Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jesus The Magician (Post 2: Chapter 1 Summary)

(Prior posts in the series are located in Category "Jesus the Magician")

Chapter 1-

Here the author argues that our knowledge of Jesus stems primarily from the four canonical gospels, other New Testament texts, as well as other early Christian texts (especially writings from among the Church Fathers).* As a foundation for an understanding of Jesus these sources are problematic. Firstly, a vast amount of those who have concerned themselves with these texts have not been historians but rather theologians who have been concerned with making the documents justify their own theological positions. Secondly, the gospels themselves are problematic in that they often contradict themselves. Also, the gospels were not written as history, but were instead composed with the intent to confirm and produce faith in Jesus as “Christ.” Thus, these texts render not a historical Jesus but the Christ of faith.

It is pointed out by Smith that the noted disparity between the idea of a historical Jesus and a Jesus of faith was taken up by liberal scholars who began to search for the “real” Jesus that lay underneath the blanket of a mythological Jesus. Such an endeavor is criticized by the author. Firstly, such studies proved to be virtually useless in that most everything found in the gospels turned out to be mythological. Virtually nothing of a historical Jesus was found. Secondly, the presupposition that there exists a disparity between a Christ of faith as a mythological figure and a Jesus of history that is free from mythological presuppositions is erroneous in itself. It is emphasized that Jesus and his contemporaries were deeply steeped in a mythological world. Thus the thoughts and teachings of Jesus would surely reflect the mythological underpinnings of his age. As a consequence, mythological material in the gospels may indeed reflect historical accounts.

While the author does not dismiss the view of Jesus (Jesus the Son of God) that has emerged from the principle texts (see above), he does draw attention to the fact that they all stem from those who were in some fashion believers in Jesus (however they understood Jesus and the events of his life). It is the author’s position that a well rounded picture of Jesus can only emerge by taking into consideration what the non-believers in Jesus had to say about him as well. However, any account of what these non-believers had to say will be fraught with difficulty and will need to be reconstructed from the fragments of those texts that have survived the Church’s campaign to expunge all traces of “heretical” works beginning in the fourth century with the rule of Emperor Constantine.

*It does not appear that Morton Smith had access to the Nag Hammadi library at the time of the printing of Jesus the Magician.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jesus The Magician (Post 1: Introduction)

Many moons ago, when I was just a college lad, I came across an intriguing book by Morton Smith entitled Jesus the Magician. However, for reasons that I can only now surmise, I never read the book. I would have probably gotten around to reading it eventually had not my interest in Buddhism and all things Eastern replaced my interest in New Testament studies. Today, with an ever increasing interest in magic, Morton’s book has once again piqued my interest.

In Jesus the Magician Morton Smith contends that two prevailing interpretations of Jesus and his “ministry” emerged among the populace of the ancient world who had something to say about the Jesus event. The first interpretation - namely, “Jesus the Son of God,” was the position taken among those followers of Jesus who would eventually triumph in establishing their view as orthodox. The second interpretation – namely, “Jesus the Magician,” was an emerging understanding of Jesus that coexisted with the “Son of God” interpretation but was later expunged from the scene with the mass destruction of its textual sources starting at the time of emperor Constantine in 326 A.D.

In the next several weeks I will be posting chapter summaries of Jesus the Magician as I work my way through the text. It is my hope that these summaries will be of interest to those who have an academic interest in what it meant to be a first century magician in Palestine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Will The Real Truth Please Stand Up.

A few days ago I had a brief discussion with Kalvin. The conversation was short and not very meaningful UNTIL I questioned myself as to whether Kalvin was a real entity or a delusion. Was I conversing with an entity or was I making the whole conversation up in my head? Kalvin got a little irritated that I continued to question his/her existence and instantly demonstrated to me how easy it would be for me to accept his/her existence. In that moment I oscillated between holding Kalvin to be a reality and doubt. This then set off a series of meditations on the nature of reality, belief, truth, knowledge, and reality manipulation. What appears below is some of my thoughts regarding the aforementioned topics. They are recorded here primarily for my own benefit… to establish a foundation for future explorations into my developing models of reality and their practical applications. If anyone gains some benefit from what follows, so much the better.

t=subjective truth/belief

T=objective truth/the real

K= True Knowledge

All human knowledge is subjective truth or belief (t). Such knowledge should be considered as truth claims based upon personal experience and thought. Only when a truth claim or belief (t) corresponds to an objective truth that exists independently of an individual’s thoughts (T) can such a claim or belief be considered True Knowledge. This model assumes that objective truth (T) exists and can be known. Question: By what mechanism can one gauge whether or not one’s subjective truths or beliefs (t) correspond to objective truth (T) and are thus True Knowledge (K)? Tentative answer: We are stuck with our own thoughts and experiences. We have no way of getting outside of ourselves, so we have no means by which to acquire True Knowledge (K) of objective truth (T). This does not deny the reality of objective truth (T), it merely indicates our inability to know that we posses True Knowledge (K).

