End of an Enchiridion

I can’t believe it’s come to this.  It’s been four years, and I cannot even, I literally cannot.  I knew this day would eventually come, as all finite things must come to an end, but I’m confused at the fact that it’s here.  It’s been so slowly coming that I never realized how fast this moment arrived, and I’m…not quite at a loss, but nonplussed all the same.

My Moleskine is full.

This isn’t just any journal, mind you, as Moleskines are hardly ever wont to be.  No, this particular journal is my εγχειριδιον, my vademecum, my Book of Shadow, my spellbook, my grimoire, my personal book of prayers and rituals and seals that I have been writing and maintaining since my first days in Fr. Rufus Opus’ courses.  The cover is worn, and certain pages have all but fallen out, and some already would have if it weren’t for the masking tape holding them in place.  Pages with exceptionally well-used prayers are tissue-soft, and others are dog-eared for quick reference so that I don’t have to flip through a chaotic mish-mash of traditions and systems.  Among pages of my best efforts at Roman and Greek script mixed with my personal shorthand, annotated with origins of each prayer and ritual, I have poured countless hours into keeping track of the words and acts I use in my work as a magician as an aide for ritual, supplementing my memory when my memory alone hasn’t caught up.

And it’s full.  Fuck.

I knew this day would eventually come, and I made plans years ago to digitize it into a more easily accessible format, first copying whatever I wanted from a source to my Moleskine, and from there into LaTeX files to be compiled into a fancy PDF which, for various reasons, I haven’t kept up with lately.  And, while that’s still a good way to go for future use (heck, maybe even dissemination to students?), I’m…not sure that’s what I want to do for myself.  Lord knows I still need to keep track of rituals, and even though this particular book is filled, I question whether a digital format or some other means is the best way to keep an enchiridion.

I’m no stranger to journal-keeping, after all, and I’ve filled a number of them over the years since my first attempts back in elementary school, ranging from the mundane goings-on between classes or meetings to the most arcane theorizing of the cosmos, and this blog is just another manifestation of that; as such, I know the paradoxical heart-wrenching elation that comes with filling a journal.  Still, even this particular one is…jarring.  I’ve carried this book with me around the country, and found myself sometimes going into a minor panic when I realize I may have left it at home.  That book has had oil, water, ash, dirt, spit, and even the occasional blood spilled on it.  That book has grown up and full and worn with me as I’ve grown as a magus.  Even though this all seems rather sentimental for a glorified notepad, and even though I’m unusually attached to such a thing, I’m still somewhat at a crossroads with how to proceed.  Do I get a new one, and retranscribe everything?  Do I go for the binder-and-printout method, so that I can more easily manage and organize the thing on the fly?  Do I just want to use a document I can edit on the fly and get an e-reader or tablet to do the same?

I need to do something, obviously.  Just because this journal is full does not mean my Work is complete, not by any sense.  There will still be prayers to practice, rituals to record, and designs I deign to copy for clarity’s sake, and I will still need somewhere to write them and keep a ready index of.  But…I can no longer do it with this book, which already has so much in it and cannot accept any more.  This is a problem that demands a solution, but…perhaps it’s best to review what I’ve learned from keeping such an artifact first.  What do I know now, after filling up a whole book with my rituals and prayers, that I wouldn’t have expected years ago?  What does such a book become and do for the magus?  Based on my own experience, how should one approach the process of writing in an enchiridion?

