“Out of sight and out of mind,
Are deadly traits when they're combined...”
- Assemblage 23, I am the Rain.
I have discussed my mentors a few times, but it was recently brought to my attention that I tend to forget a few details here and there. One of them revolves around how I tend to treat them. Not so long ago one of them told me: “And that, Faust, is why I keep you around!”
Being that I have a sense of humor which shapes the way I see the world, I tend to treat them mockingly or at times with almost derision while also revering them. On the surface this would just show my insecurity, but it's also a way of constantly reminding myself that they are people, too. Not Gods or “All Powerful Adepts.”
It was about three years ago that I became interested in witchcraft. Primarily because what we were doing with Andrew Chumbley's Azoetia in the Sutras of the Poison Buddha (see issues three and four for more information) had begun to work. And, might I add, work quite well. There were a lot of theories we batted about here and there, and a lot more that we were up to. But if I'd never seen that book, I'd never have changed my stance.
At which point my head exploded. And I found myself asking for directions in a very deep, dark forest. So I went to those who knew the territory better than I. I expected they'd hook me up with the 1734 fellows, or maybe the Cultus Sabbati... But they sent me elsewhere. Since I didn't know any of the subject matter, I asked what I ought to look into.
I was pointed toward an email list. You may or may not know of the email list I speak of. It's a list for would-be members of BTW covens, and tons of Elders are on it. You can consult about all manner of things, and their knowledge and experience is quite frankly breathtaking. And yet, despite that, it's utterly reviled by more than a few people. I was on the list for a total of three days.
What happened was this: I clambered in during a discussion on Proper matters. All well and good! Or so I thought... But then I began to watch social assumptions and an underlying (dare I say it?) classist attitude emerge. This was quite shocking coming from folks that claim to be practicing a system of magick which commoners used, all the while creating rules which would exclude those same people.
Three things occurred to me:
I was by no means the “Proper” sort of fellow most of them seemed to be looking for or expecting.
I had no idea what half of them seemed to be babbling about.
None of them seemed to have any sort of consensus about what was or wasn't proper.
One of the commentators wrote something like: “You meet these young people who can't even drive and they expect to learn witchcraft!”
I've never owned a car. There's this thing that some people seem to forget about. Its called being poor, and the fact I was poor certainly didn't exclude me from learning magick. I might have, years ago, gotten myself a car. But I have not purchased one for several reasons: if I need to be on time, I leave early; I like walking and listening to music and thinking all at once, and it actually keeps me in decent physical shape. There are drawbacks: such as occasionally having to ask for a ride (I always try to offer compensation for gas), occasionally having to take the bus or lightrail... But I don't pay car insurance, and the only gas I need to worry about is the inevitable retribution of a night of hard curry-eating or too much beer.
It occurred to me immediately that questioning authority and forming your own conclusions was more important in some cases than listening to the chorus of authoritative voices who can't even tell their own social preconceptions from their witchcraft. This is not to say that my conclusions are always right. I am, in fact, wrong quite often. And just as opinionated in some respects.
Some time later, I was chatting with another female that had a dislike for the same email list. She related that she'd asked: “is crystal healing actually traditional?”
She was immediately scolded for 'questioning tradition'. In fact, she'd been trying to inquire as to whether or not it was traditional, not requesting anyone stop what they were doing. These are two very different sorts of questions. Since she'd asked and never gotten a real answer, I'll actually do my best: I am unaware of any 'traditional' practices regarding crystals with one possible exception. The “charged” lodestone was somewhat prized by Cunning men and women because it could locate magnetic north. In the case of the Golden Dawn, they also seem to have thought it could block psychic possession-god-waves or somesuch and so they placed them in their hats to act as a shield much akin to Magneto's helmet in the X-Men comics. I believe Alan Bennett used quartz in his blasting rod as well.
Beyond that, everything I've read indicates that healing with crystals was one of the beliefs of the sixties and coincided with a boom in interest in ley-lines. But I'm fairly sure that most people didn't wave around crystals to create harmony, goodness and health, prior to at least the 1900s. On the other hand: most objects will accept a 'psychic charge,' meaning that whether or not crystals are better at it is highly questionable. I'm not entirely sure there's much of a difference between myself making a talismatic sigil for someone's health and giving it to them and waving a crystal around in the air sensing their 'astral vibrations' and trying to 'heal them'. And finally: listen up, your crystals cramp my style. Even if they did work well, I still wouldn't personally use them. And believe me when I say that I am by no means alone in this.
Returning to the subject at hand: the first time an Eclectic Wiccan pulled the 'Elder' card on me, I was nineteen. It was regarding Raymond Buckland's Three-Fold Law and their desire for me to respect their opinion because they'd been practicing for about a year longer than I had. The suggestion still seems asinine to me. While I will generally be respectful to most people, being told to respect their opinion because they clearly knew better was an affront to my sensibilities. Said Elder(!) had been talking about the Law of Karma(!) and how the Three-Fold Law(!) was like, the same thing.
