By Christine Payne-Towler
ArkLetter 25, April 2007
What is the usefulness of magic today? Having done a lot of thinking and reading on this topic for many a moon, there still seems to be a core set of questions that lack fully-articulated answers. Do not mistake me for saying that there are no answers for these questions! But through the long seasons of search, it seems the verbal and cognitive spheres are still challenged to catch up with the experiential.
The question that for years has motivated my search is -- what is the true measure of human potential? Nowadays, I focus down on what might be the cutting edge of collective human evolution here and now, in this very set of contingencies we currently occupy. Exactly what is it that humanity can contribute towards harm reduction and healing at this point, and how do we grow in consciousness fast enough to make a difference in the natural consequences we have evoked in our "creativity"? Is there anything we can learn from past generations on this topic? What, if anything, is missing from our descriptions of magic that we need to remember or reinvent for greatest efficacy?
The Human Dilemma
Each incarnate soul faces the temptation of feeling caught in a relentless maze that has no ultimate end and no off-switch either. Judging from the quantity of mood-alterants consumed around the world, self-conscious human materialization is simultaneously so pleasurable and so painful that the bulk of us stagger under the weight of our big forebrains and their exquisitely torturous awareness. As a species we have invented any number of cultures, churned out any number of improvements, distractions, and addictions to assuage our agonies and heighten our ecstasies. Yet we still have not solved the problem of happiness in life, peace in death, or where "I" go at the moment of physical dissolution. Nor have many of us acquired insight on the worth of our days to the larger flow of history, even before the ultimates are evoked.
This is the existential dilemma that we collectively face as we stride, trustingly or fearfully, into the utter unknown of our near and far future: Few of us know what this vast passion play is about, many of us don't know with any precision what we are doing here, and the level of information overload we are all bombarded with keeps us stunned and paralyzed into overwhelm. We can feel that unfathomable forces are surging through and around us, and that the fate of the whole earth might be resting upon choices we collectively make, things we do or don't do, every day of our lives from now on. Simultaneously over empowered and utterly powerless, we flail indecisively around the smaller issues in order to avoid entirely getting to the larger issues. And why should we? Nobody else is dealing with them either! Denial and blame seem to be our only survival strategies, from the personal sphere to the global.
To some degree this seems to be a problem stemming from our mammalian heritage. If we were reptiles, like lizards or snakes, we would be hatched fully formed (if miniature) right from the egg. We would not require nurturing, personal growth or social conditioning to infect us with inhibitions, comparisons, or any other conditioned sentiment. In that situation, we could just do whatever was survival-oriented in the moment and stop laboring with abstractions like conscience or democracy. Whatever else they are or aren't, snakes and lizards aren't neurotic!
However, for good or for ill, we humans are (generally) the product of pair-bonded mammals living in great interdependent colonies. Our backgrounds and developmental needs predispose us to want to be coddled and nursed, have long dependent childhoods, seek consensus and maintain connections with family and tribe all of our lives. Plus, our addiction to pre-programmed conceptual categories means that unless a problem or situation has already been defined in so many words by some authoritative source, we find it difficult to focus on it, much less take it seriously or break out of habitual poses towards it.
There also exists a host of individuals who take refuge in cynicism, and this can seem like a rational choice from inside that particular thought-bubble. However, once this choice is made and reiterated into wider and wider areas of one's life, the consequences act like a kind of rot that can turn even strong loving bonds into dust over time. Life is hard, no doubt, and everybody is served up a heaping mess of agro in the course of daily affairs. But to use that as an excuse to turn sour is an unattractive stance that wins few admirers. Contrary to popular belief, becoming negative on life and the world is not an adaptive strategy, especially in a time when every single person is already stressed to capacity. Cynicism is not evolutionary, nor creative, nor sustainable.
