Do you believe in Magic? Chapter II: Detachment as the gateway to magic

 

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The magus picked up his still smoldering pipe and took a long, leisurely draw, slowly exhaling and engulfing himself.

 

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?”

“I do.”

“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.

 

 

Do you believe in magic? Chapter I

2267148-208751-magic-book-on-a-blue-background-with-the-lines-and-lights.jpgWhat foolishness is this? Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as magic. You believe there’s no such thing, don’t you?

Are you sure?

What if I were to tell you that yes indeed there is such a thing as magic? I can’t teach it to you because it’s not mine to teach. I can, however, show you the door, that door into that part of your mystical self that holds the power of the universe…

 

Chapter I : A New Beginning

While sitting before the fire one cold and blustery evening I heard a gentle rapping, a hesitant tapping at my livingroom door. “What now?” I thought as I put down my pipe and rose to answer. “It’s been some time since someone came to visit.” I mused. Upon opening the door the visitor stood up straight and without any greeting or explanation blurted out…

“Can you teach me magic?” said a curious young man standing before me and looking at me hopefully.

Inwardly I moaned but outwardly exclaimed, “No!” I said rather brusquely, and ready to close the door in his face. But I hesitated not really expecting this to end his quest. I was really more interested in his resolve, because it was this resolve that would speak to his level of intention and commitment. If he wavered now, then he wouldn’t be able to make magic anyway, but if he persisted, well then, maybe. But so many had quit before the real training had even begun. It was no use wasting precious time on yet another wannabe.

“But I want to know. You see, I’ve forgotten how.” He said with a far off look in his eye.

Now this was a hopeful sign! I thought to myself.

“To say you’ve forgotten how presupposes that you once knew. What say you about that?” I cocked my head to one side and gestured with my palms outward so as to elicit a response.

“I know that I knew at one time, sometime before this.” Again said with that wistful air.

“Have you been here before?”

“My dreams say I have.” He looked up at me hopefully, sensing that I was showing interest.

“Do they now?” I said with much disdain. “What do they tell you about magic?”

“That I need to learn again how to do it.” He said haltingly.

“Well they’re wrong! Magic can’t be learned!” I said with emphasis on the last word and then shoving my fists onto both sides of my waist as a gesture of defiance. Abruptly I turned as though to leave.

“Please?” Said the young man practically getting down on his knees to beg.

In turning back, I invited him to exit the cold and enter. Closing the door gently behind him I asked, “Do you even know what magic is?”

He paused for a moment in thought, then said, “I know that it’s everywhere.”

Hmm, this boy has potential. I thought.

“Okay we’ll work on it.” I said and placed my hand on his shoulder indicating that I wished him to sit. I then pulled up a chair from the side of the desk and sat down facing him. His dark brown eyes widened in anticipation of what may be the most transformative moment of his life.

“First of all, magic cannot be taught, you cannot learn it, it is not a rational thing that can be understood in the conventional way things can be understood, for you see it is not a thing. It can be understood, but only in an incomprehensible way. Do you understand?”

He looked crestfallen– almost in shock. “N, no” stammered the young man looking much confused.

“Good, that’s a start! You will have to learn to let go of your rational mind, that which thinks things through, for you will not find magic through thinking. The rational man doesn’t need magic, therefore he can never hope to wield it.”

“That sounds crazy!” Said the boy disgustedly.

“Precisely! We humans spend so much time thinking about things through the rational brain, that we have lost the ability to be magic. Now I’m not referring to the kind of magic practiced by some religious ritualistic nutcase who believes that their rituals and thoughts can bring about real-world effects, where ideal causes are mistaken for real ones. Nor am I talking about the pointing of some stick and chanting a series of words so as to manipulate another person or object. That’s just sloppy thinking. That’s just “more thinking” and therefore comes through that place in the mind that filters all material on a self-interest level. Magic does not come through the “thinking” mind. “Do you get that?” I said while punching the air in his direction with my index finger for emphasis.

“Most of the time we avoid the place of real magic as though it were a contagion that if confronted would throw us into utter confusion and chaos.”

“Well I’m confused!” He said accusingly.

“That’s good! See if you can just sit with your confusion for a while longer without trying to figure out the meaning of what I say, or reject what is being said either. Can you do that?”

“I, I’ll try.”

“Good! You have now opened just a crack in the door into your deeper self, the place where chaos and confusion lives. It is in there that magic also lives. I cannot teach you the way of magic, but I can introduce you to where it lives and let you discover it yourself. Magic can never be summoned, it arises at its own will, not yours. But you can learn to open to it. It comes from disarray.”

Seeing no light in his eyes as yet I asked that he think about who is responsible for what he does or does not do. “Who is responsible for running your life?”

“Well, uh, I am!” He said as though it were obvious.

“But what if you were to find out that this has never been true?”

“Really?” He squeaked.

“Well the ‘you’ that you identify as being you, never was in control, it isn’t now! The chaos and confusion that you shut off into your unconscious runs you more than that little bit of territory you call consciousness. You spend so much time trying to be what you’re not, that you’ve hidden what you are. The magic you seek is all around and within. You are the magic!”

For one brief moment the light in his eyes shined through the darkness, very brief, and then was gone. “What was that?” I asked to get him to focus.

“What was what?”

“The look on your face. What just passed through your mind?”

“I, I don’t know.”  He said looking even more confused.

