The Necessity of Pain (or Why I do a Reading Before Engaging in Magical Work)

I can’t say enough good things about Benebell Wen’s excellent book on Taoist talismans, The Tao of Craft. Giving it a second read, I was struck by the following passage, one to which I had not paid much attention the first time through:

Using something like magic violates people’s karmic paths. While trapped in the tempest of suffering, people forget the necessity of pain. Pain is part of the hero’s journey to greatness, and both that pain and greatness could be part of someone’s karmic path. Not allowing that person to suffer the necessary pain could be derailing him from the hero’s journey.

As I re-read this, I caught myself nodding in agreement. Pain is, of necessity, our greatest teacher. Moreover, I have written on this website about the role of fate and destiny in life experience, how one must sometimes be content to “adjust one’s wants to one’s capabilities,” as Anton puts it in The Satanic Bible. Some things simply cannot or should not be changed. I think Wen would probably talk about this in terms of “karma” instead of “fate.” However, although the concepts are not identical, they both point to the same reality: sometimes the only way out is through.

Of course, this is not what clients want to hear when they come to me asking for help, whether it be through a reiki session, the performance of a ritual, or a reading. I think a tarot reading will always help in a situation because knowing more about the problem and understanding it from multiple angles makes us more insightful participants in our own lives. And reiki is, by definition, complementary—it doesn’t interfere where it shouldn’t. But magic has a different intensity.

The kind of magic that Wen is talking about in the passage quoted above is the sort that can cause radical amounts of change. Sometimes, that is a good thing. Other times, we’re meant to suffer as a way for us to learn and grow. So the question is: how do we know when magic would be helpful and when it would interfere with a necessary learning experience? There is a simple, direct answer: do a reading.

This was one of the earliest lessons I learned as a child. Whenever we’re in doubt about the right thing to do, we “inquire of an oracle.” It could be a tarot reading like the ones I give here. It could be a consultation with the I-Ching, bone reading, geomancy, runes, the Holy Astragals, or some other system of divination. But we must perform a divination if we hope to avoid disaster by compounding our problems with magical interference.

I turn down slightly more cases than I accept as a sorcerer for hire. Since re-opening my business here at Thunderbolt Sorcery Workshop, I have already turned down 3 clients and will no doubt turn down more in the future. I have not done this for any other reason than the fact that their cards were negative.

As I often put it, if your cards are bad, I won’t take any more of your money. I charge a small reading fee (£10) for an initial tarot consultation before doing any magical work. This is to offset the time I spend considering your case. I devote a lot of time to talking with prospective clients about their difficult situations before I ever start the actual work. That’s how a responsible practitioner conducts himself—paying attention to clients and really listening to what they have to say. So it’s only fair that I get something in exchange for those hours on email and Skype. That said, I know there are spiritual workers who don’t do readings ahead of time. Their attitude is, well, if the work is going to work, it will. If it doesn’t, that’s how things are meant to go. But I think that attitude is shortsighted.

If I do a preliminary reading and see that conjure or ritual is going to change nothing or make the situation even worse for the client, there is no way I’m going to go ahead with the work. In my opinion, it would be unethical and potentially harmful to do so, even in situation where the client is offering me a lot of money. There have been a few times when I’ve been offered high four figures for a single working but because I could see that the client was fated to endure the situation, I had to say no.

On the other hand, sometimes magical work is right in line with the client’s life path. Those are the times when the cards are good, when a client comes to me and I see exactly how we could work on the situation. But it all depends on that divination.


What if, when I try to do magic, I don’t feel a thing?

Donald Michael Kraig, possibly one of the greatest recent magical teachers in the West, wrote the following about leading the magical life:

To really be a magician means that your “mindset” is totally centered around magick. This means that no matter what you are doing, thinking or saying, there is always in your mind the idea of how everything is related magickally. Thus, if you are talking politics, you might be thinking about how a politician is able to convince people to vote for him or her without ever mentioning a political platform. Certainly this is a powerful form of magic, convincing people to do things for no apparent reason. When you are cooking, you might be thinking about how the element of fire affects meats, their byproducts, and vegetables. When magick becomes your way of thinking, acting, and breathing, then you will be a magician. (Modern Magick 81)

This is true for any calling. When you live it, when it is the primary way you make sense of the world and your actions, you have formed a subjective synthesis with that thing. You have attained integration. And you can safely say you are that thing, insofar as one can be anything.

