Reflections, revelations and proposals esoteric: Themes to elucidate the depths of human potential.

Category: Magic in General

Myth, Metaphor and Magic: The Mystery

I have heard the assertion that Myth is Metaphor, and there is no shortage of commentary on the topic. It’s obvious to most how entwined folklore and magic are entwined. Even in our day the word “fantasy” as a literary genre is part and parcel with the concept of “magic”. The trend when dealing with that relationship, however, is to use the definition of myth as some sort of fictional account without referring to the importance of metaphor therein (the backbone of mythic structure and purpose in my view).

At the same time myth, metaphor and magic are very different concepts. The loose definition intended in this writing describes myth as a fictional account which embodies entities and phenomena transcending mundane experience. Metaphor is a literary device that takes a word or phrase out of its originally intended context to allude to similarities with the object it is directed to represent. Metaphor tells us that a word is very might like something beyond its literal context without using prepositions of comparison (“like”, “as” etc.).

Magic, on the other hand, is more difficult to pin down. It suffices to use a simple definition such as the following approximation of A. Crowley’s: Magic is the process by which change is manifested at any existential level in conformity with will, through an altered state of consciousness in the one causing it.

To sum up, myth is a story, metaphor is an indirect simile, and magic is making shit happen by will and non-ordinary awareness. Distinct as they are, we can observe each concept contains at least one of the other two. Metaphor is used in myth because myths often describe “supernatural” phenomena, while pointing at something deeper and more complex in nature. Magic is the expression of supernatural phenomena based precisely on the deep and complex concepts to which the metaphors of myth allude.

Metaphors address ideas, slippery in the face of logic and common sense, and give them a familiar and tangible context. We are aware that the description they offer is not “literal”, or point by point accurate. The strokes are broad and the outlines basic. We are aware that mystery is at work as a source of conceptual power that can affect us profoundly whether we can pin it down or not. Metaphor allows us to track it, follow its fluid dance of meaning and discerning some identifiable patterns therein.

Myth can therefore be taken as a weaving of metaphor to describe a mystery in an easy and pleasant to absorb manner. The depth of meaning implied by the mystery embedded in metaphor, however, remains concealed even in the most elaborate mythic tale. If one is to master the esoteric application inherent in myth, one must transcend the obvious and not just embrace, but embody the mystery to translate it into a process of activating the possibilities of magic regarding its impending revelation.

The distillation of effective esoteric practice, be it for purposes corporeal or existentially abstract, is itself tied to a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and hence not readily available to be spelled out in a comprehensive manner. Those who are interested in magical practice, and those who crave corporeal rewards for their efforts, can however be impatient with the details of unfolding esoteric patterning. They can insist on adhering to a point by point recipe for a swift harvest of results. I can’t fault a newbie for this attitude. It was, after all, my own stance for years.

That changed for the simple reason of live and learn. Namely, it is not the most constructive approach. The bottom line is not the point by point process of arcane operation. It isn’t the myth or the web of metaphors that comprise its often-entertaining structure either. It is the mystery embedded within it all. That mystery is nothing less than the power of the deep and abiding dynamic of existence in all its manifestations, as well as the underlying essence at the core of each.

Where the mystery is concerned, however, approaches can be simplified (even when they look complicated). Simplification, as I express it here, is just another description for diving into the most available relationship with said mystery. The relationship can come from the direction of theoretical emphasis or insistence on pragmatic deliberation, depending on a number factors beyond the scope of this discussion.

To get meaningful outcomes, however, both theoretical digestion and real-world action are indispensable. Education, or absorbing intellectual knowledge, is often preferred even when the more challenging path of balancing theory and practice is appreciated and open to the aspirant. Repeated application of occult methods, lead the aspirant into awareness of patterns linking cause to effect. By, furthermore, referencing sources of both theory and the practices of others, they can be inspired to explain those patterns, and hence apply them beyond their original context. Mystery itself, for all its empowering of our resourcefulness, is beyond intellect to comprehend on its own steam.

Mystery is, therefore, beyond the mappings of theory- even as it includes them- and beyond the strategic and tactical meanderings of practice, including them as well. Frustrating as this may be, the defining myth, metaphor and magic can help make sense of the challenge of relating to this thing called “mystery”. Remember that the definition of magic involves extra-ordinary states of awareness. These states of awareness are the fulcrum of practice as well as theory. Mystery is mystery because conventional awareness is not equipped to forge identity with it. Indeed, it is identity with the mystery that powers magic, not rote practice or memorizing its metaphors.

