When we fall asleep we enter a world of the unconscious where the personality, the ego-self, surrenders itself and the self-conscious barriers to reality dissolve into nothing. Suddenly we can walk through walls, traverse time in all directions and jump from one place to another without any external transportation.
Time and space seem irrelevant to this world and our individual self seems to all but disappear allowing us access to what seems to be a universal mind or the collective unconscious as Carl Jung described it.
In this world one does not have to be located in any particular place, we are neither here or there i.e. we are no longer dualistic in nature.
Here we can sift through incredible amounts of data to solve the unsolvable problems of our waking lives. We become particularly attuned to our inner body messages as well as the body messages of others we have seen, but have not been conscious of, during the day.
There is even some evidence that dreamers who are close or in some way genetically linked can meet each other in their dreams– the walls between us, what Alan Watts termed, “That skin encapsulated ego” that is us, seem to dissolve allowing for a connectivity beyond the body.
Dreams in fact seem to be a meeting place between the older archetypal self and the conscious personality. This older self is often seen as being eternal in nature with the younger self only being temporary. The conscious self seems to stop at the end of the finger tips while in a dream one can easily extend beyond this imagined or believed to be real body limit.
In our wakeful state we believe the body to have a limited range of sensory experience. This disappears when the boundaries of time and space fall away as they do in the dream state where we become transpersonal in nature. Here consciousness seems to transcend the limits of space/time. In the unconscious one seems to be nonlocal, being everywhere at the same time, a phenomenon thought to only exist in the quantum or atomic realm of reality.
There are some scientists who suggest, wonder, or imagine that consciousness itself exists in this nano-world of quantum physics and not in the body. Some suggest that our brains and bodies are more like radio receivers than transmitters. Perhaps our dreams are our link with our true nature?
If we are more than our bodies, might we then be more than that body’s limitations?
A reader recently commented on a posting from The Dark Knight of the Soul Blog. He noted that the reduction prayer I had used at the end of the post looked very much like a 13th century magical incantation from the Liber Medicinalis (Book of Medicine).
Accident? Coincidence? Not really, both the incantation and the reduction prayer act pretty much like mandalas in that they focus the mind inward towards its center. It is in this center that the wisdom of our soul lays. It is from this place that magic can happen.
These incantations, prayers and meditative practices tend to focus on the centers of our being while removing the outward directed conscious mind that is restricted in its perception of reality and opens a door to a whole new way of being and perceiving.
So what have we discovered so far about magic that might allow us to practice being in it and thus allow for a different creation within our lives?
1) Magic is all around us; we are already in it.
2) Magic cannot be controlled; in fact, we must release control in order to wield it. Magic is about “being” not “doing”. Magic cannot be understood, or controlled, because the process itself is a “doing”. Magic arises on its own and not through your manipulation.
3)Magic is a way of living and not separate from everyday experience.
4)The consciousness can open to Magic when the soul is allowed to express freely.
5) We have access to magic when we don’t place limits upon our expression.
6) To know magic, watch children at play.
7) Maintain authority over your expectations/standards by remaining at choice with your behaviors and self-expression. Be what you are, not what someone else wants you to be.
8) Magic becomes available when one dissolves the separation between ones opposite aspects and recombines them into a more functional whole e.g. dissolve the internal gender differences. Aspects of the assertive, decisive, thoughtful, creative, compassionate, emotional and intuitive can exist side by side within all of us.
9) Call out your shadows and your demons, do not suppress them. Note: you are not your negative aspects; you have negative aspects, but are not them.
10) Quiet the mind. Stop thinking things to death. Magic cannot come from the “thinking” mind. Live at least some of your life in the incomprehensible.
11) Magic does not come from the rational.
12) Magic grows from the secret orderliness of chaos. Allow yourself to be confused. Thinking that you know something about what is real can be very limiting to living what is real.
“It [magic] opens spaces that have no doors and leads
Do you believe in magic? Be careful how you answer that. I have written much poetry, prose, and nonfiction musings about Magic though few readers imagine most of it as anything other than fantasy or madness*.
But for an intuitive few they see beyond the veil of modern sensibility and are able to discern the divine where humankind transcends the ego and touches the sublime.
