When I was twenty-three years old, I dedicated my life to the study and practice of MAGICK and RAJA YOGA, which are two sides of the same valueless coin—as it were. I could remember hovering on the threshold of self-initiation, at the junction of Doubt and Disturbed, and acutely feeling the karma this decision would create. I considered remaining at the Courtyard of the Temple to linger alongside the dabblers and so-called “armchair magicians”—those who reduce the Mysteries to a safe curiosity or scholarly hobby—and resign myself to a life of gazing longingly up at the Terrace of the Grail Castle and its obscuring Veil of clouds. That way, the path to a more normal or conventional lifestyle would remain open, and I would not run the risk of either losing my mind or wasting my time. The possibility that MAGICK was all folly and nonsense, and that I could potentially waste my life chasing chimeras of my own creation, was a very real fear for me at the time. I had read somewhere that every Neophyte is allowed one miracle, and I received mine in 2004, and have recalled the words of Liber AL vel Legis, The Book of the Law, ever since: “Success is your proof; courage is your armour; go on, go on, in my strength; & ye shall not turn back for any!” But this story is for another time.
I ended up gathering enough courage, confidence and faith in the process, to devote myself ceremonially to the Great Work and bind myself by an Oath in the spring of 2003, at Rockport, Massachusetts, after [six?] months of preparation. It was crude and not very well-executed, but the spirit was there, and the enthusiasm; and the spark came, regardless.
The idea of self-initiation has always appealed to me much more than initiation into a Fraternity or Order. My formal initiation and reception into the Mysteries of Freemasonry in 2004 was the exception, and was my way to explore the Mysteries from a more conventional angle. The experience entirely satisfied this curiosity, along with shedding light on how the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn rituals were organized and performed—that prestigious system being the offspring of high-ranking Freemasons. I used Chic and Tabatha Cicero's Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition as my model, but found the re-worked ceremonies cumbersome, aesthetically unappealing, and not at all realistic from a purely practical standpoint. The expanded knowledge lectures are wonderful and well worth the acquisition of the book, but that is as far as it goes, at least in my opinion.
In the end, I feel it is the effort put into any working or ceremony, and the intention, that matters most in efficacy. I have always tried my best to adhere to appropriate astrological days and hours for important operations—the consecration of my Sword in the day and hour of Mars, for example. But if it is deemed necessary to perform any ritual or operation, then just as the magician's temple is bound by the shape, size, and orientation of the chosen room, the ritual or operation will necessarily be performed when the magician's circumstances allow. You work within your capabilities, and you put in effort. A golden chalice is nice, but a goblet from a thrift store is equally effective if it is filled with your blood.
Now the Great Work is the Magnum Opus of Alchemy, the meticulous methodology of controlling and accelerating natural processes, resulting in the refinement of base metals into gold and other precious metals. It is the ancient problem of squaring the circle—which is to say, the attempt at the impossible. In the case of the Aspirant, he or she themselves is the Prima Materia, or First Matter, lead; and the alchemical process takes place in the vessels of the heart and the mind. Spiritual gold is attainable in the span of a life, but it takes considerable effort.
Once I was “in,” things became easy—well, easier—as I went through the contents of my life and systematically eliminated everything that was not or would not be an assistance to the Work. A life of simplicity and without distraction is necessary for the pursuance of Knowledge & Conversation with one's Holy Guardian Angel, and so I lived simply. I shed myself of material possessions, cast aside all worldly ambition and picked up with humility and joy a life of menial labor. Everything in the life of the Aspirant should gravitate toward quiet and stillness. The mind, which is so excitable, is to be reigned in, and a calm environment is conducive to this, at least in the beginning. All the while, I focused my energies within, toward interior processes and explorations that were of no value whatsoever on the material plane.
Skipping ahead twenty years, we have arrived at the present. I have not forgotten my Oaths—though I have stumbled many, many times, and succeeded in wandering off of the Path altogether more than once—and I have built a meager chapel on the foundation of my soul in the hopes of it one day growing into a cathedral. In that time, I realized that I was better suited for the mystical, rather than the magical, path. Both are two sides of the same coin, remember, and so both should be nurtured and explored and expounded upon by the serious student. They complement each other well, MAGICK and RAJA YOGA. Part of the theory behind MAGICK is that of infinite expansion. It is extroverted, so to speak. It is seeking to accumulate experience, to widen horizons, to move outward. RAJA YOGA, or meditation, is infinite contraction. The entire “goal” is to reduce the universe to a single point, and then reduce this point to nothing. It is, conversely to MAGICK, an introverted art. But they ultimately arrive at the same place, and practice in one assists in the other. A thorough performance of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, for example, has a nearly identical effect on my consciousness, my overall mood, and my grounding, as twenty minutes of RAJA YOGA. Or, the strict practice of dharana, or yogic concentration, assists immensely in holding the complex visualizations required by ritual MAGICK. Anyway, I was better suited for the mystical path.
Dion Fortune's, The Mystical Qabalah, is a masterpiece on the subject, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Upon my recent second re-reading of this gem, I came across a passage of particular interest: “Experience proves with unfailing regularity that the methods of psychic development which are effectual and satisfactory for the recluse [yogi, mystic, etc.] produce neurotic conditions and breakdowns in the person who pursues them while compelled to endure the strain of modern life.”
The reason that it struck me was that it described my own situation perfectly, and called attention to a problem I had hitherto tried to sweep under my spiritual rug, and which had grown exponentially during twenty years of quiet cultivation. I had spent so much effort and will in subjugating and negating any ambition that was ego-driven or worldly or materialistic that I had unwittingly erected a stumbling block in front of my own efforts as a poet and writer.
