Where to start with magick – Part 3 Making the Ascent

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?

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