Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Context

Framework. Context.

Jason's response to my post yesterday is good. It has a lot of good points about the benefits of meditation. Meditation is good, it's really gooooood. Nothing will help you understand any of the fundamental mystical things he talks about better than meditation.

In context.

I personally do not think that the goals of magic and meditation are the same. I think they are complimentary, and there is no particular reason not to pursue both. Magic and Meditation can go hand in hand, trouncing down the merry path towards the pit at the end of your life where your body and soul go their separate ways. (Not that they really do, but they appear to... It's a Mystery!)

But they aren't about the same thing. Crowley thought they were, and so did Blatavatavatavatasky, but while there are similarities, the end goals are not the same. It's one of the things that is really disappointing to people who come to magic looking for a Mystical Transcendence. You get something similar, but it's not the point.

Let me see if I can explain this. It's tricky, so bear with me. Meditation is about learning to be your self, consciously, all the time, to the fullest extent possible. (Click that link, it's awesome.) A side effect of this process is that the world around you seems to change to conform with your expectations, because you are consciously aware of what you ought to do in any given circumstance.You become consciously aware of your relative position to all things, and you just know what the right action for the moment happens to be.

Magic, in spite of what you may have learned from various sources and institutions, is about changing the world around you through communion with the entities that are responsible for all manifestation. When you're hanging out with the Intelligences that rule over manifestation, you can see your relative position to the things that manifest under the guidance of the Intelligence you've conjured. You have something like a satori experience in their presence. It's not necessarily caused by them, it's a revelation that is unavoidable when you're standing at their level looking down. Or up, for that matter. They have a different perspective that you share while you're in their presence, and even after you leave their sphere, you will be aware of that perspective, to some degree.

I know there is a lot of information out there that will tell you that the goals of magic and meditation are the same thing, to "know yourself." But when you really take a look at magic across the centuries, as far back as we can track it, the goal of magical rites is to change the world around you. The Greek Magical Papyri are mostly about sex and winning at the local racetrack. The Solomonic stuff is about getting spirits who would otherwise be causing you stress, illness, and grief to build your Temple instead. The more spiritual rites, like exorcisms and the attainment of a Supernatural Assistant or your Holy Guardian Angel are about making your world better, getting the crazed family member back to normal, or having an Inside Man to bring you riches, health, and protection.

Seriously, the Book of Abramelin is a perfect example of this. How many people think the goal of Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel is about preparation for a mystical voyage across an imaginary Abyss that separates the Manifest Realm from the Supernal Triad of Primal Manifestation of God? It's not about that at all. That's a Mystic's interpretation projected on a framework of Christianized Kabbalah that he was trying to use as a series of sign posts to mark the path of the Mystic's progress towards transcendence.

The real goal of the Abramelin Rite is to attain a Supernatural Assistant who will grant you the power to bind the spirits who would cause you harm and set them to working for you instead. As a result of this relationship, you get the ability to protect or blight cattle, influence the outcome of battles, and manifest piles of coinage. The majority of the Book of Abramelin looks a lot more like a receipt book of a Hoodoo practitioner than any mystical text of holy transcendence. It's about doing things to make the world a better place for yourself and your clients, it's not about unifying with the God-Head, or becoming One with Divinity. You may catch glimpses of that truth along the way, but that's not the point at all. It's a side effect, one that brings peace and teaches the magician to do the right action at the right time, but it's still a side effect.

Mystics can and do learn magical techniques. Magicians can and do learn mystical techniques. They are complimentary, and I would even go so far as to say that they are inseparable; you can't do magic for any extended period of time without having mystical experiences, and you can't meditate regularly for any extended period of time without picking up some magical techniques. But the context is different. The framework is different.

It's tempting to say something like, "You're either a Magician who uses Mysticism, or a Mystic you uses Magic," but there's really no reason to be one or the other. At different times you'll be both.

My goal is to accomplish the Great Work. My understanding of that process is not to simply become One with God, or to attain a specific state of consciousness. Those things are helpful, if illusory (it's a Mystery!), in the Work. But to me, it's about rising up and returning to the Earth in power, as described in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. It's about becoming the co-creator of your universe, to be in conscious control of the manifestation of your experiences while in the flesh when it's necessary, and enjoying the show as it unfolds the Rest of the time. (The R is capitalized on purpose. It's a ... Mystery!)