Many physicians today aren’t as hard science as you might think either for many are quite superstitious what with surgeons needing their “lucky” cap in order to do surgery and don’t ever say how “quiet” it’s being in the ER on any “slow” day because the fates will surely punish you by bringing in a bloody mass of people. And how many of us “knock on wood” to prevent calamity?
And what about carrying around a rabbit’s foot or a good luck coin or praying to God to win against your opponent? How many of us would tempt the fates by deliberately breaking a mirror? We keep guardian angel charms, root around the grass for four-leaf clovers, nail horseshoes over the door, and hang a cross or St Christopher’s medal like a talisman on chains around our necks for protection. We burn sage to rid the air of negative energy and consult the Zodiac to see what’s in store for us for the day or as a means to strike up a conversation with the young woman at the bar next to us in hopes that we’ll get ‘lucky’. Note also the current fashion of citing Karma as a cause for negative experience or precognizance, remote viewing, astral projection and even the lauded law-of-attraction to explain the mystical.
There’s also the sacramental eating of the body of Christ and the drinking of his blood as symbols for taking in spiritual nourishment while a water baptism symbolizes the cleansing of one way of being to make room for another. Metaphor or ritual for some can be a magical reality for others. For some pagan tribes people consuming the blood or flesh of an enemy, a friend, or an animal is believed to bestow the power or bring about the union, of those individuals into the consumer.
The statement made recently by an American congressman that we don’t have to do anything about the world’s environmental problems because if God wanted to do something about global warming He would have done it. That’s Magical thinking at its best (worst?). It’s also fallacious attribution and superstition as is much of what the everyday calls magic or in some cases thinks of as truths.
We’re supposed to be modern humans grounded in the rational but magic is always creeping into our lives.
Before science came and attempted to control the aspects of the world through a rigorous and rational approach there was magic. The medicine man and shaman was the father to the physician, the alchemist was the father to the chemist, the astrologer gave birth to astronomy. Magic has literally created the need for science and specifically the scientific method. How so, you might ask? I’ll tell you. How else can the shaman, alchemist, and astrologer keep their job unless they learn to study how reality works so that they would more often be right than wrong in their pronouncements?
Magic also created the need for religion as a means of understanding the ineffable, that which cannot be understood by word alone. The truth is Magic is most often a state of mind and a way of being. It is not divorced from science in that it is the ground of being that brings us awe. Nor is it separate from modern religion in that benedictions and many prayers are forms of magic inherited from our pagan forbears. Magic can just be intention made manifest and in this way our prayers are answered through a way of being with the universe.
There’s a conversation all of us are having between our ego selves and our larger divine self. Mostly it’s a conversation spoken in symbols, myth and metaphor (as with the Eucharist) of which magic is an example. In magic we draw on the collective archetypes of humankind to communicate and make sense of the numinous. Magic in any of its multitudinous forms happens when we stop using it to control or protect that is when we transcend the ego’s point-of-view and become vulnerable to the life outside it.
Bottom line, when we stop separating ourselves from everything else we become at one with the universe and magic follows.
Magic happens when we stop using intermediaries between the divine and us whether these are objects or saints. When we stop imploring our gods and invoking our talismans we will begin to manifest our true selves and will be able to live in the numinous. Magic is all around us and permeates every cell of our being but its wisdom can only bear fruit when we let go of trying to control it and our drive to control can only be transcended when we are ready to let go of the ego.
A good conversation can only happen when people listen, it is so between the human being and the divine. Stop listening to your opinions and be open to reality. Or as a friend of mine once said, “Don’t believe everything you think.”
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
I had a visit from the young man yesterday and we sat down at a local coffee shop to catch up and reminisce.
Ordering our coffees we picked them up and sat down in a private corner of the shop. As we pulled up chairs and sat the young man, Adam, began the conversation.
“I remember a spiritual teacher once sharing with me that enlightenment could be found in the yellow pages of the phone book that is, to turn to any page and there it is. I also learned of the technique of problem solving by opening any book to a random page and searching for the answer. In those early days I was always asking some form of the question, “How can I be enlightened?” as though the answer to that question would enable me to live happily ever after like in some magical fantasy story.
“Enlightenment is not an end unto itself, it’s an ongoing process.” The teacher would say and then he might add, “Just when you think you’re enlightened, you’re not.”
