Greetings. Today, I felt called to draw another card from the Halloween Oracle deck. It is “Hearth,” which indicates a focus on home, family, and the magic of well-being that those things bring. If you are lacking in those areas, it may be time to pay a bit more attention to beautifying your life. If you have a fulfilling home / family, then it may be useful to give thanks for those things and recenter yourself in the security and peace that they provide.
“Entro Led Vapem Arsec Pygold Faw.”
Someone recently asked me whether I would be willing to write about the rise of President Trump from a magical standpoint, specifically in response to the question, if there are so many sorcerers, witches, priests, and magicians opposed to Trump and everything he represents, how could he have possibly come to power? The following is my response; though, I am afraid it may be a bit more technical (and snooze-worthy) than the questioner would like. For that, I apologize, but this is also something I have been thinking about quite a bit.
1. Subjective Universes, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Language We Use
The modeling function of the human brain is a fantastic thing. Through pattern recognition and analogical thinking, we are capable of creating / assuming the existence of entire subjective universes for ourselves, whether through art, rhetoric, magic, science, or any other world view that can be figured in systemic, structural terms. And while we may sometimes wonder how accurate or “real” our subjective constructions actually are (implicitly invoking Platonic idealism in which there is a perfect reality to which everything can more or less correspond), we nevertheless live our lives as if what we believe is actually real.
There is much to be learned by studying ourselves in these ways. Clearly psychology, linguistics, anthropology, political science, and history have more to discover here. And, as self-introspective individuals, we must also have a range of inner discernment privately available to us along these lines.
All such inquiry is good. All of it is especially worthwhile to us as magical seekers engaged in the Great Work of determining True Will and realizing ourselves most fully. But what happens when we encounter those who don’t share these ideals? What happens when the subjective universes we have built for ourselves—the “reality tunnels” that seem most meaningful and true to us—collide with paradigms diametrically opposed to what we have come to consider the summum bonum, the highest good? For many of us, myself included, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance results.
Recently, Tommie Kelly brought this up on his excellent blog, Adventures in Woo Woo, relative to what he experienced on Facebook when he tried to talk about magic:
I had been in a few FB groups, such as CMG V1, I wasn’t very active and I certainly would never post anything public about Magick. My friends list was full of people would would just instantly attack, argue and even bully to some extent. Lots of atheists, lots of people who read The God Delusion and lots of people who were extremely angry if religion, god, spirituality or anything similar was ever mentioned. Like REALLY angry and aggressive. There was also a lot of Catholics and general Christians who also wanted to be heard. I felt unbelievably restricted and kept in a box – different boxes for different people.
Kelly’s Facebook experience is not surprising. When people feel cognitive dissonance by having their assumptions about the world challenged or otherwise threatened, they typically undergo “a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance” (McLeod). Especially on social media, this feeling of discomfort will often give rise to expressions of fear, sadness, anger and defensiveness, since it is so easy to disparage and even troll those who are different. As Kelly puts it: “different boxes for different people.”
In some ways, this is a natural thing. In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn talks about the evolution of scientific worldviews in terms of competing paradigms, which culminates in “paradigm shift” when an abundance of data or key discoveries force a change in underlying assumptions. This happens in the world of magic as well, but it is complicated by the fact that, unlike science, we lack an agreed-upon language to use as a foundation.
According to Peter Carroll in “Paradigm Shifts and Aeonics,” “The main difficulty in recognizing and describing the pure Magical Paradigm is that of insufficient vocabulary.” We have to borrow language from science, the humanities, and the arts. When we do have something to say as magical people, we often have to use more words, take more time, and think more carefully about our vocabulary than others because we are borrowing and re-purposing language to describe that which defies description.
So asking, how could Trump have happened? from magical standpoint is very difficult because we don’t have the language to describe the magical side of his rise to power and our subsequent cognitive dissonance.
2. The Subjective Universe of Trump and his Supporters is Vastly Divergent from All Others
Spend more than 30 seconds listening to Kellyanne Conway attempt to rationalize Trump’s erratic behavior (like watching someone on drugs try to explain string theory) and you may feel your IQ starting to drop. This is because she speaks from a Spicer-esque place of utter complicity with the Trump Administration and its assumptions.
