Living a Magical Life

Up to my ears in client work (and mundane work) this week.  So today I offer a podcast that’s been making the rounds for some time.  Still, it’s an excellent one if you’re interested in going beyond simple one-shot workings.  Are you interested in initiation?  Do you wonder what it would be like to make your entire life magical, to lead a “magical life”?

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Control Consciousness, Control Everything

“The perception and control of changes in states of consciousness, whether for purposes of magical development or of life generally, is supremely important. It is now widely recognized that our state of consciousness, and in consequence the accessibility and direction of our entire mental and emotional potential— thus to a great extent our physical potential also— is affected by seemingly minor circumstances, and can by their aggregate be affected profoundly: imaginative stimuli, the inner impact of dreams, the colors, odors, and lines of association with which we surround ourselves. To many people who are interested either in maximizing or in controlling human potential, research into these matters has become an absorbing new study. To the student of Qabalah, who is interested in maximizing his or her own potential and in controlling his or her own spiritual destiny, the study and practice of these matters is likewise fascinating and of supreme importance, but is by no means novel. In truth, modern approaches and modes of interpretation can be applied with good effect to timeless knowledge, as they are in the pages of this book: but the deep psychology which underlay astrology of Chaldaea, the philosophic and mystical teachings of many lands and systems, can be traced here too. All have in their measure flowed into, or out from, the traditions of Qabalah.”

—Melita Denning & Osborne Phillips, Magical States of Consciousness: Pathworking on the Tree of Life

Do Your Best

I have a neighbor who looks like the separated-at-birth twin of Slavoj Žižek.  Rain or shine, Monday morning or Friday evening, he looks utterly dismayed at the stupidity of existence.  Perhaps there is some value in that perspective.  But, to me, he just seems consistently miserable.  I passed him this morning on my way to the market and would have said hello if he’d looked up.  He didn’t.  There were dark and gloomy things to entertain on this bright Saturday morning in Southern England.


Ah, I thought, maybe next time.  Maybe, at some vague juncture in the future when things are somehow better than they are right now (and it is possible for him to accurately determine this), he will smile. 

He’s a pretty good neighbor because I never see him.  But, when I do, I’m reminded of that (overused) line from Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”  He’s a university professor, lives in a very nice house, has a vivacious young French wife and two bright and healthy daughters.  And still: mordred in the black pit of despair every time I see him.  Well, maybe that’s just his style.

Sometimes, I wonder if his face is merely fixed that way, not unlike Grumpy, everyone’s favorite obsolete meme-cat.

This is actually Grumpy Cat smiling.  And I think we all know people like this.  They’re never happy unless they’re miserable, at least on the outside.  Many such people have a melancholy disposition even in the best of times.  These are the most difficult people to help.  They turn to magic as a solution when everything else has failed because they don’t really believe, deep down, that anything can make them satisfied or happy.   So why not something totally unreal and fake like magic?  It makes no sense when you think about it.  Of course, extremely depressed people are not expected to make sense.

As I walked to the market, my encounter with Clone Žižek got me thinking about conjure and about how aggrieved certain clients are when they contact me, how convinced they are that nothing will be able to fix their complex and insurmountable problems.  They want to believe in a spiritual solution.  But, really, they think they’re doomed.

Therefore, the first step when they contact me is to explore the possibility that other outcomes exist.  I do a short tarot reading, write up my insights and recommendations, then we talk about it.  Usually, that gets to the heart of the problem (which may be entirely different than what the client thinks he or she needs at first).  And if the cards show that work is indicated, I’ll lay out a range of possible solutions, send the client an invoice, set up a timeline and, as soon as payment is received, we’ll get moving in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I usually give out a lot of free folk magic advice on things the client can do to help him- or herself in little ways.  Folk magic can be immensely useful psychologically (decreasing lust of result, attaining necessary inner calm) and practically (putting yourself, your magical intentions, and the natural world in dynamic harmony). 

But there’s an even deeper piece of advice that I can give you right here.  It comes from one of my 7 Practices, common sense ideas I like on how to lead a tranquil satisfied life: “Acceptance.  I take everything life offers and use it to become smarter, stronger, and more joyful.  This may at times be difficult but, when it is possible, it is the best course of action.”

