I had a nightmare the other night, you know one of those where the narrative takes you right up to the most awful part of the horror and then…you wake up. Whew, thank goodness!
Well, not always. Usually I try to get back to sleep so as to resolve the outcome, to finish the story so to speak. In that way I have some control over the outcome, or get more information on the meaning of the dream.
If you were to consider the point where you wake up as the climax of a story then perhaps asking yourself “what happens next?” Or “How might the story end?” might be a good technique for exploring the nightmare further.
Now I don’t mean for someone who is dreaming a reenactment of a literal horror that has happened in their waking life (such as for those who are suffering from PTSD), stay away from those nightmares, they may need more professional guidance*. I’m talking about those that are symbolic of something going on inside you, or that you are reacting to in your daily life, something psychically broader. You might ask yourself, “Does this dream remind me of something in my waking life?”
Nightmares can be a normal dream occurrence after a trauma, but most of the time they present material that you’ve kept hidden (e.g. threats to your self-esteem, loss of something, or someone important, or trouble coping with certain stresses, unconscious memories stimulated by some recent event, or scary emotions that you have avoided) and the unconscious mind, in the service of your health and well-being, is trying to bring them to consciousness so that you can deal with them appropriately. They literally demand attention.
I think that many of us with the standard unfinished nightmare event want to be able to master them, it’s probably why we like such authors as Stephen King, remember Carrie? Finishing the nightmare in a psychically satisfying manner is much better than ignoring it, because if you do …it’ll be baaack!
I’m also not talking “night terrors” here, in those there’s no plot just a lot of scary chaos**. On the other hand, nightmares have a plot, and often a fairly complicated one. You go from balance, or equilibrium, to extreme out of balance then wake up. When you awaken, the climax then dominates the story and this can truncate the meaning and leave you stuck. If you were to treat the nightmare as a narrative, you would then want the story to return to equilibrium i.e. resolution. I’m talking about the process of transformation, the psychic alchemical process of turning something base into something of value.
The kind of intervention to which I’m referring has the advantage of giving you some feedback i.e. if the nightmare has recurred and then after intervention disappears you’ve been successful, if not, try something else.
*Those suffering from PTSD might use these nightmares as part of a treatment intervention. These nightmares may also be the mind’s way of treating the psychic injury, however, one can get stuck in a constantly recurring nightmare that reintroduces the horror of the event over and over again. This kind of nightmare needs treatment with a professional trained to work with them.
** As an adult and if you get a lot of these night terrors where you are thrashing about in bed you may want to share this with your physician.
It is said that from blackness comes the light. As Massimilla Harris, a Jungian therapist reminds us, “keep in mind that birth comes out of darkness.” Many of us have some kind of hurt, some part of us that has sustained psychological, emotional, and spiritual injury that we have relegated to the darkness of our subconscious mind.
We all need healing to one degree or another and it is the guidance of the essentially positive Great Mother, the innate and archetypal feminine, who comes to us in our dreams and our darkest hours who can lead us into the light and healing. It is in our nature to seek change and if we let her, Psyche will show us the way.
Within us are a number of wounded negative complexes that serve as obstacles to our ultimate happiness. Our dreams offer us access to these wounds so that they can be treated. Love is at the core of our very nature but most of us I fear don’t really know what love really is. The on again/off again love from our childhoods has left many unsure, insecure untrusting, in scarcity, and anxious regarding the true nature of this love.
This leads many to cripple or ignore the inner feminine aspects of self-compassion and self-nurturance and make it difficult to forgive or even love ourselves let alone to forgive and truly love others.
Our environment doesn’t really support the value of the feminine either in that at least as far as the male gender is concerned compassion, nurturance, and intuition are signs of weakness. Women are demeaned when they show these attributes in the work place and further demeaned if they show masculine traits such assertiveness or decisiveness.
In my way of thinking this denial of the feminine aspect of the human psyche has caused a cultural neurosis– a feeling of incompleteness and unfulfillment by many. This may or may not be an obstacle to personal achievement but even amongst those who have achieved much there is quite often a hole in their lives that goes deeply and negatively affects their sense of happiness and well being.
Whether our culture is ruled by the matriarchal or the patriarchal i.e. whether we are relational or success and identity oriented to do so without compassion, and nurturance can cause all sorts of psychic damage to individuals and societies e.g. the guilt and/or shame of not living up to expectations of self or others that can result in the dubious safety of conformity which stifles creativity and joy or the loss of what our relationship values really are.
We are as a society out of touch with the feminine aspect, the other half of us that brings balance to our being.
Next time the feminine shows up in your dream pay attention to her and the message she brings, she may be your ticket toward greater love and happiness.
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.
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.
“Well?” said the Wizard waiting patiently for him to speak.
“It has been a week of tears, of joy and sadness in almost equal measure. I’ve had insights that broadened my understanding and those that crushed my very being. I have touched the face of God and have been burned by unspeakable evils. I feel as though I am not what I was having transformed myself both now and into the future and deep into the past. I am profoundly grateful and resentful of what you have done to me and now feel lost in the world that was once my home. And what’s worse, I fear that I no longer care about your stupid magic.”