Conway, like Spicer and Trump himself, is a magical thinker, practicing a very thin, very unaware form of creative visualization: if I decide on a set of facts and insist that they are true, then they must be true—at least for me. This is inherently magical. But magic done without awareness (that one is doing magic, that magic will have results, that those results can be disastrous when they are not controlled) will only result in damage to the magician. In this case, we see the subjective universe of Trump & Co. becoming an ironclad delusional prison, essentially a shared mental illness.
Experienced sorcerers believe magic is dangerous in the hands of fools. And this may be why.
3. Getting Past Our Own Cognitive Biases
Given these things, we can turn back to the original question. Asking how Trump could have happened when there are so many magical people arrayed against him presupposes a world in which those magical people would automatically take effective, operative action. This may not be the world in which we live.
It also seeks a magical solution to a political situation. Even though we agree there is a magical side to politics and a political side to magic, the extent to which one area influences the other remains an open question—as open as any question about the operability of magic in the physical world.
Lastly, when we talk about subjective paradigms and reality tunnels, we’re borrowing the language of philosophy and psychology to talk about something that isn’t wholly a part of those worlds. We cannot be certain how magical the term “alternate facts” is (or may become). We cannot fully comprehend the magical power inherent in the Office of the President of the United States. Nor will we ever grasp the reach and operative capacity of the creative visualization being undertaken by Trump and his followers.
All we can say is that in our liberal magical viewpoint, Trump should not have become President. But now that he is, we are responsible for getting over our cognitive dissonance, our mourning and grief, and taking action to make the world a better place, accepting the reality of what is, not feeling betrayed according to what we think it should be.
There is magic to be done. There are people to guide, educate, protect, heal. We can’t wait around for someone to take positive non-violent action. If not us, then who?
Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment.
– Description of Sauron, in The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
There are sorcerers who will help you and sorcerers who will harm you. But, strangely enough, in a world that doesn’t believe in anything but physics and money, magic takes uncanny and subtle forms. With that in mind, the deadliest sorcerers of all are not those who wear robes and cast spells. Rather, they are those who work with the darkest, most powerful metaphors of this age: money, cynicism, doubt, fear, and bigotry.
Tolkien lived through a time when the rise of modernity had brought forth extremely efficient ways of exterminating or enslaving large groups of people. And his Middle Earth fairy tales gave the West a new mythology, a new language through which hope and goodness could be expressed—since the ancient metaphors of troth, right action, and maat had been largely forgotten or corrupted over time by industry, fascism, spiritual ignorance, and senseless materialism. When Tolkien writes of Sauron (or the Nazgûl Witch King) as being a powerful, dreadful sorcerer opposed by the forces of light and life, he’s talking about operative forces in the 20th century.
Now here we are. And Sauron has won.
In Tolkien’s mythos, Sauron is not Morgoth, not the first or historically greatest expression of evil the world has ever seen. But, for the people of Middle Earth in the Third Age, he certainly is. When the One Ring is destroyed in Mount Doom, the physical incarnation of Sauron dies once and for all. He is reduced permanently to “a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 211). But he is not gone.
The world we live in exists only analogically to that of myth and fantasy, and in our gray morally relative existence—where nothing is ever absolute or certain and concepts like loyalty, justice, and honor are regularly ground under the relentless tread of ambition, exploitation, and racism—the “spirit of hatred” finds many willing human hosts. It cannot die; it cannot be conclusively defeated. Just as Morgoth gives rise to Sauron’s many incarnations over time, so does the corrupt spirit of hatred and cynicism reemerge in every age of our world. Tolkien believed this when he wrote: “That Sauron was not himself destroyed in the anger of the One is not my fault: the problem of evil, and its apparent toleration, is a permanent one for all who concern themselves with our world” (Letter 211).
It’s a war that every generation has to fight on some level. Our grandparents and great-grandparents fought the Nazis, who now offer us the most accessible comparison to Trump and his followers. But history is full of brutality, ignorance, xenophobia, and institutional violence. One need only do an internet search or open a book on world history. It’s all there. And, historically speaking, dark lords win more often than not.
The knight fights the dragon, the Free Peoples of Middle Earth fight Sauron, until such time as the dragon eats the knight or Sauron regains the Ring. Then, for lack of an enemy, the dragon eats itself and Middle Earth dies covered in darkness. And only then will the world be reborn with new heroes and new dragons. This is the cycle of creation described in every apocalyptic world myth. And we are seeing the Twilight of the Gods now in the 21st century.
