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: 

https://blacksnakeconjure.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/blood-from-a-stone-if-you-can-do-magic-how-come/

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.

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Letters to a Young Sorcerer #1: I am not special. Neither are you.

Fludd's Great Chain of Being

As I resume my spiritual practice with 4 new clients in the last 24 hours, the truth of this work, the “essential spirit” of it, comes back to me.  So my first “letter” to those just starting out in this field has to do with what the work really is and what it really isn’t.  In order to understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to accept one hard-cut truth: I am not special, even though I practice sorcery.  You are not special, either.

I’ve written about some of the hard lessons being a spiritual worker has taught me.  And I’ve pointed out more than once that conjure, divination, and sorcery are like learning to play the piano.  Most people can learn it to a competent degree if they work hard at it, but only a few will be brilliant.  If you are sure that you aren’t one of those brilliant few (and can you really be sure?), who cares

Who says that unflattering self-perception must stop you from doing what you love?  That is true for physics, coaching basketball, flying planes, teaching yoga, playing Texas Hold’em, investing, or seducing the innocent.  Being a mediocre practitioner of an art is still practicing it.  The only harm comes when you overstate your skill level.

Some plumbers are just more talented than others and do more impressive work.  Some poets write more resonant lines than others.  Some historians have more penetrating insights into the past.  But if you wanted to, you could start studying physics, coaching, flying, yoga, poker, investing, seduction, plumbing, poetry, or history and learn those disciplines well enough to identify as a practitioner.  Doing that will not set you apart from your fellow man or reveal you as some kind of messiah, genius, chosen one, or superhero.  It will mean you applied yourself, did the reading, learned, grew as a person, and became competent.

The same goes for magic.  Like anything else, it takes practice and dedication, no matter how much talent you may or may not have.  Some will be born with a gift for that particular sort of work.  But sorcery, like anything we decide to do, is part of what it is to be human.  As a human, you can learn it if you really want to.  We forget that sometimes.  If, as the chaos magician and farmer, Gordon White, puts it, “the universe runs on magic,” then I also suggest: you are magic.  In fact, we all are. 

Like the new age saying goes, you are a spiritual being having a human experience.  Sometimes the most challenging hurdle for a beginning sorcerer is accepting this.  Lingering Victorian materialism has taught us that magic is part of the SUPER-natural—that which is above and beyond the natural (or, for many scientists, that which is merely fantasy and does not actually work or exist in any meaningful way).  But other eras never saw a disconnect between the body and the soul, the magical and the mundane. 

It was all part of a continuum, a Great Chain of Being.  Most often, when we study the magical arts, we are learning the principles founded in those other eras, not in our current technocratic scientistic age.  Even the famous Victorian magical societies turned to classical antiquity and the Renaissance for inspiration and guidance, mining the great libraries and museums of Europe for grimoires and philosophical texts. 

So it is in our current magical schools as well.  But far too many would-be sorcerers and half-baked magicians turn to the occult because they want to escape reality instead of understand and engage with it.  They want magic to be SUPER-natural because the natural world of their mundane lives is boring and painful and they feel small.

They want to be special, chosen, sought after.  They want money.  They want sex.  They want to be the guru.  And when they advertise their services as sorcerers, they act like magic is a rare jewel that only the chosen few possess.  Maybe they even believe this.  But whether they know they’re lying or they’re just doing it out of ignorance, the fact remains that they are misleading others, obscuring the truth that sorcery can be taught to just about anyone.  It can even be self-taught.

This attitude comes as much from their damaged egos and need for admiration as it does from pop-culture.  Harry Potter is very special, you know?  But this sense of magic being somehow “out there” is false.  And it leads to deceptive marketing and puffery on the part of these lost souls who quickly go from wanting to be the guru to lying to clients about the occult and their own exaggerated abilities.  My first letter to you, young sorcerer, is therefore a warning: don’t be like this.

If you want to do this kind of work, you have to get over yourself and remember: you are not special; you are neither worse nor better than anyone else.  You have a certain skill set.  If you’re good enough at it (as with anything) people will pay you for it. 

If you want to work as a public sorcerer, if you want to get good enough that you can shift probability, call spirits to appearance, influence minds at a distance, draw money and love, cast and remove curses, perform blessings and cleansings, know the innermost recesses of the self, communicate with the dead, and understand the spiritual quintessence that underlies all nature, hard work and dedication is the only way.  Period.

Practice, study, mindful experimentation, and finding a magical community of peers with whom you can discuss these things is how you do it.  You have to develop the wisdom to know who is awake and who is still struggling in the chains of reductive materialism.  You also have to learn how to care for yourself because this road is long and unforgiving.

