driving force then you realize that you are no longer a Theurgist but have suddenly become a full time Thamaturgist. So what is the big deal? The big deal is that you stop. You graze from the field of plenty and forget that this is just a small lawn in a much larger area. Inertia is the trap.

This is all true as far as it goes, but what it fails to acknowledge is that theurgy and thaumaturgy are fully complimentary disciplines. It's not just thaumaturgy that can become a trap - theurgy can as well. I can't count the number of self-proclaimed "theurgists" that I've met who seem to think there's something wrong with doing practical magick. And you know what else? None of them could actually do much of anything besides rituals that maybe felt good, but produced no lasting positive effects on their lives or the lives of the people around them.

The truth is that obsession with either outlook to the exclusion of the other is a problem. In thaumaturgic work, you first unite your consciousness with that of the divine and then from that foundational position send forth a current of will to accomplish your practical goals. In theurgic work, you should see practical, measurable changes for the better start to happen in your life as your consciousness becomes more attuned to the divine. Thaumaturgy without divine union is much less effective, and theurgy without any noticeable practical results probably means that you're doing it wrong.

I approach magical work from both perspectives. From a thaumaturgic standpoint, I do whatever practical work that I have to do to keep my life going the way I want it to be - and I do a lot. I figure that if I have the power I should use it. In my daily practice, my statement of intent includes "set my True Will in motion and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work," an essentially Theurgic goal. These practices support each other - the better I am about doing my daily practices, the more effective my practical work becomes. And the more successful my life becomes, the more opportunities I have to practice.

Finally, I do believe that thaumaturgy, even on its own, can accomplish theurgic goals so long as union with the divine is a preliminary part of the ritual form. Conveniently, that's also the best and most effective way to get thaumaturgic results. Magick is nice that way sometimes.

Defining Invocation and Evocation

One of my pet peeves when reading through books on magick is authors who don't understand the technical distinction between invocation and evocation.

I commonly run across the statement that invocation is when you summon "higher" entities such as angels and evocation is when you summon "lower" entities such as demons. This is incorrect, at least as far as the definition goes. While it is true that the best entities to invoke are generally those defined here as "higher," it is certainly possible to evoke them. A good example of this is the most famous angelic magical system of all time, John Dee and Edward Kelley's Enochian system.

The distinction between the two terms is one of technique and is only secondarily related to the class of entity summoned. When you invoke an entity, you call it into your own sphere of consciousness represented by the magick circle. When you evoke an entity, you call it into an external containment structure. The most famous of these is the Goetic triangle, but the Enochian Holy Table also performs a similar function.

The "invoke angel"/"evoke demon" concept is based on an accurate understanding of the nature of these classes of entities, but the relationship is correlative rather than definitive. Generally speaking, entities are classed as angels if (A) their nature is creative and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally friendly. Entities are classed as demons if (A) their nature is destructive and/or (B) their attitude toward human magicians is generally hostile.

When looking over the old grimoires there is some ambiguity about the term "demon" because, first of all, the Medieval Church classified just about any spirit that you could summon as a demon. This point is especially confounded by the later "Faustian" grimoires which, while likely fake, are constructed around the mechanism of a pact with the Christian devil. Also, the word "daimon," which more just means "spiritual entity" without the "evil" connotation, may have been miscopied over the centuries in the days before the printing press when books of spells were still copied by hand and passed from master to student.

Nonetheless, the classification above remains basically correct for most of the cases you are likely to encounter, especially as a beginning magician. Invoking entities that are hostile to you or essentially destructive in nature is not a good idea. The hostility of the entity will divide your consciousness and thus undermine your magical operation, and calling destructive energy into your own body of light can undermine its integrity and contribute to health problems.

Friendly, creative entities, on the other hand, pose neither of these risks and are generally safe to invoke. Invocation also is better suited to theurgic work because when trying to unite with a divine entity evocation is kind of inefficient. In a theurgic evocation, you would have to call the entity into a containment structure and then perform some sort of additional procedure to unite with it. Invocation does it all in one step.

