True will, personal development, and the most dangerous of all journeys

I got into a conversation today that got some wheels spinning on a long overdue blog post on the subject of magic, priorities, True Will and all that. I touched upon it briefly during the Esoterinerd podcast I was interviewed in, but I’d like to expand upon it further.

People cannot have their magical wills so completely drained by the need to survive, to be able to take care of themselves and the basic necessities, to the point where they cannot thrive. And worse yet, not even know what it means to be able to thrive. It is vitally important as a magician to learn how to set things such as financial needs, the roof over your head, basic health and well being into a self-sustaining but constantly fed magical system for yourself that you can spend time focusing on other things such as emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.

This isn’t an unusual or unknown concept. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs covers it quite succinctly:

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

This is why I am very, very big on being able to take care of yourself in regards to your health and wealth as a magician, and why using magic to aid you in this endeavor is not only not a bad thing, but it is an absolute must and necessity. There are various traditions that may disagree with me on this, but I am giving of no fucks and will say flat out that they are wrong. I’ll merely offer up my own experiences and fruits as proof of this: once I set magic into motion in a way that not only had me both feeding it and feeding itself to give me a fulfilling occupation and the monetary benefits that came with it, much of my life–and my magic–got that much easier. Suffering isn’t a virtue; using your magic in a practical way helps both you and those around you gives you a means of perfecting your magic doing something you absolutely need to do. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone. Throw out your old programming and join those of us who are living happy and fulfilling lives while helping others to do the same. You have nothing to lose but your excuses, and nothing to gain but greater happiness, magical mastery, and the ability to help others.

Once you’ve got a reasonable handle on the basics of life and survival, you can focus on the rest of the stuff to power your life, thrive, and make you happy. What does it mean to be able to thrive? What would it mean for you to really, truly live a fulfilling life? I can’t answer that for you. Instead I’ll turn to one of my most favorite passages in all of literary history in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story:

“What do you suppose it means?'[Bastian] asked. “”DO WHAT YOU WISH.'” That must mean I can do anything I feel like. Don’t you think so?
All at once Grograman’s face looked alarmingly grave, and his eyes glowed.
‘No,’ he said in his deep, rumbling voice. ‘It means that you must do what you really and truly want. And nothing is more difficult.’
‘What I really and truly want? What do you mean by that?’
‘It’s your own deepest secret and you yourself don’t know it.’
‘How can I find out?’
‘By going the way of your wishes, from one to another, from first to last. It will take you to what you really and truly want.’
‘That doesn’t sound so hard,’ said Bastian.
‘It’s the most dangerous of all journeys.’
‘Why?’ Bastian asked. ‘I’m not afraid.’
‘That isn’t it,’ Grograman rumbled. ‘It requires the greatest honesty and vigilance, because there’s no other journey on which it’s so easy to lose yourself forever.”

In short, what it takes for you to thrive is essentially your true will. I can’t tell you what that would mean for you, nor can any other magician in the blogosphere. But I can tell you that if you spend much of your time stressing over bills and basic necessities that it is very, very difficult indeed to have energy left over at the end of the day to spend on thriving. I also don’t want to give the impression that anyone who continues to struggle making ends meet cannot advance spiritually or magically, as that’s certainly not the case! It just happens to be easier to get other needs and desires met once the basic ones have been dealt with. But do not despair; in order to learn how to fly you gotta master the art of getting up onto your own two feet then walking. And that fine art of learning how to stand up is beyond essential. Don’t neglect it, and don’t think that you are doing such a terrible job in your own life that you’re still learning it. Some go into the grave before ever having given it the slightest chance; just the fact that you’re trying puts you way ahead of the game.

Figuring out what works for you and how to get your life in order is all a part of that personal development which is magical, difficult, essential, and humbling all at once. And as I’ve covered in another blog post, personal development is about 80% of the work. Get that done and you have much of the rest made. Fail and just do magic alone, and it’s basically the equivalent of trying to out-train a bad diet. Which is, if you ask anyone in the fitness world, impossible–you cannot. It’s well worth getting all of that under control and figuring yourself out before mastering the art and science of magic.