I have been writing since before I knew how to read. My earliest efforts were fantastical and terrible picture books inspired by the comic book accompanying the 1981 game for the Atari 2600, Swordquest: Earthworld. This game imprinted itself upon me at a very young age; and was, besides stimulating my creative and artistic self, my first doorway to the occult. I will not go into further detail here, but will devote more space to this silly game, as it is of the utmost importance in my life; the first signpost giving me my direction.
The need to communicate thoughts and ideas through words has always been with me. Like the natural tendency for me to reach and write with my left hand, as opposed to my right, writing was never something I thought about consciously. It was something I simply did. And it was something I continued to do as I grew older; learning all the time, honing, crafting, perfecting. I wrote some of the absolute worst poetry you have ever read when I was seventeen. But, with twenty years of practice and refinement, I like to think I've improved. Practice does not make perfect, but it tends ever toward perfection.
As an aside, I would like to emphasize the fact that the written word is the oldest form of MAGICK—excepting humankind's most primitive endeavors in sympathetic magic—in the world. The Egyptian ibis-headed god, Thoth, describes with a stylus upon a scroll of papyrus the formulae of the universe. Before the thought becomes a deed, it must be manifested via the word and put into motion. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Logos. Nonverbal communication—and, after the advent of the printing press, nonverbal, widespread communication.
When I was forty, after reading Stephen King's, The Tommyknockers, and about a third of the way through IT, I decided that it was time for me to write a novel. It was something I had always wanted to do, but never had. This was due to my questionable attention span, which oftentimes caused me to start a writing project strong and with passion, only to have it fizzle out after a very short burn. My perceived short attention span was why I originally identified myself primarily as a poet. Poetry is not typically as demanding in consistent effort (there is that magic word again) as an 80,000 word novel, and so I chose this route. Also, reaching forty years old set off my own biological clock.
I had just finished writing the lyrics to what would be Kayo Dot's Blasphemy, the concept of which had been floating around in my head since I was nineteen years old. But I did not feel the same sense of completion or closure I had felt upon finishing the eleven poem cycle of Hubardo in 2013. That concept had been floating around since I was twenty-three or twenty-four; and I feel, to this day, that the final product of this alchemical allegory had been delivered even more perfectly than I originally conceived. So, Blasphemy would be my first novel, and would begin the process of my understanding just how confused my spirit had become. For, what was I planning on doing with this cumbersome novel? Furthermore, what was I planning on doing with a second novel? A third? True, art for the sake of art is the highest form of MAGICK. True, all worldly ambition is an absurdity and a mere bolstering of the illusion that there is substance to the ego. But, regardless of all these, a magician needs to eat; he or she will wither away and die if they do not, though their primary sustenance may be holy prana. We must at least pretend to take the illusion seriously. Or agree to play by the rules to a greater or lesser degree.
This is the difference between RAJA YOGA and MAGICK. This is the conflict produced in the mind of a person born and raised in the Occident and introduced to Oriental disciplines, theories, and techniques without the guidance of a guru. While reducing myself to zero, which is both the mystical path and the philosophy that feels most right or natural to me, I have simultaneously planted seeds in the form of poems and stories with the intention of expanding myself magically. The disciplines of MAGICK and RAJA YOGA are of benefit to one another, but the drawback I failed to consider until very recently is in how mindfully the consciousness is re-wired during the unfolding of these psychic processes.
I can say with unfortunate confidence that the sum of human endeavor is, at most, worthless in any sense beyond the strengthening and elaboration of the ego and the propagation of the species. The countless billions of ego-driven vehicles crawling over the earth seeking to further themselves, to immortalize themselves in any way possible—usually through procreation—to make some sort of imprint on the world, is farcical, without substance. To a mind that has been disciplined by the practices of RAJA YOGA, and an awareness that has been deepened by the practices of ritual MAGICK—especially visions obtained through the remarkable and potent Enochian system—certain experiences of cosmic consciousness alter the perspective of the Aspirant permanently. You cannot unsee what has been shewn unto you; you can only acclimate.
Thus, what is the purpose of my writing? Does the attempt to earn an income through it cheapen the art form? Am I breaking a magical Oath by trying to convince people to give me money for the privilege of reading what I have spent my time and energy upon? If I shift my focus from within to without, from the spiritual to the material, will it jeopardize what little progress I have actually made in my own attainment? To the well-grounded mind that is in possession of even a modicum of reasonable ambition, these are all simple, straightforward, and easily-answered questions; rhetorical, even. It is, in what is regularly referred to as reality, the very purpose of incarnation: to etch a name for yourself onto the earth, to produce an income, to multiply this income. The supposed success or worth of a life is gauged by the accumulation of wealth or material things. To me, these questions both aggravate the neurotic conflict I have produced within myself, and reduce my sense of self-worth if I consider the mundane definition of “success.”
I have, therefore, decided to perform a magical experiment. While I continue to simultaneously follow the mystical Path deeper into the wilderness and climb the floors of the Castle shrouded in mist, I will endeavor to utilize my ego as a tool of manifestation on this earth. One does not need to eschew the material entirely, nor dismiss it as a nuisance in order to pursue finer or more abstract life goals. In qabalistic terms, Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether. In hermetic terms, As above, so below.
I understand and can more easily spot the pitfalls and traps laid down by my ego to thwart me than twenty years ago, without a doubt. The value of the transitory has been made plain, as have the rewards of long introspection and yogic discipline. I have reached a vantage point in my life in which I have gained enough insight and spiritual confidence to take a swim in the waters of the material and treat it with the curious playfulness and lack of seriousness that it deserves. AUM. HA.