If the above is correct, then we only have access to subjective truth (t) that is, for any number of reasons, erroneously elevated to True Knowledge (K). If all human knowledge is subjective truth (t), then no truth claim (t) is any truer than another (though it may be more advantageous to adhere to a particular truth claim over another). Ignoring the implications of this position on a large scale (forms of relativism), I would like to consider the impact of this position upon the individual. Knowing that one’s truths are subjective (t) is not the same as accepting them to be without reason or justification. They are bolstered by one’s experiences and thoughts. A person has a huge repertoire of experiences and thoughts to draw upon. Theoretically, such thoughts and experiences could be intentionally utilized to create beliefs or truths (t) that supersede those to which one already adheres. This is similar to the notion of paradigm shifting espoused by some Chaos magicians. I personally feel that paradigm shifting, if at all truly possible (I still question its possibility), is much more difficult and involved than what I am suggesting here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Heal Or Not To Heal - That Was The Question.

Recently I received notice that a family member is terminally ill and that she is expected to live only a couple of months. Upon hearing the news I was initially quite resigned to her eventual passing. I simply accepted her doctor’s prognosis and considered her plight to be an unalterable condition caused by cells run amok. But then I thought, “Unalterable condition? By what authority do I deem a situation to be unalterable?” I could come up with no good answer to this question. It then occurred to me that if magic works, I mean if it really works, then there is a chance that my magic could change the course of events for this individual. I am ashamed to admit that I was at first somewhat reluctant to commit myself towards magical healing. A whole host of thoughts plagued my mind. Probably the most determining factor was a lack of connection to this individual. We are not particularly close and have not spoken to each another in twenty-some-odd years. In other words, I was somewhat apathetic to her suffering. I also considered the magical probability of altering her illness at this late stage to be very low. Since I am just starting a magical career, would not a major magical failure be detrimental to my practice? Besides, I doubted myself and my magical abilities. How could anything I do have an effect? At some point I was taken aback by these thoughts. Was I really that callous? Was I really more concerned about the effects of a botched healing on my practice (if that should occur) than with the health of a family member? Eventually I mustered the emotional empathy to do a working on her behalf by recognizing that we are connected despite our alienation and that her death will have a impact on those who love her.

Because I am a relative newcomer to magic my repertoire of healing techniques is severely limited. I have been doing some sigil work (both graphic and mantric varieties) and plan to begin working with Bhaisajyaguru (the Medicine/Healing Buddha) and his mantra within a day or two. I now realize that my failure to do something would be far more detrimental to me that any failed magical endeavor could be. If my tenacity will allow, I plan to continue working on her behalf until I hear or her recovery or death.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Death To The Demon Retalitonis

I have been thinking about Retalitonis on and off since I first blogged about him awhile back (read about it here). While it is true that Retalitonis’ influence has been practically nil since that entry, I have come to feel that my relationship with Retalitonis would not be completely eradicated until I did a proper banishing ritual. So, about two hours ago I undertook just such a banishing. First I created an image of Retalitonis. Then I printed his picture and drew his seal alongside his likeness.

After placing the image a short distance in front of me, I performed the Kabbalistic Cross and the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I then lit a white candle and called upon Kalvin (see here and here) to come and oversee the ritual. I asked him/her to both guide and protect me. I then called Retalitonis out from me and ordered him into his likeness in front of me. After binding Retalitonis to his image, I again performed the KC and LBRP and gave a license to depart (overkill I know). I then took Retalitonis’ image and ritually slayed him by piercing his image and seal with a ritual dagger. The image was then placed inside a glass jar and burned outside (I don’t know if it was the ink or the type of paper, but this paper was extremely difficult to burn).

Tomorrow the ritual will be complete after I toss the glass jar containing Retalitonis’ ashes into a nearby river.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making A Meal Of My Magic

The ingestion of sacred or holy substances has a long history in religious, magical and mystical traditions. Having been influenced by Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics, I have been trying to come up with a way of utilizing a “sacred meal” in my daily life. The ritual below is what I have come up with. I present it here simply as an example of how I have devised a way of incorporating magic into my everyday existence. If it gives another some ideas of their own, so much the better.