“It all seemed so simple, but no matter how many pages in the phone book that I’d turn to or how many pages in my favorite novel, or even in random pages of the Bible I couldn’t find any answers to the questions I posed– it all seemed like one big non sequitur. I could practice all the suggested rituals and study all the world’s philosophies, or focus my complete attention on paradoxical Koans1 that usually only twisted and contorted my mind into knots. But I couldn’t force anything to happen. Annoyingly the teacher would remind me, “It’s not about force, my boy. The power is not in force.”
“I had not yet learned how to intend a jewel or how to recognize one when it presented itself. It was only after a number of years did I learn to trust that an answer could be found in unexpected places if I expected to find it there. I learned to prime the pump by praying on it or in asking the source for guidance regarding it. I learned that the answer would show up in an unexpected way or from an unexpected source if I were to remain patient enough and quiet enough to see it or hear it.“
“I’ve learned that enlightenment can’t be forced, it doesn’t operate on the ego’s time table or its perception and it doesn’t come in a form that the ego imagines it wants or needs for the ego has no idea what it needs and what it wants is irrelevant to the universe.” I added.
“ Yes, learn to expect the unexpected jewels from unexpected places. My teacher used to say” exclaimed Adam.
“I also remember him saying, “It’s like that with making a difference too, and you never know when you’re going to, but with the intention of doing so in everything that you do, unexpected positive things happen. Intend on making a difference and you will even if you’re never aware of it.”
“Are you making a difference?” I asked.
“Oh yes in so many small ways. Ways that may take some time to be noticed if noticed at all.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that wanting to be noticed for what you do gets in the way of making a difference. Hard lesson that…” I said “learning to let go of what the ego craves.”
Adam nodded wistfully as though the memory of needing acknowledgment was still a struggling desire in his present life.
Finally he asked, “Does it ever end, this desire for recognition?”
“It’s a struggle I admit but it’s amazing what gets done when you don’t care who gets the credit.” I said. “There’s something deep within us that represents true awareness and knows who we are. It’s a divine force that urges us towards creation. It is from that force that each of us was created and it’s through us that we become extensions of it when we learn to release it into our lives.”
Adam nodded and smiled, pushed back his chair and we headed out the door walking arm on shoulder into the morning sun and promising not to let the time between us be so long we headed into our separate Moirai 2.
1Koans such as “the sound of one hand clapping”, or “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it”, or “Resist not evil.”
2 Moirai: Meaning fate, or shared fates, destiny or futures. The Moirai were ancient Greek goddesses of fate.
Just watched an old episode of Charmed, you know, the late 90’s to early 2000 witches in San Francisco TV drama! The visual effects were really cool even though technology was still in the flip-phone stage.
Afterwards I went outside to finish cleaning up the plant trimming mess my wife had made earlier and left for me straighten up. It was hot and the constant bending down started to take its toll on my back and I found myself wishing for a little magic such as the ability to move all that mess with just a flick of the wrist, “Depulso!”. No such luck!
But as I bent down and grunted a muffled “damn” when I gored my hand with one of the thorns of the palm tree leaf I had a thought, “I do have magic, this body is magic! I have a thought and then direct this amazing tool to stoop down and do its thing! And its all done by thought alone regardless of whether that thought originated from the millions of chemical interactions between millions of neurons or as some have suggested from some kind of mysterious force outside myself that then commands the body-tool to stoop. How magical is that?
And before I knew it something else magical happened, I was done! I’d been dreading the chore, but it was really nothing at all, “no problem” as the younger set so often say. And there it was again, the transformation of an experience through the magic of restructuring my attitude toward it. The job hadn’t changed any but how I held it did. Simple cognitive restructuring of thought distortions. Psychotherapists do it all the time with their clients e.g. help to change the thoughts, change the emotions.
No, we don’t just have emotions, we actually create the context for them and with some practice (a lot of practice actually) we can learn to transform them pretty easily.
Cognitive restructuring is a technique used to treat everything from social anxiety disorders to stress reduction. It’s called Cognitive Behavior therapy and is very effective in transforming negative thought patterns into patterns of thinking that are much more supportive and enlivening i.e. creating a new reality through thought alone– a thought incantation of sorts.