Suffice it to say that mundane existence is as much the mystery as anything out of the ordinary or beyond conventional comprehension. It is, therefore, in how we relate to the proverbial ordinary world that matters. That is why the consistent cultivation of non-ordinary states of awareness is a primary ingredient in stimulating awareness and access to the mystery in all our relations. This is not to be confused with the extremes of “arm-chair” or “rules and tools” occultism. Legends speak of those who could make shit happen without elaborate ritual or much theoretical fanfare. Such individuals were more likely to have mastered non-ordinary states. I am not denying ritual or even ceremony, and intellectual understanding is still a great boon to practice. But the latter becomes comparatively potent when done within the domain of esoterically cultivated awareness.

I have heard it said that magic is supposed to make life easier. I would say its power to make life more meaningful is more important. If magic is just a means to an end, then one misses out, because the mystery at its foundation will be replaced by second hand maps. They may navigate rudimentary territories, but in the end practitioners will probably be disappointed when the free ride doesn’t come.

The depth of the mystery out of which all magic springs and which myth upon myth has touched upon in all its infinite facets is not easily trivialized. Exploring it may not be the only way to make shit happen. In this author’s view, however, it is the most coherent way toward mastery free of intellectual tail chasing and rules and tools dependency. Instead, one might discover horizons of creative potential to express an art that amounts to the embracing of one’s very own truth as a seed of existential possibility and more.


My Magical Menagerie: Intermission Rant

It’s been many months since my last entry. When expressing thoughts around topics I take seriously I may not be the most motivated to post references and quote others. On the other hand, I want my thoughts to be clear, to represent where I stand- at least at the moment- and to be the products of conviction rather than uncertainty. That’s why I prefer to say: “in my view” rather than “in my opinion”. However honest an opinion is, it still amounts to being unreliable. An opinion can be factual, but its source isn’t as carefully worked out as a conviction, even though the latter may also undergo revision.

The phrase “in my view” is not as substantial as “I am convinced”, but for me reflects a more thorough process of vetting than just throwing concepts around until something comes out the other end of the mental conveyor belt. We tend, furthermore, to express something as “just” an opinion, which is another way of devaluing the process- along with certain memes such as the saying that opinions are like assholes.

What does that have to do with my magical menagerie? Plenty. One reason I take time off a blog about my views on esoteric theory and practice is because I want the expression to be more than speculative. I want to reliably express information as a product of experience as well as insight. It’s always been that way, but these days with so much occultist role play, especially the kind where the players take themselves seriously, people demand references and even though out the two words “prove it” with a sneer and a slam waiting right behind them if the target doesn’t comply, which they won’t because they can’t.

My magical menagerie does not include proof to be shared. That, thankfully, is not the nature of occultism or we would be in a world of hurt. Just think of religions declaring practice as evil, of innocents tortured and killed, of mass hysteria. Think of power-hungry control freaks wanting to regulate as much as they can of human behavior. The neurotics we encounter in our every-day lives are one thing, but the ones with social influence, praying on fear and ignorance are the real danger.

The greatest boon of the modern occult attitude is the mainstream conviction that it’s all bullshit. Thus, I come full circle. I want to speak with certainty and from experience, but I don’t do this because I desire to be convincing or a fountain of proof of what I say. I just want to be clear so if, and when someone disagrees, the strength of my conviction can be real and not a prop of blusterous intellect.

Regarding this rant, moreover, I am still “on topic”. My menagerie is held together with conviction, which I experience as a specific state of being; an “energy” if you will. Conviction as an energy or felt experience is a power in esoteric cultivation and practice. Uncertainty, however, can also be a power, for that too can be a felt state rather than an abstract mental conception. Felt states are part of my magical menagerie. Some are toxic and need to be either sent way, put down or transformed. Some are highly prized to be nurtured so their strength can be a vehicle of occult accomplishment, which is more than just making shit happen.

Another thing that can account for stepping back from online expression to work things out is this tendency of mine to bring up arguments I have either experienced or observed and play them out against my own views. It’s not so much a masochistic habit as it is a daring to test what already has me convinced in the face of what often amounts to psychic aggression. Being honest with one’s self is important in esoteric work. Being honest with others maybe not so much. That being said; my intention in communicating here is both honesty, as well as clarity, else there’s no point in the record. On with the rant.

I refuse to argue points, for obvious reasons. Too many chips on too many shoulders for one, including my own. There is too much status involved in discussion. Too much of a winner/loser dynamic regardless of whether it is consciously intended or not. Perhaps in a private discussion mutual respect and maturity come easier, but when there is disagreement and debate in front of an audience, its instinctive to experience a sense of competitive display. Some would act as if they are “above it”, just as some would use guilt as a weapon in promoting their “underdog status”.

The drive for status in humans can be promoted by a strategy based on the denial of the drive to assume the position of a superior who has transcended it or of a victim who is outraged at the assumed superiority of others. These strategies can be so instinctive in some people that the individual sporting them has convinced themselves they do not apply to them.  Matters are even more complicated because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and appearances are what is going on.