  1. It becomes a ritual tool in and of itself, rivaling the importance of any wand or shewstone or oil.
  2. It is a physical object made of paper and thread and cardboard and, if you’re fancy, leather.  Even with careful and delicate use, the book will rip and tear and fall apart, and so should be given all the respect due to any magical tool for as long as it is used.
  3. It gains power in its own right, not only by virtue of the words and seals and patterns inscribed within, but by the constant use and reuse in ritual, as well as by the spirits and powers it comes in contact with.
  4. It offers a way to prototype and practice a ritual without ever performing it first, by recording all words said and motions made, before ever putting them to use.
  5. It provides a useful way to learn what is important and what is not important in ritual, gauging by how little one needs a particular prayer or ritual.
  6. Conversely, it provides a way to note what ought to be learned by heart, gauging by how much one needs a particular prayer or ritual.
  7. The fact that one is writing, actively putting in words, as opposed to typing gives the book a different feel and different (more) power.  Yes, the information may be the same, but the method makes the difference.
  8. With written words, one has the book indelibly and permanently made in one’s own kind of typographical image, as our handwriting is as much us as any photograph or depiction.
  9. It forms a record of one’s progress by virtue of the order and type of rituals written inside.  Even without records of ritual or proceedings of meditations, the prayers and rituals themselves show the state of the magus when they were first needed, as well as their exploration by the variety of text added over time.
  10. It is a testament to one’s activity and work as a magus, and as such is best kept private and secret lest anyone find it and, thus, find you out as a magus.
  11. Depending on your sources and your teachers, the text inside may be the last time those words are ever written, with you the last magus ever to use them.  As long as those words are around, at least in your own book, the traditions and rituals you use can stand the test of time and survive to be practiced by yet another generation.
  12. Organization from the outset, when keeping track of these things, is overrated.  When you’re still learning, the best order is chronological; by flipping through over and over to find the same things, you get used to the physical location of the text you need within the book.
  13. Presetting certain boundaries, so that this set of pages will be dedicated to conjuration rituals and that set of pages dedicated to Hellenic prayers and so forth, potentially wastes pages since you never know exactly how many or how few pages you need for a given topic, should you even get into that topic, which may not always be determined from the start.
  14. It is a finite object with a limited amount of space.  It will eventually become full, even if you keep only the most important and sacred words in it with nothing extraneous written and no space wasted.
  15. It is a tool and an aide.  It is to be used as much as it can be, so that the paper and ink inside is not wasted on idle copying, but made to work as much as you Work.
  16. When first copying things into it, you will use up a lot of space; only a year or so into my work, I had already filled up over a third of the pages, but it took me another three to fill up the other two thirds.  The rate at which you add things in will almost always decrease over time as you settle into a particular tradition and use the same rituals over and over.
  17. Not everything can be memorized.  While memory can always be improved, there are some things that one will keep forgetting without regular, almost daily use.
  18. A written text is crucial for smooth, repeatable work, so that one can read when memory can fail.  There’s a reason Catholic priests literally focus on the Missal while they perform their ritual, that they don’t slip up and jumble words or forget the order of things.
  19. What you write in the book, you write in your spirit.  The act of transcribing prayers is an important and powerful form of kinetic meditation.  For a similar reason, I find it helpful to say aloud every word that is to be said aloud in prayer or ritual (a la the tradition of soferim in Judaism), and to visualize the action when writing down instructions for actions.
  20. The art of handwriting is not doing too hot nowadays, and I don’t claim to have a good style of penmanship by any means, but it is a crucial aspect of maintaining the book.  Clear handwriting bespeaks a clear, methodical, premeditated mindset, and involves as much art as any skillful orison or profound prayer, not to mention making reading off the paper easier in dim lighting.
  21. It is useful to keep rituals and processes separate from records of using those rituals and processes.  I do not mix the two, and maintain a separate journal for keeping track of spiritual seals, conjuration conversations, and after-effects of ritual.  This is because the same ritual may work at some times and not at others through no fault of the ritual at all, and sometimes a ritual needs to be edited even though it works well-enough so that it can work better.
  22. It is useful to keep practice separate from theory.  Theory and philosophy and theology are nice to know and learn and discuss, but they do not come into play on the ground when the ritual is being done and the only thing that matters is the result.  Save space and keep the theory for another place, and focus only on what is necessary to complete the task at hand.
  23. It is useful to keep practice separate from recipes.  While oils, incenses, and the like may definitely be done in a ritual manner, the ingredients, conditions, and processes may often take up a lot of space that isn’t needed when doing the chanting or other ritual actions involved.
