Here’s the thing I love best about the Harry Potter books: they make it really, really clear that using magick is like almost everything else. Some people have talent for it, and some don’t, but EVERYONE needs to be taught how to do it right, and everyone needs to practice! (You did know the answer to the title question, didn’t you?) Having good working tools helps, as Ron would point out.
When I was in high school I read the book Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (if you haven’t read it- do, and his other books are also great), and while the rest of the world was getting excited about the metaphysics, I was struck by the physics of the book. Johnathan learned that you didn’t need to believe you could fly to fly, you needed to learn HOW to fly. This struck me as the most important point in the book.
The sixties were the Occult Explosion, and folks were exploring all the amazing things people can do from ESP to dowsing to energy healing. I was out there with the rest of them, talking to plants, and trying to have OOB (out of body) experiences. At the same time I was also diving into Science Fiction, and when they talked about people doing telekinesis or controlling their body temperature mentally I had to try it. The more I discovered that all these “crazy” things worked, the more excited I was to try the next thing.
My generation, as so many before, thought that we had discovered these phenomena. Although I discovered that while books on the “supernatural” were sometimes hard to find in the local library, I could find them in stores. I read Hans Holzer and Sybil Leek, and subscribed to Fate Magazine, checked out AMORC, read W. E. Butler, looked into folk magick (the Long-Lost Friend) and voudoo, Spiritualists, and Theosophists, everything I could find by Edgar Cayce and the A.R.E., the Society for Psychical Research, got Richard Cavendish’s Man, Myth and Magick, read Rossell Hope Robbins, Robert Anton Wilson, W. E. Butler, Israel Regardie, Jane Roberts, Dion Fortune, Max Freedom Long’s The Secret Science behind Miracles, Carlos Castaneda (of course), and Issac Bonewitts, Montague Summers, Murray and Gardner. I learned to accept that books on developing psychic abilities were grouped with tales of UFOs, Vampires, Bigfoot and witchcraft. (This rather lengthy list is to show that there were plenty of books on magick out there, although some say there weren’t.) I watched the occult sections of bookstores expand, and have watched them shrink again. I’ve watched the New Age explore The Secret and try to use the Law of Attraction because it’s so much less threatening than (cue spooky music) magick and witchcraft. I’ve also watched the media portray witches from old movies like I married a Witch and Bell Book and Candle, through Bewitched, Charmed, Sabrina, and Practical Magick and on to Harry Potter. They still seem to think that witches are a different race than humans. Go fig.
Still, no matter which direction you approach from, you are going to come down to the important bottom line. Wanting and Believing isn’t enough. You have to actually put in the hours and practice. You may well have to do an exhaustive search to find someone who can teach you HOW to do it right. (I have never found that when the student is ready the master appears.)
Some people have perfect pitch, and some are tone deaf. Some people are clumsy and some coordinated. They have finally admitted that there isn’t just one, but there are many types of IQ: musical, spatial, bodily, interpersonal, and others. The traditional IQ tests, in an attempt to get away from cultural information ended up testing for the ability to spot patterns. We all know that simply being good at math doesn’t make you good with words. I personally know that being good at one type of art doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good with other types. I can catch a likeness, but can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. I’ve also learned from my artistic endeavors (as well as my psychic ones) what any athlete or musician can tell you. You have to learn the technique, and you have to practice.
This is why I love Harry Potter and the other fictional depictions of magick that show people learning the how-to of magick. I haven’t seen the new Sabrina, but the old one ran almost every episode on the trope: “using magick to try to fix your problems will only make them worse”. This trope exists because what non-magick users think of as “magic” is getting something without working for it. (“flick and swish”) Magick users know that you have to work to do it, and that’s how it works. It may be able to accomplish things you couldn’t do with other means, but it’s not “something for nothing”.
So like Itzhak Perlman practicing scales every day, if you want to do magick, there will be daily exercises, and always something new to learn.
There’s a game where each player is asked to get others to guess an object without using any gestures, only words, but also no related words. We learned that one of the best ways to make someone aware of something is to show it’s absence. For example, if you want to open a door and there’s nothing to grasp and turn- you get doorknob, right?