In practical application, the results of the path of the mage and the mystic look pretty much the same from the outside. Things that appear to be miraculous pepper the lives of the ascended mystics and the ascended-and-descended magician alike. The approach is different though. The goals are different. The context is different. And that's ok.

The results of meditation are experienced by the magician, though more briefly, and perhaps to a lesser degree. The results of magic are experienced by the mystic, though more briefly, and perhaps to a lesser degree. The difference, primarily, is in what is most important to you. I'm a magician who does mysticism as needed to aid in my magical path. I hesitate to classify Jason, as I'm not Jason (at least, not consciously... it's a Mystery!), but I can say that to me, as far as this particular exchange goes, he seems to be primarily a mystic who does magic to aid in his mystical path.

It doesn't really matter, though. It's just a different context.


  1. I couldn't agree more with what you have said here. I think that Jason went a bit overboard with his argument. For magicians, meditation is a tool - a means to an end. Also, Jason has a picture of the Buddha on his article, and of course, the Buddha would have considered magick to be superfluous. However, you have not yet really defined the core discipline of your practice of magick. Perhaps that would assist you. (See my blog where I have attempted that task.)

  2. Fr. B,

    I like your blog a lot. One of the first things I enjoyed today was your post on the Verum dreams. the Chthonic aspects resonate a great deal with my own experiences, especially the tree with the roots going down to merge with a proto-root. I think the difference between the Chthonic and the Celestial approaches to magic are largely interpretive. Chthonic magic is more about going into and under and behind the Earth to find the mysteries of why a planted seed becomes a tree. Celestial magic reveals the same thing, but you go up to end up below instead of going below to end up above.

    But the core discipline of my practice would be ... Hermetic Conjure magic, I suppose, if I had to boil it down to a couple of words. Hermetic as in the 1st through 3rd Centuries AD Hermetic philosophy and cosmology, not the 19th and 20th century redefinitions of Hermetic Magic. The actual practices are the rites and ceremonies of the Renaissance magicians, which were formed as the Hermetic texts hit Europe from Constantinople.

    Does that work?

  3. Shit, I got you confused with Balthazar. It's the B. Now I have to remember there are two B's, the St. and the Fr.


  4. Fr. B,

    Ok, I've read your blog, and I disagree with your definition of the core discipline of magic, though I suspect what you mean by "Ritual Magick" is the post-1899 definition popularized by the Golden Dawn that has its roots going back to Levi and his ilk. The "k" in magic should have been a clue that we were talking about different things. Maybe by that definition of magic, you're right about the primary goal being the union with Deity.

    In my understanding of real Hermetic Magic, that's just the first step. It's like creating the philosopher's stone, and then not using it. The goal as delineated in the Emerald Tablet is to ascend and then return to the Earth in Power, which is how the World is created.

  5. Frater B,

    Meditation is a tool for the magician as it is for the mystic.

    The argument that people make is that all these other things will stand in for or achieve the same thing as meditation. They will not.

    That is my only point.

  6. I just have a picture of the Buddha on the article because it is a picture of a dude meditating.

    If you follow my work you know that I am all about using practical magic. The branch of Buddhism that I am involved in is also all about practical magic.

  7. Frater RO: Great post. I agree completely.

    Frater Barrabbas: I think you were vising an alternate reality where I made a completely different post on a blog that isnt dedicated to the many and varried methods of MAGIC.

  8. @Rufus -

    Becoming one with the Godhead is just the beginning, of course - not the end. The cycle of transformative initiation requires both an ascension and a descent - evolution and involution. Thanks for your definition of your core practice. I think that we are a lot closer than you might realize. My background is traditional Witchcraft, so my approach is colored by that background. I also don't have problems working with systems that are new and modern, as everything requires a modern reinterpretation and can't be done as it was in the beginning of the modern era. The historical context just doesn't exist to support such a practice. So we are all working and interpreting our material in a fashion that makes it modern and relevant.

    @Jason - I have already responded to your critique in my blog. I have not sought to offend you or mischaracterize you. I was responding to your comment that if you had to give up all practices but one, that practice would be meditation. I interpreted that as meaning that it was your core practice. What we have here is just a disagreement of terms and different perspectives - that's all. I don't understand your hostility, nor do I think it helps in conveying and exchanging different points of view. Also, I am not living in an alternative reality - I am here in the same world as you.

    Regards -

    Frater Barrabbas


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.