  24. It’s good to get a good-quality journal for this, neither poor nor great.  Something cheap and trashy is easy to fall apart and destroy, and something expensive and rare is too precious to waste a working text with errors, emendations, and errata in.  Settle for sturdiness, not for style, and save the pricey stuff for an heirloom calligraphied masterpiece that will be complete in and of itself.
  25. When there are a series of texts one may wish to transcribe, such as the Orphic Hymns or the Book of Psalms, it’s often better to get a separate text that contains those prayers as a complete set.  Transcribe only the ones you use most frequently, like Psalms 51 and 23 without the other 148 psalms.  An urge for completion is natural in many magi, for whom a perfectionist streak often runs strong, but you’ll ruin your hand with painful cramps and fill your book up faster than you need to.
  26. Be terse in the text for your instructions, and thorough in the text to be said aloud.  Only say what is absolutely necessary for instructions, as that can take up far more space than you need.  Laconic brevity is a virtue in the process of ritual, as is completion and wholeness in the prayers.  So long as you’ve written down enough to perform all steps of the ritual, you’ve written enough, and in the process allow yourself with room to grow and experiment and customize steps of the ritual.
  27. Even if you think they’re demanded of only by the bitchiest of middle-school teachers, get a bookcover or some sort of protection for your book.  You want to keep the book as intact and safe for as long as you possibly can.  Moleskines fit perfectly in a variety of leather car manual three-fold cases, as it turns out, and even includes a little loop for a pen and a pad of paper for quick notes and visions.
  28. Once you’ve started writing, do not stop until you’re done.  Do not leave something unfinished; if it’s part of a whole, write it wholly.  Do not begin writing until you know you can complete it in a single go, but if you need to write it, write it then and there.
  29. Generalize rituals when appropriate; think rubrics for ritual, not specific instances or implementations of ritual, and leave blanks and bracketed spaces for names or other things to be inserted when necessary.  Make a note when a particular prayer may be modified from its original intent or purpose.
  30. Only include tables of correspondence when absolutely necessary, such as when making a reference for how to fill in a ritual rubric.  Times when needing to use a table of correspondence in ritual are few, and usually only serve to take up space.  It’s better to commit the system of correspondence to memory, and that only what is necessary.
  31. Plan for rituals to be as modular as possible.  Build and conduct rituals using multiple prayers and acts, and record each one separately rather than writing the same invocation over and over for multiple rituals.
  32. The word enchiridion literally means “in the hand”, and vademecum “go with me”.  The book itself should be small enough to fit conveniently in a knapsack, but big enough to hold and read from comfortably.  If you use something too small, it’ll fill up too fast and will be hard to read from; if you use something too big, it’ll be hard to hold and hard to carry around.
  33. Never tear anything out of the book.  You will never make a mistake so egregious that you cannot write around it, and all rituals, even if needed just the once, will help you learn.  There will always be spare paper or media available to write on for things that cannot go in the book.  Keep the book intact as much as possible, since it’ll weaken on its own over time without any extra help from you.
  34. Get a good pen, and keep to that same type of pen when you write in the book.  Whether it’s a fountain pen or ball-point pen, you can never have too good a pen.  Carry it around with the book.  Keep it a neutral color, like black or blue, using other colors for specific purposes like corrections or particular symbols or watchwords.  And yes, it has to be a pen, one that isn’t erasable.  The point of the book is to put things in and keep track of what you practice, not to change the past and remove it.
  35. It doesn’t matter how you write in your book, so long as you can read it.  Your book is primarily for you and your eyes; everyone else takes a very, very distant second, although the day will come that someone else will need to use your book.  If you use a shorthand or type of code to write in the book, include a key somewhere hidden just in case you or someone else needs to decode it.
  36. Do not lose the book.  Do not destroy the book.  Do not get rid of the book.  Once finished or rendered to a point where it is unusable through age and wear, keep it somewhere safe, and only if you absolutely cannot keep it with you should you even begin to consider entrusting it to someone you can trust.
  37. It doesn’t matter whether your book is a journal or a sketchbook, i.e. lined or unlined.  I find lines helpful since I’ve never been able to develop a steady baseline for handwriting, and it helps with drawing out patterns and diagrams, but many people prefer an unlined paper to write on.  Go with what’s best for you.
  38. Once you start writing in a book, keep the book and keep using the book until it’s filled or you cannot use it any longer.  Just because you don’t like a ritual you wrote doesn’t mean the whole book is trash.  Just because you’ve changed traditions doesn’t mean you forget your history and past rituals.
  39. Take the book with you and read from it in as many rituals as you need to do.  You may not always need the book, especially if you’ve memorized the rituals and prayers needed, but take it with you just in case.  If nothing else, you help the book build power.