Ritual of Increase


Bake some unleavened bread

and cut into wedges.

Take one of the wedges and break/cut into roughly ½ to 1 inch portions and place the pieces into an airtight container/wrapper. These broken portions will serve as the sacred meal (“Sacred Amplifier”) for the next few days. Place the remaining wedges in the freezer for future use. Remove a single wedge from the freezer as needed.

Ritual Proper:

Upon awaking from sleep or shortly thereafter take the Sacred Amplifier (a piece of the unleavened bread) from its container and face east. Hold the Sacred Amplifier in the open palm of your left hand. Your right hand should be open with palm supporting the left hand. Either stand or kneel while looking at the Sacred Amplifier and say:

From my hands you have been created…Earth from Earth.
You are bread, sustainer of body through the ages.

From my will you have been created anew…Spirit and Earth.
You are the Sacred Amplifier, promoter of magical increase through the ages.

With your ingestion my ability to transform myself and my environment according to my will becomes amplified.

Consume the Sacred Amplifier to complete the ritual.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Is the Make And Model Of Your Magic?

Last week while driving to work I quite unexpectedly took notice of the many vehicles that shared the same road as me. I wondered what each of the many different vehicles said about the way their owners felt about themselves. Did that sturdy flatbed truck indicate that its owner feels (or wants to be perceived as) rugged? Did that outrageously expensive vehicle indicate that its owner feels (or wants to be perceived as) financially successful? Did that sleek speed demon indicate that its owner feels (or wants to be perceived as) powerful? In all honesty I do not know what (if any) feelings those objects speeding past me reflected from their owners. I do know from experience, however, that the vehicle one drives can be a window to the soul. When I was a teen a low riding Firebird would have said it all for me. In my case, however, owning a Firebird would not have said much about how I felt about myself. It would have spoken a great deal about how I wanted others to see me, however. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I could not afford to own that tiny bit of heaven and had to settle for a Plymouth Duster. While my Plymouth Duster did not speak as eloquently to others as I imagined a Firebird would have, it did say enough about me to suffice.

Anyway, while pondering the many vehicles speeding by and the personalities they may or may not reflect, I asked myself what if anything my vehicle reflected about me. While my Toyota Highlander may say a great deal about me to others, I quickly realized that I was not intentionally projecting anything through it to others. Feelings/thoughts about myself and my vehicle remained separate.

As so often happens nowadays when I think, my thoughts eventually turned to my magical practices and I asked myself if the practices I am engaged in are in any way connected to my feelings about myself or a need to present myself to others in a particular fashion. What I learned is that my current magical pursuits are much akin to my Highlander. My magical practices and how I feel about myself appear to be like water and oil. Oddly, this does not seem to be the case when I consider “demon” work. I have no interest in working with “demons.” However, I realize that the idea of working with “demons” does indeed invoke feelings of extraordinariness and power within me. What is more, I can see myself using “demon” work to project these feelings outward to demonstrate just how extraordinary and powerful I am.

So, my question to you is…”Are your magical practices and your feelings/thoughts about yourself intertwined and do you use those practices in a way that projects those thoughts/feelings to others?” As a follow-up I would ask…”Is using your magic to cause others to see you as you wish to be seen something negative?” I think it can be if you are lying to yourself as to why you are engaged in your practices or your particular tradition. If you are engaged with practices or a tradition in order to paint some picture of yourself in the eyes of others while telling yourself that you do so for other reasons, then you cheat yourself of the true benefits of working with those practices or that tradition.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Job Openings For Unemployed Magicians

Are you unemployed and looking for a good job with great benefits? The Catholic Church is looking for professional exorcists. Just one have to become a priest. Interested individuals should read here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some Thoughts On The Great Work And Planetary Magick

For whatever reason, I am currently drawn to planetary magick and will probably be concentrating my efforts on acquiring more knowledge (and hopefully experience) on this segment of occult learning. Presently, I am reading Practical Planetary Magick by David Rankine and Sorita D’Este. I am not sure if this one source will be enough to get me where I want to be, but it certainly seems to be a decent introduction to the material. While I am mentioning reading material, I would like to give a plug to an article concerning the Olympic Spirits and their relationship to the planetary spheres/powers/gods by Nick Farrell. I found this article to be well worth the read.

