Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pre-Coffee Morning Thoughts: Life-Wrecking Initiations

I'm not a morning person.

Especially on the weekdays.

On such mornings, my general level of goodwill towards my fellow man is directly proportional to the amount of coffee I've had. Right now, I've barely started on my 20+ ounces.

And I was just thinking about that big ole' wank-a-thon favored by most modern occultists and traditional Wiccans, ATR's, etc: Initiations!

Ah, yes...initiations.

See, every now and then the discussion about what initiations actually do comes up. Somewhere in there, mention is made of lives that were shaken up, and sometimes even wrecked, after whatever initiations various practitioners have gone through. And normally, in the same conversation, someone says that it swept away the old to make way for something new and better.

What if they're just deluding themselves? What if that's just a cheap cop-out, and their life before the initiation was just as good (or maybe even better) than their life after the initiation had done its thing? What if initiations don't actually do that and they're ascribing things to them that they shouldn't?

I dunno, I'm just musing. Mostly to keep my urge to go Office Space on some computers down.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Arising Out Of The Chaos

Skyllaros, over at Crossroads Companion, made a post where he described being paralyzed by indecision regarding his magical practices. His post, along with his mention of an older one by The Unlikely Mage, has come along at a time when I've been thinking a lot about my current practices. I've been exploring the Stuff I Do, trying to figure out more why's and wherewithals than previously, and where I want to take it all. With that in mind, I thought I would make this little write-up about what influences make up my magical practices overall. While folks who disdain eclecticism would shudder, all the disparate elements have come together to make a surprisingly solid whole:

  • Cosmology: This is loosely Neoplatonic, influenced heavily by Strategic Sorcery and modified with a little animism and some panpsychism. What this basically spells out is multiple levels of reality and planes of existence, behind all of which is an underlying current with a consciousness of its own. This consciousness is so vast and not particularly human that it cannot be truly grasped by a mortal mind.
  • Taxonomy of Spirits/Beings: Largely drawn from Strategic Sorcery with some Hermeticism thrown in. Like many of my own beliefs, this is loose and makes room for all Gods, spirits, angels, demons, and more. Their classifications have more to do with their overall nature, and the way they relate to humankind, than with separations based on religion.
  • Offerings: Hand-in-Hand with the taxonomy of spirits I use, offering is a major part of my practice, and is drawn squarely from Strategic Sorcery, which in turn is often informed by Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Ritual Practices: Largely drawn from Strategic Sorcery and from Hermetics, there is also an element of Witchcraft involved. There is structure and form to my rituals, and a certain process...but not the same high structure and frequent vibration of names as you see in forms of High Magic. Not to say that I never intone or vibrate anything; it's just not quite as frequent (or loud, for that matter). When it comes to banishing, circles, quarters, etc...that's where this gets unique. Drawing from Strategic Sorcery, I don't consider it "banishing" or "creating sacred space"; I consider it Zoning. Granted, the Zone rites and practices I use often resemble common circle, quarter, banishing, and exorcism rites, the different is in the process and attitude toward it.
  • Theurgy: There is an element of what one could call Theurgy (vulgar/idiot term being "High" Magic) in my practices, and these largely come from Hermetics and from Buddhism. The latter is from my meditation and offering practices, and the former is in the Rufus Opus-style Planetary Initiations and Gates rituals I practice, as well as the involvement of my Higher Genius, and eventual pursuit of my Holy Guardian Angel.
  • Thaumaturgy: The practical magic I do, on the other hand, comes from a combination of Strategic Sorcery, Hermetics, and Conjure. Strategic Sorcery influences the models I use as a basis for spellwork (spirits, energy, information, mind, etc). In short, I use all of them to one degree or another, depending on the working involved. Strategic Sorcery is also joined up with Conjure and Hermetics for my actual spellworking techniques. Between the two, Conjure inspires more of my spellwork than just straight Hermetics do, especially in regard to materials used in magic, their creation and use. And as with my ritual practices, there is often an element of Witchcraft in my spellwork. But also, Thaumaturgy is, more than any other aspect of my Sorcery, an area where I'm the most open to experiment and get really flipped-out creative! Finally, in keeping with Strategic Sorcery, there is a defined difference between Temple Magic and Field Magic.
  • Divination as Information Gathering: Common wisdom among the modern magical crowds is to perform divination before any given working to make sure it will work in your favor. By itself, I have numerous problems with this, and have repeatedly debunked it for myself. But divination as a tool to gather information that will help make the best choices? I'm all for that! Yes, there is a fine line there, but there is a distinction. And spirits can be useful too! They can provide information you didn't have before, and while their feedback should always be tested against reality, I don't discount their input.
  • Non-Reliance On One Model: I don't explain my views on magic, and my practices, through the topic of energy. I say the same with spirits. I vehemently deny that magic is just a mind-trick to build confidence, although I agree the mind does play a role in magic's process. In short, I avoid sticking to one single model of how these things work, because in my opinion each and every one leaves huge gaping holes. So I use them all! I work with some energy, call on my spirits to help out as needed, access the deeper levels of my mind and use them as a springboard for my magic, I work with the informational levels of reality (seriously, I LOVE Patrick Dunn's take on this in Postmodern Magic) and work with symbols, and maybe more! I know I mentioned this with thaumaturgy, but what I'm saying is don't limit yourself!