All of the above abilities and more are attainable, in whole or in part, by all but the most magically tone-deaf people (who are likely unnaturally gifted at some other things—the world tends to balance itself like that and I’d rather have a talented plumber fix my water heater than a spirit conjured from the Verum, wouldn’t you?).  And I don’t mean to seem inordinately harsh when I tell you that you need to stay humble and avoid developing a messiah complex.  But I also don’t write this letter to make you feel good.  

I write this because I care about the magical art and want it to thrive.  The only way that’s going to happen is if there is new blood, if the new generation of spiritual workers, grimoire magicians, witches, and psychics are real and not fake.  Those of us who have been walking the path for decades will eventually have to move over and let others lead.  It is the way of things.  And it is our job to make sure that when that happens, the young people who step up will do so with power, sincerity, wisdom, and truth.

Hakim Bey’s Definition of Sorcery in the T.A.Z.

Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson) is great magician, teacher, and writer.  I like him for many reasons but especially for how he connects the practice of the occult to political agency and personal sovereignty.  This is from The Temporary Autonomous Zone, which can be read in full-text here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/taz.htm

Sorcery works at creating around itself a psychic/physical space or openings into a space of untrammeled expression– the metamorphosis of quotidian place into angelic sphere. This involves the manipulation of symbols (which are also things) & of people (who are also symbolic)–the archetypes supply a vocabulary for this process & therefore are treated as if they were both real & unreal, like words.

He doesn’t find much value in the lodge-based occultisms that emerged from Theosophy.  And when he says that banking, politics, and social science are more powerful, he’s making a tremendous (if narrow) point: if you want to affect certain changes, go the most direct route.  Still, he is an occultist and his perspectives, if taken seriously, work a magic of their own on the reader.


Sorcery

THE UNIVERSE WANTS TO PLAY. Those who refuse out of dry spiritual greed & choose pure contemplation forfeit their humanity–those who refuse out of dull anguish, those who hesitate, lose their chance at divinity–those who mold themselves blind masks of Ideas & thrash around seeking some proof of their own solidity end by seeing out of dead men’s eyes.

Sorcery: the systematic cultivation of enhanced consciousness or non-ordinary awareness & its deployment in the world of deeds & objects to bring about desired results.

The incremental openings of perception gradually banish the false selves, our cacophonous ghosts–the “black magic” of envy & vendetta backfires because Desire cannot be forced. Where our knowledge of beauty harmonizes with the ludus naturae, sorcery begins.

No, not spoon-bending or horoscopy, not the Golden Dawn or make-believe shamanism, astral projection or the Satanic Mass–if it’s mumbo jumbo you want go for the real stuff, banking, politics, social science–not that weak blavatskian crap.

Sorcery works at creating around itself a psychic/physical space or openings into a space of untrammeled expression– the metamorphosis of quotidian place into angelic sphere. This involves the manipulation of symbols (which are also things) & of people (who are also symbolic)–the archetypes supply a vocabulary for this process & therefore are treated as if they were both real & unreal, like words. Imaginal Yoga.

The sorcerer is a Simple Realist: the world is real–but then so must consciousness be real since its effects are so tangible. The dullard finds even wine tasteless but the sorcerer can be intoxicated by the mere sight of water. Quality of perception defines the world of intoxication–but to sustain it & expand it to include others demands activity of a certain kind–sorcery. Sorcery breaks no law of nature because there is no Natural Law, only the spontaneity of natura naturans, the tao. Sorcery violates laws which seek to chain this flow– priests, kings, hierophants, mystics, scientists & shopkeepers all brand the sorcerer enemy for threatening the power of their charade, the tensile strength of their illusory web.

A poem can act as a spell & vice versa–but sorcery refuses to be a metaphor for mere literature–it insists that symbols must cause events as well as private epiphanies. It is not a critique but a re-making. It rejects all eschatology & metaphysics of removal, all bleary nostalgia & strident futurismo, in favor of a paroxysm or seizure of presence.

Incense & crystal, dagger & sword, wand, robes, rum, cigars, candles, herbs like dried dreams–the virgin boy staring into a bowl of ink–wine & ganja, meat, yantras & gestures– rituals of pleasure, the garden of houris & sakis–the sorcerer climbs these snakes & ladders to a moment which is fully saturated with its own color, where mountains are mountains & trees are trees, where the body becomes all time, the beloved all space.

The tactics of ontological anarchism are rooted in this secret Art–the goals of ontological anarchism appear in its flowering. Chaos hexes its enemies & rewards its devotees…this strange yellowing pamphlet, pseudonymous & dust-stained, reveals all…send away for one split second of eternity.

Teaching Goetia to Clients, and a February Update

 

This is just a quick note to let my readers (many of whom have followed this website since it was hosted on Blogspot back in the 1990s) know that my conjure services will continue uninterrupted with one exception: for the whole month of February, I will be working intensively with a client on developing a method for him to work with the Lesser Key of Solomon.  This means that my evocation services will be limited to that teaching and will resume in March.  All other ritualism, including hoodoo, divination, reiki, setting lights, talisman creation, and everything else will continue to be available.