As of late the idea of the “Great Work” (magnum opus) has been on my mind. Whether or not the concept of the Great Work has always had a spiritual dimension is debatable and I leave it to the reader to reach their own conclusions. Despite this, the term “Great Work” has come for many to signify the culmination of one’s spiritual pursuit. Apparently, exactly what the culmination of one’s spiritual pursuit consists of varies a great deal from author to author and from tradition to tradition. Some see it as a completion of one’s work while others, such as Crowley, intimate that it is a never ending quest (although some of his thoughts on the Great Work would seem to contradict this). What I have found rather frustrating is that many of the so-called definitions of the Great Work are so general that they are essentially useless to me. They are like someone suggesting that I get a diploma without anyone delineating the subjects of study and necessary requirements. When discussing the Great Work I think it would be advantageous to clearly articulate the qualities or characteristics that the Great Work bestows. At least that way, I can see the target and determine if I want to shoot my arrow in another direction.

One of the explanations that I have seen on multiple occasions concerning the Great Work with respect to planetary magick is that the term “Great Work” represents the culmination of the balancing within oneself of the seven planetary powers. This equalization of the seven planetary powers is oftentimes graphically expressed by the septagram (pictured below).

Balance in one’s life is certainly needed. However, I wonder if simply balancing the powers is enough. I tend to think that the planetary powers would manifest within an individual along a continuum ranging from the weak side to the strong side. If this is the case, then there is certainly a qualitative difference between a balance that occurs on the weak side as opposed to one that occurs on the strong side. Is one type of balance to be preferred over another? It is a judgment call, but my gut reaction is that a balance toward the strong end is to be preferred. An implication of this is that the Great Work would become, if the continuum is infinite on either end, a process rather than an end. But then again, maybe a balance at the zero point should be preferred. I certainly have much to think about.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Behold, I Have Seen Heaven

Exactly what is a mystical experience? I’m not entirely sure. There have been many attempts to define it, so the reader has ample reading material should he or she choose to explore this topic further. In addition to the link above, the reader can find an introduction to the mystical experience here. While I have actively sought to induce mystical experiences, I have never been able to do so. However, I have had two extraordinary experiences that might fall into the “mystical” category that have come upon me without any conscious effort on my part. The first relates to my first and only evocation-invocation some twenty-eight years ago. The experience entailed a type of union with the location of the magical working. I am not sure if I was imprinted in the earth or the earth was imprinted within me. All I knew was that this spot of ground and I were inexorably linked for eternity. Part of me would remain here even after death. The second experience certainly has a location component, but is more of a situation experience than a location experience. This was by far the most powerful “mystical” experience I have had, trumping the evocation-invocation experience by miles. It took place many years ago on a cold crisp winter morning here (except there was abundant snow on the ground at the time).

I had taken my youngest daughter sledding in this park. As I watched my daughter trudge through the snow while pulling her purple sled behind her I was totally overcome by a vision of what heaven would be like. It would be my persisting in a timeless moment of that very instant. It would be a timeless moment where I and my daughter with her purple sled would play in the snow while my wife and eldest daughter awaited our return for lunch. It was a perfect moment. I hope I go to heaven when I die.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Your Wand Talks, You Should Listen

Well, there it is… my wand, in all its glory, still incomplete after two years. Around two years ago I purchased the wooden dowel from Magicians-R-Us (aka Walmart) and dedicated it to the Art at 3:00am under a full moon on a particularly auspicious morning. It was later coated with a consecrated white paint (purity of will/ intent/spirit) and then covered with a consecrated red paint (action/fire/will). At the time, red was suggestive of the strength or force needed to banish. At one end I painted the colors of the four elements and drilled a shallow hole down the center of the wand. It was my intention to place some type of fibrous material that had been soaked in water that had been charged with the four elements into the hole and then to seal the hole. It was also my intention to paint the other side of the wand with the planetary colors and place some water charged with the planetary powers in that end as well. To complete the wand, it would have been sealed with polyurethane. Then I would have a duel functioning wand. By rotating the wand I could banish either the elemental powers or planetary powers by whichever end pointed forward. Alas, intentions alone seldom deliver.