Evocation does make sense for angels and other "higher" entities when you are using them in practical thaumaturgic operations. When I do this I use the Enochian Holy Table as my containment structure and place it in the center of my circle, unlike the Goetic triangle which is normally placed outside the circle (though I will add that I do know a couple of Goetic magicians who place the triangle within the circle and have encountered no ill effects from doing so). Invoking for practical operations can work, but a side effect can be that you as the caster are affected by your spell along with the intended target. I'm convinced that this side effect is the origin of the Wiccan "Threefold Law."

So get it right - invocation = summoning and entity into yourself, evocation = summoning an entity into an external containment structure. If you're summoning an angel into the Holy Table the ritual does not become an invocation simply because the entity you are summoning is an angel. An author who says otherwise might not understand the source material as well as he or she thinks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Michigan Idiot Assaults Non-Witch

A Michigan English teacher was recently assaulted by an adult student in an attempt to cleanse her of witchcraft.

This particular student apparently believed that he could kill the teacher by pouring what he said was holy water over her head from a Gatorade bottle, which probably explains right there why he was in need of adult education. I mean, last I checked that only works on vampires - get with the program, dude! He also held a lighter near her because witches are made of wood and readily burn, even after being doused with water. Just ask Sir Bedevere from Monty Python and the Holy Grail!

"The suspect later told us he was trying to kill the witch by pouring holy water over her head," said Ferndale Detective Ken Denmark. "We confiscated two lighters from him and he was committed for psychiatric evaluation."

Why did he think she was a witch? Because she told him she didn't believe in witchcraft, of course!

The suspect, Darin Najor, 20, faces a pretrial hearing Oct. 23 in Ferndale 43rd District Court on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. He was arrested and posted bond in the incident on Monday.


The English teacher told police she had a discussion with Najor the day before the incident about "The Crucible," an assigned play by the late Arthur Miller set in 1692 that deals with events that led to the Salem witch trials.

Najor asked the teacher if she believed in witchcraft, police said. The teacher told him she did not believe in witchcraft and explained that the events in the play were a metaphor for unjust persecution, police said.

The student's response to this conversation was not encouraging, or for that matter, coherent.

"The suspect threw his homework papers on the floor and declared it was all blasphemy," Denmark said. "The next day he came up behind her chanting what sounded like religious verses while she was working at her desk."

After all, everybody knows that a witch is somebody who doesn't believe in witchcraft! Oh, wait...

The only remaining question is which segment of the stupid demographic this guy falls into. Frozen lake jumper? Tiger petter? Place your vote now!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Academic Talk on Modern Witchcraft

A talk on modern witchcraft will be given on October 15th at Bowdoin College in Maine by Marilyn Pukkila, a "Quaker witch in the Reclaiming Tradition." The talk will focus on dispelling some of the popular culture myths associated with witches and witchcraft.

Pukkila's talk, titled "Today's Witches: Neither Oz, Nor Hogwarts, Nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer," will focus on dispelling myths and stereotypes about modern witchcraft and witches.

I like the fact that magick has become popular enough to feature in much of our mainstream entertainment, but at the same time inaccurate media portrayals can be a problem for people who want to learn about the real magical tradition. For example, many of the people I correspond with seem genuinely surprised that it takes more than a three-word incantation and the flick of a wand to cast a spell.

I have no idea how many people will see this talk, but every little bit helps and it's nice to see colleges sponsoring events that can help to inform beginners about how magick really works.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fake Witches Steal Cars in Namibia

There's more fake witchcraft going on in the African nation of Namibia. The good news is that this is not another case of an angry mob murdering alleged witches, but the bad news is that a number of people have been defrauded out of their cars by criminals claiming to be traditional healers.

Fraudsters convince the owners that they can "clean vehicles from evil deeds", it was explained.

To carry this out, the supposed traditional healers however require the car owners to provide both their vehicle and the relevant documents for the vehicle to them.