In my opinion, the most remarkable part of this is that it even has to be said. Magic is so misunderstood, so bastardized and obfuscated by fiction and film, that its default paradigm in the West is not that of a wise woman leading a visionary experience with herbs, a priest mediating between the dead and the living, a Rosicrucian philosopher probing the depths of the soul, a Taoist sorcerer blessing a new building, or a tribal elder healing a community after a tragedy.

Rather, it’s Harry Potter. And, as fun as J.K. Rowling’s world is (a la Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and C. S. Lewis), it’s still a materialistic magical paradigm where people shoot fireballs out their asses and go flying on broomsticks. Even in its fantasy worlds, the West can’t imagine anything that it can’t measure through physics. Such materialistic magic is “vulgar” in the sense of what I was saying about materializing gold-plated limousines in “Blood from a stone: if you can do magic, how come you’re not rich?”

Moreover, it completely disregards the most fundamental principle of magic, which Anton LaVey famously labeled The Balance Factor: “Magic is like nature itself, and success in magic requires working in harmony with nature, not against it” (Satanic Bible 87). Later, the occultist Carl Nagel would reformulate this idea in terms of belief versus possibility:

Do not lust after that which you know is quite unattainable… . You must firmly believe an ancient truth; namely that real magick comes from within. The spirits and demons evoked by ritual are simply a means to an end. So you must firmly believe that what you seek is realistic, and most important of all, within the realms of probability. All the chanting and spellcasting in the world won’t do you one iota of good if you are in any way doubtful as to the real chances of realizing your dream. (The Infernal Conjurations of the Notorious Grimoire of Honorius 11).

And, more recently, the sorcerer Jason Miller would express this through a quote from Voodoo Priest Louis Martine: “First comes the working. Then comes the work” (The Sorcerer’s Secrets 10), pointing out that without a channel for mundane physical manifestation, all the magic in the world isn’t going to produce material change.

So what can magic do? It can change minds, alter probabilities, and sometimes produce those rare vulgar effects we like to call miracles. But mostly it takes things that already exist and arranges them in our favor. We get a check in the mail. Someone falls in love with us. We get hired. We win the contest. We learn a secret or find a valuable item. If we work hard, we learn about the meaning of our lives and what the soul is. Horcruxes and dragons—as impressive as they may be—are not needed for this in an everyday physical sense.

Basically, when we do magic, we’re interacting with a non-physical medium (aether) to produce non-physical and sometimes physical results. So what if, in the process of doing a ritual or a healing or a hoodoo working, we don’t feel anything, no bells and whistles, no fireballs from our nether regions? Does that mean we don’t know what we’re doing or it didn’t work or it’s weak?  Back to Kraig:

Sometimes in my classes I have had students tell me that although they carry out the rituals with extreme care, they feel nothing within themselves (or without), as a result. They want to know why they are failing and what they are doing wrong. The answer is that there is nothing wrong and that they are not failing. The energies involved in the rituals are continually at work throughout the physical and spiritual universe. The energy goes around and through all things, both physical and non-physical. It is everywhere. If you did not feel the motion of the energy before, there is no guarantee that you will sense it after you have begun practicing the rituals. Magick permits us to utilize these forces in ways non-magicians cannot comprehend. It is not necessary that you have any weird experiences or unusual sensations as a result of the practice of the rituals in this course. If the rituals are done properly, the desired results must inevitably occur. If you throw a ball in the air, it must come down. This is the law of gravity. If you do the rituals properly, you must get the desired results. This is the cosmic law of magick. (113)

I have found this to be true again and again. There are times when I am particularly sensitive to the movement of the aether through the elements or through and around various entities called up in ritual. Those are the times—especially when paranormal phenomena seem to be happening in my ritual chamber—when it’s easy to believe in magic. But other times, when I’m tired, when I’ve eaten dense meals or lost a lot of sleep or when I’m distracted by thoughts or emotions, I won’t feel the aether or see strange things. But I have had as much success from workings done in those states as I have had in times of great sensitivity.

And so being a “competent” practitioner comes down, really, to experience. Do I know the proper procedures and the ways to modify them to fit the situation? Have I developed inner and outer relationships with helpers in the work? Am I a good enough reader that I can tell if the work is likely to succeed or if the fate of my client has been fixed? If the answer is yes to these questions, what I feel is of secondary importance at best. If I have the magical mindset, as Kraig mentions above, then it’s all magical to me. It doesn’t have to be vulgar and materialistic. I don’t have to scorch my britches with a fireball. If I do the rituals properly, I will get the results.