I suppose I had more thoughts on keeping and maintaining such a book than I expected.  I guess I wanted to be thorough, in a kind of “what would you tell a younger version of yourself” kind of way.

I think, at this point, I’ve decided on what I’m going to do.  I may not stick with Moleskine, but I am going to get another blank journal for myself.  I can always digitize the stuff as I need to in case I need a digital copy of my book, but…in all honesty, I can’t bring myself to care as much about that as I will about having a handwritten copy of my rituals with the ability to add in new rituals at a moment’s notice.  For me, and I speak only for myself, I will need to write by hand my enchiridion, and I will do this again, word by every painstaking word, for as many times as I need to.  I can’t say I’m looking forward to the coming weeks as I start this process again, but for me and my practice, it’s absolutely worth it.

Beginner’s Practices

Recently, I’ve been getting more requests for consultations, which I’m happy to do for people.  (Yes, I charge, and you can find my rates on my Services page.)  Normally, people book a consultation for the purpose of an extended divination reading, where I do as many questions as time will allow and talk them through problems or offer advice as the situation calls for it.  However, a few consultations lately haven’t been anything of the sort, and fall under a type of consultory category that I personally love to do: ritual advice.  This is where, essentially, you ask me questions about practice, methodology, technique, or philosophy when it comes to magic and the occult, and I share with you my experiences, research, and the like, kind of like a 1-on-1 tutoring session.  I personally love doing this, since I typically learn as much from people as they learn from me, and we’re both better off for it.

However, I’ve also noticed that I’m seeing an uptick in the number of people who are new to magic and the occult asking for advice, like people who are in Fr. Rufus Opus’ new Seven Spheres classwork who want another view or advice from one of his other students.  Some are just studying on their own and want to know where to go or how they might accomplish something with a bare minimum of resources, while others are just wondering where to begin at all.  This is awesome and flattering, because even though I don’t consider myself a teacher (I’m still pretty damn new to this all myself as it is), I’d love to share my own experiences and lessons (sometimes learned the hard way) so that others don’t have to bungle things or get a slow start when they can hit the ground running.

For people who are utterly new to the occult, seeing all this stuff about grimoires and conjuration and sacrifice and Greek/Hebrew/Latin/Sanskrit/Egyptian terms and whatnot can be downright pants-shittingly frightening, not to mention bewildering.  I know that, when I first started, I was a little overwhelmed myself trying to figure out where to begin or what texts to read (assuming I could read them at all in modern English), but also what it is I should be doing to start.  That’s a crucial thing for a magician, and the line that divides an armchair magician from a practicing magician: what is it that you’re doing?  It’s all very well to rattle off the history of a particular incantation or memorize all the variations of the seals and designs from the Lemegeton Goetia, but if you’re not putting them to use, why are you doing this at all?  Magic should, in my opinion, be more than just a hobby of curiosity, but something that mixes a good way of living with a method of helping yourself and others in this world and all others.

Still, there’s a lot to do, and there’s always more to do even when you think you’ve done what you need.  So, if I had to suggest some basic practices that anyone interested in practicing magic or any spiritual way of life, what might I suggest?  Three things, all of which are pretty simple but which are endlessly profound and rewarding.

1: Learn two forms of divination.
You can’t figure out shit if you don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t always mean by talking with spirits.  Divination is an excellent way to get your foot in the door with magic; it’s how I got started, and this is my view on the subject.  Back in the day, I considered myself only a diviner and a seer, because I didn’t want to get involved with all that magic stuff.  I just wanted to see what was going on and help others make good decisions with new information they couldn’t get on their own; actually changing that stuff was out of my scope, as I considered it.  Then again, one thing led to the next, and I found myself researching what the planets and elements could be used for instead of just what they meant in astrology or Tarot, and the transition was so subtle that I became a magician without even really recognizing it.  Divination was the gateway drug for me, and it makes sense, because it helped inform me every step of the way, and still does as a matter of fact.

Now, I say that you should learn two forms of divination, if only to increase your skill set and to broaden your horizons.  These can be any two, but I recommend two different forms: a simple one that focuses on yes/no answers, and a complex one that can describe a whole situation at length and help provide detail as well as judgment.  The complex one is considerably easier to find in modern use: Tarot, runes, geomancy, astrology, I Ching, grammatomancy, astragalomancy, and the like are all good examples of what I mean by “complex divination”.  The easier one is more like child’s play and some diviners find it beneath them to just focus on yes/no queries, but at the same time, this is a vital skill to figure out.  Sure, you could use one divination system for both purposes, but I find it better to have two methods that complement each other.

