Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Left-Over Hostility

This image was found by searching for Enraged Donkey...

About a year ago, I had a conversation with someone else that was just... dismal. I'm not really sure how to convey the mood it left me in, except to say that some of the hostility I've displayed in this blog has been a response to that very conversation.

It was with someone that many people would call a “craft elder,” at least if you base your assumptions about what an “elder” is on age. They were easily two to three times my age. And the conversation began harmlessly enough: they were telling me about the evolution of the neo-Pagan and Ceremonial Magick circles, from the perspective of someone that saw them arise. But at a certain point of the conversation, they began asking me questions that left me feeling uneasy. The reason for this feeling was readily revealed when the individual admitted that they'd spent god-knows-how-many-hours on initiations, rituals, regular ritual work, and so forth and then... Said that nothing, nothing at all, had happened.

Since I was so knowledgeable or something, they started demanding answers from me: “why didn't this initiation work? Why can't I invoke the Gods? Why do I never have moments of Gnosis?”

It was almost as if I was being accused of being the reason, though I'm sure that wasn't the case. When I couldn't offer any explanations, except to ask “have you ever thought about making some internal changes?”

The person just snapped on me. I was told that my practices were obscene and evil, that I embodied all that was wrong with the Neo-Pagan community, and about a dozen other things. I honestly chalk it up to the individual being very, very emotional about the subject. But it's left me feeling very irritated ever since. The conversation ended thus: “I know I'm right!

Here was someone with decades spent on research, on trying out magical rituals, on working hard to try and refine their subtle body – and they admitted that it meant nothing. All that time wasted. If I'd had words to ease that sensation or help them, I'd have said them. But I didn't. All I could do, in the end, was sit miserably and listen to how horrible I was.

Since then, I've avoided the individual. Not because I don't like them, but because I just... I don't have time or the emotional energy to try and help them. And with the way the conversation ended, I was left not wanting to even bother to try. I wanted to say: “Well, if you know everything, then tell me – why isn't it working? Why aren't you becoming more spiritually aware? Why don't the Gods or spiritslisten to your calls?”

But that would have been cruel, and pointless. They didn't know, nor did I. It would just be like rubbing salt in what was obviously an old wound.

Since then, I've pretty much stopped talking to anyone who I could tell has put up walls against certain knowledge. People who can intelligibly discuss As If or Ex Opere Operato and then create massive walls, pointing out all the things they don't know about a subject annoy me to no end. If you're going to lionize the idea of As If or Ex Opere Operato, then you need to be 100% holistic about that shit and understand that by performing the act of magick, the person is themselves engaging in a process. This does not require complete knowledge of any given system. You must be willing to receive the knowledge that you lack, before you can receive it.

Otherwise, you're just wasting your time and creating walls that will keep you from Doing the Work.

On paper, all rituals are but words and pictures (pretty or otherwise). The ritual must be engaged before sufficient understanding is ever made. Experience is a pivotal part of magical development, and if experience is what you're lacking then you need to address the walls to knowledge that you've put up within your own microcosm, and the reason you put up those walls.

This is a personal matter, and in the end, I suppose no one can really help unless you let them. But please: don't ask me to, because I'm sick of being yelled at by the Elderly and Inept.*

*This entry may disappear if VVF says I'm being a douchebag. Fair warning. It's my goal to address the subject without being a complete dick...

EDIT: There is a difference between someone that's done decades of magical work that worked and tells me that they're right about something, and someone that tells me that nothing has worked. I wish to make these differences explicit right now. Yes, tons of folks in the bloggosphere make my just-over-a-decade of practice look miniscule. I do respect that.

I do not respect the alternatives, who throw up road-blocks to the work, and claim things don't work (when they can't do them, but know damn well that others can).


V.V.F. said...

I approve this post.

Scylla said...

I've had the same thing asked of me. I've had people tell me that nothing happening is what's supposed to happen.

From my perspective - I see people who have lives that are so full of things that nothing else can get in. And I have seen people so full of ... something... that there is no room for anything else.

Robert said...

Nicely said. And right now I feel like that "elder". I am hoping that in time I won't be.

Satyr Magos said...

You have my sympathies. That's an awkward position to be in, and I can understand how it would make you a little bitter.