In my personal case in the example above I used a competing thought pattern that then weakened the automatic negative pattern I had been operating out of. Magic, huh? What I wanted when I wished to be magic was that the job to become significantly easier and through a little cognitive manipulation, voila! Easy peezy!
But this takes a lot of practice– not everyone can make a feather float on the first try like Hermione did– LeviosA! Nope, no luck yet!
Magic, what’s magic save perhaps something that we don’t yet understand i.e. comprehend?
It can be something distant that we cannot see or measure somehow affecting something that we cannot touch that moves the oceans, throws galaxy-sized objects into holes we cannot see and keeps each of us rooted to the land when we should actually be hurled into space because of the Earth’s one thousand mile per hour spin, this is magic. It’s also called gravity. But gravity didn’t exist in the minds of humans as a fact until Sir Isaac Newton lifted the veil between fact and magic and showed us.
But what did he show us? He showed an effect and named it but couldn’t show the thing itself.
And speaking of things what is this “thing” we call space? It’s a nothing until filled with a something but is always more empty than not. It becomes bent by something unseen that cannot be measured except by its effect. Often we attempt to measure it by taking the distance between the objects floating in it but sometimes the distance doesn’t seem to exist at all such as when two particles become entangled and do a synchronized dance with each other though they be billions of miles distant. Simultaneously they respond as though there were no distance, no space, no time. Magic?
How about an object that morphs from one thing to another merely at the choice of the person who decides how they are to be observed? This is the stuff of dreams or is it magic?
What about something that exists everywhere and everywhen simultaneously until someone chooses to look at it? And what is this force that the moon exerts upon our oceans, something that is powerful enough to move trillions and trillions of tons of water but whose influence can be overcome by a mere dollar-store magnet (try it, hold a magnet over a steel paper clip. Which wins out the magnet or gravity)?
And what is it that permeates a room full of people who have a singular collective intention that then “magically” manifests into reality without any of them lifting even the smallest finger? Also how is it you can sense something happening before it happens?
We can point to things and say that they exist, we can show their effect and even name them but do we really understand them any better? For example, why does anything exist and why does it exist in the manner in which it does?
Even after we’ve explained and tested our explanation it’s still a mystery the only difference being after the testing we can call the magical thing a “fact”. It’s still magical but now it’s accepted e.g. it was once thought that the moon moving the oceans was an occult mystery, now it’s an accepted fact but the actual mechanism with all its formulas and terminology is still a mystery– it still seems magical.
When I see a hugely heavy metal object speed down a runway and leap into the air as though it weighed nothing at all it can be explained in terms of physics i.e. with airspeed, lift, and force equations but it still feels like magic.
When I see a baby born there’s a being who came together from two microscopic single-celled objects that then morphed into millions of differentiated cells that work together to form legs, hands, heart, eyes, ears, toes, fingers, skin, brain, and hair ad infinitum and all directed by a spiraling helix of some infinitesimal matter that seems to come from nowhere– a code more complex than all the digital code that has ever been written by all the worlds programmers and hackers and all of this to create a means for the soul to express itself physically into the realm of things.
I see this and I understand some of the process, I’ve even learned to identify the processes and name some of the parts but I still don’t know how it does it or why it does it the way it does or why it does it at all. It still feels like magic.
It, or rather reality, really is all magic isn’t it? It’s either magic of the unknown or factual magic, dissected, labeled, and proved to exist, but magic none the less.
Don’t let your experience of magic be hostage to the assumptions and prejudices of others.
At a Dream Conference attended in Berkeley the presenter was detailing the Alchemical method of transmutation. What, pray tell, was I doing learning about this ancient and largely discredited precursor to chemistry and what did it have to do with dreams?
The presenter spoke of the seven (combined within four primary) processes the alchemist had to perform in the most exacting of ways in order to produce the transforming element, the Philosopher’s Stone, that which would transmute lead into gold (not depicted is the seventh process and is the choosing of the unredeemed matter to be transformed–in this case, “us”).
} part of the process of letting go, by
discovering what and then releasing
And she likened it to the recovery of the soul. Carl Jung thought of it as representing the Individuation process, where human beings wrestled with and integrated their varied and opposing aspects so to develop into a fully actuated being, in short, the process for aligning ones outer nature with their inner nature–the quest for wholeness. To him it was the promise of our ‘becoming’. He thought that the images of the alchemical process mirrored a person’s inner psychic state of being and thus gave guidance to what was needed to achieve this inner/outer balance. Thus the emblematic alchemical arcana (see example on left) represented a roadmap to healing.