And so I leave this message for my gentle and kind friends, many of whom follow spiritual paths of light, life, and love, practicing compassion and living in harmony with nature as best they can: from darkness, new light will come. But it is unlikely that you will live to see it. Rather, as Yeats wrote in “The Second Coming”: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned.” With the inauguration of Trump, the world enters its inevitable death process.
This is a difficult thing for us to accept. We want to believe that a hero, Frodo maybe or some other embodiment of hope and sincerity, will save us from the end the way the Allies beat the Axis or the way Beowulf defeated Grendel. But the world has already passed the 400 PPM threshold with no signs of abating, indicating that catastrophic environmental, economic, and social repercussions forecasted by (very solid) climate science are inevitable.
Through Trump, the spirit of hatred will rule, preventing the world from recovering. Resources will be put towards bread and circuses. Useless walls will be constructed. Discrimination will prevail. The EPA will be rendered powerless and the poor, sick, and otherwise vulnerable will die. New forms of economic and physical slavery will come into being through the instruments and systems provided by an unchecked corporate culture. Education will become further monetized and the arts and humanities will only be carried on by private individuals if at all. This is the end of the world as we have known it, but it has been coming for a long time.
So what remains for magical people to do? Make peace with your gods. Stop trying to get that promotion or get revenge on your ex or get laid for the umpteenth time (or, for some of you, at all). Cultivate your soul. Meditate more. Work more on the Inner Planes. Forget a lasting legacy for yourself. No one is likely to care or remember you after everything is gone. Do you know the names of more Ancient Romans than you can count on your fingers? Yet the Roman Empire was vast and powerful. It fell, too.
Instead of petty trivial things, focus on spiritual advancement and transcendence in the time you have left. Contemplate the fact that your immortal soul is indestructible. Or, as Hexagram 54 (“The Marrying Maiden”) of the I-Ching puts it: “the superior man/ Understands the transitory/ In the light of the eternity of the end.”
Do that and stand tall when the dragon comes.
Many of us dislike using the term “forgiveness” because it has been weaponized by passive-aggressive Christianity. But yesterday I found myself talking about it when I received two more ill-advised requests for curses on non-compliant husbands.
First, I want to mention the value of divination in magical work. When someone comes to me for help in some kind of relationship, I don’t judge whether the other person is or isn’t acting right. I merely do a reading and the cards tell me whether sorcery is justified or not. It’s not up to me to decide, according to my own set of subjective values, whether someone deserves to be cursed, dominated, influenced, or crossed up.
In my own life I also take this approach, no matter how angry I happen to be at someone. In fact, I perform a divination before any magical work. It helps me fine-tune what I do. And it gives me insight into the sides of a situation I might not have noticed. I think this is a good habit to cultivate, especially for beginners who worry about “karmic return” or “blowback.” If you do a reading and ask your higher self (your HGA / that part of you that is Divinity / your patron deity) to tell you what you need to know about the situation, you are responsible for that knowledge. You are also free to act on it.
I personally like the poetic Golden Dawn tarot invocation: In the divine name IAO, I invoke Thee thou Great Angel HRU who art set over the operations of this Secret Wisdom. Lay thine hand invisibly on these consecrated cards of art, that thereby I may obtain true knowledge of hidden things, to the glory of the ineffable Name. Amen. The Angel HRU (pronounced hey-roo) is a very powerful companion during a tarot reading. Experiment with this and see how it feels.
That said, if you don’t know how to do a proper divination—one that will give you clarity on an issue—you shouldn’t be mucking about with magic yet. You should be learning how to cast circles, grounding, centering, banishing, and working on proficiency with the Runes or the tarot or the pendulum, etc. You should also be meditating. Those are the basics and if you don’t have them, you do risk messing yourself up with magic.
If you do these things regularly and you feel comfortable with divination, very good! But you still might not be ready for spell-work if the vast majority of workings you feel like doing involve curses, hexes, crossings, and domination. I’m not trying to moralize and certainly your choices are your own. But let’s talk about forgiveness for a moment.
Let’s pretend you’re an all-powerful deity. You have the power to make anything happen, bring anything into being, or erase anything from existence. Would you rather create more suffering or heal the world? If you see someone behaving like an asshole, wouldn’t it be better to change this person into a non-asshole than to vaporize her completely or torture her in revenge for her behavior? Remember, you’re all-powerful; you can do anything. Would you be a god of torment, murder, and darkness or a god of peace, enlightenment, and love?
