Liber Oz: Rights and Responsibilities

It’s one of the best things Aleister Crowley ever wrote because it is wholly dedicated to expressing human freedom in its deepest and most direct sense.  Sabazius X° does a good job of explaining what this short (and often misunderstood) declaration is and what it’s trying to do.  You can and should also read the text of Liber Oz herehttps://hermetic.com/crowley/libers/lib77

A More Nuanced Model of Magic

Imagine a tunnel running from your body to the magical result you desire.  Energy-information-spirit flows from the universe inside you down the tube toward the objective.  It also flows in the other direction, from the objective back into you and your inner universe.  This looks a lot like a discourse.  So it should come as no surprise that “conversation” is one model magicians have recently used to explain how magic gets done.

To a certain extent, the conversational model of magic is based on Frater UD’s legendary “Models of Magic” essay, in which he notes that “magic as a whole has always existed in many, coexisting models. What has changed, however, is the stress laid on one model or the other in the course of time.”  A very interesting stress comes to us through Speech Act Theory via the “chaos magick” of the 1980s: “Speech act theory considers language as a sort of action rather than a medium to convey and express” (https://bit.ly/2ueftVJ).  In other words, the act of speaking (and the act of magic) creates as it describes.  I communicate something to the universe, causing change, and it communicates something to me the same way.

This is nothing new: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Genesis 1:1).  Most religions and philosophies begin with an utterance.  But in western consensus culture, the popular mind is conditioned to overlook this.  People think only in terms of basic cause and effect (a crude syllogism): if I do X, then I get Y, where X is something that originates in my mind and Y is something brought into being in the world outside of me because of me acting on X.  This sounds a lot like early industrial reductive materialism, which assumes we are disconnected bodies colliding in space.  There is no oversoul in this view, which is probably why it’s something modern magicians have to overcome before their workings become effective.  The conversational model, on the other hand, can be far more nuanced and useful. 

Magic is as hard to define as love or truth.  It’s a concept that is highly mediated by cultural context and becomes concrete or abstract to the extent required in a given rhetorical situation.  For example, I might talk about magic in terms of Speech Act Theory, making it quite abstract and theoretical.  I might talk about it from the perspective of folklore, which will necessarily make it a lot more tangible (i.e. talking about magic as it exists in certain stories and legends).  I might even place it in an archaeological context, which would make it extremely concrete (i.e. these are the curse tablets, religious tools, or enchanted adornments used at a given place and time).  Unfortunately, Aleister Crowley’s usually half-quoted, highly abstract and permissive definition of magic has dominated Western esoteric traditions at least since 1913 when Liber ABA was made available, allowing “if X, then Y” assumptions to persist.

Crowley’s most often (incompletely) quoted definition of magic from Book 4—“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”—is too loose and vague if we want to look at the interaction that takes place in a magical process.  If we make his definition a little more complete (“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will. . . . Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”), then we come a bit closer to the idea of conversation.  But we’re still working with an abstraction that’s so broad it allows all kinds of pervasive consensus-culture assumptions—for example, that magic is something you can “do” to the world the way you hammer a nail into a board.

Let’s go back to our simple conversational model of utterance and information exchange: energy-information-spirit goes out from the practitioner and comes into the practitioner during a working of magic.  Although it may seem that on one level we are doing something to the world (if X, then Y), it would be more accurate to say that we are guiding something in the world the way one guides a discussion to a certain subject or conclusion (I offer X.  The world offers Y.  X and Y change as a result—creation and description through utterance).

Applying this insight has everything to do with the practitioner relaxing her vice grip on results.  As I mention in my post about being a spirit-led conjure worker, “Beginning practitioners often mistakenly think that if they just concentrate hard enough, if they just WILL something into being, the world will respond.  This can work sometimes, but grabbing the world by the throat and shaking it more often results in nothing or even in the opposite coming to pass.”  This is another form of “lust of result,” getting in the way of one’s own magic by thinking that you have to move heaven and earth through by own power.  You don’t  Heaven and earth are always-already in motion; you simply have to guide that motion in the desired direction.

Relax, breathe, and be open to the direction spirit is taking in the world.  This means learning a reliable system of divination.  It means developing your psychic senses so that you can converse with spirits.  It means learning to summon the discarnate and intangible for the purposes of learning (for example, evoking Vassago using Paul Huson’s method in Mastering Witchcraft or the “Magical Mentor” from Gray-Cobb’s New Avatar Power or bringing forth a daemon from the Lesser Key of Solomon who “giveth good familiars”).  And it may also mean finding a patron deity who can initiate you into an energy-information-spirit paradigm of magical practice.

It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of uncertainty.  But that is the nature of this hidden art.  You need to have perseverance and openness and a sense that magic is in line with the momentum of  your True Will.  And you need to love talking to the world this way.  If you don’t—if you are primarily interested in “getting paid and getting laid,” by all means follow whatever spell book you’ve downloaded from the internet or come to a sorcerer-for-hire.  But unless you do the work to attain deeper understanding and personal gnosis, you will forever be wading in the shallow end of the pool.  So mote it be. 

“The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!” — Liber AL vel Legis I:45

The Magical Benefits of a Catholic Upbringing

For the first 15 years of my life, I was made to attend church with my parents every Sunday. I do not regret this. In fact, I feel it was an essential part of my upbringing—not for religious or spiritual reasons, but because it caused me to learn about people and evolve along certain introspective channels.