I would say, in the face of such complication, that it’s more constructive to be honest and admit that the issue saving and losing face has at least some influence- and to accept that its impact varies from individual to individual. We don’t have to play along, of course. In fact, I want to affirm that my ranting about it is motivated by the desire to emphasize we don’t have to play along. If I feel a sense of satisfaction at winning an argument, I realize it for what it is: a natural instinct. I feel sick in losing an argument. Again, it’s natural.

Simply put, fuck the winning or losing. Losing teaches you and winning reinforces you. They are both useful. What sucks is realizing your interests are simply a means for others to compete for status, social points, attention or any form of self-marketing. What suck is this situation being prevalent enough so everyone has to balance a chip on their shoulder. It is tempting to say I would rather stay silent, but if we all did so the dynamics of engagement would be nothing more than attack and defense dressed in all manner of bullshit. Make no mistake. This rant is not about being butt-hurt. It is about the healthiest attitude for esoteric cultivation and occult accomplishment. It’s about being real, something important for the human experience overall. All this has a cliche sound to it, but it doesn’t make it any less important or relevant.

I chose to title this essay “Rant Intermission” because it has indeed been so long since I posted. Continuity has been frayed and I want to energize my choice to post regularly from now on. There have been events beyond my control that contributed fundamentally to distancing myself from this expression, so it’s not all deliberate. But then again, one reason I practice esoteric methodology is to minimize the factor known as “events beyond my control” in my life. I am ok with having them, so long as they don’t fuck with me beyond the point that keeps things interesting.

Next time I will keep the same title (Magical Menagerie) so as to build on what Magic means to me in terms of my views, experiences and personal preferences, as well as my sense of purpose. Yes, I have a sense of purpose. It is my own and doesn’t really have a single label. It isn’t even the desire to fulfill specific goals. Just to move in the direction that most represents me. Hence it is a path of self-discovery as well as self-cultivation. And that to me is meaningful, which is really all I ask of existence. Believe it or not it is quite a lot to ask; but nothing less will do. Why not share some of the journey?

My Magical Menagerie: Part I

This esoteric blog would not be complete without at least some attention to the topic of magick. I, therefore, desire to take a walk through my magical menagerie. That’s just a fancy way of expressing what’s on my mind regarding this topic, from exposure to its conceptual cornucopia and in terms of working with its themes myself.

Before I begin my little stroll, I want to set the stage with a working definition of the word that I find useful: Magick is the system of operations through which changes are made in reality via the application of one’s awareness of non-physical influences.

The definition is limited and can certainly be disputed, but at least it gives some frame of reference to the presentation. Before I move on to the main topic, there is one more detail. It is a trivial detail and I am annoyed at my attention being drawn to it, but like a pesky speck of dust in the eye, minuscule as it is, it obstructs vision.

It’s the damn spelling of the word. There is no such word as magick any more than America is spelled Americka outside of a cheesy Hollywood version of old Soviet propaganda. Simply put, that admirable art of prestidigitation is not magic. If “prestidigitation” is too much of a tongue twister, we can use the word “illusionism”.

Whatever term we choose, in my view, calling this art magic misrepresents and undermines the true meaning of the word. Making up another word that just sounds the same doesn’t correct that. It just gives the slander license by tolerating a spelling that just looks and feels wrong. Alright…enough of the mini-rant. It was prompted more from poking at the keyboard on a hot muggy day anyway, than sprouting from any real gripe with occult semantics.

Moving on, I want to focus on modern magic. I do not, however, want to limit myself to purist sensibilities. Make no mistake. I greatly respect and value the perspectives that are true to tradition. I am simply turned off when the perspectives express as dictates over what I can and cannot do and still call it magic.

That doesn’t mean the so called eclectic expressions of modern magic are not by and large saturated with misconceptions. It doesn’t mean that modern eclectic magic is not diluted regarding what can be accomplished. It doesn’t even preclude the denial of magical potential in favor of psychological and pseudo-scientific theorizing that reduces the mystery of magic to a series of watered down postmodern memes.

I realize I’m setting myself up to be called a two-faced hypocrite when I end up talking about the electromagnetic basis of some occult phenomena at some point. To be clear, my gripe is not with expanding occult paradigms into scientific ones or vice-versa.

It is with the ever trendy superficial scientism and parroting of oversimplified new-age cliché as opposed to really thinking things through with an understanding of both science and occultism, wherever one chooses to focus in these genres.

Be it purist or eclectic, magic is often intertwined with ceremonial drama or some form of ritual, as a series of actions that involve specifics of time, place and materials that represent the outcome one wishes to attain in some way. Although this is indeed one way to go about things, it is often idealized by advocates as the essence of what magic is or should be.