This is why a sour attitude is generally the stance of the young and arrogant, or the old and full of excuses. People who are neither arrogant nor full of excuses will usually find another way to look at life that will keep their options open and allow all the players the same benefit of the doubt, both self and others. In particular, evolutionary sorts seek ways to shortcut the re-stimulation of old reflexes and scripts. In the main, people who manage to outlive their cocky and bull-headed years will usually learn that there are benefits to cultivating neutrality, compassion, and optimism even in the face of certain disappointment from the contingencies of fate. This is probably because it is comforting to see that at least somewhere in the world, somebody is practicing kindness and justice, even if that 'someone' is oneself. Perhaps there is magic in this -- making the choice to neutrally examine apparent setbacks and random interruptions for their positives.
But this begs the question -- How can we know what we don't know yet? We know with our minds that the future could/should be different than the past, but how to 'make it so' in a definitive way? Can we devise a praxis to wake ourselves up to our potentially fresh, new present and future from a position embedded inside the trance of the already-experienced and preprogrammed past? Perhaps this is the crux right here -- how to blow our own trumpet and AWAKEN here and now. Beyond that moment, we have to let the details take care of themselves.
Having made a survey of the traditional and modern definitions of magic, I note that there's a huge gap in the descriptions I find. The modern scholarly climate of thought encourages researchers to wax prolix about the beliefs of their chosen era's practitioners, but not, however, to express their own experience with the system. I can see how this kind of calculated neutrality is necessary in order to do the initial stages of deep research, but it's almost as if the researchers themselves fear being identified with the results they find. Perhaps there is a fear of being seen as sympathetic to the subjects under the microscope (who unfortunately invariably undergo shrinkage in the course of dissection). Any trace of personal experience with the object under study is viewed as a pollution that invalidates the results.
This leaves us in a situation wherein it is acceptable to use academic categories to dissect and analyze the beliefs of a scientifically defined "other", but it is not acceptable to have any personal or subjective response to the material, even if it is being distorted under this type of artificial analysis. Who then remains in the conversation to actually speak to the experience as lived?
Even in the case where outmoded thinking has defined the parameters of the field inadequately, or in terms dominated by a pejorative preconception, there is very little reward for reframing these historical impediments to accurate perception. This type of situation is illogical and hostile to getting complete research done, but it conforms to the human preference for reflexive thinking as mentioned above.
Looked at from this angle, magic's detractors are taking the same position of the so-called New Agers who uncritically parrot the 'you create your own reality' line. In each case, and many others, there's a desire to label and dissect what is disliked until it can be categorized as unreal, while simultaneously projecting one's fantasy of 'how it should be' over the top of events and energies as they stand. Isn't it enough to realize that every civilization of human society has cultivated a branch of specialists to do the things that magi do? The work of a mage is neither illusionary nor ordinary. It is past time to quit wondering whether magic is real and simply dig down into the question of how it is real, under what circumstances does it produce results and of what type?
For their own part, practitioners seem to define Magic as something that is "done" or "enacted", as if magic were a verb. However, this doesn't explain the magic of consensus reality, which is (in modern terms) held up by continuous effort on the part of every living being's "unconscious" (itself some kind of macrocosmic dream). How does the collective nervous system manage to maintain so much data, so much detail, so much inter-dimensionality all the time, if, as the scientists say, we are all just using spare bits of memory to patch a temporary pastiche over what is essentially chaos? It seems that the convenient formula of "love under will" begs the question -- whose love? Whose will? Where, or what, is the organism inclusive enough to dream all this up from microbes to stars and keep it going, when as individuals we can barely control our bank accounts, our pets, or our own mood swings?
I can see why many people feel as if the current theories of magic are either arm's-length analyses of ancient 'superstitions' or creative confabulations of ancient fragments held together with sincerity and wishful thinking. Why is it so hard to get a focus on the animating principle of magic itself? How can we understand explanations that make use of "things" that don't exist in literal time and space? Like the skeptics I have debated with, I have to admit that these definitions don't get close enough to what I am asking about to satisfy.
Search Into Antiquity
There is a challenge to reading the ancient experts on the issue of human potential and how to unleash it. Because philosophers of religion do all the writings, whether from pagan, Hebrew, Arabic, Christian, Gnostic, Sufi, or any other school of thought, there is always a parallel agenda running alongside the straightforward presentation of "how consciousness works". Every description of the practice or its supposed effects is inherently loaded with arguments for or against some aspect of the model, because these are the kinds of theological issues that define and separate the faiths from each other in the first place.