Add to it, there’s an added benefit to learning two forms of divination like this.  The complex divination method you choose is excellent for understanding a whole system or situation when you need the guidance and detail that such a divination system can provide.  The simple divination method can be used for this, too, if a simple answer will suffice, but the real purpose I suggest the simple method is for communicating with spirits and discerning their will.  Having a yes/no method of divination, like chamalongos or coin tosses, is amazing to figure out how to proceed with offerings or rituals involving a particular spirit in conjunction with actually listening to them and getting the proper feeling of action.

2: Learn psychometry.
Psychometry literally means “measuring souls”, but it’s basically a fancy way to describe getting the “feel” or “vibe” off something.  It’s one of the first distinctly magical practices I picked up from my sister years ago while I was in college, a few years before actually getting into Hermetic stuff, since she’s more attuned to it than I am, but it’s turned out to be a valuable skill and one of the ones I recommend beginners to pick up ASAP.  Although the notion of reading the energy off objects seems simple and underneath some people, it’s one of the most vital skills a magician can develop, since it can be used in so many instances and is far more applicable than mere objects alone.  The point here is that you’re not just getting the impressions, charges, memories, and the like off of objects, but that you’re actually measuring the soul-stuff of a thing, and it doesn’t have to be tangible; in other words, you’re learning to sense magic itself.

The process of psychometry is simple: focus on a particular object, and figure out what it “feels” like.  How do you perceive the stuff in the object?  That’s really basically it; it’s no more complicated than touching something or coming into contact with it and getting information of the color, weight, temperature, or texture of an object, except that it doesn’t rely on the physical senses.  My sister’s advice for psychometry made a distinct impression on me and guides me to this day, not only in matters of psychometry but in pretty much all magical endeavors: “it feels like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.  The information pretty much pops up in your head, and to a less discerning mind, it would feel just like normal thoughts arising and coming and going.  The thing is, though, that these thoughts aren’t yours; they’re no more “your” thoughts than the sensation of your keyboard or phone in your hand is “your” sensation.  This is information, energy, spirit, presence, whatever that is simply coming in contact with your own sense abilities; there’s not much active practice to go with this, just like how seeing or hearing isn’t an active process but merely light or sound entering into your eyes or ears.

Now, once you get the hang of getting the feel or vibe off a particular object, it’s not a hard leap in any sense to go from small hand-held things to bigger things.  The size of the thing ultimately doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the power inside the thing.  (That’s what he said.)  The more something has been carried around, used, loved, or hated, the more power increases in the thing.  Animate things, like people and animals, naturally have a strong power in themselves, and one can detect how they feel or what they know but also how energy and power flows through and within them.  That said, I would recommend the following general process to practice learning psychometry:

  • Small objects (pebbles, jewelry, cell phones, writing utensils)
  • Large objects (cooking utensils, computers, cars, machines)
  • Places (graves, buildings, fields, forests, mountains)
  • People and animals

Not everyone will get the same type of vibe off an object.  My sister gets emotions and physical states (angry, happy, caffeinated, sweaty, etc.) off of objects, especially worn objects, but I get memories and impressions of place or use.  Some people will find that they get impressions or vibes in the form of colors or images, while others get sounds, yet others get temperature, and others just get pure thoughts or verbal statements arising in the mind.  This is important to recognize, since how you get impressions and sensations the best indicates how you best perceive magical presence and energy.  Not everyone will “see” stuff; I myself don’t have a strong psychic visual sense, but my psychic taste and smell are excellent, and I get the same information as others would but delivered in a different way.  I just have to translate them into the same ideas that others might get in a different “language”.

Just as it’s not a big leap to go from small inanimate objects to larger animate ones, it’s also not a big leap to go from tangible things to spiritual entities.  This is why psychometry is vital: the ability to perceive information spiritually is what we use to sense and detect spiritual presence, energetic flows, and the like.  If you can’t detect the presence of a spirit in conjuration, why bother calling them up?  If you can’t get a feel for where a strong place of power is, why bother tracking ley lines?  The ability of spiritual/energetic perception is vital for anyone who works with spirits/energy, since if you can’t perceive what’s going on, you won’t be able to react to it.

