Short-Term vs. Long-Term Objectives in Magic

I started this as a thread on Studio Arcanis, but I’m going to include it here as a post because I think it may be of interest to the majority of people who visit this website.  If you want to talk about it, feel free to comment below. – Dr. M

I’ve been having an interesting conversation off-site with a novice magician who is having a hard time wrapping her head around the idea that you can use magic to change your entire life permanently and for the better. She’s talented, even though she’s a beginner, and she’s been able to pull in small amounts of money, romantic partners, call (a few) spirits, and protect herself. She’s got all the fundamentals. But her question to me was, in so many words, if I’ve got this magical gift, “How come I still live in a lame tiny apartment, I’m broke most of the time, and every love interest I bring into my life doesn’t last?”

It’s a good question. My first response was to ask what she values the most and where she is putting the largest amount of emotional energy and focus in her life. I talk about that at length here on my blog because it’s related and, as a public sorcerer, I get similar questions quite a bit:

But I think there’s more to it in terms of what she’s wondering. And I think it comes down to short-term and long-term objectives. A short-term objective might be to get $500 to pay off a credit card debt. That is excellent. So you make a sigil or buy a “Money Get Into My Pocket” candle, do the ritual, avoid lust of result, and eventually money comes to you. Maybe $250 comes from a rebate, $100 comes from a gambling win down at Big Horse Casino, and you get $150 on Ebay when your Franklin Mint “Elvis in the Parthenon” plates finally sell. Is that how money magic can work? Absolutely. You take that money and pay off your credit card. The whole thing takes a few months and it doesn’t feel like Harry Potter magic. It just feels like a few good breaks in a normal life. Magic. It works like that.

But you then still have to use your credit card because you are broke enough to be living on credit part of the time. Okay. So you haven’t changed much. You are still going to accrue debt. You still have to shop at discount stores part of the time and forgo the daily Starbucks if you don’t want a headache at the end of the month. You need long-term change. Here is how to create that.

The basic principle is that long-term change is built from a chain of significant short-term changes aimed at the goal. Back to our example. You paid off your credit card. Good. Now you do a short-term money working to bring an additional income stream into your life. It’s not just you making more debt and then scrambling around to pay it off. It’s you adding more income while you make that additional debt. Pretty soon, you divert a little of it into a savings account. You keep on with this until you have a personal back-up fund that is big enough to, say, invest in a Bitcoin (yes, I know, crypto currency is very magical but unstable and it is just an example, not even the best one to use here—just go with it for the moment) or eventually purchase a rental property.* Then you’re playing with a degree of magical affluence that can increase and that ensures you have a long-term change. And you keep doing this, expanding, making more base affluence for yourself (and acquiring the knowledge necessary to do it again from nothing if you lose all your money).

In the meantime, you have done many short-term workings: to reduce small debts that stand in the way; to gain insight and knowledge; to acquire helpers; for luck (in a gambling sense and also in a personal networking sense); for magical mentors to help you work your magical books more effectively; and for a host of other short-term things, which are not one-shot workings as much as they are steps in the longer process.

The long game takes time, planning, and you have to be quiet about it because it will disrupt and upset those around you who like keeping you in your frustrated broke place. The point is that you can use magic to change your life permanently, but you have to be willing to put the work in over time. It might take a few years. You might be a different person at the end because of all the changes and the way people will be pulled into and pushed out of your life. 

So it also comes down to my question to this person: what do you value the most? If you can live with being broke but in love, you value love. If you think love depends on being financially stable enough to pursue it, you value money. If you can sit alone in a library, broke and unloved, and be content with your books, you value knowledge. Like most of us, you probably value all these things to some degree. But the thing you value most should be the object of long-term commitment for you. The rest will fall into place in a lesser sense when you get started on that central focus-point.

* There are many, many other examples and ways to draw that base affluence. These are only two and, as I mention above, not even the best two.

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”?

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.

