Weird Shit not Bullshit Because Spirituality is too important for us to waste our time with Bullshit

The sites they are a changin'

October 5th, 2017

So it's becoming obvious that, as I'm now spending more time on this site once again, that it is a little… old. I mean, it's still beautiful to me, but definitely old. I'm very sorry to those of you who are coming by via phone and tablet… we're really not designed for you modern folks around here at the moment.

Therefore, I'm going to be trying to make some changes in the near future – tweaks and updates that'll hopefully see me through until 5 years after direct neural input has become the standard way to read web-pages.

My css skills are limited, my visual design aesthetics dubious, but my technical over-confidence knows no bounds. So sorry in advance if things get a bit weird on here from time to time. Hopefully a nice modern design will turn up in a while… But I'm keeping the colour scheme and logo, because I still love them.

On the positive side, I am working on a whole bunch of new content… and by working on, I mean repeatedly hitting technical difficulties which I'm slowly working my way around (and my computer has taken to crashing about five times a day at utterly random intervals, which always makes working more fun). But you should be seeing much more of me on here very soon… Who knows, I might even write a new newsletter… That'll be a hell of a shock to people that signed up five years ago…

Anway – new stuff, new look, in the works. I hope to god this isn't one of those 'resolution to change' blog posts that comes back to haunt me in a year…

Changing chapters – The Old Aeon

October 5th, 2017

Whenever the Aeon card comes up in a predictive reading for a client, I tend to give much the same spiel: "When you think back on your life, you tend to naturally divide it into chapters, or sections. The time I lived at that house, the period in that job, that particular relationship. Aeon represents the movement from one chapter to another."

Most decks have a 'Judgement Day' card in them, but the Thoth Deck has the Aeon, more fitting with Crowley's concept of Aeonics. The world doesn't just run along for a time and then end in a final judgement, but instead it will periodically shift from Aeon to Aeon. Different phases of history, or humanities relationship with the divine.

There are deeper spiritual truths associated with this concept, but when doing a spread which is about life, about here and now, this description gives a pretty good sense of it. Change is coming, and it's going to be considerable. Not simply the Change of the 2 of Disks – which I would normally describe as 'what you see out of your window each day is going to be different' – but a more profound change. "The rules of life are going to be different. You will be living in a different way, your experience of reality will be different, this will be a chapter break in your autobiography."

I've just passed through into a new Aeon. It's pretty great so far. Not that the old one was bad.

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How a To Do list can reveal the hidden nature of reality

September 21st, 2017

I've found that one of the most useful things I've come to understand through insight meditation over the past few years is how most of the time we aren't interacting with our life as it is, but rather we interact with a series of emotional force fields that lay over aspects of our life.

It's usually quite early on that we realise we don't perceive physical reality, but rather we perceive a model of reality produced by the our limited senses and brain processing. Distortions are inevitable, and the Truth unobtainable. This may induce a brief existential crisis, but then we can settle down into accepting the fact that our senses and mind produce a 'good enough' model of reality, and we can largely forget that what we think is there may differ from what is actually there.

The emotional equivalent of this is more rarely considered. When we think about our life – by which I mean events in it, people in it, things we have to get done, plans or ambitions we may have – we aren't seeing it rationally. Rather everything we consider is layered over with emotion – preconceptions, fears, guilt, obligation, ego-expectation, a whole mess of complex feelings.

A great way of demonstrating this to yourself is to look at a To Do list that you've created. Read through it item by item. If you're anything like me you'll have an experience like "1. Phone garage. 2. Find a new GP. 3. Mumble-Mumble. 4. Supermarket shop." Frequently, very frequently in my experience, there will be something on the To Do list, perhaps several things, that your mind skips over. Sometimes your eyes will jump directly over them, you won't even read what's written there. It's like there's a tiny force-field protecting your mind from interacting with a particular concept.