What then happens, though, is that the vehicle gets sold and its ownership registration changed without the owner knowing of this.

I always hate it when con artists exploit belief in spiritual practices to make money, and as far as I'm concerned these car thieves fall into the same category as fraudulent mediums and psychics over here in the states. Nonetheless, part of me does wonder what sort of "evil deeds" might require cleansing so badly that the owners are willing to take such a big chance with their vehicles.

The big problem is not that people believe in magical practices, but that they are at the same time ignorant of how they work. There is no reason in the world that I would need any sort of legal paperwork on a vehicle in order to banish malevolent influences from it. The influences would be linked to the vehicle, not the corresponding legal title which from a magical perspective is just a piece of paper.

Similarly, there are a lot of people who go to mediums and have no idea how difficult it is to conjure up spirits that have been dead longer than a month or so. It's not always impossible, but it requires a serious and well-designed ceremony, not the freeform wandering-mind technique that many psychics claim to use. Even then, it will fail way too often to pay the rent.

More Soccer Witchcraft

Apparently the world of soccer is crawling with witches. Last month a Congolese goaltender started a riot that resulted in eleven deaths and numerous injuries by attempting to cast a spell on the opposing team. Today two footballers were arrested in Dubai on charges of using witchcraft to help their athletic careers.

Two international footballers, including UAE's star striker Faisal Khalil, have been arrested here on suspicion of practising 'black magic' to influence their selection into the team, media reports said.

Khalil, who plays for Al Ahli club and Subait Khater of Al Jazira were arrested in Dubai with two Omani "sorcerers" at the end of last month as they were believed to have paid the Omanis to make spells in order to maintain their place in the national team.

"Khalil along with Subait Khater and two Omani spell casters, or magicians, have been arrested," a spokesman for Dubai CID was quoted by a newspaper on Sunday.

The article goes on to quote the Dubai Sports Council stating that they do not believe this incident is related to a wider problem of "black magic" in the footballing world, but considering the events of last month I have to wonder.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Basics of Daily Magical Practice

The best way to find out if someone is a real magician is to ask them about their daily practice regimen. If they look confused or stumble through their answer it means that you should take their practical advice with a grain of salt and defer to your own experiences. If they pompously proclaim not only that they do no daily practices but that you should do the same, you should dismiss them as an utter fool and ignore anything else they have to say. It's pretty much guaranteed to be worthless.

Magick is an experiential discipline. That means that you actually have to do it to understand how it works. Study is very useful in terms of pointing you in the right direction, but there's a big difference between knowing how something could in theory be accomplished and actually doing it. I'll repeat this analogy one more time - a magician who does no daily practice is like a professional athlete who doesn't work out aside from showing up to play on game day. Rare talents can get away with it, but the vast majority of us are not nearly so special. Furthermore, even if you can do no work and still get results, imagine how much better you could be with the foundation of a disciplined course of practice.

Most introductory books on magick cover the basic rituals, but in many cases they are vague and incomplete regarding a what constitutes a solid set of practices, so here are my suggestions. These are the standard Golden Dawn rituals that are used by many ritual magick groups, and while as a Thelemite my practices incorporate more of Aleister Crowley's ritual forms, the structure shown here follows the same framework as the sequence that I have been practicing for many years.

(1) The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This is the best rendition of the ritual that I have managed to find online, though it does contain one point on which I need to comment.

The linked page calls this ritual "The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram Banishing Earth" and has links to other "Lesser Rituals" for Fire, Air, and Water. This is incorrect - the ritual shown is simply the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which in its standard form uses the Earth pentagram. You don't use the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram to banish or invoke specific elements - you use the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram to do that. The Greater Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram are used for specific ceremonial operations as explained in the text of the various spells I have written up on this site, not for daily practice.

The Thelemic equivalent for this ritual is the Star Ruby.

(2) The Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram. Using the invoking form of the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram here opens the operant field so that your invocation of divinity and statement of intent will be more effective. It also does not shut down spells in progress, which is what happens if you use the banishing form here.