Scrying a Human Being: an Advanced Piece of Psychism

This is not so much a sorcerous working as it is a feat of psychism. It is not for those who still need to develop the ability to visualize and concentrate. Moreover, it presupposes the following magical proficiencies:

If / once you have these basics, you will want to find a time when you can be alone and undisturbed. If you have a dedicated ritual chamber, even better. In the night hour of the Moon (if you observe the magical hours) or whenever you feel most magical and receptive, enter your chamber and light a black, silver, or dark purple candle. Light some good psychic incense (Lucky Mojo makes a good “Psychic Vision” incense; though, I make a simple mixture of star anise, wormwood, and frankincense—simpler is usually better when it comes to incense recipes). And make sure you have ventilation in the room.

Ground, center, banish and / or shield. Then meditate quietly for a few minutes. Step out of your body and travel to your Inner Temple. This should be a full astral projection.

See a very large black mirror. While you’re staring into the mirror, think of the person you would like to scry. Feel her emotions, her breath on the side of your neck. Raise her essence around you as if it were a mist. Then see that mist in the mirror.

The mist (which is a concrete metaphor for the person’s soul) will dissipate and you will not only see images of her, but you will feel the emotions she feels. You will hear her thoughts. And all of this will be themed, at first, around your connection to her in mundane life.

Well and good. You will have already learned something about this person. You could stop there, reverse your direction back to your body, and end the operation. But perhaps there is something you want to ask this person. At such a level of connection, there are no secrets. You simply need to ask her image in the mirror and it will tell you. Keep in mind that you are calling on the deep mind of this person to speak to you. She will not hold back.  If there is a lot of buried emotion, be prepared for a very agitated response. But as long as you do not touch the mirror, you cannot be harmed no matter how forceful the person behaves.

The mirror is a doorway into the person’s unconscious. Actually, the mirror construct can be used as a doorway to any person, place, or thing. What could you do with a doorway into someone’s mind? If you are an advanced practitioner, you already have some ideas. But be cautious. If you step into the mirror, you are in that person’s unconscious universe. Is that a good thing? The link will persist between the two of you and could result in unhealthy obsessions if you cross that threshold without a good reason and spend too much time there.

Also, you will want to ground, center, and banish / shield afterward as well. This working can cause a lot of inner problems, resulting in the exchange of fears and desires, the development of phobias, and some very bad dreams if you don’t know what you are doing. So I warn beginners: this is powerful psychism. It is not to be played with. You absolutely must develop the above fundamental skill set before you attempt something like this. As always, use common sense and avoid recklessness.

After working with this technique for a while, more advanced practitioners will see all kinds of possibilities. It is something that can revolutionize your practice. Think about it. And good luck.

The Glamour of Sincere Magical People

Everyone needs to find their own balance between darkness and light; between air, earth, fire, and water (or water, fire, earth, wood, and metal if, like me, you’ve been reading Benebell Wen’s excellent Tao of Craft); and between individuation and collaboration.

Finding balance, the magician gradually rises on the planes according to Path of the Serpent from Malkuth (the Material Plane in Assiah, also called Alayi) to Kether (the highest realization of divine consciousnes in Aziluth, also called Anami Lok). The mystic and the philosopher may instead follow the more direct Path of the Arrow. Still, no matter which path one takes up the mountain, the initiatory termination point is the same for all: self-realization on all planes and in all worlds.

In the parlance of the great magical societies of the West, this is referred to as the “Great Work.” And it is understood to take place simultaneously in every living microcosm and in the greatest macrocosm: “As below, so above; and as above so below. With this knowledge alone you may work miracles” (The Emerald Tablet of Hermes). But balancing and realizing oneself “above and below” is neither easy nor simple. Hence, the idea of it being work.