Overall, I would say that my practices are drawn from four main things:

Strategic Sorcery as taught by Jason Miller
Hermeticism/Neoplatonism, especially as taught by Rufus Opus
Hoodoo/Conjure, from a variety of sources
Informational/Postmodern approaches by folks like Patrick Dunn

Meshed in there, running through those four, are Witchcraft and Chaos Magic. They're spread out enough to where I didn't list them as their own items, but their presence is definitely there, for example, in my use of a Compass Round, loose format, sigil magic, and general manipulation of symbols and of on-the-fly field magic.

Overall this has been a very interesting exercise, it's nice to have this stuff down to refer back to! Hopefully this will get my readers thinking about where they draw their inspiration from, and let it help them define where to go from here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cursing The Critic: A Follow-Up

Yesterday when I posted about the self-curse I performed to help shut my Inner Critic up, I neglected to mention one concern I had about doing so.

My concern is that some folks, especially those newer to the magical arts and occultism, will take my post as a recommendation that they give such a thing a try.


In my situation, there are certain differences to take into account, most importantly these:

  1. For the past two years I have been seeing a clinical psychologist on a regular basis.
  2. In supplement to my therapist visits, I am currently working through a book on self-esteem, and have been working with the material in a workbook of cognitive-behavioral therapy, as needed, for two years. All by people who have PHD's in psychology. 
  3. I have regularly practiced meditation for at least two years now.

See, I've been dealing with non-clinical depression for, at this point, over half my lifetime. Magic can help with these things, but in my opinion it does not make for good psychology and therapy by itself. There are 'scientific' occultists and Scientific Illuminists who would argue, but this has been my experience: Compared to a clinical therapist who knows their shit, magic just isn't as good. And while it didn't take long for me to decide on doing that curse, I did take a lot of things into consideration.

Keep in mind, I've been under a crossed condition gone nasty, and it was at least half by my hand. It helped bring me to one of the lowest (if not THE lowest) points in my life, so as you can imagine, there's no way I would willingly or wittingly go back to that. So when I levy a curse at even one part of me, you can be rest assured I've assessed the nature of the risk and the likelihood of it bleeding out to bring the rest of my Sphere down.

And finally, when I performed the interplanetary call for Mercury of Saturn, I didn't go all out with it. I didn't work up a lot of power to throw into it, and I didn't call on any extra spirits to assist. I let the call stand as it was, using the forces of Mercury and Saturn that were evoked.

So if you're newER(or -ish) to all this, don't do this. Save it for when you get more experience with magic and especially with meditation. Seriously, if you're considering doing this and you've never practiced meditation, quit being an idiot and forget about it!