One example from the lore of reincarnation should suffice. Many people are aware that the Egyptians placed a huge amount of emphasis on the condition of the soul in the afterlife, leading every citizen who had the means to provide the well-preserved corpse with a safe spot to rest, preferably illustrated and stocked with all the delights of earthly existence. Effigies of guardians, victuals, servants, pets and other necessities were thoughtfully included, so the soul could continue on with its favorite aspects of embodied life into perpetuity.
Fewer people are aware of the Tibetan sky-burial tradition, wherein a certain class of special individuals take the un-embalmed recently deceased body up into a mountain burial-ground. There the priests chop the remains into the tiniest of pieces, scattering the resulting mash around for the carrion-birds to feast on.
Looking at the extreme difference in these practices, one might conclude that these two cultures have entirely different beliefs about death and the afterlife. But no, that's just the appearance at a surface level. Below the surface is a belief that both cultures share identically in common, which is that, the soul cannot undergo another incarnation until the last traces of its past incarnation are over. Each culture apprehends this as a fact, but these two cultures have different reactions to this shared reality. In ancient Egypt, if you prized your life you didn't want to come back and risk a different outcome, so you immortalized your corpse via complicated funeral rites to stop the chain of incarnations. Modern Christians share a similar belief today. In the Buddhist cultures that practiced sky-burial, on the other hand, should you wish to burn the bonds of the past and advance along your chain of reincarnations faster (towards the goal of ultimate enlightenment and illumination), you sought help in recycling the container once you were no longer using your current body.
Neither response to the awesome finality of personal death is inherently good or bad, right or wrong. Other responses can also be catalogued, but the point is made. When we are reading along with the ancients, or the moderns for that matter, we have to filter out the partisanship and propaganda that hitchhikes into our minds alongside the ideas we are conscious of accepting.
All mystical traditions are united in warning that an unconscious, unexamined net of interlocking assumptions overlays the core realities governing the channels of energy that together we all flow within. Without a cultivated discrimination that can separate from ordinary consciousness in order to apprehend this greater matrix, however, no amount of talking about it will make this understanding real. The paradox is, to become herself or himself, the magus must perform this figure-ground swap between the known and unknown, visible and invisible sides of the self. Somehow, one has to learn the art of crossing over, inverting and inside-outing ourselves at will. It can only be done by doing it, like a lot of things in this world.
During this work, personal consciousness is repeatedly bounced back and forth between internal convergence with the One, and external divergence into the 'ten-thousand things', as they say in Taoism. This is done from many different platforms of consciousness -- sometimes from near to the sleep state, sometimes from a state of high-noon lucidity, perhaps with a slight alcohol buzz, or possibly in the afterglow of an orgasm. All these different offer subtly different approaches to the mystery of slipping through the bindings of our habits. Over time these exercises in mobility will highlight the hidden framing behind one's known, preprogrammed objects of mind.
This period of development is illustrated by Trump #18, the Moon card, wherein the reflected light of the Moon distorts the usual shapes of things and threatens our settled description of reality. In the act of seeing-through the known world, one drops right through the fabric of normal individualized thought. If this path is followed fearlessly enough, we find ourselves sharing the Imaginal with every other visionary who has ever walked the Earth! Anyone who wishes may join the magus there, simply by taking the religious categories off the issue of incarnation, and recognizing the eternal nature of Life itself. Nobody has a lock on this dimension, no matter what claims of privilege or special revelation some might make. Behind, before, and below all the projections, explanations and justifications of time and culture, what's left is a great current of Spirit sweeping our souls along, serving as astral amniotic fluid for the ever-changing incarnation of all that lives.
This is what Initiation is about in its naked basics, no matter what the era or cultural tradition involved. Many of us who came of age in the late 1960's had a poster on the wall of a medieval man crawling under the edge of a rainbow, with the back half of his body in the ordinary, normal world and the front of his body facing into an awesome vastness of cosmic workings. What most of us in that era didn't know when we looked at it, is that the original of this image was created in the 1500's, and the situation has not changed appreciably to this day. We talk in the language of physics these days instead of magic or mysticism, but the bump from microcosmic thinking to macrocosmic thinking is no less awesomely huge today than it was on the cusp of the Renaissance.