In ten years you've clearly gotten more done than I have in fifteen--it took me the first ten to get my head out of my ass and screwed on as straight as it's ever going to be. Yet I've had people who've been doing "work" longer than I have come to me, surprised, that I've seen and done as much as I have in so short a time--some of whom have actually been doing the work, some of whom have spent more time whining than working.

Everybody's mileage varies. For what it's worth, I appreciate what you share--even the hostility. It helps me put my own work in context, sometimes, and figure out the next steps.

Simon Tomasi said...

It takes courage to admit that nothing happened after years of trying, although it sounds like that admission came out as an accusation which is very unfortunate.

I was going to say: "Admission is the first step, then it's back to basics and doing something about it" but that sounds a bit too much like advice for a recovering addict... o.O

Jow said...

TBH Jack, I'd be pissed too. Getting mad at you for not knowing the answer to a question you couldn't possibly know the answer to is silly, and childish. It also speaks of some serious wounded faith, and no small bit of desperation.

If someone is going to do this, they have to let go of their preconceived notions. Those things will only hold them back.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with your anger and upset... this person was beyond rude and you deserve an apology, but I think that you are taking this conversation way too personally and too much at face value. Frankly nothing that this person said has anything to do with you whatsoever. It's all them.

I mean think about it, if you really worked hard for decades and nothing EVER happened, you'd be the biggest idiot on the planet (I mean, go find another path already). And that may be the case, but what's a lot more likely is that this person was in the abyss, the vale of darkness, their own personal dark night of the soul and you just got caught in the crossfire.

It's almost a textbook case. I work hard and have all these great experiences and then suddenly it all feels like crap. I'm still talking but the universe isn't answering. It's a fraud. I'm a fraud. I've been fooling myself the whole time and none of it means anything. A total waste! "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms!"

And some upstart kid is up to his eyeballs in it and it's a knife to the gut and they must clearly be as full of shit as I feel about my own self. Displace, lash out, deny.

The biggest different between people who've been doing it for decades and those whole been at it for a little while isn't where you're at on the path (because the path is different for everyone and it's not a point A to point B straight line so much as a series of loops). It's how many of those totally awful slough of despond, spiritual nadir, armpit of the universe periods you've had time to go through.

They'll figure it out and come through stronger... or they won't. It's not your problem. For their sake, I hope they have someone they respect as an elder who can help them work through (which is often as much a process of bitch slapping them until they see reason as much as being a supportive friend). After 25 years I've been through several of these, so while I don't condone their behavior, I do feel compassion. It sucks.

Jack Faust said...

@Anon: Frankly, you're 100% correct.

Jack Faust said...

@Robert: Dewd, you are not that person. You are freaking awesome. Now finish up your time in the Abyss and become an Adept already!

Jack Faust said...

@Satyr: Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad someone out there even enjoys my moments of hostility. Or maybe that's something I shouldn't be glad about. Err.

Anyway. Thanks for the kind words.

Jack Faust said...

@Jow: I really don't feel that I deserve an apology. It would be unnecessary. I agree with the Anon poster that I took the conversation too much to heart for no good reason. For some reason, I've just seen too many of these displays in the last few years and grown increasingly disturbed by them.

I should just let it go, though.

Deborah Castellano said...

Sometimes it's really hard to let shit go though, esp if this was someone you liked or respected or even admired. Also it's dismaying when an elder acts like an ass.

In the words of Rick James, Fuck their couch.

Harold Roth said...

A couple years ago, someone I know who has been involved with magic for a long time told me that he had tried all sorts of paths but that nothing worked for him. He was exasperated. He wanted to know how I knew that magic worked. I said I had experienced things that I considered were the outcome of magic. But how did I KNOW they were the result of magic? I said I have faith. And that word "faith" caused a snappage similar to what you describe. He didn't accuse my practices of being evil, but he pretty much came out and said I was stupid.

I can't understand approaching magic like it is some technology where if you just learn to use the tools correctly, then this other thing happens as a consequence, like turning the crank of a machine. I think faith is involved because you have to risk, that having faith is one of the "sacrifices" involved in magic. Unlike a religion, where everyone around you is risking at the same time, with magic, you're on the fringe, risking alone, hoping for something that most people think is bunk. IMO, you must be willing to make a fool of yourself with magic. Some people are completely unable to do this. They want magic to be a sure thing.

Personally, if I met someone who said they had just done with a bunch of initiations and then confided that nothing magical they did had ever worked, I would think they were a hypocrite of the highest water and lose all respect for them.