Paying the Price for a Magical Life

After college, when I started my mundane career, I entered a field where there’s no health insurance and no pension.  The money you make is the money you have and you eat what you kill, so to speak.  If you want to go to the dentist, you better have some cash saved for that eventuality.  Take a vacation?  Sure.  Anytime you want, but know that while you’re resting, someone else is taking your clients.

I’m not going to talk about my non-magical work directly because I like to maintain a certain degree of privacy, but I will say that it’s a field where things move pretty fast; you live on your wits; and not everyone can survive there, much less do well.  But I have been doing well at it, sometimes very well, for a long time.  I’m not a genius or some kind of savant.  I was just lucky enough to stumble into a field where I had a large degree of aptitude.  My point in saying this isn’t to brag but rather to make a point about practical magic.  So please bear with me.

When I hit my first big “target” in my job, I thought I was a badass.  Other people were missing it, and I hit it right away.  An older guy, kind of a teacher and mentor, congratulated me but added a warning I never forgot: “You have an obsessive one-track mind and a hard-nosed attitude, which will take you far in this business.  But don’t get cocky.  It’s easy to get to the top once.  It’s not so easy to stay there.”  I soon learned how wise and insightful this advice was when I missed my next goal.  Then I had to find humility in myself in order to keep going.  I had to learn from the failures and let them go.  It’s easy to win, but you only learn a little that way.  You learn a lot more from your enormous fuck-ups.

Last night, I learned that I’ve hit my 100th target in this business.  There’s no doubt I’m at the top of my field, even though what I do isn’t a status- or fame-oriented industry and discretion is a lot more valuable than being able to shoot your mouth off about all your success—like I’m kind of doing here and I apologize for that.  I don’t know any other way to make the same point about practical magic: it’s easy to hit your target one time.  But can you do it ten, fifty, one-hundred times?  If you do enough magical workings and record them, you’ll eventually know enough and be proficient enough that you’ll be seeing a 80-90% success rate.  But that is an enormous commitment.

At that point, magic will be like breathing.  You’ll still get bad cards for workings you think you might want to do, and you’ll sometimes have the odd failure even when the cards are good, but you’ll usually know why it failed and how to approach the situation again from a different angle to get results.  You might even hang your shingle out as a sorcerer-for-hire at that point.

In my opinion, the only way to get to this level is to have constant obsessive focus on actually doing the work day in, day out.  This means magic will have to be more than a hobby or a fun way to seem spooky and cool (actually, most pros in any field look very normal and boring on the outside because they’re too busy putting everything they have into their work).  It will have to be a way of life, which is hard.  It’s hard to integrate something like that into your life and keep it there over the long term.  But that’s the price.  In magic, as in everything else, there’s always a price you have to pay.

So how much do you want magic?  How much are you willing to sacrifice?  How much are you committed to doing it, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly?  Constant study?  Constant practice and experimentation?  Meticulous records and journaling?  All while maintaining a mundane life, having a job, family, and friends who don’t know (and wouldn’t respect) a thing about it?  You can do successful magic once, twice, maybe now and then.  But if you want serious chops, you need to work at it and let nothing stand in your way.

The Occult Communities Are Falling Apart | Baal Kadmon

The more I get to know Baal Kadmon through his books and commentary, the more I like him and think he’s a sincere practitioner.  After meditating on my 7 Spiritual Practices this morning, I noticed Kadmon’s post in my RSS feed and see his message here as an expression of my first practice, “Live and Let Live.”  He’s a good writer and I think he deserves our attention. – S+A


Source: The Occult Communities Are Falling Apart | Baal Kadmon

Molly Roberts on “Art Magick” and Creativity

What is the connection between art and “the Art”?  Molly Roberts is someone I follow on YouTube because I think she has a unique voice and cares about sharing her insights in a way that can empower others.  I respect her perspective on the artistic side of magic.  Recommended.