One of the very valuable inheritances of magic is the vocabulary that has been accumulated across the ages and cultures. Words that manage to capture and express something uniquely meaningful, not only within a given language-group, but over time, across cultures -- such words are very valuable to us. They are like archaeological mineshafts that take us into the thinking of our ancestors. Really large, old words are like the huge skyscrapers in the world's top cities, or like the vast ancient ant colonies found in tropical forests, marvels of multidimensional integration. There is room in those structures for thousands and millions of lives to play out uninterrupted, for untold generations! Determined study of these ancient core concepts rewards the investigator in direct proportion to the effort put into it.
One core concept that deserves attention while we exploring this topic is the existence of an energetic complex called the Egregor. Egregors belong to the magical catalogue of "things" that which are not of this world but have to be dealt with to affect a cure or successful working of magic. Examples of such "things" that traditional magi use are the Platonic solids, ancient astronomy's spheres or shells (of the Planets), the Kabalistic Tree, the Lullian Wheel(s), archetypes (in the Proclan and Agrippan sense), and all forms of memory statues and/or creations in the imaginal realm.
In essence, when a well-integrated seed-idea -- one that is reflective of some aspect of Reality -- finds resonance in the mind of multiple humans, it begins to grow just like a crystal does. From all directions in the environment it attracts matching thought-forms to itself, eventually expanding into a very strong presence in the realm of consciousness. Over time and with the right stimulation, the Egregor begins to act like a gravity-body does in space; it bends the field of consciousness around itself, commensurate with it's attraction within the minds of the people paying attention to it. It can even accumulate so much charisma on the inner planes that after centuries of dormancy, a single exposure to a sympathetic mind can set the whole complex into historical activity again. The Egregori of the Planets and Signs of the Zodiac, for example, are thousands of years old, and so huge that they can be envisioned as vast astral supercomputers, encompassing every human culture that has ever had a tradition about them. (Witness also Gnosticism, which has died and resurrected multiple times across the centuries in all the Abrahamic religions.)
The concept of the Egregor is very old, and you'll see it in
multiple spellings. Fred Gettings in his Encyclopedia of the Occult
tells us "Egregores [are] Celestial beings who are said by some
occultists to be shadows of the higher Planetary angels. Probably a
Hebraic term originally, sometimes written as 'Egregori'." Nevill
Drury, in his The Dictionary of the Occult adds this:
"Egrigor [is] A thought-form created in psychic groups or magical ceremonies by the combined 'will' or visualization powers of the participants.... Magicians believe it is often more effective to work ceremonially with an egrigor since this provides a cumulative effect in terms of magical visualization and one can benefit from magical workings which have taken place at an earlier time."
Follow these hints out to their further reaches, and you can begin to see why a shaman's, alchemists, or magus' visit to the otherworld so often has a hallucinogenic quality to it. Even if no drugs or psychic alterants are present, the incredible abundance and sheer strangeness of the contents of the collective Imaginal is usually registered as a shock to the nervous system of the neophant. For most people, repeated exposure and gradual expansion is the key to comfort and ultimately finding the courage to explore and interact more freely at this level. It's also wise to keep track of one's experiences in a journal along with the more standard fare of "memories, dreams and reflections". By taking the time to document our experiences, we leave ourselves a trail of evidence that will help us gain an overview in time.
The Jungian Model
Another reason we need to seek our own experiences and symbols rather than just taking previous apologist's word for things is that otherwise we are likely to fall prey to the illusion inherent in the Jungian model of magic. By this I mean to indicate the *other* modern reductionist strategy, which relegates magic to a function of subconscious urges working their way into consciousness. From his writings I don't fault Jung himself on this point, but it seems that his followers have reduced the inner-world phenomena he was exploring into a dark basement of the collective psyche, rather than the light-filled philosophical Temple of the Ages that it is. It often feels as if the cart is being put before the horse, as if people's projections and expectations are nowadays being seen as the actual causes of the results that people feel they get from their magical workings. Do psychologists really believe that the entire history of magic is sustained just on placebo value alone?