The Kybalion addresses the deceptive complexity of the Great Work in terms of a “divine paradox”:

This is the Paradox of the Universe, resulting from the Principle of Polarity which manifests when THE ALL begins to Create–hearken to it for it points the difference between half-wisdom and wisdom. While to THE INFINITE ALL, the Universe, its Laws, its Powers, its Life, its Phenomena, are as things witnessed in the state of Meditation or Dream; yet to all that is Finite, the Universe must be treated as Real, and life, and action, and thought, must be based thereupon, accordingly, although with an ever [increasing] understanding of the Higher Truth. Each according to its own Plane and Laws. (22)

This is to say that, although parity exists between heaven and earth, each has its own laws, it’s own geography and meanings. And if we intend to rise on the planes, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that the microcosm in us is tantamount to the macrocosm beyond us—that all distinctions must ultimately collapse when we get to the top of the mountain and experience the divine I AM. We must be actively involved in our own spiritual initiation.

It makes no difference whether, like a monk, we choose to meditate on the nature of existence or, like a sorcerer, we choose to adjust that existence to reflect our conception of what is best (cf. Wen’s distinction between exoteric and esoteric Taoism). We must survey the mountainside and undertake a climb. Most of us intuitively understand this at some point—the world is not going to beat a path to our door unless we put out a significant amount of effort. And, even then, there are no guarantees that we will ever reach the desired destination. The world is just as spiritually dangerous as it is physically dangerous. Still, we have to try.

And so it is that we will encounter various way stations, signposts, and teachers. Some of these teachers will be fellow travelers. Some will be wiser and more powerful than we are. Others will offer us an opportunity to advance by putting obstacles in our path or by requesting our help. All of these individuals and the experiences they bring can be beneficial to us. However, there is one particular sort of teacher who requires an elevated degree of caution. I call this person “the spiritual professional,” and I’d like to say a few words about this person to the many spiritual seekers who read my website regularly.

“The Spiritual Professional” is someone who makes all or even part of his income by offering spiritual services like the ones I offer here. Usually this person is experienced in a number of metaphysical approaches and systems. Sometimes he will hold formal initiations in magical societies and will have a fairly articulate communication style.

This person could be a con man posing as a legitimate spiritual worker. And we all know that we should be more or less wary of that when looking for a reader or a ritualist. But I am not interested in writing about fraudulent mediums and conjurers here. Rather, the person I’m talking about in this post is the legitimate worker who is so good, so knowledgeable, and has such a slick, tightly defined area of practice that it can seem overwhelming and cause you to question your own path.

You might encounter an impressive Buffalo Shaman with a cool website, an original Buffalo Oracle Deck, a list of very solid testimonials, a number of highly powerful Buffalo meditations, and a very thoughtful, original book on the subject. Such people are not con men or liars; they’re exactly what they say they are, the real deal. And we should (rightly) feel grateful that they are out there, bringing their unique perspectives and abilities to bear in a world that has lost much of its inspiration.

Nevertheless, I think it is important to keep in mind that each person has a unique spiritual journey, a unique initiatory trajectory, up the mountain of the Great Work. And though we may be deeply impressed by someone who is truly and sincerely walking the path to self-realization, our job is to learn but not to slavishly imitate.

This seems especially true in cases where The Spiritual Professional understands marketing and has cast such a powerful personal glamour (enhanced, no doubt, by certain spiritual operations) that he seems magnetic and illustrious in our eyes. Certainly, we should pay the Buffalo Shaman for his services and consult with him about his ideas, but if we forget our own sovereignty, our own divine pattern, we betray and contradict ourselves.

The motivation to undertake the spiritual journey begins in a desire for truth, which is to say, for self-knowledge. If we allow ourselves to become subject to someone else’s glamour, if we fall under their spell, we find ourselves on a detour from the most direct and healthy path. No doubt, this can also be of use to us in our lives, but it may be that we could have learned those lessons more quickly and easily if we’d believed a little more in ourselves.

In The Hermaneutics of the Subject, the philosopher Michel Foucault talks about gnothi seauton (know thyself) as being closely related to epimeleia heautou (care for thyself):

In some texts … there is, … a kind of subordination of the expression of the rule to “know yourself” to the precept of care of the self. The gothi seauton (“know yourself”) appears, quite clearly and again in a number of significant texts, within the more general framework of the epimeleia heautou (care of oneself) as one of the forms, one of the consequences, as a sort of concrete, precise, and particular application of the general rule: You must attend to yourself, you must not forget yourself, you must take care of yourself. (4-5)

The possible relation between knowing and caring, as it may pertain to our discussion here, is very interesting. To know ourselves, we must interact with others because it is only through contrast that meaning can obtain. On the other hand, such knowledge is only useful if it advances our understanding of how to care for ourselves.