Codex Whatever: Dark Fluff Occult Books and Personal Insignificance

The fact that there is a “dark fluff” genre of occult writing doesn’t surprise me.  Anyone who starts to look for meaning outside established channels of consensus culture encounters poorly written, poorly sourced occultnik marketing before long (sometimes immediately).  And it has forced most of us to carry on a lifelong search for better materials, more authoritative texts, and generally better sources—which does not automatically mean they must be more scholarly or academic. 

Rather, we tend to prize books that are responsibly and sincerely written according to the tradition in question.  This often means the author has done research to the best of his or her ability and access, but it could simply mean that the anecdotal parts of an occult text are framed as such and the speculation is carefully identified.

The quest for quality occult writing is particularly important to educated ceremonial magicians who care about the provenance and history of their grimoires and of the magical discourse still very much alive and well all over the world.  Like most of my articulate, reasonably sane, magically active associates, I am constantly seeking out new books.  It’s a side of the magical life I particularly enjoy—the research side, which has a magic all its own.

Two great examples of non-scholarly yet well-written and responsible occult texts might be THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy.  These two come immediately to mind because they are very explicit about what is unverified gnosis (UPG) and technique.  They set up a teaching dichotomy between anecdote and praxis to empower the reader in her own pursuits—not simply to aggrandize the experiences of the authors.

Unfortunately, for every Joseph Peterson, Jake Stratton-Kent, Jose Leitao, Peter Carroll, Ramsey Dukes, Daniel Harms, and Peter Mark Adams, there are a hundred pretenders, who seem to be writing occult literature simply because it amuses them or makes them feel special.  No one ever got rich off occult publishing.  So the question I’ve asked for years is: why pedal worthless or pirated or wholly fantastical occult books?  Why would someone take the time and effort to claim that they have an insight or that they are the inheritor of a tradition that either does not exist or that they have never encountered outside their own imaginations?

I still don’t have a good answer to this.  The best I can do is come to the sad conclusion that some people need to feel special and wise.  In terms of cynical e-commerce, I can understand groups or individuals trying to interest potential followers by self-publishing low-cost occult books that promote their spiritual systems.  That’s just another form of easily identifiable marketing.  But just as there was a massive surge in poorly written mass-market Wiccan / neopagan texts in the 1980s and early 1990s, there now seems to be a horrendous glut of “dark fluff” grimoires, especially self-published through Createspace and Lulu. 

Last year’s dark grimoires of ultimate power.

So what is “dark fluff”? 

As a sorcerer for hire and a long-time member of the Studio Arcanis community of advanced practitioners, I often get public and private questions that go like this: I just bought Codex Diabolicus Maximus by Mordred Darktoe and I want to use it to destroy my ex’s life.  Does it work?  There is so much wrong with such a question (even in more subtle incarnations like: I’m wondering what your experiences with Darktoe’s works have been . . . ).  It’s one step removed from “spell begging” (where a person who has not done his or her homework asks a more experienced practitioner for a freebie) and it doesn’t reflect well on the questioner regardless of whether or not destroying someone’s life happens to be right or wrong.

As a conjure worker, I’m no stranger to people revealing that their innermost desire is to seek small-minded revenge on someone for some perceived wrong.  Usually, the preferred punishment is far out of proportion to the crime, having to do with a breakup, an undeserved promotion, an insult, or even someone not paying enough attention.  People (maybe most people) feel powerless and insignificant in their lives.  And if they have some kind of latent magical sensitivity but not a lot of confidence, they will seek out a conjure worker to help them get emotional satisfaction on a cruel world.

I understand and I listen to such requests without passing moral judgment.  Part of my job is to bring the client’s motivations and feelings into the light of truth where we can intelligently face them together.  Only then can we fix the situation.  This is the unpublicized part of being a spiritual worker in one’s community (even if that community is online). 