That force-field is there because something about that required action or activity makes you uneasy. It might 'give you the fear', or have a weight of guilt associated with it. You might have made an assumption that this act will inevitably lead to an uncomfortable conversation or situation, or some other discomfort you don't want to think about.

Each item on the list might physically have the same weight to them – might not require any different physical act (e.g. it's another 'make a phone call, ask a question') but this particular act has a quality to it that makes it difficult or uncomfortable. In fact, if you look carefully you may find that each and every item on your To Do list has a different emotional field around it – some gently push, some push hard, some may even pull, drawing you in to get on with them right now… and you'll find yourself prioritising that activity over the others… even if the others are, logically, more urgent.

Decision making processes for what to do next are often emotionally driven. And processes that 'feel bad' will often be ignored, denied, or 'forgotten'. This is the classic 'I'll just do some tidying up before writing this important email' issue. But by starting to look at those emotional fields, but starting to really notice them, something else begins to emerge…

Its not that items on a To Do lists are tricky. It's that our whole life has the same quality. Every concept that our life contains – career, relationship, place, person, fantasy, desire, plan, hope, activity – has an emotional field around it. Some pull us in, some push us away. Some hide things, some make things far more prominent than is logical. And just as with a To Do list we don't make choices in our life based on simply what's logical – we don't choose 'this is the best thing for me' or 'this is what will make me happy' or 'this is what will fulfil me' or 'this is the next step towards making my dream come true'. We get pushed around by little emotional force-fields – sometimes able to make the best decision for us, but too often blinded to the fact that the best decision is even exists, because it's behind a force-field we can't see through.

I said this had become apparent during insight meditation because… because sometimes the right insight will make those force-fields vanish. Switch off completely. Suddenly you can see your life exactly as it is, rather than through a haze of emotional filters. Decision become clear and obvious. Self-sabotage ceases. Procrastination goes away. Lives change.

I highly recommend it as an experience. I'll try and write about how I got there (if only all too briefly).

Getting stuck in the gap between what is and what you hope is

September 19th, 2017

Disclaimer – as I think may have been noted before, people can be quite different from each other. The way they think, feel, even look, can vary quite a bit from person to person. Therefore I've found that when writing about 'people', the problems they face and useful ways of overcoming those problems, I tend to find that  seemingly common problems don't exist at all for some people and what's useful insight for some is of no bloody use to others. I'm pretty sure that's okay though. The issues I explore may resonate with you, or the solutions may seem laughably obvious. But the more we share ideas and experiences the better off we all are. 

Many years ago one of the early books on Chaos Magick I read contained a statement to the effect that "in order to achieve what you wish for you have to let go of your fantasy." I recall not understanding it, in fact flat out rejecting it, when I first read it. Given at the time I was highly prone to flights of fantasy, mentally building possible futures for myself, indulging in day-dreams of all manner of positive outcomes, I didn't feel that it was compromising my intention of making these things real. In fact, how was I supposed to know what I was working towards if I didn't imagine it?

It's taken me a fair while to wrap my head around the wisdom of that initial statement. Like many forms of learning, it came through expanding my experience, then re-framing the initial idea until it slotted more comfortably into the way I already conceived of the world.

What I've observed recently in myself and others is that by clinging to a hope of how you want things to be you are left drained of the energy required to make a change. I see people unhappy in their job talking about how their job would be fine if just x and y were different. Or in a relationship talking about if their partner were just different in these few ways. Or that they keep indulging in a frustrating or unfulfilling activity over and over because if it just altered in these certain ways it would be what they wanted.

By carrying this image of what we hope for, and by mentally interacting with that image, we aren't dealing with the world as it is, but instead with a fantasy that isn't there. When this situation came up I've found it useful to ask the question "If this situation/person never changes, is always going to remain exactly as it is, what would you do?" It's remarkable how often this question provokes the desire and motivation to change. The presence of the fantasy – that things will suddenly turn around, evolve, get better – is remarkably disempowering.