Plato used the allegory of a cave where people tried to think of the world outside by the shadows cast on the wall from outside. This does convey how a shadow is an imperfect representation of the real form, but still, a shadow does give you a shape to imagine, and what is the shadow but the absence of the light that’s hitting everywhere around it?
When we are trying to figure out what we need, we often overlook those things that are all around us. How often to we remember that we need air- until the supply is cut off? How often do we think about encouragement or affection, unless there’s a lapse in what we usually get? As I age, I am suddenly aware of the energy I had when I was young, and had no idea that I had it. How often have you or a friend complained to a doctor about losing your ability to do complex mental math, lift 300 pounds, run a 5 minute mile, or something you used to do, only to have your concern dismissed because most people can’t do it anyway? But if it’s something you had and you’ve lost, it makes an obvious hole in your life that is hard to ignore, whether others don’t feel that as a loss or not.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow created an image to explain his theory of the hierarchy of human needs, including many we often forget. Often we only consider physical needs, and forget our psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. The thing about the physical is that it’s easier to measure, so we lean toward that. In the physical, Maslow remember air, and the less obvious homeostasis (the requirement for balancing levels of of the various bodily systems). but his pyramid reminds us that humans REQUIRE safety, and love, and positive interaction with those around them, and well as feeling the pinnacle- finding our life’s purpose. Without that, we have only a foundation. We need the whole structure. This is something we do well to think about.
If you have trouble figuring out what’s missing, try looking at the shadow, or where the emptiness shows. And asking for help is not a bad way either. (It occurred to me that while it’s hard for one paper doll to stand, a string of them support each other and make it easy.) Remember the idea of homeostasis- some times you may need heat, sometimes cool, sometimes quiet, other times stimulation, sometimes you may need to be alone, sometimes you need to be with others. None of those times is wrong, you need all of them to create the right balance. It’s all good at the right time.
I was recently talking to a friend about hallucinogenics: Peyote, Ayahuasca, LSD, etc. and it occurred to me that the difference between a life changing experience with the Divine and a “bad trip” was often simply whether your mental journey was being monitored by an experienced spirit worker.
In the modern world we have a view that we should be self sufficient, and do everything on our own. When a child learns almost any new skill, from taking their first steps to riding a bicycle, we understand that we first explain it, show them how, help them do it the first few times, then wean ourselves away as they learn to do it on their own. Yet somehow, adults seem to think we can google a bit of instruction then immediately do whatever it is from medical diagnosis to the Law of Attraction. This is likely to lead to failure and discouragement.
Back to the example of a spirit voyage: Can you travel without luggage? Without a passport? What would you do if you reach a country where you don’t speak the language? Alternately, would you head out into the jungle without a guide? Wouldn’t you take others with you who had been there before and know what they are doing? In most projects, wouldn’t you build a team with complimentary skills? To brave the inner jungle you need a shaman or someone with similar skills who can advise you and follow your progress when you go into the sub- (or super-) conscious landscape. There is nothing wrong with working with others to sure success and rewards for everyone involved.
Sometimes we need help, and the smartest thing we can do is to find the people who are best able to help us.
“A crack lets in the light” is an expression reminding us that when we create a solid barrier in our manner of thinking, it becomes difficult to introduce new concepts into our world view. What we, the CTCW community, are doing, is opening our minds to the possibilities. This is required in order to change.
For centuries the paranormal and supernatural have been called “Occult” which means hidden. Why hidden? Because despite the awareness when we are children that this is perfectly normal and natural, as we grow we are told to not talk about it. If it is natural and normal for us to see ghosts, to speak to animals, to find things, to heal others, to perceive the feelings and thoughts of others, and influence the world around us by our inner abilities, we are told to hide it, and to pretend that like “everyone else” we don’t believe in it. Some people buy into the story, for others, who use these abilities, we are taught that we need to hide our abilities and perceptions and not let others know about them. If our family or community practice, we are taught to preserve a “normal” appearance to everyone else. This preserves the illusion that our abilities don’t exist.
