In this way the analysis of the figure and vision of the self-as-magician is counter balanced by the narrative of others: what does being a magician mean to the people around you? What do they see? What do they make of it? What part do you play in their lives beyond being a friend?
Sometimes it's something more than human – someone amazing. Sometimes you end up that hokey-charlatan trickster in a cape and funny hat pandering something.
The focus of narrative, mythological and poetic, is something worth looking into. It helps get that question, “what does it all mean?!” out of the way for more productive things. And one can come at it several ways. The most transcendental views of reality and the world posits that it is merely an illusion. That none of this is really real. Be it a cosmic joke or something ruled by shady Archons, something just doesn't fit right. It speaks of that underlying frightful feeling you get when you realize as an American that the dollar isn't backed by anything. That cash is a meaningless symbol we've built into something more than real; something that rules lives. That the fact this symbol controls so much in our world is somehow not right because it isn't real... After all, you can hold a brick of gold. You can feel it. And if the dollar is backed by gold then you can say, “well, it's a stand in for a bit of that.”
But if it's not? If it's just something we print? Then people starving in the streets when they lack it suddenly becomes a nightmare element. Suddenly you realize that we've empowered our illusions to the point where people starve to keep them exactly where they are. That the flow of power there makes almost no sense. Have you funded terrorism unknowingly today with our fake symbol-currency?
In this view the magician perceives that illusion. He or she knows that the illusion, the biggest illusion, is the little things we clutch with our last breath but that never really mattered at all. And that people will pay for that illusion. That people will kill for that illusion. And that there are other, deeper, illusions that we clutch just as tightly. And that those, too, have a use.
It is for that reason that the idea of distance from the world and its illusions, and a desire to completely liberate oneself from them, baffles me. Whenever someone tells me that the “Threefold Law” is actually a Western abstraction based on perception of a cosmic truth called “Karma” I... well, I blink. If it is, then why would the magician want to eradicate the flow of karma from himself? Why would he want to cease his flow of being? Wouldn't the goal be to ensure you keep coming back so you can keep playing with the forces of illusion?
Isn't the point of the narrative in that case that the magician is both divine and human? That he straddles the line between those two points of being while doing his best to be part of neither—because he or she is both?
Isn't that the story that exists within one of those narratives? That flow of myth?
That story is a part of us. It's perhaps due to this that poets and storytellers were often imbued with a sense of “un-reality” during their own lives. Take the Roman poet Virgil, for example, who was widely believed by those before and after his death to be a wizard. Or the proposed Athiest, Marlowe, who was a member of the “School of Night”... And no one knows what those fellows, fueled by a desire to learn, were really up to. Especially when you learn that the ideas of John Dee had reached and inspired them.
It was with those thoughts in mind that I agreed with Mr. VI when part of our desire was to escape from the usual way of relating magick to others and instead blur the lines between fiction and reality in an occult sense. Something is lost when you strip it down to only its core elements and forget that part of the glory is in the story, is in the myth, and its relation to life.
So I can fully understand how a narrative about “Goetic Demons” seeking to reclaim their “wings” is fully valid. But I think it only works if you fit the scales of time and culture into the picture. I'm a non-traditional traditionalist. The narrative needs meaning either in the view of the current world, or in the world where it original found its spark of life. Without that it simply is a bad story. Something poor to enact into one's sphere. Either you have to reach back to moments of potency – the Nigromantic sorcerer conjuring a demon into this world in a decrepit and forgotten church yard and facing the very embodiment of everything he's been taught to fear... Or something that relates to this moment we now exist in, when Spongebob is as much a god to children as credit cards are to many adults. I get a sense of that narrative when my female friend Holly tells me that she's named her electronics – fetishizing them the way many children turn their toys into fetishes – and that they only seem to work for her, or work better. I get a sense of that when I hear about a young female pagan's first moment of “girl bliss” when she meets the (whichever, I suppose) Goddess for the first time and finds that she does have a mythos she exists in. The same sense re-occurs when young Astral Warriors venture out for the first time – a subject Fr. RO discussed recently. (And they are not without their own very valid history: part of the history of the witches' sabbath involves the masculine form in which men ventured forth to fight for the fertility of crops. Or as Ryan Valentine told me years ago: “Astrally, women tend to fuck everything. And men tend to want to fight everything.” It's so sadly true it makes me weep. Although I did have my early share of “adventures with succubi.”)