But sometimes the person has so much resentment, feels so belittled by the world, that she wants the power to subjugate everyone and everything: more money, more sex, more power, more revenge, more dominance.  This person has such a wounded ego, feels so wronged by life that she’ll never get enough.  When this happens, she doesn’t come to a sorcerer for work.  She wants to be the sorcerer.  And she falls prey to “dark fluff” occult marketing that seems to speak directly to her overblown desires.

In her lust for power, she’s blinded to the reality that 90% of the information in such texts is bullshit that comes from previously published, often lesser known, bullshit.  And therein lies the problem.  She’s receiving a cascade of dark-themed occultnik bullshit; she really wants it to be real; and she’s soon frustrated that she isn’t seeing results.  That’s usually when she comes slinking around to ask me or someone like me what I think of it because she’s worried that she missed a crucial step (or, gasp, that it is, in fact, utter BS).

Sure, everyone worries that all occult things are fake.  But this is not the sort of anxiety and doubt I’m writing about here.  I’m writing about predatory marketing that magnetizes and preys on the desperate emotions of people who have come to equate power with the ability to harm—because they feel powerless and harmed.  Certainly, I believe that paying back is a virtue and I am in no way against doing dark magic for justice and remediation.  There is a time to bless and a time to curse.  Knowing which is which is part of being a practitioner.  However, having a good BS detector is also essential. 

So how do you spot “dark fluff”?

The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you know yourself.  Self-honesty is very difficult.  Realizing that you feel small and injured and that you want revenge on a cruel world is a strong first step.  You don’t need to go to a spiritual advisor to have this degree of honesty but sometimes it helps.  An insightful stranger can often tell you hard truths that you can’t bare to admit to yourself.

The second thing would be to read widely.  This may mean that sometimes you will purchase occult books that turn out to be part of the BS cascade I mention above.  We all waste our money and time on a well-presented stinker now and then.  And the painful experience of realizing an author is offering you nothing of value is something we’ve all felt.  It’s an important feeling because it sharpens up your sense of what is and is not useful.

The third thing would be to look at the marketing around the book.  Does it talk about a secret tradition that you’ve never heard of, even in online forums?  Does it promise grandiose things, like becoming a living god, torturing your enemies to death, enslaving others, or calling up demons from fancifully named planes or dimensions that have no basis in historical occult literature?  Does it sound like (or even use language directly from) roleplaying games?  Does is present an overdone gothic aesthetic?  Does it seem like it was written in the tradition of “acausal Satanism” (i.e. The Order of the Nine Angles, a group whose vague Gnosticism has made room for many ill-conceived darkly fluffy occult groups and marketing schemes)?  Does it source the works or mythos of HP Lovecraft as if they were real without at least framing them as egregoric or chaos-magical constructions?  Does the author have a pen name out of bad fantasy fiction like “Severus Blackthorne” or something pseudo-Semitic like “Hassan ben Azazel”?  Does the work rely heavily (and usually indirectly, without documentation) on the works of Kenneth Grant, especially The Nightside of Eden, tossing around well-known names like Set, Belial, Samael, Lilith, Lucifer, and  Hekate?  Or, at the other extreme, completely made up “demons” that no one has ever heard of?  Not everything here will indicate “dark fluff” but as soon as you see it, your detector should start beeping.

                                           Not you.

The bottom line.

It’s good to seek power.  It’s good to take revenge when justice is due.  It’s good to pay back in like degree.  It’s also good to do magic, to seek out mysterious realities, states of mind, and uncover secrets.  Consensus culture (especially in the west) would have us believe that the only medium for having breakthroughs is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  But we know this isn’t the case.

When we truly realize that there is far more occult power in a Delta blues song about going down to the crossroads than in Baltar Venomblade’s Book of the Eternal Abyss, we know we’re making progress.  When we understand that marketing itself is a kind of mental magic that snares all of us from time to time, we can forgive our uninformed purchases of shit occult books and learn to find the good ones that will actually inspire, inform, and guide us further down the path of wisdom and capacity.