Many beginning magical people, especially beginning witches, secretly want to be the dark god of torment because that seems more powerful. They feel so powerless that power is the only factor in their decisions—how to get some and how to avoid losing the tiny bit they have. This means they are fundamentally weak human beings, weak of character and metaphysically weak as well. They feel like they can’t afford to practice forgiveness or love.
On the other hand, someone who is genuinely strong is also generous. This person would become the god of enlightenment and love. Why? Because they’re not thinking like a scared animal. They have enough to spare, truly enough that they can offer some to others and not worry about it. They can do this and still keep their enemies at bay. They can practice forgiveness because they’re not obsessed with someone perceiving them as weak or taking advantage of their kindness. This is true nobility and it is actually very rare, especially among beginning magical people who often turn to the occult because they feel they have no other options in their lives.
This is why I recommend divination. Even if someone has a small petty nature, if they work with divination—especially before doing magic—they will be safe. They will not make their lives more of a mess. In the depths of fear and hatred, it can be hard to act confident. Animal nature takes over. We are dominated by scarcity thinking and defensive reactions.
That is precisely when we should be using a technique like tarot reading or Rune casting to check in with our higher selves, with the highest good. And we may find, after our sight clears, that we are even capable of being that god of love and enlightenment. We might realize that the healing power of forgiveness does not make us weak. Rather, it makes everyone stronger and better than they were. And that is not a bad thing at all.
The spiritual funk. We all go into a fallow cycle from time to time. It happens in our mundane lives, in our creative work, in our relationships. Sometimes the leaves have to fall. Sometimes the branches have to go unadorned. That is wisdom. But just because we can understand something with our heads doesn’t mean we will accept it in our hearts.
For me, periods of spiritual dryness are extremely painful. Magical ecstasy is my drug of choice. And I go into withdrawal relatively quickly. This is why I choose* to lead the magical life—I live to feel the power coursing around me, enveloping me, extending my presence and awareness, bringing me into greater capacity and understanding. It amounts to being reminded, moment by moment, that the world is a magical place, that I am part of that magic, and that I am participating in a deeper truth. But every now and then, the universe takes those sensitivities and awarenesses away and all I can do is hurt.
When I’m in a spiritual funk, I’m not a pleasant person. I drink more coffee than I should. I tend to lack patience or compassion. I tend to feel empty, spiritually dry, desolate, and despondent. Depression can come out of nowhere in such times. And the only spirits, if any, who show up on my altars are the parasitic assholes looking to get a free meal from tormenting me. Getting rid of them is usually a matter of employing the physical materia I’ve already made for this time—three-herb baths, egg purifications, dogwood and dragonsblood incense in the burner, things that don’t require my soul to work very hard. I go through the motions, completely numb inside, assiduously not thinking about whether things are going to work out, or whether I’m on track in my life, or whether so-and-so hates me, or whether I have enough money, time, life, love, power, peace, etc. Instead, I make an appointment with myself to worry later, when I’m feeling like myself again, whenever that will be.
In a spiritual funk, all considerations and impressions skew to the extreme negative. The light darknes. And great inner suffering is possible because all my gates stand open and unguarded, all my vulnerabilities are laid bare. I’ve gone through it again and again over the years, learning by dint of painful repetition that I need to discipline my thoughts as well as my actions—that a time when my spirits have gone away and my power is non-existent is no time to expect progress in anything. I just practice the bare minimum of spiritual hygeine, close up shop, and wait for it to be over.
I am presently at the end of one of these periods. Though I wish my energetic cycles could be as predictable as the waxing and waning of the moon or the precession of the equinoxes, the spiritual funkiness follows its own irregular course. I have tried to track it, believe me. It runs neither in accordance with diet, sleep patterns, stress, magical activity, astrology, holidays, sabbats, nor with various esoteric calendars. Rather, like a spirit (which I suspect it may ultimately be), my spiritual funk arrives when it wants and departs just the same. If anything, it serves as a reminder that no matter how powerful I may feel, I am still not so powerful that I can overwhelm every opposition and not so farseeing that I can obviate every obstruction.
It’s my personal Law of Polarity: “"Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled" (The Kybalion). As my power grows, so does my weakness, both expressing themselves in my life at different times. I should accept this as a manifestation of universal law. But it is not in the nature of a sorcerer to accept, to follow orders, to bow down to power. Rather, a sorcerer is a spiritual revolutionary of the Inner Planes. When I’m weak, I’m going to fight hard to get strong again, even if all I can do is burn some banishing incense, crawl into my study with a big cup of coffee, and write this post.