Myths are meant to tell us something about ourselves, our origins, and our nature but explore them in a grandiose nature. It has to be larger than life – otherwise it wouldn't resonate so powerfully to us. The narrative of someone that wants to redeem demons is that they themselves want to be redeemed, or to be the redeemer – that they might have more meaning than they do at the present moment. Where we fail all to often is forgetting that we told those tales because the mundane world – the world experienced when you're first escaping your teens and working for shitty pay and dealing with shitter customers in a fast food joint – is not enough. The world isn't enough. We need an underlying pattern, something to keep us pushing forward. Something to believe in; even if it simply becomes ourselves.
Our interactions with the numinous are rooted in this desire and in a desire to escape the body. But where some magicians, including myself, diverge is that we don't see the desire to escape as the only line of flight available. By awakening to the truth self – by gaining the daemon – and by practicing what we do semi-openly and discussing it openly we've already escaped the trap of the dung heap that the world may have thrown at us. We may still work shitty jobs, but we've got something more than just that. It isn't what you know or how you know it but who you know. And the point there is examining your relation to who you know... What they see in you, and what you exhibit to them.
The entire focus of astral projection lies in the same pattern. It isn't done to escape the world but to discover the narratives that the imaginal (in the sense of Corbin's original phrase) has to offer. Worlds where you are a super-powered hero or a super sexy woman with an elf-toy. Or some combination thereof. Worlds where Victoriana never ended.
I bring this up because my view of what astral projection is, the mechanics of it, and what it means is different from the standard Tree of Life modeled view. I see disparate realities wherein the narrative changes and the focus changes. Ever wanted to be an action hero? Ever wanted to try being part of a steampunk romance? Ever wondered what it is that gods do when no-one is looking? Or venture into the land of the dead? Or you if you have a crazier side, like I do, ever wanted to end up being one of H.P. Lovecraft's protagonists?
I say that all that and more is out there – just waiting to be explored. That we constantly make it, and that the tricks of the trade allow us to use it... That those illusions are part of the trade. That part of being a magician is also being a person. Sometimes you have to help someone exorcise their haunted house, and sometimes you have to toss a healing spell. And sometimes you just might want to go a little nuts and exorcise your conspiracy theorist side by finding evil cabals of beings and fellows out to control the world for no-good-reason.
Losing that spice is losing the spice of life. The real threat is remembering to ground, and that the other world – the one we wake up in daily – holds just as much value. While astral projecting into a Steampunk Victoriana and dealing with half-demonic alchemists using Metatron's seal to open doors into our world was fun... It wasn't any better than falling in love. It wasn't any better than seeing a good movie. It wasn't any better a four-course meal made on Christmas for someone I adored for the first time in my life.
And I think that for me that magick has and will always involve blurring those same two lines and then heading off to balance my checkbook.
Narrative serves a purpose; but you can't let it completely take over. Otherwise you've let your illusion use you and you're not making use of it.
So yeah, “non sufficit orbis,” the world is not enough to add meaning to one's life on its own. But that's not a problem because there are dozens out there with a rich texture and with tantalizing possibility. Just remember that when you return to earth, having stolen the spiritual fire from the gods, to treat the other side of the coin with a bit of respect. Because there's more in it that misery and unhappiness. I may be “the son of [a] god,” but I'm still just a dude. And I haven't learned how to walk through walls or telekinetically lift objects yet. It just never stops me from trying.