Firstly one needs to free the soul from the body and become familiar with their unconscious identity as separated from their conscious, ego-bound identity. Dissolving, or causing one to let go, or surrendering, ones positionality is the next step. This is a form of ego-death where the ego is no longer the prime mover. In the third step one recombines the soul and consciousness to form a new and singular mind. The last step fixes ones mastery over the self after having integrated the disparate parts of the overall psyche.
So what am I talking about when I use the term “disparate parts of the self?” I’m talking about the various aspects of our selves that are usually in inner conflict with our self such as our feminine and masculine aspects. Most people operate as though they are one or the other based upon their anatomical differences and different ways of thinking and viewing the world. There’s also our wisdom selves, or radiant self, and our shadow selves e.g. for simplicity’s sake our positive and negative aspects–that which we readily embrace and that which we categorically reject.
But it is the ego-self that makes the decisions of what to reject or embrace and bases these choices on the basic need of the ego to stay in control. This is not a very good system for triage because of the limited vision of the ego-self. Thus the need to let go the predominance of this part of the ego, that can be likened to a huge mountain obscuring the landscape beyond, in order to see over the top of it. The ego-self doesn’t know everything of what it needs or doesn’t need in order to fully function. There is much in the unconscious that has been thrown away by the ego-self that can be immensely helpful if it were to be reintegrated into the overall psyche.
The internal alchemist can guide each of us to delve into the psyche where we have the power to change the essence of our stories.
I remember that during the height of the Polio epidemic in high school I painted a large billboard announcing the coming of a Polio clinic where people could get not only their children inoculated, but themselves as well. On it I depicted a large writhing dragon being slain by an equally large hypodermic needle. Little did I know that this symbol of slaying-the-dragon was to be the mythos for much of my life.
At one time I could have posed as the poster boy for “Robert The Blah”, but time and again I found myself in situations where I had to dig deep inside to find the power to draw my inner sword in order to confront whatever metaphorical fire-breathing dragon stood before me. Over time the mythos evolved into what might be called “Robert The Dragon Fighter” [i], but I continued to operate in the old myth. To fully manifest and use the power of what I had become I had to be willing to change my personal mythology.
In order to change our lives for what we imagine to be better, we more often than not need to change our personal mythology–to rewrite the story of ourselves and what we say we are. The ego-self resists this because to the ego-self it looks like death and it is death in a way because to rewrite ones life mythology they must kill-off, or dissolve, the old to make way for a birth, if you will, of something new. This re-envisionment can only happen after we have dissolved the current vision to make way for the new.
The dream world is our access to the imaginal, the vision of what is and what can be, it is a portal of discovery that can lead to an awakening in our so-called waking lives. It can reveal not only the archetypal conflicts of the human soul, but our own inner conflicts as well. It is quite literally our alchemical and psychosocial laboratory for evolutionary change, expansion of consciousness (i.e. what it means to be really conscious), and for the freeing of the soul. In fact, dreams always come to us in the service of our health and well-being and to aide us in our alchemical quest.
Jung suggested that at a deeper level the ancient alchemists were searching for more than just transmuting metals, but were meddling in something much bigger. For hidden in the common base metal of the human psyche was a wealth of grand value if only they could discover the path to its achievement. Many of our myths have hinted at this e.g. Jason and the Golden Fleece, Sir Percival and the Grail, Hercules and the hand of Persephone, and the innumerable stories where heroes try to reunite what has been separated into a more harmonious whole.
Even the dreams of those such as the Old Testament Jacob who wrestled with his God and learned to let go or dissolve his own ego position so as to evolve into someone more fully capable of dealing harmoniously in his world was an example of the kind of alchemy that is going on all around and within us. In Hebrew ‘Jacob’ is translated as, “Over reacher, or he who supplants” –an aspect of the separated ego-self–but is then given the name of Israel, “one who wrestles with God” an aspect I believe of the psyche trying to integrate itself.
Also such notable scientists as Sir Isaac Newton were also drawn to the alchemical sciences in an attempt to balance and ultimately unify the physical and spiritual aspects of reality.