The Shamanic Model in Cultural Clothing
It's at times like this when I have to pull down Harold Bloom's Omens of Millennium and recalibrate my gyroscope again. Bloom is so deeply literate in the Abrahamic religion that he never strays into the realm of reductionism. His awareness of the deeper implications of all these ancient ideas about the spiritual world reacquaints us with the issues in their fuller state, across the historical spectrum of approaches and interpretations. Another of my favorite guides and intellectual companions for this kind of stripped-down analysis of the arts of consciousness is Ioan P. Couliano. Every book I find by him proves to be illuminating in one way or another within my areas of interest. Today the one I have in my hand is called Out Of This World: Otherworldly Journeys from Gilgamesh to Albert Einstein. (Those of you who speak Spanish can also enjoy his Experiences of Ecstasy, which has never been translated into English but is still around.)
Where Couliano leaves us at the end of his exhaustive catalogue of apotheosis practices, and indeed the only conclusion that is viable in the face of the evidence, is that every culture is recapitulating the core shamanic model in their own image. There is indeed "something out there" that we have to relate with and make agreements with in order for individual live and human society to find its balance within the larger body of nature. The invisible world is as 'real' and as substantial as the visible one, and has to be taken into consideration as a part of the reality that affects us in this world. This is not a new idea, but it is something that needs to be reintegrated anew on a regular basis, as the over-developed nations grope their way towards a deeper understanding of what aboriginal consciousness has known all along. The concept of the web of life is worldwide, as are the consequences of modern humanity's gross exploitation of that web. Remaining in denial about the invisible causes and effects behind the visible world is not a sustainable option for the long-term.
We do not have to continue cultivating the mass amnesia that is the modern daily state, and indeed we had better not. There has never been a civilization when humanity lived without shamans, whether to manage the weather and the herds, to heal, or to protect against attacks from hostile forces outside the tribal circle. My hunch is that humanity is getting read to reach way far down into our DNA and our racial memory, and pull up the combinations of nature and nurture that will liberate future generations to be less stuck in mammalian herd-trance. We have to become quicker on the uptake when it comes to being tutored by the Invisibles. We don't have a moment to lose, so anybody who realizes that they are being called through the reading of this article -- PLEASE WAKE UP!
Here's what I know unambiguously, having proved it, forgotten it and rediscovered it thousands of times over. Are you ready? Sitting down?
Believe yourself. Believe your body when it sends you impressions. Believe your emotions when they sweep in and melt or boil or freeze you. Believe your will when it rises straight up your backbone. Believe your mind when you have those *Aha* experiences. Believe your astral-light-perceiving sensors when they suddenly register a change of tone.
The key is to *get into the conversation* with these qualities, attributes, and sensitivities of yours. Take it literally that what is happening to you is also happing through you and emanating out of you, going forth changed by your own perception of and response to it. Take your internal experience literally, people! That is not a void in there, that is your own personal magical well, being constantly moved and ruffled by the movements of your soul! Don't you want to look in there and see what it's doing?
We are literally bombarded with information every minute of the day, both inside and out. The earbuds we wear and the run-around lives we script for ourselves only serve to limit our perceptions down to a few consensus channels, taking us out of the 360-degree radiant and receptive sphere of our inborn energy-bodies. If we could turn down our addiction to artificial stimuli, we would discover the natural world of experience revealing itself all around us, to us and through us. We are embedded in it and it is "playing" into all of our senses 24/7. Paid attention to, this expanded horizon of consciousness can help us dilute our acculturated egotism down to a smaller percentage of our awareness, opening us out to all that is and educating us about our place within it.
The extension of this advice is, expect consciousness in all things, and interpret everything as if it were meaningful. Look at the unfolding of your waking life for patterns and symbolism just like you do your dreams, Tarot readings, and astrology charts. Assume that everything is significant until proven otherwise. Proceed as if everything around you is aware, and is watching, and is reflecting yourself back to yourself. Accept what is coming at you and strive to learn to translate it.