Time spent in a fantasy that life has a purpose for us, that our luck is about to change, that the circumstances that surround us will shift of their own accord, is time not spent engaging with reality, learning about our current situation, making judgements based on truth, noticing opportunities for forward movement. Participating in the reality of things, rather than absenting ourselves into a comfortable mental space, is what makes us powerful, skillful and correctly directed.

Fantasies have to die in order to create the best possible reality, because only by seeing reality as it really is can be see the building blocks that are going to allow us to build what we desire. Only by experiencing our dissatisfaction with the way things are will we find motivation to implement change.

Things do shift, grow and get better by themselves. But more often than not they don't. So I think it's a valuable question to ask – if this is how things are going to stay, if right now is a genuine representation of the state of your life, what would you cease putting up with and start to change?

The best thing about 2016 is that it's not okay

November 10th, 2016

Last night I randomly woke up at about 3am, and made the foolish mistake of checking on the state of the US election. It quickly became apparent that Trump was going to win. I didn't sleep much after that.

My mind couldn't let go of how appalling it seemed. How a man of such dubious character could garner so much support. How a man of such retrograde policies could find so many backers. How this man… this man… could become one of the most powerful in the world.

I didn't sleep much because of thinking about what progress will be lost – symbolically first, then politically. About the braying, arrogant, voices of the vilest parts of the internet – the sexist, racist, antisemitic, abusive, trolling arseholes – and how they will have been given greater strength and confidence. That they will have received the message that they are acceptable now, that they are powerful now, that they are normal now. About the loss of the US supreme court, to the right wing and reactionary, for another generation. About the threats to end NATO, de-fund the fight against climate change, to restriction press freedom. The world changing into a place that is less safe, less progressive, less tolerant, less wise than it was before.

I've been feeling tired, sad, angry and frustrated all day. Which is not ideal circumstances in which to write a blog post. I'd normally bother with issues political, but I spent all day trying to find a place in my mind where I could hold this. A place where it didn't just feel bad and wrong and a step in a dark and dangerous direction. A way of thinking about it that didn't just make everything appear bleak.

I'm not sure I've succeeded, but I have at least found thoughts that give a point to this, for me. And it was a spiritual notion that did it, so I'll write about it here.

I stumbled across this Tumblr post, and it made me realise something really important – the best thing about Trump and Brexit and the whole mess of 2016 is this: it means we can't think it's all okay.

It's never been okay. Civilisation has been a mess from the start. But we've been getting better – we're more compassionate, less sexist, less racist and more open-minded than we've ever been. In many parts of the world we've done a pretty good job of blunting the destructive forces of nature – there are fewer things trying to eat us on a daily basis, and fewer chances of dropping dead by 30. The progress of the last few decades might have lead us to start thinking that maybe sexism isn't that big a deal any more, maybe racism is on the way out, maybe inequality isn't that big a deal given that everyone is basically doing okay. The best thing about 2016 it shoves a very clear sign in our face and says – it isn't okay. It's never been okay.

There's a massive amount of work still to do. There's a huge amount of hate, anger, fear, suspicion, close mindedness and ignorance in the world. We see America elect trump, we see the UK punching itself in the face through Brexit, and we cannot deny that. We cannot sit back and go 'things are going pretty well, most people are fine now'. Because it's clearly not true.

The above post, which probably reads as pretty bizarre, really brought this to mind. I find it interesting that more people are using the language of the Gnostics to express how fucked up the world is, but I understand why, given how good an analogy it can be. But the post also did something else – a huge amount of anger and frustration has fuelled Trumps success, just as it fuelled Brexit. And that anger is coming from people who are hurting – as that's where all anger comes from. Pain turns to anger, and anger turns to votes for someone who'll fuck shit up and maybe do it in a way that benefits you just a little bit. But if not, at least he'll fuck up the stuff that's done nothing for you for so long.