Jean Houston, philosopher and author, has said that each of us “are valuable characters in the drama of the world soul, pushing the boundaries of their own local story and gaining the courage to be and do so much more.”
Many scholars in human development are convinced that our personal mythology informs the way in which we live our lives, that we make our decisions for better or worse as a consequence of our mythology. Much of therapy and dream work is about bringing ones mythos to consciousness, confronting it, and gaining some mastery over it–it is the alchemical process at work.
Much of dream work and personal therapy involves distilling the dross of the soul in order to work with the purified essence of the self. It is as Jung said that dreams are
The process, then, is the transformation of the unredeemed self into the ultimate expression of our being. In this way we can be the Philosopher’s Stone, or the fully Individuated, or fully Actualized human.
The Alchemists may actually have been projecting the inner processes of the psyche onto the objective world–pretty much as we all do when trying to make meaning of the world we live in. They may have inadvertently been the first of the Depth Psychologists and self-development gurus, or at least revealed the processes needed for the development of the self. It seems that metaphor may also run deep within the waking mind as well as in the dream.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. She who looks outside, dreams: she who looks inside, awakes.”- Carl Jung
[i] Note that I don’t use the term “Dragon Slayer” here because I don’t always slay the dragon i.e. get the better of him. Often my internal dragons, aka “self-criticisms” get the better of me. There are also times when slaying or fighting with a metaphorical dragon isn’t what’s called for. Sometimes the dragon shows up when I’ve been inflating my personal image i.e. acting arrogant and the dragon appears to cut me down to size. In this case even friends have played the role of the dragon and though they spit what seems like fire, they are only doing it because they care–this I want to nurture, not slay.
Walking down the path and into the mist, large drops of water slid from the trees and splashed against his face running down his neck and into the fabric of a shirt now clinging fast to his body. He almost didn’t notice for his mind was taken up with other things, things like thoughts about something called “source” and “intention” and what if he weren’t ready to transform before the moon and sun conjoined?
Surely he could do this, after all he had a clever mind didn’t he? But his thoughts just spiraled into chaos and he couldn’t get them to settle and focus. Fear built up as he realized that he might have missed something important that the old man had given him, something that would mean either light and life or just darkness and death. If he couldn’t find it he could be trapped behind the eclipse forever.
Then he remembered that all too often the brain sends one in the wrong direction blowing like the wind through the trees and making one believe that something is real that actually was not. A thought whispered from below and though almost ignored by the all too busy mind it was barely caught and brought to consciousness, “Your cleverness only separates you from reality”. It said. Another thought intruded into the maelstrom, “This is not just about you”. It whispered. “Caring only about your own condition will lead only to doom– your doom and the doom of us all. That is the wrong direction to travel.”
The boy stopped walking and looked about him as though trying to find the source of the voice that had so successfully penetrated his fears. And the voice continued.
“Stop trying to be so clever. All your thinking, all your so-called knowledge will only lead you further astray. There is a Way, but it is not through your mind. There are no answers in the chaotic voice of your head. It knows only itself.
Your wisdom does not lay within the voice of this clever little fellow that you think is the real you. You must reason beyond this voice. You have the power to use this reason but like so many others you have lost your way because you have forgotten the Way. You had it once when you were very young but it was just too hard to hear over the din of the older ones and you soon forgot.
You cannot ‘do’ the Way, or think yourself through it. All that will do is confuse. The more ingenious you try to be the more strange things tend to happen. Be content that there is an order within the chaos but that you cannot find it by searching for it. Desire of any kind will hide all but the edges of reality.”
“But everything is so crazy around me. How can I do this?” Pleaded the young man.
“Be simple. Be empty. Be at one with the dust. Do not resist the end for it is just a beginning. To have only ‘mind’ is to suffer death, to be in touch with the mother, the source of us all, brings freedom from that. Seek not answers from outside the mother. Create while not claiming, be the Way.”
“What must I do?”
“Create while not claiming, be the Way. Give up your mind. Be not of one way or the other, but be it all. Let the conflict come to balance in you and you will have found your mother. Stop behaving as an adult for they know nothing but cleverness and knowledge. Let go of your adult knowing until you are empty of all you have learned. You cannot experience your mother through knowing. Stop doing and just be for a moment. Be small and your greatness will grow. See simplicity in the complex. And above all be last among all men.”
The rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to clear. Patches of blue peeked out from the grayness and the voice that had kept him company through the day and night was now gone. Sometime during the night he had let go of himself and now blended with the surrounding forest. Bewildered the boy looked about him. Craning his neck upward he saw the rising sun partially occluded by the full moon. The conjunction had begun.
The next morning after a breakfast of fresh fruit and steamed oats the young student and his mentor took their coffee mugs to the chairs that sat before the familiar fireplace at the other end of the flat and began their study. A light rain had moved into the city and the warmth of the drink, fire, and friendship brought them both great comfort and the energy to continue the difficult task from the day before.
“So what of your dreams?” Asked the older man and the younger shared a number of dreams about dark shadowy figures of people and animals that he was either running from or trying valiantly to kill.
“These are probably representative of your shadow self– the darker sides of your personality. Running from and trying to kill them off are two sides of the instinctual coin that runs us all. The first is an avoidance metaphor or what we call the “flight” instinct while the latter is the “fight” instinct– a means of ridding oneself from ones demons. Both are resistance symbols to what is and are representative of the ego-self, not the spirit self. This brings us to the eighth law of magic that says that one needs to ‘call out’ their shadows and demons, name them rather than suppress them. Just because you have negative aspects to your personality doesn’t mean that you are your negative aspects.”
“Tell me more.”
“Everything in the universe is energy in one form or another such as your thoughts, your body, your feelings, the environment around you. You’ll also notice that for every positive occurrence, circumstance, situation, feeling, thought there is an equal and opposite negative. The earth thrives in opposition; each gives energy to the other. Simply put ‘good’ only exists in contrast to ‘bad’ and vice versa. Resisting the ‘bad’ only gives it more than its equal share of energy. One needs to learn to bring both sides of themselves into balance. You do this by not resisting what is, by accepting both sides of yourself and working harmoniously with the energy of each.”
“The next, or ninth law, states that Magic cannot come from ‘thinking’. One needs to quiet the mind and stop ‘thinking’ things to death. Remember that In the tenth law it is stated that magic does not come from the rational. Live at least some of your life in the incomprehensible and trust your intuitive self. This ties in nicely with the ‘thinking’ law of the ninth law. Thinking is of the rational self. Necessary in very many ways, but it cannot be used to summon forth the power of magic. How are we doing so far?”
“Good, good, keep going” Said the young man as he motioned his mentor to continue and gently placed his cup down on the side table.
“The eleventh law states that Magic grows from the secret orderliness of chaos.” At this the student screwed up his face in confusion. “No really! Said the magus, “Allow yourself to be confused. Thinking that you know something about what is real can be very limiting to living what is real, to perceiving what is real, and to performing real magic. To think that you know something produces an expectation, the expectation that the universe will always support that knowledge, but that’s not how it really works is it? And when the universe lets you down you get upset, right?” The boy nodded and the magus went on. “This is because you think that you are in control when you’re not at all, never have been. I might also add that before you clear out the junk you’ve buried into your unconscious mind you’ve never been at choice with anything and that so-called ‘free-will’ of yours requires the ability to be at choice, that is real choice.”
“Yes, if you can’t say no and yes to everything then you are not really at choice. You have to be okay with either state of being. What you can then do is ‘choose’ what is best for the situation and circumstance you find yourself in– best for you and everyone and thing around you. You also can’t be consciously at choice if the material not dealt with in your unconscious mind, you know, all the stuff you’ve hidden there, and all the instinctual stuff, is actually running the show. Being clear about your hidden motivations is a prerequisite for free-will. Which is of course a requisite for magic.”
“In the twelfth law one is told that they must maintain their authority over expectations and standards by remaining at choice with their behaviors, thoughts, and self-expressions. In short, young man, be what you are, not what someone else wants you to be or think or believe, even if that someone else is me. If the laws don’t resonate, then don’t follow.”
“Eh? I don’t get it. Your negating all you said?”