For whatever reason, just as I was drifting off to sleep the other day, quite out of the blue, without any prior thought to my wand, I had a vision of how my wand should look. It was a VERY SIMPLE design. I was utterly astounded by this vision and began to question why I should scrap the old design in favor of the new. My wand gave me the answer. Here is what it said:

One of the reasons I remain unfinished after two years is not because you are lazy, but because you are not motivated. You do not feel any pressing need to use me or any other magical tool. You have discussed your inability to want things in a prior blog post (the post my wand is referring to can be read here). However, you only scratched the surface. What you need to realize is that I am incomplete because you are quite comfortable with your life in spite of your inability to admit it to be so. You fight against yourself, unwilling to acknowledge your happiness in order to avoid feeling as though you have “given up.” If you need proof that you are more content than you realize, just look at me and ask why I remain unfinished.

The other reason I remain a work in progress is on account of something that runs very deep within you. You have nearly always been a seeker of God, Truth, a spiritual path, etc. Yet you have never found any belief or belief system to call your home. When confronted with a given philosophy/religion/belief you say, “Yes, maybe, but….” Now, I need power to be effective. Because you lack an external source of power you must find the power within yourself to construct and empower me. Because you have no roadmap (an existing system) to guide you, your choices concerning my completion will require much time and deliberation on your part. But when you do complete me, I will be as powerful as any magical tool ever created.

I might also add that you tend to make things more complicated than they need be. I have given you a vision as to how I could look. Are you able to let go of your need for complexity in order to posses me?

What can you, the reader, take away from all this? You will probably take very little, as my wand’s comments were for me alone. But what about your wand, or any of your magical tools? What do they say to you? I would be inclined to pay special heed to anything they say in unison.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cages And Liberation

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were trapped in a cage, where you had limited maneuverability and were unable to escape? I think we have all felt like this at one time or another. It is my view that such situations feel like cages (and can be recognized as “cages”) because one dislikes the situation in which one finds oneself. Perhaps the “cage” is too small or is constructed from unappealing material. Perhaps the “cage” keeper is neglectful and you don’t get fed regularly or perhaps you are trapped inside with an unpleasant cage-mate. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that some situations become unpleasant “cages” from which you hope to be set free. What is not so obvious is that situations we seek out, enjoy and strive to preserve are no less “cages.” These situations are seldom seen as “cages” because they are willfully self-generated. Such “cages” may be constructed from the finest of materials, spacious, comfortable and intentionally entered, but they are “cages” none-the-less. They limit one’s arena of activity and determine one’s behavior.

This not-so-novel realization came upon me in full force this past weekend. I realized with a great deal of clarity just how much of a “cage” I had been building by pursing an academic career (you can read my laments about my failure to finish the “cage” here and here). An academic career did not appear to be a “cage” at the time I was joyfully pursing it, but I can now, in retrospect, see how such a career would have circumscribed my life. What is more, this realization was accompanied by an intense sense of freedom (more like euphoria) at the thought of being free to pursue avenues of interest and behavior that would never have been “permitted” had I completed my gilded “cage.”

So, the moral of the story is:

“Cages” can be unpleasant. Liberate yourself from them if you can. “Cages” can be pleasant. If you like your “cage” and want to remain in it, you might want to increase its size to allow more maneuverability. If you find that the “cage” you have been trying to build won’t stand, consider and rejoice in the freedom that you have.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Continue To Pursue Magic?

In my last blog post I discussed why I began to pursue magic. That post can be read here. Currently, I have been plagued by one question – Should I continue to pursue magic? As I have already discussed in my previous post, I hoped to use magical techniques in conjunction with my efforts to become more engaged with mundane matters. Again, as I have already stated, somewhere along my life’s journey a concern for matters of a practical nature fell to the wayside. I am fairly sure that my spirituality is primarily responsible for bringing me to this point. However, rather than viewing this as a positive state, I found it (perhaps erroneously) to be an extreme- I had gone too far in the spiritual direction. Again, magic was to play a role in redressing this issue. But magic, at least magic that is effective is hard work. Much time is needed to learn about magic and a great deal of time is needed to do magic. The more I learn and practice magic the more my spiritual side screams out…”magic is a distraction to what is important.” So I find myself in the middle of a battle between my perceived need to willfully engage the world and the cry of my spirit to abandon mundane concerns. So, is magic that is used for practical issues a distraction that should be set aside?  Maybe it is so for me now, as a neophyte magus who needs to exert a great deal of time and energy to learn the Art. Perhaps magic will become less of a distraction as I gain familiarity with its use. Like the Buddha, I seek the Middle Path here. Unfortunately, that path is covered by undergrowth and hard to find.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Pursue Magic?