This is not to excuse them – there are many good ways to express that frustration, many positive things that can be done with it, many opportunities along the way to channel that energy into doing some good, into embracing those around us, directing change to a positive end rather than resisting it, finding better people to be our voice and shift the system. But I can at least empathise with anger.

People are angry because it's not okay. The inequality is not okay. The destruction of communities is not okay. The tolerance of prejudice is not okay. The misogyny and narrow-mindedness are not okay. The loss of homes and well paying jobs is not okay. The system isn't okay – it's broken. Clinton would have done a hell of a lot less damage Trump will, and hopefully she would have done some good too. But she might have persuaded us that things were actually going along okay, when really they are far from it. No one has done enough good, made enough of a change, offered enough help. The sexism, racism, inequality, lost hope, unaddressed bigotry and lost direction are real, are powerful, and are not being addressed. At least with Trump and Brexit we can't for a moment pretend that there's no work that needs doing.

But more than this… As Mr Six says, this is a rescue operation.  It has to be. There is no enemy.

This is a rescue mission

Because we can – and must – work at the inequality, we can try to push forward with progressive policies, we can still campaign and argue and educate. We can try to fix the economy, and try to reach out to broken groups. We can shout down the bigots, shut down the trolls, turn away from the destructive arguments – and yes we must. But it still won't make everything okay.

It won't be okay because life is hard, because everyone you love will sicken and die, because you're fundamentally alone, because you aren't special, because life has no meaning, and because you can never truly succeed. And these 'truths' mean at the heart of all of us is a void, a hole, a pain, through which more pain and hurt and anger will always flow. The injustice and inequality of existence will inevitably flow through into the society around us. How could it not?

Only…

Only these are lies. Or at least, these are mistakes we have made. Self evident mistakes, so clear and obvious, yet mistakes none-the-less. We're wrong, we're delusional, and therefore we hurt. And therefore we create a world of hurt.

This is a rescue mission. Your first obligation is to rescue yourself. Your second to help others rescue themselves. There is no enemy – just others who, like you, are currently lost. Perhaps they are more lost, or more prone to thrash around in their pain, more like to take the injustice they feel has been turn and turn it into vileness they pour upon their fellow man… but they are just lost.

This is a rescue mission. We must work to save ourselves. We cannot pretend it is okay, because it is very, very clearly not. We must work for smarter politics, educate the ignorant, show love to those who hate, not allow bigotry to go unchallenged. We must do all of these things to create a better world.

But it won't be enough. It's still not okay. Unless we address the fundamental mistake we carry in our perception about the nature of reality there will always be injustice, selfishness and pain.

The truth is nothing but good news – you aren't alone, you are special, life has meaning, and death… death is just a mistake you've made. You don't think the sun dies when it sets, do you? It just goes somewhere else for a while. Like that. Only better.

This is a rescue mission – we have to wake up. Awakening is everything you've been looking for. Enlightenment is real, and achievable in this lifetime. Everything looks broken – but it's not. You just have to see it as it really is. So you hurt, and sometimes that pain causes you to lash out. We all do.

Every time you see Trump's smug, self-satisfied face, just remember – he is the embodiment of ultimate failure. The embracing of anger, fear, and the material world, and thinking they can be used to achieve anything other than more loss and pain. Embracing the rejection of other and thinking it can lead to a safe, sane, society. Embracing the idea that the way to make things okay is to hate and shout and condemn and despise and reject.

It is the appearance of success that is the ultimate failure.

But we can use that ultimate failure as our motivation for success. 2016, the year we could no longer pretend it's going to be okay, is the year we can start to put things right. It isn't a war, it's a rescue mission – we save ourselves, and then we help them – and then pain can stop. You can't punch someone into becoming a better person, you can't use anger to reduce anger, you can't troll a troll into silence. Fix the fundamental mistake we've made, and everything else falls into place.

The world is not okay because you're not okay – for everyone's sake, wake up. Enlightenment is real, it's achievable in this life-time, how to do it is well understood, instructions are freely available – do the damn work.