What can I tell you about the personal development process and figuring yourself out–aside from it being a nearly never-ending process? I can tell you that I learned my own true will, staring at me right in the face during what was the most magical and ultimately later the most traumatic of times for me. It’s not the way I wish for others to figure it out, that’s for sure. You are best off just figuring it out quietly one day or merely moving from one thing to the next until you reach that “ah ha” moment. But once you realize it, it’s a lot like falling in love, it just happens and no one can do it for you nor tell you how it goes. But some of us gotta walk through hell to find it then claw our way out afterward. And if you plan to make it out alive let alone thrive, you can’t do it by magic alone.

All in all, just trust me on this one: Do. Personal. Development. It’ll help you with your finances, practical goals both big and small, and last but definitely not least in your magical and spiritual work. Don’t know where to begin? Read the works of others, figure out whose writings and ideas jive with your own experiences and inspire you, and take it from there. Examine your life and learn from others who took the time to examine theirs. People have walked these paths prior to you, and while their experiences may or may not resonate with you, it’s a start. I’m a big fan of Wayne Dyer and Joe Vitale but they’re not the only names out there. Some jive on the Law of Attraction stuff but for myself, I’ve found that while it’s useful it’s typically oversimplified, doesn’t tell the full tale, and is merely a stepping stone. People often like to tell you that the so-called switch is perpetually on and everyone’s always attracting (and of course insert blame/victim nonsense here), but that’s not actually the case. The reality is that most people are in neutral gear and being thrust along according to the whims of the Great Magnet. Master yourself and master magic, and all of that changes.

 

On a side note: I am toying with the idea of doing a series of personal and practical alchemy/development classes in a learn-as-you-go email series with readings and various ritual and meditative practices to go along with it, all of which would be at a reasonable cost. Essentially I would love to boil down the esoterics and complicated nature of both personal development and alchemy and build it in an organized fashion in a progressive fashion–no initiation or mystical order membership required. If this sounds interesting to you, let me know. If enough people are interested, I’ll do it. It’s something I’ve been slowly writing a book on, but I’ve often wondered if the classes should come first and the book itself broken out into chunks taught in the classes and given out as readings. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, or by email: scarlet.magdalene@gmail.com

Wax on, wax off: how learning physical fitness helps with magical fitness

When I decided to do the Abramelin in 2014, I knew there was no way I could have the “ideal” conditions for it. I researched the ritual at great length through both the translations, Mathers and Dehn, and determined that if I were to take the plunge I would take it with this attitude:

  • I will never do things perfectly.
  • If I wait to be “perfect”, I will never get it done.
  • I need to be willing to potentially make mistakes, learn from it, and move on.
  • I have nothing left to lose at this point and I desperately need to get my shit together.

As some people who have been following me online know, I’m also a passionate fitness enthusiast. I’ve had my ups and downs and learned a lot from them, but on the whole I’ve made great progress in this arena. I ran a 5K, 10K, and half marathon this past weekend at DisneyWorld with only the bare minimum of muscle soreness afterwards and felt great enough to start getting back to routine two days later. While I still have a great deal of progress to make I’ve also come a long way.

So without further adieu, here’s a list of things that hold true in the wide, wonderful world of fitness which also apply to magic:

  1. You need to pencil in your workouts and get them done. Make them non-negotiable. Get your magic done. Feed your altars. Have regular things you magically contribute to. Things like employment, finances, and well-being are things which need to be perpetually fed. Do NOT get complacent in this arena, not even if you land the perfect job or win the lottery. This is a magic which needs to be kept up. Anything you need on a regular basis is something you can get done regularly.
  2. Length doesn’t make strength. You don’t need to work out for hours a day in order to get results. Likewise with magical ritual. It doesn’t need to go on until the wee hours of the morning to be effective.
  3. You have to train for half and full marathons, you can’t just jump into them and you have to have the proper gear or risk injury. Meditation, trance work, and energy work, while both can come more easily to some than most, do require proper training. Expect your immune system to be shot afterwards. Ask anyone who’s done the Abramelin or any lengthy  working if they got sick after they completed the rite. It can happen to you, be prepared.
  4. If you run into obstacles, work around them and get done what you can. Can’t do a full workout? Do a partial. A partial is better than none. Not much more I need to add to this one. Life happens, just keep moving.
  5. You will have good days and bad days. Motivation is like bathing; you have to keep working on it because it doesn’t last. Just keep going and remember what brought you here to begin with. In short, you will struggle, you will fuck up, you will have days when all you want to do is stare at that Candy Crush game on your phone and just be mindless. And that’s okay.
  6. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on and don’t waste any time or energy beating yourself up over it. It’s very easy to get jolted out of our routines and find it difficult to return to them. We may even feel like we failed on more than one level. Don’t worry about it and either just pick up where you left off,  go back a few steps and start from there, or just start a new cycle over again.
  7. Find something you love to do which works for you and your goals, and keep doing it. If you find a particular system of magic to be drudge work and not very effective, stop torturing yourself with it and find something else. What works for others and calls their inner spirits and get results won’t necessary be the same for you. I love to run and lift weights while there are people who loathe running and would rather do crossfit or Zumba. There are a myriad of systems and disciplines out there. Find one that works with your personality, suits your goals, and keep going with it. This doesn’t mean that you need to find something which isn’t hard. Newsflash: it’s ALL hard. You need to choose your hard and get your self discipline on, but it’s got to be the sort of hard that you will want to invest in.
  8. Don’t judge your beginning by someone else’s middle. You may be working on a discipline which someone else has been working on for years, and you just got started. They’re getting great results while you’re just turning up pennies and feel like the spirits are laughing at you. What gives? It’s not you, they’ve just been at it longer. Be patient, get better at it and the results will come.
  9. Stretch and foam roll after every workout to prevent muscle injury. I’m going to equate this rule with a few things: magic doesn’t begin and end only during your ritual work and the proper conditioning will not only make you more effective but also help you to not burnout. The more strenuous your practice, the more that this becomes important. Obviously a quick candle ritual or offering rite is going to need a lot less “decompression” than an hours-long recitation and ritual, and some might not need any if much at all. There are many ways to do this ranging from shutting down with a banishing rite to just quietly going off to meditate. It’s all about doing grounding and centering rituals. In fact I’m going to go with just the basic idea of grounding and centering as being excellent analogies for stretching and foam rolling. Just. Do. It.
  10. Fitness is 80% diet, and 20% exercise. It’s not just what you’re doing but how you’re feeding your body which can be the more important of the two. You can’t out-train a bad diet. Saving the best for last and I bet you’re wondering how this translates into magical practice and work. Well, here’s the deal and I’m going to italicize and bold this for emphasis: you need to take care of yourself and do the necessary internal work and personal development just as much if not more so than the actual practice of magic. Personal growth and development is the “diet” of the work. Do not confuse it with the “exercise”, which is magic. Personal development is not magic, but it helps feed you as a magician so you can do your magic. Got it? Good.

And now I’ll end this blog post with a piece of advice from one of my favorite fitness trainers, Tony Horton: “Do your best and forget the rest.”

A rebirth

RendingTheVeil.com is having technical issues, and as this has happened before I thankfully had a backup of the blog I ran under there.

This will now be the place I will post new blog posts too. If there’s a way to crosspost or back them up to Rending The Veil in case people still check there, I will do that.

In the meantime, expect me to be here more often. :) I have lots to talk about, I always do.

Public occultism: is it dying or merely an oxymoron?

Herein I will respond to a post on a public occultism blog which claims that public occultism is bad, and succeeds in demonstrating this but for entirely different reasons than the intention of the blogger and his post — and not just due to extreme irony.

Other rebuttals to this post are fantastic and I don’t feel the need to repeat and rehash their points. I will instead make a couple of points not fully covered which badly need to be addressed:

Firstly, let’s cover the definition of public:

adjective
1. of, relating to, or affecting a population or a community as a whole: publicfunds; a public nuisance.
2. done, made, acting, etc., for the community as a whole: public prosecution.
3. open to all persons: a public meeting.
Next, the definition of occultism:
noun
supernatural forces, being, and events collectively
adjective
hidden from view
The inherent problem of “public occultism” is exposing something to public view which typically isn’t meant to be exposed, and the challenge becomes how much of occultism do you choose to make public and why. It’s a double edged sword. On one hand, you bring about a much-needed body of information and people who have it accessible to those who either want or have need of it, but on the other what is being exposed to the masses isn’t meant to be exposed to the masses, and under the weight of that contradiction there will be problems and friction.
And then you just have the Internet in general, which is inherently a hot fucking mess no matter how you slice it.
Secondly, let’s address this part, shall we?
If you publish anything, whether it’s a public blog, books, etc., on a specific selection of topics and discuss them at great length for everyone to read you are setting yourself up as an authority on those particular topics. And as an authority of these topics, by putting yourself out there online you are inviting people to comment and ask questions. If you don’t want this, then stop writing books, quit writing blog posts, remove yourself from social media, and don’t present topics to the masses like you have any sense of understanding or knowledge about them. The ability to present knowledge to the public is power, and with power comes responsibility. If you don’t want this responsibility, don’t be accessible online or otherwise. Period. You can’t have it both ways; you’re either an authority on subjects people care about or you’re not. If the notion of being a leader and an authority is burning you out and giving you more trouble than you can handle, it’s time to cool your jets and take a much needed hiatus from the whole thing, and I’m going to beg Nick to do just that. Nick, with all due respect as a fellow magician, it’s clear that you’re stressed, frustrated, and burnt out and judging from your numerous “get off my damned lawn” type of posts as of late, it’s high time you logged off and focused on your own personal work and development. No harm, no foul–and no shame in doing so. Please take my advice; you’ll thank me for it later. I learned the hard way about this myself after I got burnt out in the Hellenic pagan community after years of leadership. And don’t trick yourself into believing you have to be here “for others”. Martyrdom sucks, my friend. Don’t fall prey to it (like I did). Rest and recharge, or regret it later. Being a leader, whether self or community appointed or both, is a thankless and stressful task.
Let’s talk some more about this idea of public occultism and positions of authority, actually. It’s rather relevant to the next point. Nick has argued in his blog that occultism has been “dumbed down”, is too accessible online, is too contaminated by a number of issues including over-analyzing, making magic purely psychological, and people on the whole are too lazy, don’t want to do the work, don’t want to properly pay respect to a teacher’s time and energy by valuing their time, etc. A number of these points I agree with, especially the part on armchair magicians and treatment of magic as being purely psychological. I frequently liken these types to the “theoretical magicians” of the Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell novel. I personally would much rather be a practical magician, thankyouverymuch. I think a degree of this “magic is only in your head” nonsense is laziness, some of it is cynicism, and the rest is people not able to do the more fantastical aspects of occultism and declaring it impossible simply because they themselves haven’t succeeded in bringing those aspects out in their own practice and experiences as of yet. And then you have so-called “experts” in the community writing entire books dumbing-down magic and presenting it as being “all in your head”, and it’s not helping.
Sadly many of these issues outlined have little to do with the Internet being to blame and much to do with human nature. But here’s the thing: the problem with the Internet is that absolutely anyone with any degree of clue who sounds intelligent and is able to present themselves well on social media and blogs can set themselves up as an authority on the occult, WMT, or any given topic without much fact or background checking–and pretty soon you have a cult of personality. This problem is absolutely universal online and goes well beyond the occult community. The fitness and nutrition related communities online, for instance, are riddled with bad armchair advice from people completely not qualified to give any sane or sound information and people wind up getting sick, hurt, and almost dying from bad advice from loud people who gain an audience from people who swallow their shit and think they know what they’re talking about. The blogosphere and social media both have the ability to hand anyone a sound box where they can stand and voice off on absolutely anything under the sun, and as a result you have a lot of noise to wade through before you can hear some decent information. The noise amplified is in both directions and the dumbing-down and lack of quality goes both ways, not just in terms of the students but in the available teachings online and the teachers/people in positions of authority whether assumed, earned, or otherwise.
Unfortunately many of these teachers come in, have some good points to make but rather like the blog post I’m replying to make those points along with a bunch of other suspect bits or hastily made conclusions–but due to actually making sense in parts it’s assumed everything’s golden. And with just a spoonful of that sugar, you’ve just swallowed a ton of horseshit. People brand new, unassuming, and perhaps a bit too trusting in their desperate quest to Learn Stuff can fall in with the wrong people as a result. Been there, done that. And then you have the other side of the coin, which is good leaders/teachers/people in positions of authority who have their good nature and patience tried and tested with the scores of people who want the Great Work handed to them on a silver platter on the backs of rainbow-farting unicorns and sides of fries with that. As much as I disagree with some of Nick’s points–especially the ageist ones that pin this on it being a generational issue versus a human one–I can totally understand and sympathize with his frustrations. Some of the questions I myself receive from others as a result of my blog and social media presence range from creepy to WTF. And that’s what I get for putting myself out there online.
So what to do with “public occultism”? Well, make it less public, that’s for sure! Some of the best places online right now are all closed or secret groups on FB, message boards with huge sections only available to approved and registered members, and emailing lists that also weed out the noise, spammers, etc. I run a forum online called The Great Work which has about 95% of its boards invisible except to registered and approved members and is low in noise and high in content. I stick to the quieter corners online and avoid the exceedingly large groups where noise to quality ratio is not to my liking. It keeps my blood pressure low and prevents me from wasting my time online on shit that doesn’t matter.
And for all else? Just log off and focus on yourself, that’s what matters.

