Magickal Causality

From Aleister Crowley’s ‘Magick’ there is a brief discussion of the nature of Magickal cause and effect.

In summary – the efficacious nature of Magick and its practices is not necessarily to ‘directly’ effect a result. i.e. Magick in the high fantasy Harry Potter sense of pointing wands and fireballs erupting may be misleading. So in what sense can Magick be said to actually cause something to happen? Well, this is the bit I like as it chimes in perfectly with everything else I have uncovered so far! It works by transforming the agent, the relationships between agent and the world, and hence the world, making them all into the kind of things which accord with the will of the Magick user.

To clarify: I might perform rituals to focus my will on a particular task, build confidence and strengthen links with others who may assist in doing my will. But do the rituals ’cause’ the task to happen? Certainly the mental and emotional focus and strengthening of relationships with others assists in accomplishing the task.

This is why a spell that summons a person to you may ‘work’ even though the person in question started on their journey to visit you BEFORE the spell was cast. Practicing such spells makes you more powerful. The holistic nature of Magick is evident here – it thrums through all the strands of symbolism and power that guide and shape, a power that subtly whispers but in its crescendos there is indisputable puissance.

This touches on the purpose of prayer and worship too: By seeking communion with the divine will we are not necessarily diminishing ourselves by subjecting or demeaning what we are. Rather, we are becoming vessels dedicated to actualising divine will – our will. I think many people have conceptions of worship that stereotype and ridicule, alienating and stifling the possibility that it is something very important, practical and essential. I remember my GCSE Religious Education teacher saying something which stuck with me: Worship is ‘Worth-ship’, about showing how something is important to you. To those who remain Atheist and Agnostic as anything other than a reaction to established religious stereotypes I ask: What is it that you live for? What makes it all worthwhile?

Focus on those things, craft yourself about them, respect and celebrate them. After all, that is worship.

Abraham’s Dilemma

[Foreword: Though the language may seem abstract and probably pretentious, this piece is aimed at encouraging a possible reinterpretation of religious text in more practical terms. I hope you can bear (with) it!]

This came back to me recently, having touched upon it during my Uni days. The problem is outlined at http://www.slideshare.net/aquinas_rs/biblical-moral-dilemmas and summary below: God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’. He said, ‘take your son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offerhim as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ Genesis 22:1-2 In Genesis 22 Abraham takes his son Isaac to be sacrificed as God has commanded (a ram is offered in Isaac’s place). Abraham and his wife Sarah had waited a long time to have Isaac. God had promised them a child in their old age and yet God asks Abraham to sacrifice him! Even if it does not raise moral questions, it is a least counter-intuitive. But Abraham does not falter. He takes Isaac as commanded and it is not until Abraham raises the knife to kill his son that God intervenes. Abraham’s willingness to kill Isaac is enough for God to know that the patriarch would not ‘withhold his only son’ from him. A ram is conveniently found in a thicket and offered in Isaac’s place.

The basic understanding of this story seems to be that it was about demonstrating Abraham’s great faith and willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God, who lets him off at the end. i.e. God would never actually demand such a sacrifice as it is patently horrific, but it serves to illustrate the kind of strength of will that faith may require. However, there are other puzzles arising from this scenario if we consider it as a hypothetical situation where divine and mundane morality conflict. i.e. What if God actually demanded such a sacrifice? Continue reading

Trappings of Civilisation

There may come a point in an organism’s development where it becomes able to extensively control its own environment to the degree that external threats are pretty much nonexistent.  At this point the question arises: ‘What to do?’

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Seeing the matrix

I started to see the matrix today.  More specifically, the semiotic web as described in Patrick Dunn’s text on Postmodern Magic.  The semiotic web/matrix is the totality of interrelated symbols and meaning that chart our experiences.

The term matrix or lattice has connotations of being crystalline and rigid – an oppressive sentiment that may be apt for the film the Matrix – which is why the web description is more appealing to me.  It occurred to me however that the description of the semiotic web is still lacking something, or at least, it was for me.

The symbols are ALIVE.  Do not view the semiotic web as a collection of things/points/nodes.  The Net of Indra is a beautiful metaphor worth thinking about, and although the gems are like things, their identity is partly eroded and partly composed by the fact they reflect all the others. i.e. the identity of a thing is contextual (its place in the semiotic web).  A change in one affects the others.  But even more than this, the symbols are the landscape of our desires, ideals and motivations – which makes them decidedly ACTIVE.  Imagine the landscape topology, with rivers flowing between peaks. Then consider the topology of the semiotic web:

In a crude sense, the symbol of a wall or obstacle serves to channel most ambulatory beings towards symbols of access and passage.  Otherwise we would walk into walls more often!  The very nature of the semiotic web serves to channel energy and direct us.  More significant symbols, like ideals (and arguably gods) similarly distort the web, so that energies flow in different directions.  As a ball rolls downhill into a depression, as the gravity well draws in objects, so too does the semiotic web guide and influence.

This is why I love Aikido so much: It works within the semiotic web so well.  Rather than cruder approaches which might strike blows to deal with threats, Aikido literally takes advantage of the individual’s situation and interrelations within the web.  Aikido is a form of magic made manifest – and as you get better at it you start to see the channels of people’s intentions.  A bit like the scene in Donnie Darko when he starts to see the space-time worms emerging from the solar plexus, you start to see these energy flow more clearly, and how to direct them in different ways.  I think a true master never has to fight, simply by virtue of avoiding conflicts before they even erupt.