“A bit dramatic are we not? Now, listen to me well boy for I am about to reveal the rest of your curriculum that only now can you comprehend. You have entered a cleansing or dissolution stage of your transformation a transformation that is necessary in order for you to attain your true spiritual inheritance. Once entered you cannot turn back for to do so would leave you at best dead or worst dissolved and no longer able to function properly. Hear now what it is you need to do in order to reclaim your birthright. Are you ready?”
The boy stood there and despite some misgivings he was ready to absorb what the Wizard was sharing and nodded his assent then cleared his throat, “I’m listening, though my fear grows by the minute and even though I can set it aside and watch it grow without becoming it, I wonder for how long can this body endure?”
The boy was struggling to control himself and remain centered in the bigger self he had discovered during his practice of the week before. He wasn’t aware of it then but he would need all his strength to make it through the transmuting gauntlet he was about to experience. As the wizard invited him to sit in the chair next to him he sunk down then straightened and slid to the very edge of the seat barely in the chair at all and focused everything on the old man who sat before him.
“Your body, mind included for I am not of the popular notion that they are in any way separated, is an instrument of magic. But like any instrument it can become useless if you haven’t taken care of it. Over time you’ve gunked it up with so many ideas, rigid beliefs, illusions, fantastical expectations, thoughts and worthless and fake knowledge that it can barely fizzle let alone sizzle or sparkle and forget about using it to consciously create magic because the natural flow from the Source to the greater reality of the Self is impeded by all the accumulated crap you’ve attached to it. Do you understand?”
“So far, yes” said the boy as he encouraged the old man to continue.
“What we’ve been doing is to scrape off this crap so as to polish the tool once again and give it the purpose for which was designed. After that you’ll relearn the art of using it properly.” The old man paused and thought a moment before speaking again, then absently picked up his pipe and took a drag, tapping it against the bowl when he realized it had gone out. Pulling a match from a container next to the bowl he held it for a moment and the match flamed without being struck. He then put the flame to his pipe and relit it. Taking a couple of drags a faint glow emanated from the pipe bowl. After another drag he leisurely exhaled a puff of smoke that created a ring that floated above his head. Meanwhile the young man just sat patiently waiting for what was next.
Holding the pipe by the bowl the old man pointed it toward the boy and went on with his lecture. “Your body is the prima materia that needs to undergo a tormenting cleansing in order to be transformed. As it is now it is like lead– heavy and without luster. When you have completed this process, only part of which you have been practicing this past week, you will shine as gold and be whole once again. After that you will learn to transcend the body and no longer ‘be it’ but include it within your greater sphere.” He paused to see if the boy were still focused on what he was saying and after satisfying himself that he was, he continued.
“The body must be consumed by fire, dismembered and dissolved before it is re-enlivened and made whole again. Though the process of living can act as a crucible where one will burn in order to prepare for the transformation into a more brilliant being, the process takes too long. Sometimes many life times.”
As he paused and took another drag on his pipe, the young man couldn’t help himself and made a comment. “This sounds like the ravings of an Alchemist!”
“In that you are right, but their so-called ravings were in reality the process for transforming the leaden consciousness of humankind into the Golden Spirit that he or she was born to be. The truth for each of us is that within us is a Philosophers Stone but to forge it into reality requires a precise tormenting of the prima materia.”
Abruptly he stopped and became very serious in demeanor focusing his full attention on the boy. The boy squirmed in his seat at the discomfort of the old man’s penetrating gaze.
“Do you trust me, boy?”
The boy sat perfectly still and looked within to see if indeed he did trust the old man and when finding that he did declared, “Yes sir!”
“Good, then stand up, the time has come for the Torment.”
The Torment? The boy shuddered at what was next, but the old man hadn’t hurt him so far, in fact, his administrations had actually opened him to a world he didn’t even know existed– a world of exquisite emotion and revelation and he was anxious for more.
“Stand before the fire.” said the old man who then leaned forward and gently touched the boy’s forehead and the boy complied and stood.
“Let go of your thoughts and walk into it.” The young man trembled and knew that this would have been foolhardy on his own or with any one other than this particular old wizard, but for some reason he knew that this man had only his best interests at heart and he walked slowly toward and into the fire. It was warming, welcoming and felt like the right thing to do.
Suddenly his clothing caught the flames and before he knew what was happening the flames engulfed him, the heat became unbearable and pain grew rapidly beyond endurance. He felt his skin crackle, sluff, and begin to melt from his body. “Oh my God” he thought, I’m going to die! He screamed a most blood-curdling scream that ricocheted off the walls then trailed to a pitiful whimper as he passed out and fell headlong into the flames becoming a human torch that lit up the whole room. What was left collapsed and quickly turned to blackened ash. The sickening smell of burned flesh filled the room.
All had become quiet and the wizard returned to his chair casually picking up his pipe and relighting it with another match. He stretched and lay back into the softness of the chair. He had taken many a neophyte to this point in the process and knew that for some it ended here what with the purity of their essence having been too compromised to withstand the Dissolution and then not being able to master the Recombination. He would wait to see if the boy was one of those. He hoped not, he kind of liked him, but it was taking longer than usual.
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.