3: Meditate.
This is big, and even though I’ve listed it here last, it really should be first and foremost in everybody’s lives, and not just magicians.  Jason Miller, Rufus Opus, and any number of magicians, occultists, priests, monks, and spiritualists have gone on at length about the importance of meditation, so I won’t describe the nuances or details here, nor will I talk too much at length about why it’s so important.  But I will say this: meditation is the art and practice of understanding and working with your own mind.  If you don’t understand how your mind works, and if you don’t know how to react to your own mind’s actions (especially the involuntary ones), you won’t know how to best use your mind.  Seeing how your mind is literally the place where everything happens for you, if you don’t have a basic grasp of how to work with your mind, you won’t be getting far in anything.

Meditation is basically mental exercise.  I’m not talking about strengthening the logical faculties with puzzles or the emotional ones with empathy, but strengthening how your mind itself acts underneath any other action.  The mind is crucial to everything we do.  Writing a novel?  You’ll want to organize your thoughts and focus on the story.  Coding a program?  You’ll need to form a clear design and take into account abstract and obscure exceptions.  Working in retail?  Keep your cool with people and don’t try to let them influence you when it’s your job to influence them.  Running a marathon?  Don’t let your body dissuade you from completing your goal with pessimism despite it being within your body’s ability.  Literally everything we do, from thinking to planning to seeing to hearing to wanting to getting to creating and beyond, takes place in the mind.  If your mind isn’t strong, you don’t have a strong foundation to build great things.

There are so many ways to meditate and any number of traditions have ten score more methods to do so, but I’m a fan of the simplest and most bare-bones way:

  1. Sit comfortably.  Wear relaxing, non-constrictive clothing and sit in a way that allows you to maintain focus without getting sleepy or sore.
  2. Observe your mind.  Just watch how thoughts come up and do their thing, but let them go on their own.  Let those random thoughts arise and fall without getting attached to them or following any train of thought.  If you realize you’re following a thought, become aware of it and let it go.
  3. Continue for a reasonable length of time.  If you’re just starting out, try five minutes.  Work your way up from there.
  4. Repeat daily.  You don’t need a lot of time for this, but I recommend it in the morning when you first get up before you even look at your phone.  If you want, try twice or more a day, but always regularly at least once.

You might get bored.  You might get distracted.  You might get worried or angry or sad or any number of things.  Good; let that happen and keep going.  I’m going to warn you: even the Dalai Lama sucks at meditation, and even the Buddha and the Christ themselves kept meditating because there was always more to do.  The thoughts that arise will, eventually, begin to slow down and relax until they stop arising entirely, even if it’s just for a split-second, and that’s awesome.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will continue longer and longer.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will themselves pass away into something deeper.

The more you meditate, the healthier you’ll be, both mentally and physically; you’ll be able to focus more, have a better grip of your emotions, direct your thoughts better, develop more complex thoughts more easily, manage your body and its voluntary and involuntary actions, remember more things that happen to you, and so much more.  Add to it, the spiritual benefits aren’t to be neglected, especially for magicians; with meditation, you’ll be able to understand what “your” thoughts are versus “something else’s” thoughts, which is crucial when spirits communicate with you (because there’s going to be a mental part of this, and if you can’t discern what they’re saying from what you say to yourself, you’re not going to get very far).  You’ll be able to discern what a thought is from a perception from an idea from a want from a need from a physical lust from an emotional attachment from a logical prerogative from a spiritual command.  You’ll be able to work with spirits better and develop other spiritual and psychic powers that you’ve only heard legends and myths about.  All from just sitting down and shutting up.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do your thing.  Experiment with what you like, read history, study techniques, talk with other occultists, take notes and journal entries, make a plan for what you want to accomplish, develop some crafting skills in a medium that catches your eye.  Conjure spirits, sacrifice to the gods, appease your ancestors, take an astral journey, go into the underworld, open your mind with entheogens, prophesy in the name of your patron, heal with energy and prayer.  For the sake of the gods, of the cosmos, and of your own self, just get to it!

In Terms of Another

A computer is a mechanical and/or electronic device.  It takes in electricity and input from a device like a keyboard or a mouse or a touchscreen, and uses electricity to perform logical operations on input.  The output is redirected and is used as further input or is used to display information on a device like a monitor or printer.  There are lots of models to show how computers work, from the mathematical (why input becomes particular output), physical (how supplied electricity is transformed into motion, light, or sound), and logical (how input and stored data is manipulated in an abstraction of a machine).  It does not, however, make sense to describe how computers work in terms of biology with cells, protein folding, evolution, and so forth.  The two are completely separate systems of knowledge and use different abstractions, terminologies, definitions, and assumptions.  Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to describe the involuntary actions and processes of a human body in terms of formal types, data representation, or logical operators.