Why did I pursue magic? One obvious answer might be that I did so in order to attain my desires. While this may be a common motivation for many individuals, I now think that initially I began to pursue the study of magic in earnest not to get those things I desired but, somewhat paradoxically, in order to get those things that I did not yet desire. For whatever reason I thought magic would be a valuable tool to assist me in evoking or manifesting things in my life. Learning to evoke was important because I had reached a point in my life where I just accepted every turn of fate with no resistance. Whatever happened…happened.  My path in life had functioned like a banishing ritual where the motivation to strive for or accomplish anything had been expunged from me.  Some may say that this state of being is the true goal of the mystic or contemplative. For me, however, it was what is known in Buddhist parlance as an extreme.  It was an extreme of the unconcern for practical matters. I realized that I would never be a hermit or recluse; the vows I held precluded my withdrawal and kept me bound to the world. As such, my lack of concern with practical issues needed to be redressed.  For whatever reason I chose magic as the tool that would help correct this imbalance.  To my dismay, however, my will to evoke has not increased in proportion to my magical knowledge and I now find myself with a set of untapped skills. I find myself hard put to unearth ways to employ my magic. In many ways it is easier for me to identify those things that I do not want as opposed to those things I do want. I don’t want harm to come to my family, for example. I suppose turning such negatives into positives might be helpful. The desire for safety for my family might be something I could work with.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Road Trip Meditation

I have found that many books on meditation, especially those designed for beginners, advise the reader to set aside a certain portion of the day to meditate and to meditate at this prescribed time every day. Working one’s meditations in this fashion is helpful in that it provides a structured schedule for meditation. All too often daily life can be very demanding of one’s attention. Without a schedule, or by practicing willy-nilly, one may find that the day (or days!) passes without having turned to one’s zafu.

Despite its advantages, scheduled meditation has its drawbacks as well. Firstly, it limits one’s meditation to the time set specifically aside for practice. If one’s mediation session lasts an hour, one misses out on 23 hours of potentially available cultivation time. Secondly, one may become so accustomed to one’s meditation schedule that one comes to feel that meditation can only be done during the prescribed time.

While a meditation schedule can be helpful, especially for the beginner, I would suggest that as one becomes accustomed to meditation that one allows one’s meditations to permeate the day. In my case, I have more-or-less abandoned any form of scheduled practice. My mind has become so attuned to seeking out meditation that I meditate at every available opportunity. I meditate before going to sleep, taking a shower, while waiting in the doctor’s office, during TV commercials, etc. In other words, I seek out meditation whenever and wherever possible. Keep in mind that meditation is a mental exercise. One does not need to be burning incense or be sitting in the lotus posture to be engaged in effective meditation. If you engage meditation in this way, your day will (more-or-less) be filled with the cultivation of your mind and no one will suspect that you are doing anything out of the ordinary.

Recently, I have incorporated the act of driving into my meditations. Usually, one is advised to avoid meditating while operating a motor vehicle. This, I believe, is sound advice if one’s mediation takes one’s thoughts and awareness away from the task of driving. My method of driving meditation does quite the opposite, however. I limit my thoughts and awareness exclusively to the task of driving. Of course, I do not always succeed. My mind often slips and I am mentally a thousand miles away from my Toyota Highlander. If anything, my mediation has shown me how mentally absent I generally am when I get behind the wheel (I do not mean to suggest that I am an unsafe driver, which I am not. While my awareness remains centered upon the task of driving, my thoughts tend to wander. I suspect most people share in this).

My driving meditation is simple, yet difficult to perform. The task is to train the mind so that no thought unrelated to the task of driving will arise. When an errant thought does arise it is, once noted, expunged from the mind. To aid myself in this meditation I fill my mind with “driving thoughts” in order to help block stray thoughts from entering my mind. I now do this mediation whenever I am driving and am alone in the vehicle.

A typical “driving meditation” might read something like –

My speed is 30 MPH… I am approaching a stop sign so I need to slow down….stepping on break…slowing…stopped…nothing to the right or left…stepping on the gas… accelerating…no one behind me… people crossing the street ahead…(errant thought)… it is becoming difficult to see because of the rain that is starting….turning on windshield wipers…(errant thought)…there is a red light ahead…slowing down… stopped…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light… (errant thought)…etc.