As fellow sorcerer, Brother Moloch, puts it: “My path is my own. It is not your path. You do not get to evaluate me – what I do, how I do it, who I do it for or what I charge to do it. Got that? My motivations are my own. My machinations are my own. I am free because I do what I want to do without anyone standing over me and looking down at me. No one tells me what to do. I’m NOT WICCAN. I am a Sorcerer, bitch, deal with it!” (The Eye of the Sorcerer)
I’m a sorcerer, above all else. For me, this means I can partake of many different systems and beliefs but it also means I struggle every day against the forces of inertia, ignorance, spiritual brokenness, nihilistic materialism, unthinking conformity, and that which would harm the innocent. To be a sorcerer is to fight in a perpetual war against these things by teaching, performing rituals for myself and others, and encouraging people to find their own paths. I operate with dangerous beings and volatile materials and I do it often in solitude, knowing that only the chosen few will ever understand my work. Such is the life I lead. But in times of spiritual funkiness, I know the best thing to do is hole up and wait for the storm to pass.
* choose is such a problematic word in this sentence. Do I choose it or does it choose me? Or is “choosing to lead a magical life” (a life informed and guided by magic) merely a linguistic convention, a useful fiction, for expressing the highly mysterious possibility that choice is actually irrelevant, that I am a condensation of magic itself and that coming to the knowledge and conversation of my inherent magic is merely a realization of what is always in the process of coming into being.
I’ve known a lot of magicians in my short life. I’m not sure exactly why or when I started drawing magical people to me, but it could simply be coincidental to the time, place, and characteristics of my youth. Then again, it could be because I have Scorpio rising, but I try to avoid relying on assumptions of either coincidence or astrology to explain the vicissitudes of my existence. They both seem like a detour when critical thinking is necessary.
I find “coincidence” to be an unverifiable useless scientistic prop, as dependent on faith as any other metaphysical belief and not very interesting. Instead of scientism, I would rather study the mythologies of the stars which can at least help me build narratives about my life. Coincidence is a belief that shuts down imagination. Astrology is a practice stimulates it, like any good divinatory art.
Still, it is sometimes better to accept the twists and turns of everyday life as they appear on the surface and ask hard direct questions about what is (or what seems to be). Sometimes, it’s valuable to put aside the ephemerides, the scrying bowl, and the tarot cards in favor an objective understanding. This is not something that comes easily to artists or magicians, but it is an indispensable skill to cultivate.
It’s a bit ironic for a magician to stress the value of clearly seeing the surfaces of the mundane world when the main thrust of his work involves engaging with the unseen and the meta-physical. But, as the Master Therion put it when he set forth the mission of Scientific Illuminism, one may reasonably approach “truth” via the “method of science” with the “aim of religion.” I find this to be a very helpful sentiment when facing what Dion Fortune called, “a subject in which there is no standard of criticism and in which each is a law unto himself, claiming, if he be so minded, independent revelation from sources beyond the judgment of human reason” (Sane Occultism 14). In other words, maintaining everyday mental coherence and an awareness of consensus reality has its uses, too.
If you look through the posts on this website, you’ll see me reporting on workings I’ve done with the attitude of an experimenter. Yes, I am confident in certain discoveries and reliable processes, but that doesn’t mean I will ever stop pushing forward into the unknown as a student of the mysteries. This means I’m often more interested in discovering new questions than repeating old answers. At the same time, I reference the writings of great magicians to pay respect to what they have discovered and to remain mindful of their hard-earned insights.
Over the years, I have slipped further and further into the occult demimonde in order to do this work, spending time with conjure workers, houngans, ceremonial magicians, Satanists, monks, psychics, witches, mystics, esoteric scholars, and priests of gods whose names you won’t see posted on billboards by the side of the road. And lately I’ve been communicating with a lot of young people, new Wiccans, beginners who have experienced their first initiatory shocks and who are wondering about these new doorways that have opened before them.
To them, I say: the world is yours. Enjoy these first steps into the unknown. You will never experience wonder the way you do now. Also remember to keep your sense of who are are in mundane society. Being able to walk in multiple worlds and define yourself in multiple contexts is very hard and only gets more difficult the further you progress. But, in my opinion, there is no greater adventure than the path of initiation. It truly is the “hero’s journey,” and the sacrifices you make along the way are ultimately negligible when compared to the greatness of the work.
So mote it be, now and in the years to come.