Enlightenment – so what the bloody hell is it?

October 1st, 2016

To be clear here – I'm on the journey, I'm not at the destination. My perspective still shifts and changes, my understanding deepens and my knowledge grows. So this is incomplete… I may have a better version later. But I'm itching to write what I've seen so far, so write is what I'll do…

Enlightenment – to the best of my understanding – is a permanent shift in perspective on who exactly you are, how you relate to reality, and what your role in all of this is. It isn't 'figuring something out'. This is gnosis, not episteme – meaning it is something you know by being directly aware of it, moment to moment (like knowing you are conscious) rather than something you learn or work out (like knowing that exercise helps you loose weight). It's knowledge, not belief, understanding, not faith. It's like looking at an optical illusion, and suddenly seeing through it – you realise you were making a mistake before, but now you properly understand what you are looking at and won't be fooled again. It's also an understanding that is ineffable, in that you can't explain it to someone or put it into words, but it is understandable, and you can help someone else to 'get it'. With time and work.

I'm going to switch from using the term, and concept, enlightenment to the term awakening for a bit – enlightenment is a good headline, but I want to be more specific. In my tradition enlightenment is divided into three stages – awakening, liberation and returning to the source. I've got no clear idea about the latter two, so I'm just going to talk about the first for now.

I'm not awakened. But one of the nice things about this work is that you get previews. Incomplete moments of insight that show you what's coming, and where you are heading. Moments that make you go 'Bloody hell, it's so obvious – why didn't I get it before?' But which then fade away leaving you going 'How the hell was that so obvious?' Therefore this description will, by necessity, be partial. But I write to try to inspire other people to explore, to encourage other people to take the journey, and to try to turn the idea of enlightenment and awakening from something abstract, woolly, and impossible, into something meaningful, worthwhile, and achievable.

So let me use an analogy. There's already a very well known analogy for enlightenment out there, although most people don't seem to realise that enlightenment is the subject of it. Plato had his cave, but I… I have role-playing.

Despite the prevalence of geeks in magickal circles, I can't actually guarantee everyone reading this has played a role-playing game. Certainly, few will have put quite as many hours into role-playing as I did during many happy years of passing time with friends. However, alongside role-playing the analogy of watching a film, or reading a book, also apply… just not quite so entertainingly well.

Clicky below, and let me tell you all about it…

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I fell in love with a new band…

September 29th, 2016

An occult marching band? How great is that…

Itch-O appear to be an entirely remarkable thing.

Too bad they're based in the States – there must be 30 odd of them, so I can't imagine they travel easily… But I so want to see them live. Here's hoping nefarious occult forces bring them to the UK one day…

The missing piece – what we have lost because we forgot enlightenment

September 3rd, 2016

One of the reasons I've had an extended break from writing here is that all of my spiritual attention has been on something rather different to the normal round of Tarot and magickal fiddling around. A few years ago I began learning about, thinking about, and seriously working with the concept of enlightenment.

Connecting with an enlightenment tradition was my eureka moment. The moment when something slotted into place. Finding a missing piece years after coming to the conclusion that the drafty hole at my centre was 'just the way things were' and something I should probably ignore or distract myself from. Frankly, I couldn't believe I'd not engaged with it before. Why hadn't someone told me about this?  Why wasn't everyone talking about Enlightenment? How could something so important be ignored?

But then, of course, I realised I'd just been suffering from cultural myopia. Lots of people are talking about enlightenment. Lots of people are engaged in enlightenment practices. There are books, teacher, traditions, all happy to show you this staggeringly important tradition. It's just… none of the people I was hanging out with (in person, or in book form) were engaged with it. For some reason the magickal, Pagan, New Age, community has become disconnect from what is perhaps the heart of all Spiritual traditions. We just don't take it seriously…

When I first come across the idea of enlightenment it was frequently as a very nebulous, new-age, concept. It was often described as a 'state of spiritual perfection' or 'when you have resolved every problem, overcome every barrier, dealt with all of your karma'. It was suggested that it is achieved after thousands of incarnations, after vast spiritual work, that perhaps one or two spiritual greats in a single generation might get there. It was, also, often described as coming with a side order of magickal/supernatural/awe-inspiring powers.