“Straighten up and sit there for a moment. Quiet your thoughts and listen to the voice deep within you that is whispering, ‘There is something more, all of your thoughts about life so far aren’t quite right no matter what anyone says’”  I said in a muted stage whisper. “Do it now and we will talk again later”.  He sat for a moment then suddenly opened his eyes and exclaimed in the same hushed whisper, “I heard it!” 

“The journey has begun.” I said and brought the conversation to a close by getting up and walking to the door and motioning for him to leave. “See you tomorrow, same time.” He fairly skipped from the room, opened the door and strode out into the night.

 

 

 

Nevermore!

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“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”

–Edgar Allen Poe

 

Those lines from Poe’s The Raven really creeped me out when first I read them oh so many years ago. Since then I have stood on many an abyss peering into the darkness where my dreams were of those that “no mortal ever dared to dream before”.

In that epic poem the narrator expected to find someone on the other side of the door, but instead found nothing. Now he’s beginning to get really paranoid. The possibility of a supernatural presence creeps into his mind.

That sense of supernatural presence has often haunted me in my dreams, sometimes jumping out at me or crawling up my spine and engulfing my mouth so I couldn’t scream their name.

It took me years to learn who they were and what it was they wanted of me, but they’re there, hidden, squatting in the dark corners of the cellars of my mind waiting for me to pass their way again.

Poe wanted to handle his demons by not entertaining them, by not reinforcing their taunts:

“There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of a Hell… Alas! The grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful… they must sleep, or they will devour us–they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish.”

 –Poe in The Premature Burial

 But through countless confrontations I have learned that our own demons are nourished by the fears that cause us to “suffer their slumber” it is our very resistance to them that feeds them. With each year they grow ever bigger when we lock them away and will gain strength to break through the bonds and locked cages we’ve assigned them to. They pounce before us ready and wanting to be seen, or if not, to devour. Hiding from them is futile. Calling them by name and inviting them into the upper floors of our consciousness is the only way to deal with them effectively.

Alas Poe was not able to do this and ended his life haunted, hopelessly alcoholic, maddened, and in great distress having failed in business and losing everything that he had loved.

 “And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted – nevermore!”

 Poe gave into his demons by not negotiating with them. If he had only discerned the meaning of the raven sitting upon the bust of Pallas, the Greek goddess of wisdom, he might have opened to the deeper definition of his night shadows. Had he known that the nightmarish Raven was symbolic of his own self-betrayal, but also a symbol of death, of letting go of his self-haunting he might have been able to rid himself of its terror.

Like all dreams Nightmares come in the service of the health and well being of the dreamer. For me the Raven’s entreaty of “Nevermore” relates to never more ignoring the dark denizens of my repressed shadows.

Unchain the soul: Another ‘allegory of the cave’

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Welcome to the Dark Knight of the Soul Blog. Here you will find articles that speak to the darker or shadow side to our nature and our dreams.

Not too long ago I was reading an article  that made reference to Plato’s Shadow World, you know, The Allegory of the Cave from his book The Republic.

 In this allegory Plato imagined a group of prisoners chained in a cave facing a wall and unable to turn around. Behind them was an eternally burning flame and between the flame and the prisoners there was a parade of objects and people that cast their shadows upon the wall. To the prisoners their reality was this two dimensional movement of shadows before them. Unknown to them was a reality of immense multidimensional complexity that if they had known of it would have totally explained their universe.

In a lot of ways Plato’s shadow world is a reflection of what the unconscious shadow mind that resides in each of us does to our experience of reality. The cave we live in is the one of our conscious mind and its three dimensional way of seeing things. We too, like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory, cannot “see” the reality behind us when all we have is the wall of our conscious mind to perceive with.

What we are missing is a 4th dimension of space, that created by the unconscious mind– that part of us where we have stuffed what we don’t want to look at, that part of us where the archetypes of the whole of humanity lay informing and forming what we see and what we do. There is a world beyond our conscious awareness that makes up 80-90% of the real world. But unlike Plato’s prisoners we have the ability to “turn around” so as to perceive it, so as to understand the meaning of the world we find ourselves in.

How do we do this? How to we loosen our own chains so as to make the shift in perception? Fortunately it’s pretty easy for the universe has given us the tools to expand our consciousness through our dreams and the art of meditation. Both tap into the Great Unconscious, both give a glimpse as to the world behind us that cast the shadows that lay before us.

Our world is not just the three 3 dimensional reality we’re so familiar with– there’s a 4th dimension to the space/time continuum we’re all used to and it is the realm of the greater psyche and the individual and world soul that informs and enriches its every expression.

Just as Plato’s prisoners saw their shadows as neither positive nor negative the objects that move in our unconscious mind are also neither positive nor negative, it is our conscious mind that labels them as such. This shows up especially with those who have low self-esteem for they cannot see the positive aspect shadows that hide within the unconscious. But there is an inestimable reservoir of creativity that resides in the shadow world of the unconscious mind i.e. both that which is labeled positive and that which is labeled negative contribute significantly to what is created in the conscious world.

Next time you have a dream where a dark something or someone shows up and threatens your dream-self don’t run from it, engage it, start a conversation with it. You may find that such a conversation actually illuminates what’s going on in your life. The shadow often has information to enlighten even though it seems to come from the darkness. Using your dreams to unlock the chains that have kept you staring at only one dimension of reality can be immensely rewarding.