A crucial part of the art of magic and mysticism involves awareness of creating our own realities. However, as with many magical and mystical ideas it seems a concept that many completely misunderstand, either in a kind of blind new age optimism of a future where we can all fly around the Earth using will power alone, or by criticising it as a fascist ideology that blames the suffering for their own plight.
To my mind both extremes miss the point, as they think the concept refers to changing external reality. I personally see this technique as actually about changing one’s internal experience of reality. When we experience reality, we experience it via the senses, in our minds, with the experiences filtered by our own prejudices, ideologies, emotions and past experiences. Sometimes we experience suffering as a result, not of our external reality, but our minds.
Whilst idly surfing the web yesterday evening I stumbled upon the story of a young woman who felt ashamed of her body. Even with her sexual partner she would only get naked in the dark, or under the bed covers, or at most with a candle lit. On the beach she would remain completely covered up. Then one day she came across a ‘clothing optional’ resort. Much to her husbands surprise she suggested they try it out. After observing the naturists at the resort for a while she decided to take off her own clothes. At first she felt a bit self conscious, but she looked around and noticed that no-one was taking much notice of her, let alone reacting negatively to the sight of her body, she began to enjoy it, and even felt uncomfortable putting her clothes back on when it was time to leave. Now she regularly attends various clothing optional venues and feels totally at ease with her body. Further more she became much more confident and happy in all spheres of her life, felt more fulfilled generally.
Now in this example she didn’t use magic or mysticism to enact the change, but I think none-the-less it illustrates beautifully the kinds of internal change in our experience of reality that magic and mystical practise should aim for. In her story she broke through the fear that held her back and caused her suffering, almost by a chance decision. However in magic we aim to identify the roots of our suffering and deal with them more consciously. We do this not by denying our emotions, such as fears and anxieties, but through confronting them. We do this when we identify that a fear, or other emotion holds us back from experiencing the pleasure, joy, bliss and everything that comes with the fulfilment of our desires.
So, does this a philosophy necessarily blame victims and the poor for their own suffering? To me that would be a gross misunderstanding of its basic premise. Of course, I can see where critics of the viewpoint come from on this, I even warned of a similar danger in Kaos Hieroglyphica when I said that focusing heavily on pleasure magic could make ‘us feel like we are pleased and content, but really it makes us easily pleased and content to be poor.’ As I noted then this ability can prove useful to our well-being and happiness, but can also lead to a kind false contentment and our failing to challenge those who abuse their wealth and power. On the other hand it need not. For if we can live content and happy on so little, why let let the few live in obscene luxury far beyond their needs when so many suffer through no fault of their own? I’m not proposing some kind of authoritarian Marxism here, but I don’t believe in the current myth about so called ‘free markets’, which are actually highly controlled by powerful corporate monopolies and oligopolies that lobby governments to regulate the markets in their own favour to the detriment of everyone else. Anyone who opposes this centralisation of wealth and power gets labelled a socialist or communist.
Now some kinds of magic do aim to manipulate and change the outside reality for our own benefit. Changing things internally will cause external changes indirectly because they change the way we relate to our surroundings, and effect our choices of surroundings to experience. But sometimes we also use sorceries and enchantments with the intent of influencing reality and improving our fortunes. This kind of magic, known to some as ‘results magic’ has little use to the rich and powerful, who can simply ‘buy’ what they need or get it by force much easier, but rather finds itself much more useful as a tool of last resort for the poor, powerless and vulnerable. At its most useful sorcery becomes an essential for survival for those living on the edge.
So why do people like me practise it at all? Do I need it to survive? Perhaps not physically. I reside in household with an income barely over half the UK average, so I don’t consider myself particularly well off, although we have enough to eat and have a bit of fun so I don’t consider us particularly poor either.
For me, I didn’t choose to practise magic, I had no choice. I began having weird experiences in my teenage years. Actually further back even, its just that during childhood no one takes much notice as they think its just a wild imagination, but as a teenager I found myself less willing to discuss experiences of premonition, visions, contact with entities and so on for fear of people thinking me mad. I decided I needed to learn about what I felt was happening to me. So my interest in the subject was not initially academic but rather practical, with particular emphasis on navigating myself through the psychic and psychological roller coaster of paranoia, anxiety, depression and visionary I felt myself to be on.
On top of this I found myself handicapped by a particular form of social ineptitude, which I and others later started to observe strongly resembled the symptoms of what the medical profession call Asperger’s Syndrome, although I never sought a diagnosis for this, and personally think believe that it and other forms of autism actually form natural variation in the human mental spectrum, and that the failure of the autist to fit into contemporary society reflects a failing of the increasingly rigid expectations that contemporary society places on individual behaviour rather than an illness or defect in the autist.
So I found myself as an outsider. I found myself at one point in a living hell of depression, substance abuse and slow suicide though the taking of pointless and unnecessary risks. I lived through times when I seriously contemplated ending my life, it seemed so empty. I found myself unable to connect and properly communicate with others. I felt myself trapped in a glass cage looking out at everyone else living their lives, whilst I lived in my own private hell. During this time my interest in magic, mysticism and the occult had been more that of the dabbler.
Before I became depressed I’d met with new-agers but found them kind of boring and lacking in practical answers to my problems. My first main practise came from a couple of friends I had at school, on of which was into Crowley and the other of which was into psychedelics. We and some other friends performed a mass group ‘initiation’ ceremony in a woods, one Beltane in the early 90’s, before we started university. This I found a positive and exhilarating experience.
After starting my degree, I met with Wiccan’s and other pagan’s, and bought their magazines and from these I began to learn things I found useful, although overall I got slightly turned off by its more religious forms of expression, such as the apparent worship of deities. I also continued my own studies, reading such books and magazine’s I could find, practising the tarot, pathworking and even solo ritual. Some of these magazines introduced me to writings on Chaos magic and Thelema, such as those by Phil Hine and Gerald Suster, and I found these resonated with me quite a bit as they seemed a lot more thoughtful and a lot less dogmatic than the more religious writings that dominated the magazines.
Experiments with their techniques brought a sense of wonder and joy back into my life and probably marked a kind of turning point where I began to pull myself out of the depression I found myself. I guess there is a lot more to this story and maybe I should write it up sometime, but I think I’ve said enough to make my point. Mystical and magical techniques helped me pull through depression, break through the social barrier of autism to form friendships and and loving relationships (although that was a bumpy ride with some false starts), overcome paranoia (more or less), and permanently end my depression. It helped me overcome an endless list of inhibitions, opened my eyes to the vast diversity of options available to me in life, and gave me the wisdom tell the difference between my own genuine desires, and those stimulated by outside manipulation from those wishing to control through fear and false promises.
Magic never made me rich, I never sought that from it, nor did I get it. I’m certainly not part of the financial and political ‘elite’. Magic never made me their slave either. If anything it freed me. Those who seek to drag the free back into the chains of fear, rather than allowing the free to help them escape do the work of the enslavers for them. They police themselves and those around them to make sure they stay chained. This is why I have no patience for them.