I acquired a degree of human insight beyond my years by having a relatively consistent group of people to observe once a week. Catholic services, if you pay attention (and I always did) were like a social psychology human subject pool. Never again would I encounter such a telling and quietly dramatic group of lost souls and arrogant insecure fools to analyze once a week.

I learned to see the good and the bad in organized established religion. The priests were all very smart, kind, decent, and sincere men. I knew them from the religion classes at the parochial grade school I’d attended, which was attached to the same church. The popular media characterizes Catholic priests as either pedophiles, secret Illuminati-Satanists holding black masses, or wild-eyed exorcists fighting a secret war against the legions of hell. Like most of what we see on the screen, that was pure rubbish. Still, whenever I encounter a (Evangelical, ultra-conservative, fundamentalist, paranoid) website talking about the end times and featuring the Pope shooting lasers from his eyes, I know accusations of pedophilia, Satanism, and dabbling with the Necronomicon are not far behind.

As an ancient and enormous institution, the Catholic church has housed every kind of madman, philosopher, believer, and atheist possible throughout history. This is not to excuse the church for existing in a state of hypocrisy whenever one of its representatives abuses a child, commits a mortal sin, or otherwise breaks his vows. This is to say that just as one cannot claim the church is perfectly good, one cannot claim it is perfectly evil. Rather, like humanity itself, it contains all sorts. I was lucky enough to meet some of the better ones. And I saw a fairly balanced cross-section of humanity there as I was growing up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this perspective would help me later when surrounded by judgmental purple-robed Wiccans, who’d have gladly burned the local monsignor at the stake without ever even putting him to the question.

I also developed the ability to sit quietly and turn inward for long periods of time and I had a few small magical moments, like the time the statue of the Virgin Mary turned its head to look at me or when I saw the aura of a priest explode with golden flame. These experiences helped me realize and remember that there is more to life than physics and money. For that insight, I would gladly sit through all those services a second time!

Having acquired all of these things, I still left the church around age 16 when I realized three important truths: (1) if people started acting particularly churchy and devout, it was nearly always a smokescreen behind which something else was taking place—usually something selfish, nasty, and hurtful; (2) there is more than one truth—there are competing truths that may contradict each other and still be equally true—and the Catholic church did not have a lock on the one true way; and (3) faithful observance of religious ritual did not make the people I saw every Sunday any better or wiser. All it did was puff them up with self-righteousness and social importance.

The religion of my parents had failed me. No one was there to teach me the esoteric side, the mystical side. In fact, it should come as no surprise that I was discouraged from asking those sorts of questions. The priests were uninterested in discussing the finer points of Catholic mysticism with a teenage boy. However, when I would ask magical or theological questions, my mother would say, “Leave that to the priest,” and roll her eyes. When I would ask the nuns at my school, they would say all the answers I needed could be found in prayer—which, to be fair, was probably true; though, saying such a thing to a young person and leaving it at that can only be an evasion, not a useful constructive response. When I would ask people in the dreadful confirmation classes I was eventually forced to attend, they would say, “Don’t be a weirdo,” then roll their eyes and we’d sing a hymn.

What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t see at that young age, was that the priests were immersed in the work of their religion. They were busy helping the homeless downtown, counseling failing marriages, bringing some manner of hope to prisoners, and performing last rites for terminally ill parishioners about to die. The priests dealt with issues that were simultaneously less interesting and more vital than my half-coherent questions about invisible powers and cosmologies.

My parents were like most of the other members of the church—”Sunday Catholics.” They went through all the motions and then blissfully forgot all about their religion, secure in the knowledge that they were on the right side of things and didn’t have to worry. Meanwhile, the fools at the confirmation classes, ranging in ages from 16 to about 35, were mostly that sort as well; though, even then I suspected that a few of them were using it as a lonely hearts dating club. That was before everyone had a smartphone. Now, I’m sure there is a “confirmation class” app for hooking up after the meeting.

Sometime in seventh grade, Sister M., one of my favorite teachers who always had a glimmer around her (now I think it must have been because she did spiritual exercises of her own), gave me a strange look when I gave a particularly intricate answer to a question in her religion class. I think she said something like, “You may be a priest someday.” And she was right. I did eventually become a priest, but not of her god.

I remember all of these things. Having traveled to some very strange places geographically as well as spiritually, I can say I hate neither the Catholic church nor Christianity in general. I find some expressions of it highly unpleasant but that is more due to the stupidity, paranoia, and overall brokenness of individual people, not the tenets themselves.

So I write this little memoir for a slightly different audience than my usual posts. If you are a spiritual seeker and if you are angry at the religion of your parents, by all means, leave it. But be advised that there is probably a very magical hidden side to it that you have not seen correctly or at all. Keep an open mind, above all else, and know this: big organized religions are human institutions first and ways of connecting with divinity second. As human institutions, they will contain the good and the bad, the sincere and the cynical, the wise and the foolish. As connections to divinity, they will contain mysteries that need to be uncovered by the individual—that cannot be taught by a priest or a book. With this in mind, follow your heart, your True Will.

Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.

For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.

Liber Al vel Legis

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. (http://livingthelema.com/)

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!