If you are experienced and have cultivated self-awareness from meditation, just be careful. That's all I'm saying. ;-)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cursing the Critic

Hello, dear readers!

As I posted a while back, Jason released his new eBook, "Advanced Planetary Magic", and shortly after this, he started a Facebook group for experimenting with the material in the book. Dubbing it "The Crying of Calls 49", the gist of the experiment is to recite one of the calls each day for 49 days, by the end of which one would have gone through all of them.

Each week of the experiment has focused on one of the planets. For example, on the week of Mercury, we worked the Mercury of Luna call on Monday, the Mercury of Mars call on Tuesday, etc.

Now, some of the calls are outright curses. Some folks in the group had misgivings about performing these particular calls, especially the ones who either had a moral objection, or didn't have a specific opponent in mind. The latter was the case with me. Don't get me wrong: there are a few people who I would gladly lay a whopper on...but unfortunately the first one to spring to mind moved out of state, and my fear is that cursing this person would wind up causing them to move back. Otherwise, I have a personal link that would allow me to hit them HARD.

Just the other day, Jason was on Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole, talking to Andrieh Vitimus and Jason Cowell about the eBook, and the concept of self-cursing! What follows is my write up of an effective example of such self-cursing using the calls in Advanced Planetary Magic. I had tried to mention it in chat during the show, but there were technical issues. At Jason's urging, here's my write up of it (and yes, I give Jason Miller permission to copy the below write-up to his blog, if he wishes):

Cursing the Critic

When the day came to do the Mercury of Saturn call, I was trying to figure out what to do. Should I go ahead and curse one of the people I have in mind anyway, despite my misgivings of it possibly bringing them back into my life? Should I put the call out as a general strike against anyone who opposes me? Hmmm...well, Jason ended up answering this in a blog post where he discusses a range of different types of opposers. Specifically, this quote caught my eye:

"Secret Opposers are from within your own mind/energy/body. When you stop thinking of yourself as a solid and integral unit you and realize that you are a collection of aggregate parts you realize that you can attack certain forces within you as if they were spirits. The ancients knew this and would bind the natal kakodaemon. You can aim this call at a specific habit that you want to conquer."

Of course, targeting one such Secret Opposer would entail basically cursing oneself!

Not to get too personal, but that same week I had started working on some self-esteem issues, and had been introduced to the concept of the Inner Critic. For the past couple of days, I had been working through a therapy exercise wherein you "listen" for feedback from the critic and make note of it. In the first day, you simply count the instances, and at the end of the day, I had counted over 30! Keep in mind, that was just what I was able to catch!

The purpose for the Mercury of Saturn call is to confound the communications of your target and to bind their movement. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to target my Inner Critic, because frankly after a lifetime of it, it has really worn thin.

So, I did my usual prep for the call and recited it. While doing so, with the forces of Mercury and Saturn spiritually swirling around me, I focused it all inward, homing in on "where" the "voice" of my Inner Critic normally came from. I can't really explain how, but I found my Critic, and sent the curse straight at it. Immediately afterward, I felt like I had lashed out at myself of course. It was like, on a deep level, I was somehow stunned or shocked. The rest of me went about my day.

And throughout the next week and a half, I noticed something else: My Inner Critic was still there, and it was still trying to fire criticism after criticism at me...but it was like it couldn't get anything coherent to come out! I would liken it to someone feebly outright saying, "Well, general pitiful and ineffectual insult!" Or like the character of Ricky Gervais in the movie Stardust, after being cursed to only be able to utter chicken and monkey sounds. It would open it's little mental mouth, and nothing but meaningless static would come out.

Eventually, it recovered a little, but even now its criticisms are fewer. Needless to  say, I'm impressed. Those initial days without constantly being burdened by the Inner Critic were cool.

Thanks again to Jason for publishing "Advanced Planetary Magic" and for his continuing contributions to the Arcane Arts! :-)

EDIT: Also, if you're considering doing something like this, go read my follow-up post first!