Enlightenment was also – although this may not be explicitly said it was frequently implied – not something one should realistically aim for. It's not for the likes of you and me. We're not evolved enough, not far enough down the road, we've clearly not done all that work in previous lifetimes or we'd have been born a near perfect individual in this one, ready to make the final assault on enlightenment, fulfilling the promise of a thousands of lifetimes work. We'd also probably have incarnated in Tibet, or at least on top of a mountain somewhere.

Unfortunately, by talking about enlightenment in abstract, distant, very melodramatic ways we do ourselves a massive disservice. By creating a cultural image of enlightenment that is something so unlikely, so special, so all encompassing, we clearly send the message – you'll never meet anyone who is really enlightened, and you'll never, ever, make it there yourself. Either that, or we'll jump to the even simpler conclusion that enlightenment is a myth, or an analogy, or a story told my gurus to keep cults in line.

This is so horribly, horribly wrong, so misinformed as to be painful. It creates an intellectual dead end, stops serious discussion or exploration, prevents us from learning about, understanding, and achieving what is, in my opinion, the single, most important thing, any human being can do with their life. And it's the product of not properly engaging with the traditions that are out there discussing enlightenment, working with enlightenment, achieving enlightenment. Not all Buddhist traditions are healthy traditions who actively engage with their enlightenment heritage. But some are. Not all enlightenment gurus are fully realised and helping their students achieve enlightenment themselves. But some are. Not all magickal practitioners understand the The Great Work is to achieve enlightenment, and that there are magickal technologies to help you do so. But but some do.

Yes, enlightenment is achievable. And yes you can meet people who have done it. I've met a handful. Lovely chaps, all of them. No noticeable supernatural powers amongst them, no real signs of moral perfection, no glowing or levitating. But enlightened just the same.

In many magickal circles, in many Pagan circles, in many New Age circles, we've got ourselves trapped in a horrible misconception of what enlightenment means, and what it takes to achieve it. This vastly important thing has become painted in colours that make us believe it can't possibly exist, isn't worth considering, and should be dismissed and mocked… and yet it's the thing, the thing, which may be the answer to most of our problems, and be exactly what we've been looking for all along.

It's that big a deal. And it was absolutely my missing piece. The thing I'd been seeking.

Enlightenment isn't fluffy and ill defined – it's something specific. It isn't unmanageable hard to achieve – you can do it in this lifetime, in a few years if you work at it. It isn't something that turns you into a spiritual super-hero. But it can be the answer to many of the nagging existential questions that have been bothering you for years. It can be the fulfilment of a magickal career. It can be fully satisfying. It can be what you've been looking for, even if you didn't know it.

But before we can properly engage with it, before we can probably connect our traditions to the source of our traditions, before we get help people to stop fussing around and start solving the real problem, we have to get a clearer idea of what we're talking about. That's not easy… but I'll give it a go next post.

The filters and hats theory of gods

August 18th, 2016

Presented not as an explanation of how the world works, but rather as a way of stimulating thought.

It generally isn't that far in one's magickal or spiritual life that one learns to take the idea of gods seriously. It isn't too difficult to discover the reality of them – you pretty much just have to listen, or call, and see what happens. Working with godforms has a long history, and many people have achieved great success through doing so. But when you first come across the idea you might well find yourself asking the question 'So… what are they? Where do they come from? What reality do they have?'

A common response to working with gods, or the desire to work with gods, is to try to get to know them 'for real'. It quickly emerges that the general facts and impressions we know about gods are not the whole story. We start reading their legends, look into the history of their worship, find out their stories… But then we discover a disconcerting thing. The details of their symbols, associations, meaning, even their names, changes through history. Worse yet, their stories change, and even contain contradictions.

