Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do The Practice, Get The Results

A subject that gets discussed a lot among magicians is the role of belief in spiritual and magical practice. The chaos magick paradigm emphasizes belief as the engine that makes magick work, but many adherents of other schools take a more nuanced approach. In my experience you can't treat belief like a quantity that you can have "more" of, but rather the key is that during the time in which you are performing a practice you will get the best results if you remove all doubt in it's effectiveness. It seems to me that the better hypothesis here is not that you need to cultivate "more belief" but rather "less doubt" to get the best magical results. This is a self-reinforcing process, since nothing removes doubt like success.

In Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae, Aleister Crowley writes the following:

In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.

It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.

A number of atheists have in fact taken up practices such as meditation and prayer, having discovered the value of working with their minds in terms of how they function in their daily lives. Practices such as meditation do in fact work whether or not you believe in any sort of supernatural or even paranormal level of reality, as they focus on the powers and properties of the mind itself.

The Washington Post has an article up about a man named Sigfried Gold, an atheist who has discovered the value of prayer and maintains it as a practice despite his lack of belief in a supernatural deity. What he's found is that in terms of his mind and consciousness, belief is immaterial. When he does the work, he gets good results.

An atheist, Gold took up prayer out of desperation. Overweight by 110 pounds and depressed, the 45-year-old software designer saw himself drifting from his wife and young son. He joined a 12-step program for food addiction that required — as many 12-step programs do — a recognition of God and prayer.

Four years later, Gold is trim, far happier in his relationships and free of a lifelong ennui. He credits a rigorous prayer routine — morning, night and before each meal — to a very vivid goddess he created with a name, a detailed appearance and a key feature for an atheist: She doesn’t exist.

While Gold doesn’t believe there is some supernatural being out there attending to his prayers, he calls his creation “God” and describes himself as having had a “conversion” that can be characterized only as a “miracle.” His life has been mysteriously transformed, he says, by the power of asking.

Spiritual experiences happen and are real. There is little argument over that particular fact, as most people who take up spiritual practices eventually have them. The main point of debate has to with their exact nature.

To many "New Atheists," they are simply the experience of a brain "malfunction" that dates back to our primitive ancestors and creates the illusion of expanded consciousness. To magicians, this expansion of consciousness is real and significant, and can produce paranormal effects in the material world when cultivated at a high enough level.

Whoever is right regarding the objective nature of this phenomenon, evidence continues to mount that such experiences are in fact healthy and contribute to greater stability of mind. They also reduce stress and provide an enhanced perspective on life. It seems to me that one sure way to create a better world is to work towards a world with more practitioners in it, regardless of what they think is going on when they do the work.

The good news for atheists who want in on this is that they it seems they don't have to believe in anything at all. If they do the work, the results will follow.

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