The Thelemic equivalent for this ritual is the Star Sapphire.

(3) The Middle Pillar Ritual. While the Middle Pillar was written after Crowley's death so he could not comment on it, in my opinion the Thelemic equivalent to this ritual is The Elevenfold Seal from Liber V vel Reguli and I have gotten good results using it in that capacity over many years.

(4) The Statement of Intent. When you are working magick you should always be trying to accomplish something. For daily practice, that goal should include spiritual awakening and the accomplishment of your True Will. A sample statement might be something to the effect of "Set my True Will in motion and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness." Conclude the statement by vibrating a word of power such as AUMGN or AMEN.

Another possible Thelemic sequence would be:

(1) Liber V vel Reguli in full.
(2) The Star Sapphire.
(3) The Statement of Intent.

Liber V vel Reguli includes The Elevenfold Seal so you can go straight from the Star Sapphire to the Statement of Intent with this sequence.

Whatever practice sequence you decide upon using, you should do it at least once a day, generally when you wake up in the morning or before you go to sleep. You can also do both, which is great if your schedule allows it.

Meditation is another useful daily practice. I generally keep my meditation session separate from my ceremonial practices because while they complement each other in terms of how they work in your life magick and meditation are based on different mindsets. Meditation is more reflective and receptive, whereas magick is more active and expansive. Also, techniques that work with the body such as Pranayama, Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi are good for building up the more physical aspects of magical practice in addition to helping you stay in better physical shape. I figure if I'm going to work out anyway for health reasons, I might as well be augmenting my magical ability at the same time.

All this sounds like a lot, and it can be. It is very possible to go through periods during which much of your day is spent doing practices, and often this is difficult if you have to work a job and take care of a household at the same time. My recommendation is to start with a basic set, try to be as disciplined as possible about it, and once you have established a consistent practice you can add onto it one element at a time. There's nothing wrong with a simple set of practices if that's what you can stick to, and it's better to be consistent over a long period of time than it is to be "hardcore" for a short period and burn yourself out. However, you should also keep in mind that in magick, like any other sort of activity, the more practices you do the better you get and the faster you will progress.

UPDATE: A good point brought up in the comments is that Crowley considered the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire to be improved versions of the pentagram and hexagram rituals, so the term "equivalent" is inaccurate. I thought about this when I was writing up this post, but I wasn't really sure what the right term would be. I considered "corresponding" but that's not exactly correct either. So I'm going to leave the article as is, but with this additional notation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Jesus the Magician

For a long time it has seemed to me that much of the Christian narrative about Jesus is more myth than fact. Unlike some occultists who think Jesus never existed, I do think there is enough historical evidence to conclude that he was a real person who taught something similar to what is recorded in the Gospels and could very well have been crucified by the Romans. However, I think that the theology that was built up around him starting with Paul's letters and later with the rulings of the Council of Nicea likely has little to do with the historical reality aside from a few basic facts and surviving parables.

An excellent book on what the historical Jesus may have really been like is Jesus the Healer by Stevan L. Davies. Davies argues that Jesus may have started out as a trance healer and exorcist who went on to develop a following. Such healers were common in ancient Palestine, so in order to accomplish that Jesus must have been especially proficient. Trance healers of the period tended to use "familiar spirits" that they invoked in order to accomplish their healings, but Jesus was different in that he identified his "spirit" as that of God. The similarity between this concept and the Thelemic description of the Holy Guardian Angel strikes me as quite noteworthy.

A new piece of archaeological evidence indicating that people may have thought of Jesus as a magical practitioner has been found in the harbor of Alexandria in Egypt. The piece is a bowl engraved with an inscription that may be read as "by Christ the magician" or "the magician by Christ." The bowl is dated between the second century BC and the first century AD, so it could have been made during the life of Jesus. If "Christ" here does indeed refer to the Biblical Jesus, this bowl provides an interesting glimpse into how the founder of the largest religion in the Western world may have really been viewed during his ministry.