The end and the beginning

I completed the final week successfully. Much of my notes, details, and what-not have been logged in my diary offline. A good chunk is too personal to share, some of it I’m uncertain, and the rest I’m still hashing out.

I’m still integrating and figuring everything out. This was a very, very changing experience and I can only understate its impact. Ending it and going into the holidays, being thrust back out into the world was pretty jarring, and being back at the “rest of my life” is both confusing and frustrating. Thankfully the holidays will help me to wind down a bit and figure everything out.

I do plan to put all of this plus some essays into a book. So in the meantime…keep posted.

Abramelin, day 266

Morning rite and noon prayer rite went well, but today was a personal struggle. My job continues to go VERY well and I remain blessed in this regard. I’m working with really great people and I thank my gods daily for being here.

I’ve been doing something past few days which I rarely do, which is eat calories at maintenance level. I’ve been in fat burning mode, but that’s no good before I start a week of fasting. Had some chocolate this evening, painfully aware it will be my last treat for a while. But it’ll be worth it.

I’m beyond nervous and anxious. I hope not to fuck this up.

I’ve moved all of the robes, ritual gear, and tools which I need for the last seven days into the temple room.

Evening rite went well. Gods help me.

 

Abramelin, day 265

Morning rite and noon prayer rite went well.

Nonstop meetings pretty much all day, managed to slip out to get myself some coffee. Nothing like doing the noon prayer rite over making myself a cup of coffee. There’s something to that but I haven’t quite managed to put my finger on it just yet. Again, no excuses.

Painfully aware of the fact that one very major, glaring personal issue remains before I start my final week. I am desperately hoping I will be able to get it resolved after the Abramelin. Everything else has been resolved or is in the process of being resolved, not sure why this is so damned special. Ah well. Resolving to just banish the rest of the bullshit with laughter, but for some things it’s just a band-aid.

Here’s to hoping I am successful. Just one day left until I start the final week.

Evening rite went well.

 

Abramelin, day 264

Morning and noon rite went well.

I’ve read the book over and over again for the last seven days, and it’s not very clear on whether or not you are fasting all seven days and breaking the fast after sundown with little other than bread. Talking with others who have done the rite who did the same for all seven days. This is not the weight loss plan I signed up for but hey, it’s not like I’ll be doing much other than conjuring angels and demons and such. I wonder how many calories that will burn? Funny how I’m worried about the fasting but it was the one part of this entire operation I struggled with the most and never really managed to get the hang of.

I am hoping I have everything all set. I am hoping I am ready. I am hoping I will be properly prepared. Good gods, I’m freaking.

Evening rite went well.

 

 

Abramelin, day 263

Morning rite and noon prayer rite went well.

Been going over my notes for the last seven days and in the meantime trying to rest up. For some reason I have zero energy today. I did an interview with RO, which was fun. I also got to gather my materials together that I will be using for the last week.

I’m not sure how else to prepare. I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I have no idea what to expect and I suppose I should expect that.

Evening rite went well.