Like most people, I watched the State of the Union wondering if China had secretly replaced the script in the Presidents teleprompter and was laughing all the way to the bank. However, the President (if we can separate the topic from the ego) talked about problems which generally affect people. People want to make a living. People want to have security. People want to have purpose.
If Phergoph were president – how would he handle it within the framework of hermetic philosophy?
Well for one we would just out and out say that the world is controlled by the Illuminati because a ceremonial magician is now President. That puts all the tinfoil hats back in the workforce because once the President admits to it, there are just no more secrets for them to uncover. Very anticlimactic. I might show up for my first state of the union wearing a lizard mask just to listen for the distant sounds of their brains exploding.
Anyway, I have to apologize because I’ve been having a lot of real life discussions with people about hows and whys of hermetic philosophy and it makes for poor blogging. “I already covered that topic” I say to myself. Right, but it’s important to keep a magical journal and the application of magic is just as important as what we think about magic. If I have some insight into how the world works or some perspective change, that is as important as me sitting down and calling up Angels or Demons or whatever we have.
How did I get here? Being concerned about the economy and the second dot-com bubble we seem to be in, I was doing a round of “magic every day” and the request to each spirit was simple – “guide me with divine wisdom”. Each spirit, in my book, represents a different aspect or lens through which the divine light flows, so to call them all up over the course of a week and ask each of them for the same thing queues up quite a ride. Suddenly I’ve got people I never met before finding the blog. Some of them have small problems, like daily life, and some of them have grand designs and political aspirations. I counted myself fortunate to have met a bunch of folks who want to talk shop, and then God threw a lightning bolt my way: My favorite brand of cigars went on sale. Not only did they go on sale but my local shop had two boxes, and they normally only stock the super high end $200+ boxes. The message was clear!
THOU SHALT GET ON SKYPE AND CHEW THY FAT WHILST SMOKING.
It’s in the Koran. Somewhere.
The one gentleman wants to learn enochian and has political aspirations. That’s really quite fun because despite the language barrier (he occasionally throws french into the conversation and I have to puzzle out his meaning) he has a good head on his shoulders and he’s been reading everything I throw at him including finding wholly new books on his own. When we have conversations, they aren’t about specific problems, they are about how to solve problems. We don’t talk about “My rent is due” we talk about “How can I use magic to cultivate money?” Those conversations are fun, and they’re all really well suited to high end ceremonial magic. I don’t specifically ask to talk to the Secret Chiefs and expect them to show up on their moped, I ask for divine guidance and I pretty much expect people are going to come out of the woodwork to talk to me. And so it does happen. To keep this as the work of God, I need to pay enough attention that I get something out of these discussions also. That means “Don’t make it about money”, I don’t worship money, I don’t ask for money, but that does mean “understand someone else’s relationship with God”. So we talk about life and how life works and how our relationship with the divine works and he asks me how to work with spirits and adjust those lenses and I walk him through rituals and stuff.
This goes back to a really large thread where I’ve been poked several times to teach a class on ceremonial magic. I’ll probably get on skype or google hangouts at some point and put it together when I get a venue or enough people who are interested. If there’s some suggestion for topics, let me know, I’m afraid once I get rambling the material will be too familiar to readers of the blog.
The next person, C from Ghana, is the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s a really good example of the fundamental brass tacks of philosophy and I really, really wish I had started with hermetic and gnostic philosophy 101 instead of turning him loose with planetary magick. Don’t get me wrong, all paths which involve serious introspection and considerations of life eventually leave people to God, but there’s a trap which gnosticism expresses quite clearly that even the supernatural can be bent to serve matter. Whether I call it Ialdabaoth or Mammon or the nebulous slur of “DEMONS!” the idea is the same – either I’m working towards a better understanding of God or I’m just serving my animal instincts. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but we don’t want to let it interfere with our True Will or pursuit of the Godhead. The current Pope, for instance, scored major points in my book with giving up the Popemobile and the Pope-Mercedes. His True Will is simply to get from Point A to Point B to talk about God. He can do that in a Toyota Corolla.
So now this brings us to Franz Bardon. If anyone is even nominally involved in the Occult they know about Crowley, although he’s probably maligned, and they know about Bardon. Bardon, and perhaps Crowley, couldn’t do magic for himself. He can diagnose and heal the sick, he can see and set (and unset) spirits for or on people, he can see into the Aethyrs – but he ends up in a concentration camp with poor health and eventually asks his good wife for a bacon sandwich because he darned well knows it’s going to kill him. The question is “why”. Why do these horrible things happen to people? The answer is because at some level, they become the new Apostles. It happened to Crowley, who blew through a fortune and a life of comfort, it happened to Gardner, who lost his rubber plantation to the civil war, and it happened to Bardon, who lost his wealth and lifestyle to the Nazis, it happened to John Dee, who could make lead into gold and sink the spanish fleet, but his seer jumped from the tower. Jesus was nailed to a cross, Mohamed saw his followers killed, Abraham probably got it the worst and in his lack of faith to his people, went to the mountain to talk to God and found they built a Golden Calf. And I think it’s because these people knew magic, they knew the effects of God, and the people just wanted to make their lives comfortable. Was it because they kept secret the Hows and Whys of magic? I have no firsthand knowledge. However all the great minds of magic have always put piety first, and magic second, and I’m really starting to see why.