Truly, given the populist tendencies that have oversimplified much of esoteric possibility I cannot blame the purist sensibilities. My gripe here is that they can lead to extremes of blinding practitioners to creative options that are not scripted in written traditions.

Magic, for example, can be accomplished without elaborate ceremony. The primary agent in this case can be one’s own will, be it augmented by unseen sentient influences or not. The outcome may be labeled with words such as “psionic” or “psychic”, but it can still fit into the aforementioned definition.

Magic is indeed hard to pin down conceptually in any universally satisfactory manner in my view. Even so, with enough theoretical- not to mention hands on- exposure one gets an intuitive sense of what’s involved to the extent that other practitioners and arm chair advocates usually know what is meant when someone uses the word “magic”.

That being said, I have long been interested in streamlining and minimizing the ceremonial complexity in magical ritual down to bare necessities, and even less. That does not mean the process of doing so is either simpler or “less work”. The work may actually be more, but the application of the work and its ramifications of emphasis and expression are different than with ceremony-based magic.

It goes without saying views vary across the board. Mine is that disappointment comes via a chronic misunderstanding of the meaning of creative innovation in the magical arts. Disappointment festers when innovation is confused with making things easy. Disappointment can also fester when a form of magic is taken for granted just because tradition or some trendy majority says so. So the issue isn’t to “do the work”, but to know what you are doing and why every step of the way, and to be aligned with it. In other words, effective magic is an outpouring of one’s being and not a series of technical maneuvers. And there are no free rides.

In any case, the concept of modifying/innovating tradition and to what degree this is favorable has been a point of controversy in online discussions. It is not hard to notice the dividing line polarizing those who advocate purism from those who advocate liberal modification of occult ways and means (as they understand them).

Many experienced occultists do not like the way things have been watered down and oversimplified with points of emphasis that are blatantly “made up” and marketed with little forging in the fires of experience. Then again, practical occultism is not a by-the-book skill in my honest opinion. Basic principles matter, but improvisation appears to be adapted to both the individual and the circumstances in which they find themselves in the desire and necessity surrounding application procedure.

To be more specific, in my experience, magical effectiveness is strongly dependent on one’s existential stance. This is a topic that demands ample space to be given justice. Such space will be found in another installment of this series. Suffice it to say that I am speaking of how- if at all- one understands and relates to the meaning and purpose of one’s existence and perhaps existence as a whole.

This involves reaching for that potential and discovering the most coherent way to actualize it in pragmatic balance. The stance doesn’t have to be elaborate or overtly “philosophical” in outlook. One can be a nihilist or a hedonist, a materialist or transcendentalist, or some or all of the above, regardless of ethical considerations.

The reality of one’s existential stance, however, is often over-simplified in confusing it with beliefs and belief systems. The stance is more about motive in magic and the very roots of that. Thus knowing thyself, as it were, is far more empowering than faking belief in something to force a magical outcome. On the other hand, a simulation of belief convincing to one’s own critical faculties appears to induce effective outcome to an extent. Many practitioners stand behind it, and it is unlikely every one of them is fooling themselves.

A simulation of belief, however, that is convincing to one’s critical faculties amounts to conversion to that belief. In other words, holding two opposing beliefs serially or even at the same time can be magically effective. The provision is that they are connected by an underlying truth that may be paradoxical or practically impossible to verbalize, but is felt as true nevertheless.

Without the feeling/sense of truth the effectiveness of forms of simulated belief are highly limited in my view. For example if one feels the truth that the contradiction of opposing beliefs is an illusion and also feels how this is so, then their conviction fuels what their critical reasoning might otherwise undermine. There is more to this of course, and will be reserved for a future installment as well.

I would add here that getting results in magical work is not something hard to do. What is challenging and requires much commitment in time, energy and concentration is getting results of a considerable and sustainable caliber, regardless of what one’s priorities are. Not everyone is dedicated to sex, wealth and status, and out of those occultists that are, or say they are, few apparently succeed; that is unless they remain under the radar, refraining from the kiss and tell “stance” that well-known names appear to favor.

My own existential stance is built on the premise of personal transformation. I do not view magic as metaphysical mechanics or an artful expression of rules and tools as a means to fulfill desires. I also thrive on the magic energy itself, and consider it part of my very being. The internalization of the symbolism is nourishing to me. It is augmented by cultivating the principles behind that symbolism as I coax its story into light. It goes without saying, furthermore, that commitment bonded energy expended in an operation, long or short term, is an investment toward its success. When properly appropriated, that energy will return a multiple of itself.

This is another one of those topics that can run on and on. It is a personal quirk of mine to find difficulty in saying a few simple words regarding themes that are not only challenging to conceptualize with any rational clarity, but that have depth well beyond the space afforded by a few scripted pages pretending to do them justice. Thus, once again I leave the topic open-ended, to be revisited as the winds of mood and circumstance allow.