Ah-so,  you may be thinking, wisdom of the ancients!  A Hare Krishna gave me a free pamphlet on the street corner last week that said the same thing.  And I will agree with you that this principle is neither surprising nor original.  But it’s perhaps more immediately useful than 100 spell books on how to get paid and laid.  If used properly, it is a more powerful formula than any work of operative magic because it constitutes life-changing initiatory magic—as in, you are initiating (beginning) yourself in a new way.  You’re experiencing a new beginning.  And there is no separation between that magical intention and the target (you).  All it takes is desire and mindfulness.  

People think acceptance means making the best of things as they are.  Wrong.  How do you feel when someone says, “Just make the best of it.”  Do you feel good?  I’m willing to bet that you feel worse and probably a bit angry.  Being put in a position where you have to make the best of a bad situation or a problem feels like being trapped, admitting there is nothing to be done, and the problem is never going to change.  It is inherently defeatist and puts you back in Clone Žižek Land where the sky is always falling and everything is always horrible.

Instead, you initiate a new course of action-experience-being by “doing your best.”  Do you see the subtle difference?  “Making the best of what is” is not the same thing as “doing your best”—which has less to do with “what is” and more to do with “what you want it to be.”  “Doing your best” says that maybe you won’t be able to fix the whole thing.  Then again, maybe you will.  You have agency in the situation.  You are not being controlled by all-powerful forces taking away your options.

It goes without saying that you want to do your best in every problematic situation because every situation is problematic, at least in some small way.  Nothing is perfect and if we look hard enough through our grumpy glasses, we’ll see the inevitable defects.  Conversely, even in the worst situations, there are positive transformative elements.  I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, where he describes his school of psychotherapy (logotherapy) as a method that “focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning.  According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.”

With this in mind, the “acceptance” I’m talking about here is dynamic rather than static.  It’s doing rather than making the best of it.  It’s an active search for something that means more.  And if practiced sincerely and mindfully in daily life, it is a profound form of Greater Initiatory Magic—magic that leads to powerful self-realization and happiness.

The best way I know to practice “doing your best” comes from the modern Stoic philosopher, Dr. William B. Irvine, in his book, A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joywhere he talks about setting internal rather than external goals:

I think that when a Stoic concerns himself with things over which he has some but not complete control, such as winning a tennis match, he will be very careful about the goals he sets for himself.  In particular, he will be careful to set internal rather than external goals.  Thus, his goal in playing tennis will not be to win a match (something external, over which he has only partial control) but to play to the best of his ability in the match (something internal, over which he has complete control).  By choosing this goal, he will spare himself frustration or disappointment should he lose the match: Since it was not his goal to win the match, he will not have failed to attain his goal, as long as he played his best.  His tranquility will not be disrupted

. . . . . 

Although they value tranquility, [Stoics] feel duty-bound to be active participants in the society in which they live.  But such participation clearly puts their tranquility in jeopardy.  One suspects, for example, that Cato would have enjoyed a far more tranquil life if he did not feel compelled to fight the rise to power of Julius Caesar— if he instead had spent his days, say, in a library, reading the Stoics.  I would like to suggest, though, that Cato and the other Stoics found a way to retain their tranquility despite their involvement with the world around them: They internalized their goals.  Their goal was not to change the world, but to do their best to bring about certain changes.  Even if their efforts proved to be ineffectual, they could nevertheless rest easy knowing that they had accomplished their goal: They had done what they could do.

In other words, by looking inwards and focusing on internal goals, which is to say, personally meaningful things, one does one’s best.  This is the way to initiate a new way of life.  It’s a reset button for bad situations.  And it works.  It’s not simply trying to use a New Age affirmation to convince oneself of something that isn’t the case in reality.  It’s not just “the power of positive thinking.”  It’s more like creating a new reality for yourself, in yourself, through an active search for meaning.

Just remember: don’t make the best of it.  Do your best.  And you will avoid the fate of Grumpy Cat.

Magic and Doubt

It has been noted by more than one public magician that the “fear of wasted time” grows in direct proportion to one’s experience in the occult.  A shred of doubt is always there and sometimes it becomes monstrous.  One worries that it’s all self-delusion, wishful thinking, selective attention, and that scientific materialism was right all along about life being only a matter of economics, physics, and brain chemistry. 