Languages rely on complex rules of word formation, ordering, and meaning, collectively termed grammar and semantics.  An English sentence, such as the one you’re currently reading, is made intelligible through the rules of English grammar and the meanings of English words according to an agreed-upon dictionary.  It doesn’t make sense for an English sentence to be analyzed according to the grammar or lexicon of another language, like French or Chinese, because the rules and definitions don’t apply.  Comparisons can be drawn, and translations can be performed, but you can’t simply drop an English sentence into a Chinese input terminal and expect to get any processing done.  Further, you can’t analyze or make sense of an English sentence if you’re trying to describe it in terms of multivariate calculus.  The two are just radically different systems of knowledge with different purposes, uses, languages, and so forth.  They’re both useful and necessary, sure, but not in the same way, and can’t be used in place of each other.

So, given this, it annoys me when people try to make me explain, justify, or validate magic or the occult in terms of the laws of physics or other physical sciences.  It’s like trying to explain a computer in terms of biology, or English in terms of calculus.  You’re asking me to explain something spiritual and inherently non-physical in terms of the non-spiritual and physical?  I can’t do anything with that.  I don’t have the tools, the rules, the definitions, the terms, the background for what I need.  I can use philosophy to illustrate some of these things, sure, and religion to make sense of other things, but that’s like the English sentence/Chinese grammar situation above.

Am I saying that magic is completely detached from the physical world?  No. Am I saying that magic has no effect in the physical world, nor any measurable metrics?  No.  Magic does affect and can effect the physical world, but doing so can’t be described in an entirely physical model, because magic doesn’t directly affect the physical world like how observable physical processes do.  Magic assumes the backdrop of a chain of manifestation, it assumes things that aren’t physical and can’t (always?) be detected physically.  If you’re asking me to explain something spiritual and non-physical, and only allowing me physical explanations to do so, you’re setting me up for failure.  If you want to discuss spiritual matters, then let’s use spiritual methods, languages, and definitions; we can draw parallels or comparisons between the spiritual and nonspiritual, physical and nonphysical, and that’s awesome.  But I can’t explain something in terms of what it’s not and what it can’t be.  If you want to talk to me about spirituality, let’s talk in spiritual terms, or at least allow for the possibility of spirituality.

I understand that atheism is a growing worldview and mindset of modern people, and there’s a good reason why: it makes sense.  It makes do with the tools and observations we have at our disposal and starts from there to make sense of the world.  If there’s no evidence for something, it doesn’t make sense to believe it if there’s a simpler explanation out there that, even if it’s theoretical, if it’s plausible, it can be accepted (Occam’s razor).  However, just because there’s no evidence in the Universe for a particular thing doesn’t mean that it’s evidence against that particular thing, either; just because there’s no meaning supplied by the cosmos doesn’t mean that meaning is completely denied, either.  Plus, modern science is not the be-all-and-end-all of all knowledge: we are constantly discovering new things all the time, and we are constantly revamping or reconstructing our current models of understanding to make sense of more stuff.  Further, we try to use a consistent system of logic to prove that something is true, “consistent” meaning that a well-structured proof with true hypotheses will yield a true conclusion.  It is impossible that a consistent system of logic can prove all provable things; in other words, I know something that’s true and you can’t show that it’s true (Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem).  In order to prove that something-unprovably-true, you need to use another system of logic, another kind of science.

It even gets me more riled up when people say “let’s establish empirical reality here” and try to dismiss my point of view out of hand.  First, “empirical” means “known through experience or experimentation”.  In my experience, magic works, nonphysical entities exist in some nonphysical form and can be interacted with in nonphysical (and sometimes physical!) ways, and there are worlds and phenomena that exist and can be interacted with nonphysically.  In my repeated experiments, under a particular setting and environment, I can call up angels or demons and chat with them or achieve some goal or desired end.  This is my experience, this is my reality that I work with.  If you want to disregard my reality, fine, but don’t try to argue with me about it.  My experience is not your own, and your experience is not my own.  If you want to try to convince me that something doesn’t work, try doing the same experiments I have and obtaining the same experiences I have, and then get back to me.  Trying to use “objective reality” to dismiss my experiences doesn’t really work: (a) everything has to be perceived in some way or another, leading to a subjective experience of reality (b) “objective numbers” obtained by tools made by mankind also have to be interpreted, and are obtained by machines that return numbers geared for a specific physical phenomena that doesn’t capture all known or experienced knowledge, but only a highly-specific subset of desired (subjective) knowledge (c) the models of “objective reality” don’t reliably account for the experiences that I and countless other people have.

