The young man awoke late the next day. Without hesitation he rolled out of bed to his knees, straightened awkwardly and hopped to the bathroom intending to shower then changed his mind given that he was already dressed what with having fallen asleep on the bed from the exhaustion experienced the day before with the old magician. Grabbing a stick of deodorant he quickly rubbed some under his arms, slipped on his shoes, picked up his jacket from the floor where he had tossed it earlier, and bolted out the door barely taking time to lock it behind him and charged down the stairs and into the street.
It was late afternoon and the rows of aging Victorian two and three stories known affectionately as “painted ladies” so named from their elaborately architectural ornamented and multicolored façade had taken on a glow of warmth as though readying themselves for a long nights sleep. Though the sky was still light the large picture frame windows of some houses shown with a warm amber glow that added to the sense of their aliveness.
As the young man skittered up the tree-lined street he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this excited about something, about anything actually. He almost flew over the sidewalk, grabbing a tree with one hand at his destination, and using the momentum of his run to swing him around and into the alcove of the three-story walk-up where his new mentor lived.
“Oh God, what if I’m too early, or too late? He didn’t actually say what time I should show up except that it should be about the same time as yesterday. I don’t want to piss him off before we really get started. Magic, imagine, me, learning to do real magic!” He mused as he slowed his pace while walking the long entrance to the staircase at the other end where he paused to gather his wits. “What was it he said?” “You can’t ‘learn’ magic.” And then pontificated. “Learning is through the thinking mind.” He exclaimed that the process of discovering that I already know the magic is something that he could help me with, though he wasn’t sure about what the old man meant by the ‘already know’ part. “I mean what did he know?” he pondered.
He stopped at the foot of the stairs, unsure as to whether he should go up. After all, he had been so confused the night before. What made him think that this evening would be any different?
Summoning his courage he climbed to the first floor entry and knocked on the wizard’s door. He heard a muffled “Enter” and tried the knob, entering slowly and peering around the door then catching a glimpse of someone sitting in an overstuffed leather chair with pipe smoke curling up and disappearing somewhere into the exposed rafters above.
This time he noticed that the room was warm, musky and smelled of cherries and old books a rather inviting fragrance he thought.
“You’re just in time” said the old man as he pulled the pipe from his mouth and set it smoldering in the bowl next to him.
Without even a “good evening” he motioned the boy to sit on the floor before him and began to talk. “First of all you need to remember that magic is not about things. Things have no magic. To the degree that your consciousness is preoccupied with things– the having and not having of them and your unending compulsive plans around your life, to this degree you will not be able to produce any magic.
I will not teach you magic but I will teach you how to open the door to it. This is not the magic of medicine bags, wands, and charms nor is it the magic of tranquilizers, drugs, rationalism or the power of your will. You can’t even begin to see what it is as long as you’re attached to the world of things. When you realize that you are not one of those things, but the container of all things, then and only then, will you be open to magic. What we will be doing from here on is to disentangle you from all inner and outer attachments of your life.”
“When your identity is able to disentangle with the ego, the center of your consciousness, and open to the space between it and the unconscious mind you will create a new center of being that will then allow you to be magic. Do you understand?”
“I do, sort of, though I’m still confused as to how I get there.” The boy said as he trembled at the thought of what “there” might mean.
“The first thing you’ll have to do is to give up your attachment to all things.” He said dryly.
“What? What do you mean give up my attachment to everything? You mean give up everything I own? Are you kidding?” He noted that this was beginning to sound a lot like all those boring sermons at church when he was a kid.
“I mean, you must give up your attachment to these things, including your ideas about them. You are attached to the outer world and that’s your greatest obstacle to the introspection necessary to discovering your magic. You believe that you need these things in order to survive do you not?”
“Most of them, yes, yes of course!” The boy said emphatically.
“Most of them?” Said the old man as he raised one eyebrow.
“Well food, water, life seem like necessary attachments don’t you think?”
Without answering the old wizard went on.
“You also believe that no rational person would give up everything to go chasing after some fantasy do you not?”
“Do you label your fantasies as just daydreaming– something to just while away some boring hours but without any real substance?”
“Mostly, yeah!” He said while wondering where the old man was going with this.
“Be careful, here, for it is the essence within your fantasies my dear boy that enables magic. When it comes to magic your rational mind is your biggest obstacle to wielding it. To become it you have to be willing to embrace even death.”
This of course shocked the boy and he became highly alert and suspicious of the old man’s intentions. He quickly looked about him for some avenue of escape should he need it. The room was dark all around them except for where they were sitting. He wasn’t sure where he would go if he had to move quickly. He could feel the fear swell in his chest.
Noticing the boy’s change of affect to one of fear he quickly interjected. “Not the death of your body for goodness sake! I’m talking about detachment from that well regarded ego-self of yours that dominates your every move. The ego doesn’t know magic! It can’t because magic doesn’t come from ones ego. Understand?”
“You seem to think that who I think I am is something different than who I really am. This is me, what you see is what you get, what I really am.” The boy said defensively.
“Really? Are you sure about that? What if I told you that your personality, the thing that you think you are, isn’t who you really are, that it’s all made up?”
“I’d say you were crazy.”
“You said that the last time we met. But can you hold the image of that possibility that you are not what you say you are? Can you just for the next few days sit with the notion that you have no idea who you really are?
You have many things in your life i.e. objects and ideas such as your name, your degree, your size, your beliefs, your likes and dislikes, who your parents are, family traditions, cultural traditions, the foods you like and don’t like, the style of clothes you wear, the music you like, politics, sports teams, the type of girl you’re interested in all of which you’ve attached your identity to. What would you be if they were all gone? What would you be if you were to just be unattached to anything?”
“Well I, I don’t know.” said the boy hesitatingly.
“Go home and detach. Be without for a while and then tell me who you are. But don’t come back until you do– until you’ve let go of every thing.
Bewildered the boy got up and looked sheepishly at the wizard because he was not really sure what he was asking of him, but resolved to at least try and then absently wandered out of the room saying a barely audible “goodbye” as he closed the door behind him, started down the stairs and walked into the night.
Strolling home he looked out across a cityscape that was here and there covered in fog and landed his gaze upon one of his most favorite visions. Peeking through the fog a lighted bridge with reddish spires jutted across the darkened water of the bay’s entrance and seemingly disappeared into the mist before getting to the other side. A wry grin crossed his face when he realized that this was like a metaphor for what he was feeling, incomplete and only partially there.
The magus picked up his still smoldering pipe and took a long, leisurely draw, slowly exhaling and engulfing himself. Feeling a chill he shivered and drew the fire ever closer. In his minds eye the room seemed to flicker and a canopy of stars spread out across what had once been his parlour ceiling. With another puff of his pipe he stretched out, “Now we climb down the rabbit hole once again.” He whispered as though talking to some unseen entity and leaving only his smile glowing through the smoke.