What is perhaps the only thing good that a connected world can give us, is to view groups of people coming together in virtual places and talk. I used to do a lot of talking either, but I found that the talking didn’t do much for me. The listening however can be very instructive. There is something very educating by listening to flawed arguments, especially when the talk is about magic and tradition.
Contradiction is useful
I find it refreshing to think about why I feel someone’s argument doesn’t sit right by me. It brings me to the core of my own beliefs and if I am lucky, I can spot one of my own contradictions in my beliefs and put some meditation towards it. I think that inner reflection is an important part of the craft and in quite a few traditions it is noted that rather cryptically “a witch needs to be brutally honest”.
Being brutally honest
It seems an easy way to be, is it? You just tell someone what is exactly on your mind, but is that the extent of the brutal honesty in the craft? Witches do seem to have a reputation for saying what is on their mind and certainly can be keen to make sure everyone understands that. But the true brutality of honesty is meditating about ones own contradictions and being able to give oneself an honest answer.
Now there’s a subject that can turn any group of witches into a critical mass any day of the week, unless it is a case of neophytes being overshadowed by an overbearing self declared authority that has flayed everyone in submission: You either agree or you are an outcast. That is a very bad way for a witch to be in, or even worse -to take passively part of- and be part of the problem.
I’d view tradition as an ethos that came to birth because of whatever was before the tradition didn’t work, or didn’t work as well as it should. When talking about tradition, one must look at the founders motives, the spirit in which the tradition was founded. Some are adamant that tradition can not change, which is contradict to a tradition being founded. Most young traditions start out broad minded; “If it works, then works” but unfortunately, after the growing spurts, people start to look at the older traditions and for some reason want to have the same type of legitimacy (not authenticity!) that older traditions seem to enjoy. And with that, the becoming of what people regard as “elders” of the craft; to become unquestionable sources and judges of praxis, to be beyond question. And often enough these people do posses an intellectual knowledge of their tradition, but are not willing to acknowledge the progressions that individuals make in their craft. The reaction is to declare those individuals as “non-traditional”, while in fact, the ethos founded at birth of the tradition is more closer observed by those who dare to push boundaries.
Change as an undeniable force
Change in inevitable; there is no escape from it. Change is what defines creation and our consciousness. Change of state and our awareness of it is the foundation of “Cogito, ergo sum”. Why are we adamant to fight it? As above so below we must realize there is no escape from change. Especially in Wicca, change it he only constant that drives all ceremonies and rituals. To depart from, or dismiss the need for change is to sever the foundation of an earth based religion. Asking people as to why they want to profess an religion like Wicca often gives you the answer that they wish to feel closer to their environment, to be of the earth, to celebrate the changes of seasons and grow in their understanding of creation. How is one to do that without embracing change?
Degrees of change
So whatever system or tradition we look at, what is in common is that we do seem to love our degrees: aspirants, neophytes, seekers, degrees from 1 to infinity to distinguish ourselves how far we have travelled. There nothing wrong to mark where ones studies and practices has lead them in the foundations of their tradition. But too often I have seen people basing their authority on years of study or degrees received, often known as “wand measuring contests” where ones authority can be increased by having lunch with the right person. This behaviour defies all understanding of the craft, the brutal honesty being absent where one defies all magical logic to state: “I am perfect, I am done growing, I have all the answers, all what others should aspire is to be like me, to act like me.” It not only denies oneself of the ability to grow, it denies the ability of others, who look up for guidance, to grow as well. But that seems fine, as the authority will that way always be on top of the foodchain, defying the age old adage that a good master will make his pupils excel him. And that is how a false master of the craft is recognized: no pupil will ever excel or outshine the “master”.
The Will of the Gods
I guess that every alternate religion to the abrahamic religion feels itself different for not claiming there is anyone to tell you want the gods want from you. Most of us consider it a rude thing by itself to tell a fellow human being that his or her god is very angry with them and how him or her need to act such and such. We do learn of the nature of the deities, we learn of their archetypes which we draw from legends and traditions. We can learn that some are dangerous to deal with and some seem more powerful than others, but let us not forget what through our craft is key for them to manifest: our own ability to tune into them. It is no secret that when calling upon deities, we call upon something that is within ourselves and we create the conditions to manifest them as such. the worship to these deities in the worship of them within ourselves, our invocation of them within ourselves. As such, the gods change us, but we changed the gods in return.
The manifest of deities is very personal as well, often enough I experienced the same rite performed in different temples resulting in different manifestations of the goddess and the God, due to the energy of the temple and people involved. We charge our surroundings with our energy and if a location is used to invoke, we will tap into the reserve of energy we have invested in it.
Do we create the gods, do they create us? It is of no matter to me; if suffices for me to work with their manifestation. The core of my magical experience is to know that All that I perceive and experience is due to my mental realisation of it. Whatever the “truth” may be, it will always be coloured by my own being, so in a way, the deities I work with are as much a part of me as I am part of them. As such, I know that the notion of “absolute truth” is a contradiction and with change, the perception of truth will change as well.