This resonates with the central idea of this post: take care of yourself; do not become lost in the radiance cast by another, even if—in the language of the I-Ching—you can recognize him or her as a “superior man.” Rather, show respect and courtesy, exercise good will, and absorb what may be useful on your spiritual journey.

Glasya-Labolas, the Author of Bloodshed

Glasya-Labolas is a president of hell who commands 36 legions of demons. According to Collin de Plancy, other versions of the spirit’s name are Classyalabolas, Caassimolar, and Caacrinolaas. Most daemonologists describe him as appearing in the shape of a winged dog. 

Johann Weir’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum describes Glasya-Labolas this way:

Glasya Labolas, alias Caacrinolaas, or Caassimolar, is a great president, who commeth foorth like a dog, and hath wings like a griffen, he giveth the knowledge of arts, and is the captaine of all mansleiers: he understandeth things present and to come, he gaineth the minds and love of freends and foes, he maketh a man go invisible, and hath the rule of six and thirtie legions.

300 years later, in the Goetia, MacGregor Mathers would add the rank of “Earl” to the description. While the aristocratic ranks may seem superfluous or nonsensical at first, certain advanced workings might benefit from understanding who rules whom in the “hell” of these medieval daemons.

For example, because Glasya-Labolas is both a president and an earl, he can be evoked through the correspondences of both Mercury and Mars, according to the intentions of the operator. Moreover, knowing that Göap, the great Demon King of Fire, rules Glasya-Labolas in the South means the practitioner can evoke Glasya-Labolas in his king’s name. This is a very powerful technique that can get a bit complex in practice. But it is useful nonetheless, especially when mundane circumstances dictate that the evocation must be performed on a day when the Moon is Void of Course or on a different day from that of Mercury or Mars, etc.

Glasya-Labolas is supposed to know the past and the (potential) future and can be evoked in his Mercurial aspect as a spirit of divination. However, one of his greatest abilities is penetrating human minds. Ariana Osborne, in The Daemon Tarot: The Forbidden Wisdom of the Infernal Dictionary, writes that Glasya-Labolas “could find his way into the deepest thoughts of friends and foes and could use that knowledge to make them love each other or drive them to murder each other.”

In my work, I have found this to be true. I consider Glasya-Labolas to be one of the more dangerous, not-to-be-trifled-with daemons of the Lesser Key and certainly one to treat with the utmost respect and circumspection. Mathers is not joking when he repeats Weir’s description that the spirit “teacheth all Arts and Sciences in an instant, and is an Author of Bloodshed and Manslaughter.” Indeed. You may want to learn something particular or influence someone, but take care that the spirit doesn’t gain a hold of your mind.

After working with Glasya-Labolas, you may find yourself growing angry at someone you dislike, extremely angry, maybe enough to do bodily harm to that person. If you notice this—and a magician must always pay attention to the origin of her thoughts—you have not performed the proper License to Depart and / or banishings. Keep this in mind.

Overall, I have found this spirit to be an honorable effective companion in my work. He can be unpleasant and is not a spirit around whom I would feel comfortable letting my guard down. But if you make a fair deal with him and hold up your part, he can usually be counted on to hold up his.

If you find yourself noticing images of winged dogs or words that sound like one of the names of this spirit, remember the lesson he teaches: if you penetrate the minds of others, you are responsible for what happens to them as a result of such work—you can use the power for great good or great evil. As always, it is your choice.

True vs. False: Fraudulent Psychics and What We Can Learn From Hulu’s Shut Eye

The first time I heard the expression, “shut eye,” was from Orson Welles in an interview with Dick Cavett. Like most of Cavett’s legendary interviews, it’s great and Welles is a brilliant storyteller. I’ve pinpointed the relevant moment in a YouTube clip here: and I suggest you give it a look if you’ve never seen it.

I start off with this because I not only believe the writers of the recent Hulu series were inspired by it, but also because it showcases, in brief, the main psychological problem most of us have with going to psychics and magicians in this day and age. We want to believe but, at the same time, our common sense tells us that none of it is real.

So we wind up with a kind of cognitive dissonance, our creative / imaginative selves saying it sure feels real and our critical / socially conditioned selves saying if I can’t see it, hold it in my hand, or measure it, it’s fake. Scientific materialism extends this sense of “fraudulence” to include things like dreams, the imagination, ideas, feelings, and the meaning of art—all of it considered unreal by consensus culture or, at least, far less real than the turkey sandwich I just ate for lunch.