Thanks for reading and don’t be a stranger!

S+A

 

When Politics and Magic Collide: the Occult Roots of the Trump Administration

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?

Blood from a Stone: if you can do magic, how come you’re not rich?

Hang out your shingle as a professional sorcerer and you’ll hear this one more than once. Every now and then, a well known sorcerer with a blog will get angry when a disgruntled client or some yahoo from the peanut gallery decides to troll his feeds. Then you’ll see the inevitable flurry of self-justifying posts in the magical blogosphere. Wait a year or two and the whole thing will happen again. Why? Because money is something we all need and it’s a fetish most of us have as a result of the scarcity thinking and angst of post-industrial capitalism. In the magical world, this translates into a lot of insecure people asking themselves why they do not yet own super-yachts and blaming that mojo hand they just bought for not fixing their poverty. Or, just as often, blaming the guy who made the mojo hand.

The best magical blog-conversation I’ve ever seen on this subject starts with Aaron Leitch’s recent post on the Llewellyn website where he argues that:

You can indeed use magick to obtain money and increase your general prosperity. However, even if you know the secret to turning lead into gold, you’re never going to be ‘rich’ unless you know what to do with that gold once you have it. And since most occultists are not financiers, then you’re simply not going to find a lot of rich occultists. It doesn’t mean their magick doesn’t work, nor that their patrons and spirits aren’t taking care of them. It simply means they are focused on other subjects, and have accepted some amount of personal poverty for themselves in order to study what they love.

Jason Miller picked up the thread of the conversation on his Strategic Sorcery blog and agreed that some people, especially magical people, just don’t have wealth as a priority. As Leitch puts it in his aforesaid post:

Most of the time, occultists attempt to answer this accusation from a philosophical standpoint. They point out that magicians simply aren’t the type of people who pursue money, as they have more important jobs and issues to which to attend. However, this argument falls on deaf ears in our modern culture, where cash is king. “Don’t tell me you don’t need money!” they say. “If you can’t even cover your own doctor bills, then your magick is a failure.” Truly, telling a modern Westerner that you don’t seek money is, for them, pure gibberish. It doesn’t compute.

Then again, the earthy and always-practical Brother Moloch recently cautioned (not in response to the above but in the weird synchronicity of sorcerers tending to write about similar subjects) that “before you go kvetching and telling others money is the root of all evil, make certain they and their children have food in their bellies, a roof over their head, heat, running water and other basics of living” (http://bit.ly/2hcH2a1). This is another solid point. Some sorcery helps you stay solvent when times get hard.

But the question remains: if you can work wonders, why not take some time out from your pursuit of the Great Work and draw some money to make things easier and simpler for yourself? Well, why not? My take is even simpler than the foregoing discussion: do not ask for blood from a stone. Magic can bring you stuff according to the laws and limitations of the universe—some of which can be bent or broken but which still control how things are done. This is why a money drawing working can bring you $500 from an unpaid debt to you that you forgot about but cannot materialize a solid-gold limousine in your front yard. The first thing works according to the laws of the universe. The second thing vulgarly violates the laws of the universe.

Yes, magic can sometimes materialize gold limousines and make the stones bleed. But that is a very infrequent exception rather than the rule. The rule is that in order for reality to be as consistent and persistent as possible, magic (which is just another part of reality) must also be as consistent and persistent as possible. Sometimes the exceptions—those rare moments when the stones do bleed—confuse people into thinking that real magic is the Hollywood kind that regularly, vulgarly violates universal law. Let us work to dispel that infantile confusion.

So how come a powerful proficient sorcerer isn’t rich? Here are four thoughts on the subject:

  • My first thought, in line with Leitch and others, is that the sorcerer doesn’t make finance his first concern in life.
  • My second thought is that a magician knows his money magic if he’s living his preferred lifestyle (one way of thinking about what “rich” means).
  • My third thought is that the fortunes of magical people go up and down just like those of artists, politicians, street sweepers, and sous-chefs. Don’t say Aleister Crowley was a sham because he died in poverty; the man changed the spirituality of the western world. Likewise, don’t automatically conclude Warren Buffett is an advanced spiritual being because he’s worth 73 billion dollars. Many a wise old monk has died enlightened yet toothless in a hut down by the river. Who are we to judge?
  • My forth and final thought is that people who voice the accusation, if you’re so good, then how come you’re not X?, define X = the ultimate point of life. One could just as easily say, if you’re so good, then how come you haven’t cured cancer? But you don’t hear that one too often. Same goes for world peace. I think people who accuse sorcerers of being fraudulent for not being rich ought to go back and meditate on the mountain (or in the hut down by the river) a little longer—at least until they unfuck their personal values.