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.
“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.
You may have wondered about the rather unwieldy name for our conference. When we were designing the conference, we were trying to figure out what we wanted to accomplish. What we hope to do is to change our parent culture in which the reality of many energy fields, many beings and many effective practices that can enhance our lives are rejected out of hand. We were thinking how great it would be if our children’s generation lived in a world where it was accepted that people are psychic and you wouldn’t have to hint about it, talk around it, or pretend that it wasn’t real so that you wouldn’t be considered foolish. That’s backwards! How foolish is it to deny evidence‽
We feel that if we can get the world to accept these realities and both benign and useful (yes, some people still feel that anything “occult” must be dangerous!) that they will be available to enhance daily life. How much better off we are when we know the benefits of using herbs for medicinal as well as culinary purposes. Yet there are still people out there who figure that if a remedy doesn’t come in a box, it “can’t work”.
There are people who scoff at “water witching”, yet many people quietly have a dowser locate their well. The American Dowsing Society has groups that provide this service in third world countries, and their experiences show how well it works.
I know that I use dowsing nearly daily to find lost objects around the house. Our family uses crystals for healing, as well as homeopathy, acupressure and aromatherapy. All of these things are said by critics to be useless, and even harmful if they prevent people from going to “established” practitioners. If they weren’t working, of course we’d go to someone who could help.
But we need to change the story- the dialogue- how people talk about the unknown. At this point anything paranormal in film is still lumped into the Horror genre. As you may have noticed in the last paragraph, much of what I use these ‘supernatural’ techniques for is practical, finding lost objects or healing faster. The world would simply be easier to navigate if we didn’t deny an entire section of available human abilities. So when thinking about the future, think about a world where there is no resistance, no denial, no pretense that magick isn’t real. The world is changing, we just want to make it better.
Thus us an unusual graphic for the CTCW blog, but at the same time, when I tripped over it while looking for images dealing with change, it occurred to me that it might still be applicable. This year our theme is change. “Change as Opportunity: Rising to the Challenge” Change can be bad or good, although even when good it can also be scary, and I expect we will look at a lot of aspects in change in this year’s conference. Sometimes a big change is better than gradual change- if your leg needed to be amputated, would you rather do it an inch at a time?
One of the things we are trying to change with Changing Times- Changing Worlds is to help the world to accept the value of some studies (Metaphysics/ Paranormal) that have been dismissed as impossible, and incompatible with science. Alchemy is one of those studies. It argues “As above, so below” It tells us that the way things work in one system, often work similarly in another unrelated system. We can use science to help us understand change. The way science describes change may help us understand what about changes is good or hard in our lives.
The Greek symbol delta Δδ is used for change. Entropy in general (as opposed to thermodynamics) means a tendency for things to move toward disorder and chaos. In other words, chaos is the natural state of the world and it takes energy to maintain order. I think we can see that in our lives. You may have seen people wearing the 8 pointed Chaos Star. As we are learning to look at and understand darker aspects of spirit, some people are embracing Chaos. Certainly it is one of Winter’s lessons that without winter composting and breaking down last year’s old growth, new life would be impossible in the Spring. We may enjoy and wish for the more pleasant aspects of the changing year, but all parts of the cycle are needed. So let us not look at science as the enemy of the paranormal, but simply another way to understand it.