Cabin in the Woods

Finally, I managed to see this yesterday, after a lot of interesting comments and reviews from others.  There are going to be SPOILERS so be warned.  First off: I really enjoyed it.  It’s always a pleasure watching Sigourney Weaver beating the cr*p out of somebody.  It was a good mix of horror with a twist, and there were some fun concepts based around the idea of a corporate sacrifice factory designed to prevent/delay the end of the world.

Joss Whedon’s touch was evident in the camp larger than life gratuitousness of some of the characters and scenes.  A squad of troops being slaughtered in a nightmarish lift-foyer massacre.  An office party with a silent and ignored backdrop of a brutal undead assault.  Person catching a friend’s severed head.

The points I found thought-provoking were these:

1. Given the need to appease the BBG (Big Bad God) with the sacrifices, where is the moral compass on this one? I’ll refer to the sacrifices as the ‘victims’

2. How realistic was the portrayal of the corporation employees?

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Double Take

I have highlighted some sections in bold if you want a quick read. The rest just provides some background for anyone looking a little deeper… This is a quick reflection on the importance of perception, touching on a few issues with a hint of magic for good measure.

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It’s the little things…

Apologies – I have not posted for a while and this is more of an observation, but my website, my rules :-p

The other day I bought a DVD from a charity shop. If you must know, it was the film for Joss Whedon’s Firefly series: Serenity. It has been sat on my desk for months now, but not forgotten. It’s status is somewhat peculiar – it’s a promise. In my mind I mean to watch it, or rewatch it as I have seen it all before(!), but I’m not sure if I’m ever going to do so. It persists on the edge of my awareness as a motivational reward, something to look forward to, but I honestly can’t say if it’s ever going to happen.

I think it is important to remain sensitive to these little tricks of the mind, and hopefully make sure they work for you rather than against. The reason I mention this is because I was recently introduced to an anime series called xxxHolic which is based around a Japanese student plagued by visions of the spirit world who finds his way drawn to a magical shop where wishes are granted. The owner, Yuuko, takes him on as a part-time ?slave? in exchange for helping him. Frankly, she spends most of her time drinking, so she might just be a crazy alcoholic, but there are a lot of discussions based around superstition, myths and psychology. Some things are a little dubious, but there are a lot of interesting observations in there. One episode that springs to mind is about a lady who seems to keep sabotaging her life with bad choices, but it emphasises that one needs to accept good things in to your life just as much as bad things. For instance, this lady in the story did not destroy her life, but would not actually accept good ‘luck’ – she rejected it through suspicion, guilt, and the inability to see herself as ‘worthy’ of good things.

This episode was quite clearly not about the supernatural, and yet most or all of the others can be read similarly, teaching about quirks and traits of the human mind and experience although the story couches them in the language of magic and spirits. Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (ref: see wiki). I would also remind the reader that we often forget just how ‘magical’ technology and science – and the mind – can be.

I recommend paying attention to the little things in life that matter, whether they be gifts, handshakes, smiles or whatever, and try to cultivate a sensitivity for them. If it helps, try couching them in a language you understand, which is why I often resort to using the language of magic and the supernatural myself to explain and remember things. In my Aikido practice there is much discussion about ‘Qi’, a pretty abstract concept initially which has very magical effects given the power of Aikido when applied to the human body. However, as you progress in the martial art you start to appreciate just why such abstract and ‘magical’ language is used: Because it fits.

A word from our sponsor…

I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s ‘Unseen Academicals’ recently, and recalled this particular excerpt where the daunting Patrician – getting a litle tipsy – recounts a personal childhood experience:

The Patrician took a sip of his beer. ‘I have told this to a few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I’m sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature’s wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that’s when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior.’

This mini-tale called to mind a personal experience when gorge-walking with a group of youths somewhere in Devon. The party came across a sheltered rock pool between turbulant waterfalls, in which we were greeted by a lone duckling. It chirped without fear and swam right up to us. As we passed through the pool it followed us with uncertain paddling and bobbing, the ripples of our passing threatening to drown it at any moment. Then, after we had traversed the pool, and helped one another to clamber up the next obstacle, it watched us leave, spinning in circles and attempting to follow. Of course the water kept throwing it back each time it tried, in vain, to come with us. We stood atop the waterfall, catching our breath, and discussed the situation. The duckling had likely become separated from its mother and been swept downstream to this place where it was effectively trapped. We could not help it for fear of our human scent rendering it alien to its own kind anyway. All in all it was a particularly heartbreaking moment and when asked what was likely to happen to it I was pretty frank about its minimal chance of survival.

As we pass through life our roles change, sometimes we are gods holding powers of life and death in our hands, and sometimes we are victims of forces that threaten to devour us. Some feel trapped in roles they feel compelled to play, through love, fear, notions of duty and myriad other reasons that twist and twine into bonds. I wonder, if those bonds were severed, what kind of god would you make? In whose image would you attempt to craft the world, and according to what principles? The Patrician speaks of becoming the moral superior of a supreme being, but given the status quo I do not feel that is remotely difficult. The difficulty may rest in retaining your notions of morality as you become a god. Power transfigures the best of us, and the result may be scarcely recognisable…

The Problem with Thoughtcrime

Prejudice is a belief or judgment made before or without due consideration of the facts.

Discrimination is acting on your prejudice.

I have recently heard of discrimination being condemned, but prejudice by contrast being ‘acceptable’. This is dangerous territory. In Orwell’s ‘1984’ there was attempted policing of the very thoughts of society. To think contrary to the status quo was a criminal offence. I defend the right to free thought vehemently, but in doing so please be careful not to defend prejudice as well.

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