Moreover, consensus culture, especially in the West, associates reductive materialism with rationality and, by extension, with intelligence.  If you’re sharp, you focus on practical things like making a living, looking good, having a romantic partner, and getting promoted.  You don’t believe in god.  You certainly don’t believe in occult things.  The world has been mapped.  There are no more dragons in the landscape.  All that remains is to establish yourself on a certain level of society and try to provide for as nice of a retirement as possible.  Then you should die to make room for the next wave of consumers.  Go to school; get a job; get married; have kids; retire; die.

Magical people reject this vision of life.  But consensus culture is powerful and even if we live like artists and non-conforming freethinkers, we still have to operate in a world defined by the dominance-and-submission tactics of corporate culture, materialism, and zero-sum thinking.  So we develop essential coping strategies while we seek the truth in ourselves and in the world around us.  Unfortunately—maybe even inevitably—we all have Dark Nights of the Soul in which the fear of wasted time rises like an insurmountable inner obstacle.  That’s when our magic fails, when we lose our nerve, when all the mystery in the world seems to vanish.

Public sorcerers and conjure workers are a bit more resistant to this kind of depression, given that we’ve done a lot of practical work for a lot of different people and seen the results.  When a client gets back to you and says, “It worked beyond my wildest dreams,” it’s a lot easier to believe than when you’re all alone in a doubting mood.  But even professionals have their vulnerable moments.

The best antidote for doubting one’s magic I’ve ever seen is to stop thinking like a scientist attempting to make theories into laws.  Stop looking for what’s “really real.”  You’ll never find it.  What you will do, as a magical person wracked with doubt and uncertainty, is make yourself miserable, which is no way to live. 

Substitute the question, “Is this real?” with the question, “How can this help me?”  That’s a great shift because it stops the torture wheel of doubt and replaces it with possibility.  Instead of binary zero-sum real-unrealism that can never be resolved to any degree of satisfaction, we begin to admit that even “unreal” things might be useful.  The doubting (i.e. fearful) voice quiets down because we’re no longer asking it to accept magic as part of “really real” reality.  This idea comes from the occultist Ramsey Dukes, and it, like him, is brilliant.

Another useful way of thinking is to play the “what if” game.  The psychic Sonia Choquette talks about this in some of her inner development books.  It’s very simple.  Rather than demanding scientifically verifiable proof from the world that magic or psychic things exist, enter into a state of suspended judgement by asking what if?  What if my spell worked / is working?  What would that be like?  What if I could talk to spirits?  Who would I talk to and what would that conversation entail?  Play what if long enough and the fear-doubt goes away.

We don’t actually want to live in a state of uncertainty.  We want to lead magical lives.  And while magic never works all of the time, when it does we want to be ready to recognize the effects.  Seeing magical effects is a skill all by itself.  If we can’t develop that skill, we will be unable to enjoy the benefits of our spiritual progress.

Magic works.  And the world becomes magical for us if we only relax and let it reveal itself.  We don’t have to give up barbeques and baseball games, making money, seeking status, and watering our lawns.  We just have to give ourselves the gift of belief, which is a valuable thing to have in a depressed and skeptical world.

Women in the Occult, Part 2: Josephine McCarthy

I’ve interacted with Josephine McCarthy off and on over the years and I always come away with something interesting.  She’s taught me a number of things about what she refers to as “visionary magic,” and I think that’s accurate because she is definitely a visionary.  She’s also a prolific author, a no-bs practitioner of magic, has a powerful oracle deck made expressly for people leading the magical life, and has the confidence of an advanced practitioner who has pushed the limits of consciousness and magic.  We can learn a lot from her and so I include her in this series.