If you were researching a historical figure that was important to you, and you began to discover that the stories about this person varied, their name varied, the way they were supposed to look varied, where they came from and where they went all varied (cf. King Arthur)… you might not be blamed if you began to come to the conclusion that perhaps this wasn't a historical figure after all. Perhaps there are just a bunch of stories. Perhaps this figure didn't actually exist.

Thus one may enter a crisis in your relationship with gods – so just who, really, were Thoth, Odin and Artemis? If no one is sure of their details, if their worship varied and their responsibilities changed… could they be really treated as…. real?

At one level I would simply say there is a real richness to be gained from dealing with an entity who is full of story, contradiction, movement and change. It would be crazy to expect gods to live by the same rules and reality of your mate Bob down the road.

But if it helps, here's the "Filters and hats theory" as a way of dealing with the complexities and contradictions of gods.

The Universe is big, rich, complex, wonderful and has a personal relationship with you. Magick is based on this fact. However, conceptualising and dealing with The Universe can be a bit overwhelming. It's so vast, so varied, so… well, everything. So calling on, speaking with, the Universe can seem a bit much. How should one interact with it, what should one offer, what can one request? It's easier, therefore, to deal with just a bit of the Universe at a time.

Say, for instance, you've got a problem to do with communication – perhaps you need to strengthen your own communication skills, or ensure a particular attempt at communication is done accurately, clearly and artfully. Perhaps, then, rather trying to understand the Universe, you instead try to deal with 'just the bit of the Universe that deals with communication'. Rather than trying to stretch your understanding and conceptualisation around the whole Universe, you instead just filter out all of the details and just conjure with the communication part of the Universe.

But that's pretty abstract. Working with 'the energy of communication' could be effective, but it's hard to think about – what would it look like? What would feel like? What would it sound like? How would you know when you were dealing with it effectively? Fortunately, humans are really good at personification and anthropomorphism – we can take a concept, put a hat on it, and call it a person.

We want to summon up great power of communication, we filter out all that is not communication, we put a hat on it, and we give it a name. Hermes, say. But, once you've got a filter, a hat and a name, you might well want to get to understand it better, or you might want to tell other people about it. Fortunately, humans are also great at telling stories. So we tell stories about this particular part of the Universe, explaining it's deeds. We might well find that this particular character we've created seems to naturally have other characteristics too – we find the filter doesn't just allow through communication, but also energies of magick, commerce, travel. This more complex filter makes the character feel more 'real', more vivid, easier to relate to.

Of course, with time the filter might change further. The hat might change. The name might change. The god may vary and evolve, taking on different forms in different places, to different cultures. Romans find ancient British gods and integrate them into their local practice, or even integrate them with gods they were already familiar with. Did they think they were the same god, just with a different name and form? Or did they have a richer understanding of the nature of a god?

Hybrid gods are not much discussed, but can be very useful and interesting – take Hermanubis, conveniently bringing together the functions of Hermes and Anubis. What an ideal god for talking to the dead. But if Hermes and Anubis are both real how can we have a god who is… both of them? Because, perhaps, gods don't have the same kind of reality that people have. That isn't to say they don't have intelligence, volition, reality, vitality… just that it operates differently.

Why do pop culture gods 'work'? Chaos magick is famous for working with entirely fictional gods… and getting results. You can invoke yourself a Superman, you can use John Lennon as a god of Psychedelia, you can certainly, if you're feeling adventurous, work with the Cthuhlu Mythos and get results… not necessarily useful ones, but results. Gods come if they are called.

Perhaps what we are seeing is the ability to create a new filter – a pop-culture filter. An idea or archetype that is familiar to a magician that can act as a filter on the fundamentally living, vital, intelligent nature of the Universe and… allow something through. Something more understandable, more manageable, perhaps even more appealing with that vastness of The One.