And if you doubt any of this, imagine someone has a daughter. Who would that person probably want the girl to someday marry—a mechanical engineer or the lead singer in a band? Why? What if it came down to a musician or a psychic medium? Why now? If you say “earning potential,” I suggest you look deeper. If you say “respectability,” you’re getting closer. If you say, “well, an engineer will have a more stable life than the lead singer in some band,” you’re almost there. If you say, “an engineer does something that matters,” you’re red hot. It’s only a small step from “what matters” to “what’s true.” Engineer = produces measurable things or services / matters / true. Musician = produces less measurable things / matters far less / less true. Psychic = does not produce measurable things or services / doesn’t matter / false.

Essentially, it’s Plato vs. Aristotle. Plato says that truth exists and, if we open our eyes to it, we will then be able to distinguish what’s real from what’s false—what’s outside the cave vs. what’s just a shadow projected onto the wall. Aristotle responds that since we’ve been given sight (and other physical senses), we should start the waking-up process with what we can see (perceive) and go from there.

So back to Orson Welles talking about cold reading and pretending to be a fortune teller. He tells Dick Cavett that when a medium or a card reader starts to get very experienced, he just knows things about the people coming in because he has seen it all before. He seems able to read minds, but he’s actually just making very accurate educated guesses, given that the same sorts of people come to him over and over.

A fake psychic becomes a “shut eye” when he thinks his educated guesses mean he has “true” psychic powers. Welles is using Plato’s argument: there’s the truth (you’re not actually psychic; you’re just making accurate educated guesses based on experience with people) and the false world of untrue shadows projected on the wall of the cave (you’re a psychic because you have powers). This might be the basis of our current fetish for scientific materialism (scientism): science says that there is the truth (what we can physically measure) and untruth (what we can’t measure).

But then Aristotle walks on stage and asks, isn’t it important to examine what we’re actually seeing and feeling? In other words, if Orson Welles is merely pretending to be a psychic but tells us something in a tarot reading that changes our lives, shouldn’t that mean something? Shouldn’t we examine that “on its face”? If we agree with Aristotle, then maybe whether the psychic medium is a “shut eye” or not is less important than how we feel as a result of the reading. Maybe our truth, what’s important and meaningful to us, starts in what we individually, subjectively perceive and how we feel.

One of my personal heroes, Ramsey Dukes, talks about the Plato-Aristotle divide at length in several of his YouTube videos. I share this very brief clip, entitled “You think you are not clairvoyant?” because it’s short and makes his point; though, I recommend all of his books and videos. He’s truly a master magician and a very wise man.

Here he asks the question, could it be real if I imagined it? He seems to think it could if, by “real,” we mean “having meaning.” In this, Dukes is a proponent of Aristotle, not Plato. And so, incidentally, am I.

So what about Hulu’s Shut Eye? One of the reasons I like this series is that it starts out in Platonic waters: fraudulent mediums are liars and conmen taking the money of gullible people for the Gypsy mafia. At best, they’re like stage magicians. At worst, they’re emotional manipulators and thieves.

There is absolutely no doubt that people like this exist in the world. And the show, like the Welles interview, is entertaining. But as spiritual and magical people, we may be offended by the assumption that, as the psychiatrist in the show puts it, this is all “bullshit”—which is ironic, considering that she believes in quantum states, god, saints, prophets, and the possibility that an individual could have knowledge and conversation with the world from within the context of “zero-point energy.” In my opinion, we will only be offended if we’re still controlled by the Platonic true-untrue dichotomy. This is what we can learn from Shut Eye—how to keep Plato from overtaking Aristotle in our minds and vice-versa.

We can say, along with most scientists, Orson Welles, Darren Brown, Obersturmbannführer Dawkins, and Plato that we can know about the physical world through measuring it and experimenting based on those measurements. As a result of this, when it comes to material things, we can determine what is objectively true and what is objectively false.

But we can also say, along with Ramsey Dukes, Madame Zelda, the psychic medium down the street who gives tarot readings for $100 a pop, and Aristotle that what you feel and what it means to you is what is subjectively true. And there is a lot of value in that. Sometimes there is way more value in the subjective experience than in scientific objective data. Think about your favorite song or painting or movie. It’s not your favorite because you know the variance of the decibels, the chemical composition of the paint, or the way the scenes were blocked in the script.