“Yes, because if you take these laws and expect them to do the magic, then you will be sorely disappointed. The ‘laws’ are only a framework or matrix to live within. The real secret to magic can only be found within the source of your very being. It is only by surrendering what you think you are to that source that magic can come forth. All the rest is just a ‘do’ but the source is something and an immeasurable and indescribable nothing that you connect to in order to produce magic. Connect to the source and you’ll ‘be’ the magic. Live your life in the source and there is no end to what you are.”
“What is this source?” Pleaded the young man.
“This is what you have to wrestle with over the next day and a half. I suggest that you go be with yourself and take all that I’ve taught, all that I’ve said, and all that I’ve alluded to and meditate on it. You may even want to embody some of it that is to bring it to life and dialog with it as though it were alive, alive within you. Remember that it has to be done before the joining of the Moon and Sun two days from now. For if you don’t succeed you could be trapped between and behind them forever.”
At that the young man picked up his jacket and went out into the rain, heading almost aimlessly toward the city forest at the end of the street but with an air of what could only be called intention.
Come morning the young man staggered out of his room slowly and into the parlor. There, sitting serenely and staring into the fire’s enduring maw was his mentor. Barely able to stand upright he groaned, “I feel like hell. All night I dreamed of being split in two from head to foot while boiling water was poured over me scalding and searing my flesh. Try as I would I couldn’t force myself awake until I watched my head split open and a beautiful golden orb fly out. What horror is this and what does it mean?”
Slowly the old man placed the omnipresent pipe into the tray beside him and turned to face the boy. “It means that your transformation is not quite finished. Though you are not of your original substance, you have yet to release the nous within, the soul, actually what we call the Anima Mundi, the soul of the world. Until this is done you remain earth bound and subject to the ego. Go, take a shower and release the soul!” The old man commanded and the boy turned and walked back into the room where he had slept, disrobed, and climbed into the shower.
Turning on the shower he began his ritual bathing but before he could soap up the water became unbearably scalding, so hot that he felt his skin begin to slough. He opened his mouth to scream but only a yellow liquid came out and covered him all over. After a short time the pain stopped and he began to feel a warmth that seemed to wash away all the aches from the night before.
As he looked down at his half outstretched arms they seemed to glow with health. It felt as though every part of him had been reborn. And indeed it had, but no longer as the individual separate from all others but something more inclusive of the whole of the world. In short, he felt great, better than he had ever felt before and he stepped from the shower, got dressed in the clothing provided and walked out to the main room feeling refreshed and famished as in really hungry as though he had been fasting an eternity. “When do we eat?” He growled eagerly.
Together the magus and the young man prepared a small but adequate feast and after consuming most of it they sat down before the fire and sipped a cup of freshly brewed coffee to begin their talk about the day’s proceedings.
“I am going to present you with the 12 Lessons of Magic and give you an opportunity to practice each until you and I both are satisfied that you have mastered them. Are you up for that?” As the boy listened he nodded and noticed that the wizard had changed his tone in that he was now addressing him as an equal instead of the one-down relationship he earlier experienced. It felt good, he felt confidant, and cheerfully looked forward to what was next in his training.
“Now I must warn you, we don’t have much time, there’s a lot to be done and we are running out of it.” Said the old man.
“Running out? I don’t understand”
“We have spent the last few weeks calling forth the four spirits of water, fire, air and earth but now we must complete your development before the Slaying of the Dragon.” The old
man pointed toward a crest affixed to the hearth. On it was a carving of a dragon coiled in a circle and biting its own tail. That was odd thought the boy he hadn’t noticed that before.
“What does it mean? The coiled dragon that is.”
“He is slaying himself– a necessary condition for transformation. There’s an eclipse of the sun on the third day hence and upon its rise the Union of the Separates within you will come to pass. What was split asunder will come together again.”
“Once you have completed your education your conscious mind will be ready to absorb the contents of the unconscious wherein the magic lies. This absorption will be initiated by the coming together of the sun and the moon of the eclipse. But if your conscious mind is not ready to assimilate then the energy produced by the chaotic fragments in the unconscious will cause disorder and madness, even death. Once you started down this road you had no choice but to be ready for this event”
“Would have been nice to have known that ahead of time.” Muttered the young man half to himself. “Well no help for it now, we better get on with it then.”
“Right! These basic laws of magic are deceptively simple so do not be fooled by what may seem to be obvious. Are you ready?” The boy nodded.