But, from personal experience, and from discussions from others, there's something about those ancient filters, those ancient gods. The reality of idea that have existed for millennia; the stories that have been told, and heard, by millions; the personalities that have been spoken of, discussed, illustrated, worshipped, bargained with, feared, for countless generations. Somehow, they are so much more… real.

But if you get hung up about which is the real story, the right attribution, the correct name, the oldest, and therefore best, way of worship… You may be missing the point about the reality of gods. They are. They are complex. They are contradictory. They do not operate like Bob down the road. They have a reality that requires you to stretch your mind away from everyday concepts.

They may, in some sense, be a filter, a hat, and a collection of stories – but they are all the more potent for that.

Where to start with magick – Part 3 Making the Ascent

July 27th, 2016

Of course, this isn't really where to start in magick, this is much more about where to end up. But let's continue the theme.

You've taken up magick, you've messed around and figured out that reality is a lot more complex than you thought it was. You've found what interests you, developed some skills, and put some time and effort into making yourself stable, happy, and cleared out most of your serious issues… now what?

This was actually the point I reached, and got stuck in, for some years. I felt I was reasonably together, but the sense of progress had stopped. I was reasonably skillful, but didn't necessarily know what to do with those skills. I had ability but… not much direction. I was missing a piece – and I've found that many other people seem to be missing the same piece.

What I was missing was a real goal for magick, and indeed for life. Chaos magick did a lot of good in terms of ripping up the rules for what magick was or was 'supposed' to do, but it did a disservice in terms of taking away some important frame work. Other traditions talked about a purpose, a great work if you will, but few people seemed to take that destination really seriously. Whilst the answer was right there, I didn't take it seriously.

But when the answer came, it made an awful lot of sense. The goal of magick, the goal of life, was simply enlightenment. That was the great work all along, that was the point of starting this journey, that was the final initiation. But the problem I found was… very few people seemed to believe in it. No one really took it seriously.

I'm not entirely surprised – when I'd first come across the idea of enlightenment it was always expressed in extremely woolly terms. It was some kind of ultimate attainment, fulfilment, the completion of may lives work. It was associated with spiritual perfection, or moral perfection, or a complete resolution of every problem one could ever had. It was generally also described as coming with a set of cool sounding, but not very realistic, superpowers.

None of that sounded real or likely. So, to me, it was somewhat of a shock to figure out that yes, Enlightenment was a real thing, an achievable thing, and a thing you should really set about doing in this lifetime. A thing which people are doing right now, successfully, and it just takes some concentrated work to become one of them.

Credit for this deeper understanding goes largely to Daniel Ingram, and his very impressive work Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. It's a remarkable book for explaining just what enlightenment is (and more importantly what it isn't), and giving some advice on how to get there. It's an astonishingly important book that I'm amazed more people haven't read. It made me realise how there is a whole set of enlightenment traditions out there, and how we in the Pagan and Magickal community are really lagging behind in what, in my opinion, is the most important thing that a human can do.  Fortunately, there are some amazing people doing some amazing things to revitalise the enlightenment movement, and create an entirely new tradition for us right now. Have a look here if you're interested in learning more.

Anyway, to my mind, when you've finished getting things sorted the obvious and vitally important goal is clear – enlightenment. Aim for enlightenment. It can be a challenging journey, but really, what the hell else are you going to do with your life?

Good ways to start the ascent: Read your Ingram; join a community that knows about this (The Fountainhead is the most interesting and important thing happening in spirituality at the moment, in my opinion – although I may be biased, as I've been part of it from the start); the Buddhists know way more about this than we do, look into what they've been saying (although there are many traditions, many superstitions, and many degraded teachings – it can take some time to find the important stuff)

Bad ways to start the ascent: Listen to people who tell you that enlightenment isn't real, is impossible, takes thousands of lifetimes, or generates supernatural powers; Listen to people who say they know the one and only true way to enlightenment, and sign on to what they are selling; never get around to starting – I mean, really, what the hell else are you going to do with your life if not this?