Note: this does not mean that you should assume you know exactly what you perceive and have a handle on how to evaluate it all correctly! This part takes years, or at least the potency of a focused personality who is no longer immature. It sounds so simple to say, but if it were easy, everybody would be doing it! At first, the only thing to do is sit down, quiet down, and witness what's already there.
Meditation is Contained Fusion
Set aside a bit of time every day to implode and allow yourself to gather all your bits onto one steady, internal spot. Nothing replaces this. Many people do this instinctively, so don't underestimate your routines when looking for moments to center and ground yourself. If you can tie this type of self-referencing awareness into a few of your daily rituals, so much the better. That will raise the likelihood that you will remember to make this movement from outer-focused to inner-focused more than once a day.
What you are trying to do is readjust your focus to include yourself again. Most of us have learned to over prioritize the information coming at us from "outside", accepting a commensurate dimming of our awareness about the information rising up from our own well of being. Taken too far, this leads to a permanent imbalance wherein our own most intimate realities are happening as if to a stranger. We presume that we have an inner life, but we are to overtaken by outer experience to know what that inner life is exactly.
I'm suggesting the same kind of figure-ground shift demonstrated above. We have to perform this act of consciousness if we want the benefits of convergence. The world and even our senses' reporting of it has to be allowed to fall into the background, so that the radiant, subtle, luminous field of one's own direct experience becomes the foreground. The goal is to get such a habit going that in an instant one can "fall inward" and investigate that part of oneself which is in communication with what's being questioned. Often there's only a subtle spark of recognition or a little whisp of remembrance to start with, but that's usually enough to get a direction of search established and some communication opened. I don't get my information as data-dumps, discreet visions or voices. Instead I get a sense of a pattern or motif that, if I follow up, will turn out to be connected to the central threads of the issue. If I can recognize and respond with curiosity to the clues, I will be led to the mother lode.
Remember, though, that every person gets their information their own way. For decades I have taught a visualization method using a beautiful big old-growth tree of one's own choosing as a model for the energy-body, allowing ones' awareness to grow up and down and out into that shape to experience the world from that perspective. No two students have ever reported having the same tree, nor have I ever seen a duplicate tree in any client's field through all my years of practice. Meanwhile, there are people who do not find a tree anywhere in their imaginations, because their visualization runs along the lines of, for example, plumbing in an old house, or tunnels under a mountain, or the vast open spaces of the solar system, studded with the Planets.
There are just no two nervous systems that are alike, so each person has to explore their own, create their own metaphors, and flesh out their own symbols. Luckily, our dreams, our daily synchronicities and our background stream of consciousness give us plenty of fodder for this type of project. All we have to do is pay attention and note the correspondences, whatever they are. The more you willingly witness these interior patterns unfolding, the more you will realize you are being watched, communicated with and even anticipated by the active intervention of Spirit.
Some ideas about modern magic
While circling widely around these ideas, certain attitudes and approaches kept putting themselves in front of me to be noted out specifically. Here they are in no particular order, possibly hinged on the activities of the five elements including Akasha or Quintessence, considered the perfect balance of the material four in combination.
Magic includes the art of interpretation. One learns to increase sensitivity to one's own internal experience while not tuning out the play of circumstance and synchronicity constantly unfolding all around. Self-cultivation includes the purifying and clearing of one's reactivity until pre-programmed, knee-jerk reflexes of the past have been disabled or rewired. One increases the dexterity of one's intuition in order to enhance pattern- and frequency-matching capabilities. This makes us quicker on the uptake when Spirit is trying to give us the high sign.
Magic makes use of will and self-discipline to focus impulse-energy towards intentional evolution. Magi push their limits in the quest for the biggest paradigm. For this reason a deep level of sobriety is required for all truly powerful operations. This is not to preclude the use of specific frequency-enhancers, which include plant allies and drugs, suffumigations, yoga, meditation, chant, drumming, visualization, fasting, exposure, sleep deprivation and a host of other methods. But in fact, all techniques are employed to focus the will and discipline of the practitioner, never to create a chaotic blowout. One needs a strong foundation of self-knowledge and a sound body that can endure some stress to maximize the benefits of these kinds of practices.