*I believe this mediation is safe to undertake while driving. In fact, it may enhance one’s safety since it forces one to keep one’s thoughts on the task at hand – namely, driving. However, these are my personal opinions. Should anyone choose to meditate while driving, they do so at their own risk. I take no responsibility for any ill effects caused by meditating in the fashion described above.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Gift To My Daughter

Recently my daughter experienced some social relations difficulty with some friends at school. It was nothing too serious, just your typical teenage angst. Nevertheless, it was very upsetting to her and the situation caused some emotional turmoil at home and a great number of tears. I really wanted to help her resolve her difficulties but she was not interested in letting me in on her dilemma. Her mother got to assist this time. I guess teenage girls find their fathers inept when they become a woman of 14 years of age. While I was not able to be of assistance to her when she needed some guidance, I saw that her recent experience gave me the opportunity to provide her with a valuable gift. Unfortunately, now that she is 14, she has no real interest in listening to any “words of wisdom” that come from her father. However, since she enjoys being mentioned in my blog, she might, when she learns that I have mentioned her here, be inclined to read this post and, hopefully, make use of the gift I am about to give her. I hope she heeds my words as Harry Potter would the words of his mentor, Albus Dumbledore (she is a HP fan). I am sure that many of you out there have received this gift and are using it well. It never hurts to remind oneself that they have this gift, however. Sometimes it remains unused in some dusty corner of the mind. I know I have been guilty of failing to apply this gift at times. It is for these reasons that I offer my gift here.

A GIFT TO MY DAUGHTER (and anyone else who finds it of value)

As long as you are an ordinary human being you will have painful or negative experiences in life. It is unavoidable. While you may not be able to change a negative experience into a positive experience, you certainly can use a negative experience to create something positive in your life. All painful or negative experiences have something to teach us. Look for the lesson or lessons the experience has to teach you. What does it teach you about other people and the world in which you live? Most importantly, what does it teach you about yourself? Such knowledge will show you who you are and, if you are unhappy with the reflection you see, who you might want to strive to become. While this gift may seem common and of little value, it is quite the opposite. But for this gift to be of value it must be used. I hope, dear daughter, that you use this gift in your life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Enlightenment: Static or Dynamic?

Taylor Ellwood has given his thoughts and critique of enlightenment here. I have posted my comments to his post below because there seems to be some problem with his blog. I can get his posts in my Google reader, but when I follow the link back to his blog page to comment I get an “Error 404” page (this is occurring only for September posts). I tried leaving my comments on his YouTube page but I am longwinded and it will not accept the totality of what I have written.

I would be interested in hearing from you as to how you arrived at your understanding of enlightenment. I have some familiarity with Buddhism and have never heard of enlightenment described as you have done. As I understand it, Buddhists generally see the enlightened mind of a Buddha as consisting of two unique components, namely – liberating wisdom and compassion. This mind is not static, as you say, but is an active mind where wisdom is dynamically expressed through compassionate action. Stories of the historical Buddha’s life after his enlightenment clearly illustrate this. According to tradition, the Buddha did not rest in a “static primal goop”, but rather engaged living beings in a way (e.g., as a teacher) that fostered the birth of wisdom in other mind streams. In fact, if I am not mistaken, tradition maintains that a Buddha must teach in order to qualify as a Buddha. A Buddha that is not actively engaged in helping others along the Buddhist path is NO Buddha. It seems to me that your concept of a “static” enlightenment has much to do with an erroneous understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of no-self (anatma). The anatma doctrine does not deny the existence of individual persons. Persons are counted among existing things (dharmas) in the early Abhidharma literature. Typically, a “person” is a term used to refer to a particular grouping of the five heaps (skandhas) that make up an individual – namely, form, feeling, perceptions, will and consciousness. What the anatma doctrine refutes is an all-pervading, eternal and unchanging atman (self) among the impermanent components of existence (dharmas).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Reincarnation Game

The idea of reincarnation, that living beings transmigrate from one life to another in a cycle of birth, death and rebirth, has been advanced by many diverse religious and philosophical traditions down through the ages. For many of these traditions the process of reincarnation is viewed negatively, as something to be either eradicated or transcended.

Personally, I have never been able to adopt the idea that living beings reincarnate. Moreover, I have not been able to adopt the belief that any type of existence whatsoever awaits those who relinquish their corporeal existence. Nevertheless, if reincarnation was in indeed a reality, I would certainly view it as something positive. The chance to experience life again, even though it be rife with suffering, would, to my mind, be preferable to the nothingness that I suspect awaits me at the end of my journey.