Why do we do this? There is history of persecution, certainly. If it became accepted that telepathy exists, many would worry that their secrets would be discovered. If energy healing works most of the time, it raises the question that when it doesn’t work, it could be a fault of the practitioner who didn’t do it correctly, or who withheld their healing? These are problems for doctors, but they defend themselves from charges of malpractice by working within established norms. We couldn’t do that with supernatural techniques as long as we don’t understand the mechanisms for how these things work. We see even now the issue of empowerment being twisted into victim-blaming. If everyone “can” manifest whatever they want, it can be seen that any problems they have are their own choice. Their own fault. Sadly, awareness of our abilities should come hand in hand with compassion and awareness of larger forces in the universe, and that seems to lag behind.
The truth will out, of course. Sooner or later, the modern world will figure out that these abilities are real, and may develop technologies to measure them, or even enhance them. Perhaps, like the GBLT community, we have to start by “coming out of the closet” and letting those who worry about us know that we’ve been among them in our millions without doing and evil things to them, and the only thing we want to do to “subvert the dominant paradigm” is too be accepted.
We mediums, telepaths, magickians, dowsers and others often have little problem with this. Sometimes we need reminding not to have “a mind so open that your brain falls out”. It’s sometimes easy, once you discover that the “normal” world has gotten so many things wrong, to run around trying every new thing, and telling everyone about the new things you’ve learned. This enthusiasm is natural, everyone does it, although they may be enthusing about a new diet, or recipe for chocolate cake, or gadget, but that won’t get them “burned at the stake” or prosecuted as a con artist.
As we change the world to a better place, we on the leading edge of the opening must remember to protect ourselves from the push-back of those who we are making uncomfortable. We must not deny what we know to be real, but at the same time, we need to maintain our credibility with those who haven’t had the direct experience we have had, and have been trained by the the modern world to be hyper skeptical. We need to do it, and I believe we can.
The Pagan Community is dealing with a string of losses this month. Raven Grimassi, occultist, strega,and author died March 10, Ralph Metzner, founder of the Green Earth Foundation the 14th, and author and witch Edain McCoy died the twenty-first.
Some of us got to meet them, others have had our lives changed by reading their wisdom. I will probably remember Raven as the young strega on the back of his book cover Italian Witchcraft in the 90s, although I didn’t get to meet him until 2009 when they moved to New England. We tried for years to get Raven and Stephanie, his wife, to come to CTCW, but they were so popular they were always busy. I am reminded that we must never presume that “there’s always next year”, and sometime we have to remember to do as much as we can while we’re still around. Deaths remind us of the preciousness of the lives around us, and our own, and to not waste the time we have together.
I never got a chance to meet either Edain McCoy or Ralph Meltzer, although I think sitting down and chatting with folks is the best part of CTCW- give and take, discovering that both have come to the same place by different ways, learning something new… I’d have loved to talk to him about his “Six pathways to destiny” , or even listen to him talk with some of the other speakers about it. (At least he’s left us the book to spur our own thoughts.) If you’ve not read it yet, here’s a bit from the description on Amazon: “Each of us, as a human soul, incarnates by choice with a purpose, an intention or vision for this life – what we came here to do and to be. The soul chooses one or more of six great archetypal pathways in which to develop its talents and realize its vision – Healer/Peacemaker, Explorer/Scientist, Warrior/Guardian, Artist/Musician, Teacher/Historian, Builder/Organizer.”
As most of us are confident about the survival of the soul after bodily death, we may not see death as a total loss, however we do experience it as all humans do, as a separation that prevents easy contact with the one who has died. Since McCoy was younger than I, I am left wondering if she fulfilled her goals before she moved on, whereas since Meltzer was older than I, I tend to feel that he did. (although at 67, 83 looks a lot younger to me than it did when I was 47!) We are grateful for what they’ve left us, but we’d rather they were still here so we could ask them the questions we feel they could answer.
Between Imbolc and Ostara we may speak of death and rebirth, but when we have to personally deal with the “breaking down” in order to build or “create new life”, we can be as reluctant to deal with that reality as anyone else. So we indulge in a little self pity that we didn’t get to say “I’m sorry”, or “thank you”, to enjoy the energy and work of their lives, but only then wish them “Hail and Farewell” on the next part of their journeys.