Our mental awareness is key
I often get comments on quoting or referring much to the kybalion, but I find much around me that confirms the principles explained and certainly that the first principle: All is Mind is something I see applies in all systems of magic I ever encountered. Our entire mode of ritual is based to sharpen senses, by visualization, to break beyond the boundary of the mundane into the magical world. Magic is a mental process. Most earth based religions give us the key to the nature of the gods and why they are within us; We associate human attributes to the elements: Earth with nurturing and stability, Air with thinking and reason, Fire with passion and Water with intuition and emotion (yes, I know, the list is much bigger), we effectively set the stage to tap into our inner selves and invoke what we need to perform our ritual.
the only good reason to work in terms of degrees is that a teacher gradually leads someone to these realisations. I had the good fortune to meet a good few of people like that. Magical work can be dangerous when people do not realise what forces they are tapping into, not understanding that they are empowering parts of their psyche. Becoming over obsessive with magick is never a good idea, as it usually leads to social isolation and estrangement toward the mundane, where like it or not, most of us have no choice but to function it on a day to day base.
The reason why sects get people involved in mass suicides and other tragedies is willfully isolating the members form their friends and family, not allowing to interact outside the group. Combine that yo make member of the group feel “special” or exalted to be the select few good and pure enough to take part of their mysteries. These cult leaders in particular like to prey of the vulnerable, the easy to manipulate and those resisting will be deemed “unworthy”.
Most alternate religions I know have no truck with abuse and oppression. I always found that pagans are social activists, looking not just inside their little group but profess a concern with all that lives in their community. It seems for them natural to rebel, to break a lance for the common good, to pick a fight against established order – invoking change. It is not unusual for some of them to have a magical construct that depicts a war or struggle between deities. Most religions will have such a story of one deity, or group of deities pitched in battle or struggle with another: Taranas vs Cernunnos, Enki vs Enlil, Perkunas and Vels, Osiris vs Seth and many other examples. These stories to prompt us to take sides, as we feel connected to one deity or another and we find ourselves invoking them to aid us in our magic, we purposely call upon the inner manifestation of that deity to help us change -through magic-not only ourselves- but our environment too.
Good vs Evil
There are also practises where demons are called upon; to submit them, control them and put their powers to serve a better purpose. There is something profoundly courageous about such acts, but it requires understanding and much preparation to be mentally able to deal with these demons: we are calling within ourselves to face down our ugliest aspects. The Freemasons have such an understanding in regards “the strong man” who they do not seek to destroy or kill, but to submit and it’s strength to be put to use for good. Perhaps these are the extends of the warning in many black book of magic, a warning that the unprepared occultist might discover something really ugly about himself that might prove hard to live with. Being brutally honest towards oneself is of great importance, to know what potentially will rise to the surface when invoking a powerful “demon” let the experience not overtake us and not being able to submit it because that what lies hidden in the inner dark took us by surprise.
It is not a case of Good vs Evil; it is a case to understand what part of ourselves, used to invoke a power through magic, is a potential destructive force. That is was is meant with the brutal honesty of witches. For what we call upon can and will damage us mentally if we allow to become obsessed with it.
Better than thou
Choosing a side in the never ending battle of the magical plane doesn’t make you elevated in any kind. While purposely chosen for a covenant with the gods may feel like a calling (which often it does ) it doesn’t make you any more valuable as a human being. I have come across people who never have as much said a prayer, let alone invoke any gods, manage to have that sort of brutal honesty and live remarkable balanced lives. It annoys me to no end to see initiates referring to other people as “muggles” or any other derogatory term. The question it raises is “you need a derogatory reference in a child book to feel yourself elevated, perhaps your actions are not enough to feel some sort of accomplishment?” The fight extends not only to submit our own inner demons, but by submitting our own inner demons, we submit a great part of the collective energy of the meta-demon. We do in for the greater good of ourselves and others, but never to become “better” than others.
You may have been reading this in agreement or disagreement. Accepting this, rejecting that, or even arrived at a more subtle definition of how your views are and how they differ from mine if they differ at all.It would bordering to insult for me to state that I may have given you a glimps of the inner mirror; truth is that no-one can force you to look at oneself with brutal honesty. But there is one short story I wish to part with: When visiting a friend of mine, native american or origin, discussion came to native american stories and he asked me which one I liked the best. I recalled a story about a child asking her grandfather about good and bad and the grandfather answered: there are two wolves in each of us, fighting – good and bad”. So his granddaughter asks: “Who wins?” and most famously the answer was: “The one you feed the most”.
My friend laughed. he said “I’ll tell you what I do. I make sure the bad one gets the twinkies and cheap bourbon. The steak and clean water goes to the good one. It is not who you feed, it is what you feed them that decides the outcome to the fight”
I leave it at this with food for thought 🙂