Magic makes use of the imagination as a staging ground or interior theater, wherein unknown forces can deposit dreams, symbols, and stories which propose steps towards personal and collective goals. A magician keeps up a constant interior sensitivity to Spirit, no matter what is going on in the outer world. In fact, there is quite a bit of information piling up at the outer fringes of human consciousness, begging to be let into the light of our attentions. It all comes in answer to those ceaseless prayers pouring out from all humanity, for release from the suffering we inflict upon all of life with our heedlessness. There is a constant rain of compassionate responsiveness bathing us from the astral plane, a balm of healing that we can tap into whenever we can adjust our frequency to meet it. Yet most people keep all their "incoming" channels filled up with mass media and a hurry-up lifestyle, hammering us through every hour of the day. How would we know whether our prayers are being answered or not? The magi-an temperament finds the inner realms to be infinitely more soul satisfying, because s/has learned to hear the voice of spirit louder than the voice of the world.
The magician accepts the power of natural desire as a positive force. This can be a difficult premise at first, because most of us have been programmed to believe that if we unleashed our 'true inner passion', we would consume and destroy the world. For better or for worse, we have an instinct that derails us whenever we are about to really feel our feelings about something that's going on in our lives. Our fear of our own desires is truly sad and crippling, keeping us shadowboxing in circles lifetime after lifetime. The Magus makes the choice to quit polarizing around his or her power of desire, and just accept that it's there, it's lusty and vital and aroused and excited, and it's a Power to be expressed and channeled towards our goals. There is nothing wrong and everything right with using desire and attraction to encourage growth in new directions. All genius is motivated by delight and excitement and a kind of heart-lust to get more involved with the object of his or her interest.
Ultimately, magic encourages recognition of the aspect of self that is simultaneous with Cosmos/God/Oversoul/Sophia (etc.) This is why an expanded representation of magic, whether as made in Ioan Couliano's Eros and Magic in the Renaissance, or in the imagistic catalogue of the Trumps of Tarot, has to take on the topic of apotheosis, or transcendence of the human state and ascendance to "higher" worlds. There are models of this journey to be found in the literature of all cultures we have, and every means is explored in the fulfillment of this mission. Not every ancient story still has relevance to four current experiences -- it might not be wise to wait around for one of God's chariots to pick one up and airlift one to heaven in 2007, for example.
One model for how magic can be stimulated is to equate it to the way the human nervous system links itself up throughout the body while still within the maternal womb, and any time in life when there is damage to nerves anywhere in the body. Bolts of electrical energy constantly probe out from disconnected nerve-endings, testing the surrounding tissues within their range to discover if there is any kind of answering charge to be felt. Even if the gap between one nerve and another is technically too wide to serve as a synapse, if the impulse from one nerve encounters even a fairly weak impulse from another nerve, they lock onto each other and entrain together. This maps the area that needs to be filled in and tells each nerve what directions it needs to grow, to fill in the neural net and link the whole body up to itself. The goal is an increase of connectivity with all of life, showing continued willingness to engage with life and have a new experience.
It is imperative that people with a good grip on the basic of ordinary reality begin to cultivate themselves in this way so they can be bring balance to this frontier zone for humanity as a whole. If the realm of modern magic is left only to mystical oddballs and marginal sorts, who will undertake the serious shamanic work that's going begging all over the planet? Who will be left to pick up where the aboriginals have been forced to leave off? This is not a time when the planet can afford for her priests, magi and hierophants to all disappear at once.
Then again, as I have heard myself say in many a reading, when the traditional leadership fails for whatever reason, that makes an opportunity for one of the "ordinary people" to step into the gap and do the commonsense thing. We don't have time for much else, anyway. This is a great day to make a difference in the world, even if you have to do so by 'going within' first. Let this be a day when you strive for balance between the literal and metaphorical threads in your life, and you might just turn out to be the inspired one when push comes to shove.
April 17, 2007
copyright christine payne-towler 2007, all rights reserved
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