You should watch Shut Eye if you have Hulu, especially if you’re a magically minded person, and think deeply about the message of the show.  Ask yourself what you believe, what you care about, and what matters to you.  It’s an important thing to do, especially if you feel yourself to be a spiritual person.  

The Sign of the Witch (and other twists of fate)

“What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities.” – Slavoj Žižek

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have received many encouraging messages both from old friends in the magical community and new visitors to this website regarding my return to sorcery-for-hire. I would like to say thank you. Positivity is always appreciated. Moreover, if you like my work here, you may be interested in my more theoretical, speculative writing on Hermetic principles, Vedanta, Eckankar, meditation, life after death, soul travel, the inner planes, and the philosophy of self-liberation at This Secret Life of Mine.

My client list is growing again, almost effortlessly, and I have already begun to address the requests of a number of people. This always happens. While it’s true that everything on this Earth constantly changes, it’s also true that some things stay consistent on a higher level. For example, some people are born under the sign of Venus and will always be loved; others, touched by Pluto, will never go broke no matter how they spend their money; and still others, beloved of Jupiter, will always find themselves in leadership positions. For me, born with Scorpio rising, I live under the sign of the witch. The astrologer, Gahl Sasson, once called me a “son of Hades”—not in a negative sense but in the sense of being a magical person who goes down untrodden paths to the underworld and investigates little-known things. It’s not surprising that I have always been attracted to magic, mysticism, and the occult.

We change day-to-day, but certain aspects of our lives have been written—into our personalities, into our circumstances—as fate and destiny. Those things, being on a much higher level, explicitly do not change. Sorcery can’t change them. Wishing and praying can’t do it, either. The gods themselves must abide by the skein of fate. In my case, this means I always seem to draw “alternative” people to me—witches, psychics, magicians, artists, unconventional scholars, fortean researchers. But what you magnetize, what is written into your personal story, might be very different. You must learn what it is and make peace with it.

The key to attaining some degree of tranquility in this life is knowing and accepting that you will be able to change many things—but not all things. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re destined to always be poor or unloved or confused about your purpose. It does mean that the responsibility is yours to try to see your life more clearly, without obsessively trying to attain or possess things that will never be yours.

In other words, if you are missing a leg, you may be destined to be one the few one-legged ballet dancers in the world; however, it is perhaps a bit more likely that you may be destined to never portray the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. It’s up to you to determine which is true by seeing yourself clearly. You do this by looking inward and engaging in what is sometimes called, discernment. Thelema calls it finding one’s “True Will,” which Dr. David Shoemaker defines like so:

The True Will is the will of the deepest inmost Self—the core of who you really are as a spiritual being. Also, and importantly, it is an expression of the universal will, as particularized and expressed in your individual life. This is why, when we are living in accordance with our True Will, we find that much of the time the universe seems to open up a path right in front of us, as if in sympathy with our aims. Likewise, when we feel as though we are swimming upstream against life it is very often the case that we have veered a bit from the path of our True Will. (

With this in mind, we can practice discernment by asking a few basic questions: what is always easy for me? What is always hard? What is always impossible for me while others find it easy?

Having a birth chart done is also useful as a way to begin thinking about one’s influences and capacities. You can get a tarot reading from a professional in order to shed light on your unique life path. You can take career aptitude tests and engage in a course of therapy in order to know yourself more intimately. You can also join a magical society and start learning mysticism and philosophy in order to unlock the truth of your innermost self.

All of these approaches are legitimate and useful, some more than others depending on the individual in question. All of them will result in higher levels of self-awareness, consciousness, and insight. Externally, you will see a lot of change taking place as well.

If you remember nothing I have said in this post except this, you will have benefited: do not wish for that which you have learned is quite unattainable in accordance with your True Will. Or as Anton LaVey puts it in The Satanic Bible:

To be able to adjust one’s wants to one’s capabilities is a great talent, and too many people fail to realize that if they are unable to attain the maximum, “a half a loaf can be better than none.” The chronic loser is always the man who, having nothing, if unable to make a million dollars, will reject any chance to make fifty thousand with a disgruntled sneer. One of the magician’s greatest weapons is knowing himself; his talents, abilities, physical attractions and detractions, etc., and when, where, and with whom to utilize them!

Harry Dresden on the Art

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.

– Jim Butcher, Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files

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