So now rewinding back to the State of the Union, rewinding back to the requests which bring me to the downtrodden, what do people think they want? They don’t want to get their asses kicked walking down the street. They want money. They want a lofty position at work or in society. Usually that last one is a poor solution to the first two. Just because Mohamed was a well educated and wealthy trader in arabia doesn’t mean people didn’t try to assassinate him left and right. It is to his credit that he put his trade skills to the good use of spreading science and philosophy (as imperfect as the trappings of Islam can be) and thus into the service of the Godhead rather than sit on his fat camel and smoke hash all day. Lets analyse this as a high and low magic solution using hermetic philosophy!
They want security. The low magic solution to this is to learn karate. Buy a gun. Be aware of our surroundings. The low magic solution is to emphasize that last one – do a spell to make ourselves more aware and less noticeable and we’ve set in our heads that we should be constantly vigilant and low profile in our daily lives. This will work 90% of the time and is perfect for sneaking into high end cafes in the nude. That 10%? When I was in college I lived in the inner city, and being a typical person and thinking that violence and anger were always a sin I only fortified myself with magic. I got stuck up twice. I turned to high magic and I asked Mars “how should I go about this?” My father, in another state at the time, happened to bring up self defense in discussion, which kicked off a philosophical talk about morality and violent theft, and helped me discover and consider the motivations people have for wanting to not be robbed (obvious) and why people rob (not so much). Of course he is a devout Presbyterian to this day so it was framed within that view, but why cold call your son and bring up the topic? Suddenly I realized the intersection of the true wills here, and realized I had become the model of the martial arts master who pins down the criminal and the cops come. I had evoked the mighty spirit of Mars – WALKER, TEXAS RANGER! Seriously, it’s a common theme in Westerns and karate movies. People act poorly and before they get picked up by the cops, they sit down and have a heart to heart about philosophy and the bad guy repents. Be it Walker talking about Christ or Bruce Lee talking about the Tao, this is the theme. What really happened was I got my personal spheres together and made a plan to try to help people who felt they had to commit such crimes and tried to understand their perspective and… never got robbed again. The philosophy helped me understand the magic, and the magic helped me understand the philosophy, and the result was the unhealthy influences (the demons, the kapf, whatever names we want to use) just stopped messing with me. Other people can do that too, I’m not alone. That’s the secret of the Goetia right there. The demons can get you that car. Just don’t make the car the center of your life. This isn’t to say that all human conflict could be resolved just talking about it, this does work in the specific context of crimes of opportunity or crimes of passion.
Had it been a different time in my life I might have chosen to become a social worker but at the time the goal was a glamorous career in IT. More on that in a bit.
They want money. This is really the worst of all sentiments because we’re not really sure what “money” is. People have this idealized notion of greenbacks or gold, but really this is an expression of wanting either opportunity, some comfort, or political power. The low magic solution might be to put together a “money drawing box” or something else goofy, but in my mind this really says “I worship money”. “Money is the great provider!” Is it? Sure. Money can be a solution to some problems. It is, however, merely one solution, and keeping piles of it around just reduces it’s worth to something that makes someone feel good. (Oh god the ghost of Alan Watts). People do this all the time. They collects money, they collect cars, they collect cats or whatever. All of these have utility or some expression of utility, except money (and cats). So when people say “I want money” the next question should always be “What would you do if you had money?” We’re still wandering around in the lowest of the four worlds here, money represents spirit in the lowest of the four worlds. It’s a great secret, no-one believe me. It magically converts spiritual energy into matter and back again. This is where rubber meets road, the low magic crowd tends to merely want money but with no idea what they want to do with it. Slightly better are the folks who go “I need a car.” What they really mean is “I need a nicer car.” To actually need a car implies they need conveyance between point A and point B and usually I find thats because they want a higher paying job. Their spiritual nature is so impoverished that it never crosses their mind to take the train to work or ask for a ride or buy a bike. I never tell the spirits “I need a car” because I drive a 1991 camry and I am really afraid if I tell the spirits “I need a car” they’re going to teach me what needing a car really means when mine gets set on fire in the city or something.
What is the hermetic philosophy here? Money is the grossest representation of spiritual currency, and people who say they need money are really saying they need spiritual work and philosophical help to identify their problems better. While it sounds cold, I would venture that 90% of the people who have approached me “for money” are people who live in first world countries who are afraid of some loss of social standing by being on welfare or financial assistance or unemployment. I will freely admit that having been on all three having lived through the first dot-com crash, first comes swallowing pride, then the best use of time is at the library taking free online college courses and filling out job applications and I count myself lucky I live in a country with enough social services that I can succeed in getting back on my feet. But, magic can be used to identify specific needs and blocks and help them move along when properly applied to something more specific than “money”. The question really is “do they have the will”?
They want political or social standing. There are people who do want social or political standing because they want to change society for the better. Our own John Dee was interested in this and wanted to reform the Church and bring in a new age of science taught by Angels themselves. Everything else from the making of Gold to the sinking of the Spanish armada was merely to that end. Scary idea – piety goes a long way! Otherwise, what people usually are saying is that they have some perceived social ill and similar to the request for “money”, the request for “political power” should be investigated thoroughly for motive. Are they looking for sway to try to improve the lives of people or are they looking for sway simply because the sultan has the fattest camel? There’s a lot of motivations and demons here and political power is really a second world idea of spiritual currency. All the perils of money, without actually needing to find people with it! No wonder our politicians and celebrities are so poorly behaved – they usually have both!
This isn’t really a commentary on the failures of man as original sin, this is to say that there are many, many ways for us to take something with a little bad in it and instead of alchemically integrating the good with ourselves and discarding the bad, we make the mistake of accepting something wholesale or without regard to the possible abuses.