I had calmly explained that Karma had nothing to do with positivity and negativity in general, and more to do with actions themselves. Worldly actions would tie one to the world, and thus the suggestion to the culture that birthed it was that one should adopt humility and work to serve god and their family. Which was about when they pulled the Hierarchy Card. This ended the conversation relatively quickly, as I responded with more than a bit of verbal venom and made a new “friend.” I'm fairly sure the individual in question still hates me. And well they should, because I will most likely never tire of pulling apart their silly arguments and demonstrating how they're silly. Sadly, the individual in question doesn't seem to write much these days...
A final example I have for the processes I've discussed about occurred not so long ago in a blog that I enjoyed reading, but which finally dovetailed into some comments about the differences between “high” and “low” magick. I'm going to use it an example because it's something written recently, and not in a book by Dion Fortune that's sixty years out of date. Keep in mind, however, that I still watch the blog with interest. (Just because I dislike your opinion, does not mean I dislike your blog.)
Peregrin over at Magick of the Ordinary writes:
“And still that old chestnut…practical magic. Magic designed to affect the material, mundane world. These days more and more magicians use the term thaumaturgy but it is still practical or low magic, with our without an ancient word. I have blogged on this before and will simply repeat a bit here.
Rather than degenerate into a discussion that ‘high’ magic (that which is not for the self) is better than ‘low’ magic (that which is for the self) I want to point out something that is seldom mentioned: most readers of blogs such as this actually do not need any help from magic. In a world where twenty thousand people will die from poverty and starvation each day, any westerner who can afford time and money to wander around the Internet must be counted as rich beyond measure. To use our magical blessings, which stem ultimately from the One, to increase our station in life rather than to balance out the stakes a little for those who are literally starving to death says something for our personal magical motivation. And in this vein, the profusion of spell-craft manuals and coffee table books bristling with all forms of sorcery says a lot for the general motivation of the esoteric and New Age communities today.”
What a 'proper,' middle class answer! I would note, with a bit of a grin, that it sounds as if Peregrin hasn't been one of those magicians close to starving. You know, that time when magical skill and ability might aid you the most. There is nothing wrong with utilizing magick to render out 'new details' in our life. As long as we keep it in mind that there will always be an exchange of some sort, we can narrow down the odds so that we can find the place where we can better function. Is this, one might ask, selfish?
Yes, but contrary to the opinions above, magick is not a domicile of the rich to find their true inner-soul or inner-self. Those who have almost always relied on “low magick” are those that need it the most: the poor, the destitute, the starving, and the forsaken. It is not the middle class or rich, who can sit around trying to enlighten themselves with their rendered Qabalistic maps, who have ever had a need for such things. To snub your nose at other practitioners, namely those you don't know and who's conditions you might be unable to fathom, simply because your goal is enlightenment is wrong. Furthermore: the transcendental bias that Qabalistic symbolism and and Ceremonial Magick might internally brand upon you is the most clearly apparent in statements such as the above.
So, in answer to such statements let me reiterate: I will use my skills and abilities which do come to me from the universe (both within and without), but also take time and effort to hone into skills, to increase my station in life. I used them to meet my wife (and without negating her will), and I have used them without a moment's worry that I was wrong. And why is that? Because that's precisely what my ancestors did. If I gain “bad karma,” so be it. I don't want to hang out with God in a transcendental paradise, anyway. Then again, I should expect little better from a fellow that also writes:
“Now from personal and anecdotal experience over 25 years and in every survey I’ve ever read, there is nothing to suggest the Wiccans are better off than the rest of us. They are not richer or smarter. They suffer the same vicissitudes in love, health and work and are just as likely to have addicts and dysfunctional folk in their community as in any community. The richest Wiccan I know has made his money from sharp and aggressive real estate purchases, not from spells. Of course there is an argument that most Wiccans, despite their cones of power and sex magic are simply devoid of the solid magical skills which we of the GD persuasion have.”
Yeah, you're like, special, dude. Clearly enlightened above those heathen Wiccans with their practical magick. Anyway: he's got great ideas about the HGA. I recommend those. (Edit: As an aside, I am intentionally being an asshole. Peregrin does go on to say that there's no proof the GD is any better.)
But underpinning all of this is the acknowledgment that the people we admire – and the people we loathe – are equally human and flawed. Whether they're Adepts, Neophytes, or somewhere in between and regardless of any given system that will never change. Perhaps the Great Work has in fact polished their soul, and their eyes gleam brightly with Secrets. But that doesn't mean they are perfect. Even some of the best at doing the Work make huge, sometimes blisteringly huge, mistakes.
Accept the sleights with the most amusement you can. Remember the internal humanity. And don't assume that just because someone is doing alchemical work, they'll ever be finished. Opinions exist, within the microcosm, to be revised with time.
“Terrorizing Small German Villages since 1984.”