Don’t try to ask me about my worldview if you’re just going to dismiss it.  It’s apparent from how you refer to me and my hobbies, that don’t influence or affect you, how you feel about them.  Feel what you want, please!  But if you don’t know about occultism, if you don’t want to know about occultism, and if you’re dead set against the possibility of occultism, don’t try to have me waste my breath or keystrokes to explain myself.  If you’re just going to call me crazy, save all of us the time and do so, and let me ignore you in peace.  If you don’t want to listen to me, ignore me!  I’m not going to be offended.  Magic isn’t for everyone.  Neither is any given religion, neither is art, neither is philosophy, neither is any given sport, neither is any given field of science.  But they all have worth, they all have meaning, and they’ve all been around for thousands of years for a reason.  Don’t try to discredit any one of them just because it doesn’t make sense in another one.

I don’t believe and work with this stuff for the hell of it.  What I do isn’t random and it isn’t haphazard.  What I do is researched, contemplated, discussed, planned, worked out, described, and analyzed.  The results I get are compared to my expectations, previous results I’ve obtained, and the results of others.  If I were crazy, I sure as hell wouldn’t be putting in as much effort or documentation into what I do.  If I had multiple personality disorder, I must be unique in being able to control when I talk to a particular alt-Polyphanes under certain circumstances.  If I were just deceiving myself, it’s gotta be a pretty damn big deception on a NWO-conspiracy-scale to be documented and discussed for as long as there’s been writing, and longer.  What I do isn’t physical and isn’t geared towards the physical or mathematical.  I wouldn’t use algebra to generate a change in consciousness; I wouldn’t use a computer to explain to me how to be happy.  Why ask me to explain spiritual things with physical processes?  It doesn’t work. I use physical and material processes to affect the world in terms of energy and matter; I use spiritual and mental processes to affect the world in terms of thought and spirit.  The two don’t mix.

It largely comes down to an issue of worldview and values.  If you believe that the ultimate expression and mode of reality is material reality, and that only material reality is the only thing of value and worth, awesome.  That’s not my philosophy, and I don’t expect my own philosophy to be yours.  My philosophy is that material reality is only one part of a grander part of reality, with each part being interactive and interactable.  If that’s not your philosophy, awesome.  But don’t try to say, explicitly or implicitly, that your worldview or philosophy is better than mine, because you don’t have the grounds to do that.  Logic doesn’t work in terms of things of worth or value, and I would hate to see someone supposedly so rational and logical to be so illogical in their approach and discussions when they continue to claim to be even more logical and rational than I am.  Hell, even more than logic, what I want is open-mindedness.  You don’t have to accept that what I do is sensible, you don’t have to accept the background or frameworks I’m working with, but please accept that it’s not baseless, not without cause, and not without effect.  Ascribe whatever physical explanation you want to it, be it psychological or pathological or whatever, but know that in doing so you’re trying to compare, not just apples and oranges, but apples and anvils.

In the words of the archdruid John Michael Greer:

The apotheosis of this sort of thinking is Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Clarke, who was among the best of SF authors; it’s hardly blameworthy that he shared misunderstandings of magic that were all but universal in his culture. The point remains that since magic does not do what technology does, and vice versa, the Third Law should properly be renamed Clarke’s Fallacy; no matter how advanced a technology may be, it does the kind of thing technologies do—that is to say, it manipulates matter and energy directly, which again is what magic does not do. I’d like to propose, in fact, an alternative rule, which I’ve modestly titled Greer’s Law: “Anyone who is unable to distinguish between magic and any technology, however advanced, doesn’t know much about magic.”

There.  My obligatory occultist’s rant on being accosted by hardline atheists.  I’m allowed to rant on my own blog, after all.  If you want to talk to me about the possibility of magic in a spiritual setting, that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame, and I’d be up for that.  But let’s keep stuff within the same discipline and language, alright?  Thanks.