Read this excellent interview of Josephine by the very talented Frater Acher on his blog, Theomagica:

https://theomagica.com/blog/josephine-mccarthy-on-the-magic-of-the-arbatel

Check out her website: https://josephinemccarthy.com/about/

And take a look at her and Frater Acher’s magical curriculum, Quareiahttps://www.quareia.com/#main


I’m featuring a series of posts dedicated to women who are witches, grimoire magicians, healers, savants, and all-around badasses.  I’m doing this for one specific reason (aside from the fact that it’s good to give credit where credit is long overdue): young women, especially young witches, need positive role models in the world of the occult.  Like anything else, it’s historically been a male-dominated field (on the surface).  But to say that only men have been great occultists and have changed the world thereby would be false.  Here, I’m going to point out contemporary and historical women who qualify as “badass women occultists.”

Why I put so many quotes on my blog…

Someone emailed me yesterday and asked if my blog was just dedicated to reposting and quotes. I don’t know what inspires people to take the time to email me things like this without taking a comparable amount of time to actually look through my writings here.  But since I was asked, I thought I’d answer publicly.

First, I hardly repost anything.  I may have done that three or four times total in the history of this website, which began on Blogger back in the 1990s, migrated to Weebly for a few years, then found a permanent home here on WordPress.  In that time, I’ve posted and deleted a lot of content, but mostly I’ve written original things on a weekly or bi-monthly basis.

Writing about the occult, magic, and about what I do as a spiritual worker is an important part of my life.  I do it for me, principally, just like I do sorcery-for-hire mostly for me.  As I’ve said many times, this is why I can charge relatively little for my work—I’m not living off of it.  It’s a labor of love.

As Jim Butcher’s fictional wizard, Harry Dresden, puts it in Skin Game:

The Art can be a lot of work, and it can sometimes be tedious, and sometimes even painful, but at the end of the day, I love it. I love the focus of it, the discipline, the balance. I love working with the energy and exploring what can be done with it. I love the gathering tension of a spell, and the almost painful clarity of focus required to concentrate that tension into an effect. I love the practice of it as well as the theory, the research, experimenting with new spells, teaching others about magic. I love laying down spells on my various pieces of magical gear, and most of all, I love it when I can use my talents to make a difference in the world, even when it’s only a small one.

That’s everything, right there in a single paragraph.  So I don’t maintain this blog as a fancy way of “marketing my brand” as some “spiritual entrepreneurs” do.  I get a lot of visitors here, according to the internal WordPress metrics, but I think I hear from about one-fourth of them.  And very few people publicly comment on what I post.  That’s perfectly okay!  Even if nobody read these things, I’d still be posting them because doing so pleases me and helps me clarify my own thinking about various magical things.  I don’t care about SEO.

do post a lot of quotes from famous magicians and philosophers.  Why?  Because I am only one man with one personal history.  My judgement is limited to the perspectives of an individual.  And, although I am sometimes a magical teacher, I will always be a student.  As the Rose-Croix Code of Life stipulates:

Never cause anyone to believe that members of the Order are sages who are in full possession of the Truth. To those who may ask, present yourself as a philosophical person who is seeking Wisdom. Never pretend you are a Rose-Croix, but say you are a perfecting Rosicrucian.

Paul Foster Case taught that “Rosicrucian” was an inner state of being.  You don’t have to belong to a RC order to be this.  You just have to live your life this way.  One of my old magical affiliations was as a member of a traditional RC order, but I would live the path even if I hadn’t had the experience of that group membership. 

A big part of living the path is humble appreciation of great minds and inspiring teachers.  You can’t lead / heal / learn if you’re not willing to be led / healed / taught by those who came before you.  So there are a lot of quotes, pictures, and videos featuring others on my blog.  It’s important, not just to pay respect where it’s due, but because I believe that what I communicate gets better when I include other voices.

Another thing you’ll see are recommendations.  I recommend other spiritual workers, some who I’ve met and worked with, some who I only know through writings, videos, and online interaction.  If they have impressed me in any way, I want them to succeed in their work.  It makes everybody better.  And that matters to me because, unlike many professional sorcerers, I am not competitive.  The old saying, “Share what you know and your knowledge will grow,” is a powerful magical statement.

Lastly, if you want to browse through my many individual discussions, rants, articles, and essays on this site, just look at the tags on the right side of this blog or click on the archive.  It goes month-to-month and doesn’t include the very old posts because I updated most of those when I moved to this blog host.

I hope you have a pleasant experience on my blog and if you ever have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to post one or email me at friendlyoccultist@protonmail.com.