I’ve been trying to reply to Nick Farrell’s blog but wordpress doesn’t play well at all with blogger and two of my comments have vanished off into space. He wrote a post reviewing Contacts of the Adepts and it got my mind rolling around about the methods of magic.
He reviews the book and talks about the insides and outsides of magic, which boils down to ritual without internal work is vanity and internal work without ritual is likely to be ineffective. On ritual: Anyone can have a “magic book” and speak empty words without feeling and usually this is a lot of people’s exposure to magic. The adults tend to do this as a scientific foray in a midlife crisis, kids tend to do it finding their first spellbooks in the new age section of the Barnes and Noble. Either way it’s not going to work. The adults don’t have their temple built, or worse their temple has been destroyed (whether they know it or not) and the kids don’t have enough life experience to build the temple, let alone the doorways to the temple.
On spiritism: This is something that teenagers are likely to encounter with drugs but it has the same problems. How does any of the experience relate to the world? How can we trust what spirits we do encounter are the correct spirits? How do we even know we have spiritual contact and not simply a flight of the imagination?
These are two important topics and magic books tend to fall into one side or the other. Neither is right, we need to come up with something in the middle. We need the spiritual side of things to actually understand the difference between internal voice (imagination) and external voice (spiritual influence). These are sublime and subtle. We need the ritual to both provide us with a clean break into inner reality, but also push our experiences to new heights. Magic is, quite simply, a glass of water. The spiritual side is the water and it possesses great force, but without the ritual side of the temple to give form to the water and direct it, nothing can be done.
Now, how do we do the internal work?
There’s the rub. Without some sort of direction to the basics, someone looking for a ritual experience might attend a church and be turned off at the lack of spiritual movement, and someone looking for a spiritual experience might turn to drugs and be turned off at the lack of structure in the experience.
The reader’s interesting fact of the day is that DMT doesn’t produce dependence because most users don’t quantify it as “fun”, and that should be the first clue. Spiritual development is often not “fun”, but rather an exploration of contrasts. This is the unity of ritual and spirituality – if I look at everything I experience as the ritual, and everything I feel or how it affects and changes me as the spirituality, then we get to Crowleys quote that “Every act is a magical act”.
Once we decide we see God in a grain of sand and the universe on the head of a pin, things become much easier for us as magicians. We’ve entered the required mode of thought to explore ourselves, then explore what isn’t ourselves. Now we could stay here and live in malkuth, and everyone should for a bit of time. Eventually we start to wonder where our spiritual tools come from, and suddenly we’re aware of more in creation. This is where any good ceremonial magic system comes into play – there’s more out there than just “the stuff” – so what is it?
The first book I encountered which actually does this correctly and manages to even attempt to cross the abyss is By Names and Images. It’s a recent publication, and it should be read by every aspiring magician. While it has a Golden Dawn bent, we shouldn’t short change ourselves and ignore their contribution. Frankly, there is precious little material out there which doesn’t have an influence from the Golden Dawn. Take it, read it, love it. Most importantly, the book includes the rituals (but what book doesn’t) and it includes the internal work. This is the wheat and the chaff – the ritual is what was written down and anyone can pick it up and read it and publish a book on it. The internal work you only may experience by action. The book encourages you to get up, do the rituals, and then think about how they work. The internal work sections are what got me moving personally. Rather than copy them verbatim and doing them “wrong” or “right”, the reader is given enough hints about the internal work to see how it’s “supposed” to work but not so many details that the book takes over. Rather than use it as a bible, it should be a signpost, and it does it extremely well.