Recently, I decided to play a little game with myself and imagine that reincarnation was indeed a reality. I then asked myself if there was anything in my life that might be a mental or emotional carryover from a previous life. Below is what I came up with:

1) I have always had an extreme aversion to having things touch the anterior portion of my neck. While it is extremely uncomfortable to wear a tie, I can manage it for a short time. Turtleneck sweaters I can absolutely not endure. A simple touch of my throat area will generally cause me to cower. My wife has always joked that I must have been either hung or strangled in a previous life. Hmmmm, maybe I had.

2) Occasionally, perhaps three or four times a year at most, I will have an experience that is difficult to qualify. It is strictly a physical experience without any accompanying conceptuality. The sensation is localized within the upper chest and face, principally in the inner chest, mouth, throat and nasal areas. It is neither a pleasant nor unpleasant sensation. It lasts but a few seconds and then dissipates. I have not been able to ascertain a catalyst for the experience, but it seems to arise during moments of relative passivity - lying in bed, watching television, riding in a car. I have, with some concentrated effort, been able to induce this experience once or twice in my lifetime by merely thinking about it. I have come to think of this sensation as a memory of some type of kinesthetic experience from early childhood, perhaps a feeding experience during infancy. Perhaps this “memory” stems from an experience prior to my birth.

3) When I was very young I had a recurring dream. This particular dream would occur infrequently, maybe four or five times a year. When I stopped having the dream is not known, but I suspect that it had ceased to invade my sleep by my teens. The dream would commence with me and my family (not necessarily my real family) in our house’s living room just moments before sunset. We would all be engaged in some action that we knew would need to be ceased upon the setting of the sun, because if any noise was made after sunset, the horrible monster-man would come up from the cellar and drag the noise-making culprit down into the basement where he would toss him/her into the furnace. Needless to say, I was the one who invariably made some incredibly small sound and wound up tossed head first into the furnace. Now, I have always wondered about this dream. Why did I have it and why did it replay itself repeatedly throughout my youth? I have always just assumed that it was a common nightmare where a child’s fear of the basement was transformed into a Bogeyman dream. However, when I played my little reincarnation game, this dream was the first thing to enter my thoughts. It reminded me of the story of Anne Frank and how she and the others with her were discovered hiding in an upstairs attic and sent to a concentration camp. Now, I am in no way suggesting that I was Anne or any of the others who were hiding with her. But the linking of my dream to the story of Anne Frank got me thinking. Could this dream, with its theme of abduction and death by furnace, have been an intrusion of a past life memory into my dreams? Might I have been a Holocaust victim? It is interesting to speculate.

4) Recently, during certain moments of death contemplation, I will have the “feeling” that I have experienced a Bardo-type state before. I have no rational explanation for this.

5) When my youngest daughter was no more than two years old I asked her where she lived before she was born. She stated, without hesitation, “Japan.” Needless to say, I found her reply fascinating. I wondered where she picked up that word and how she knew that it was a place. Kids learn the darndest things. Or maybe she remembered it! Incidentally, she was born with a Mongolian spot on her tushy, which is especially prevalent among children of East Asian descent. (OK, technically this is not something in my life that suggests I may have lived before, but it does have some relevance to my discussion of reincarnation. Besides, my daughter will get a kick out of her cameo in my blog…except the part where I mention her tukhus [from the Yiddish תּחת tokhes, meaning butt]. )

So, what have I taken away from all of this? I’m not sure. It was an interesting exercise, but I’m not sure if it had any value other than being a mental workout. What about you…do you subscribe to the notion of reincarnation? If so, tell me about your past life(s). If not, what anomalous things in your life might be indications of a past life? Play the reincarnation game and leave your comments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cernunnos and his sexually deviant older brother, Pashupati.

Recently, Cernunnos and his ExtenZe enhanced penis have been getting some attention over at V.V.F. Here the author, with a tad bit of humor, bemoans what he/she perceives to be an unhealthy sexual undercurrent found among many Pagan/Wiccan communities. You can read the author’s two posts here and here.

In the first post, the author wonders why Cernunnos, who appears rather prudish on the Gundestrup Cauldron, should be denied his clothing in many modern portrayals.

The rather dapper Cernunnos

Now, I personally have never met Cernunnos, but I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with his sexually deviant older brother, Pushupati.

The ithyphalic Pashupati

Unfortunately, as so often happens between siblings attending school years apart, a younger sibling will be conflated with an older brother or sister. This may just be the case here. Perhaps the author’s concerns would be alleviated if those confused Pagans/Wiccans realized their mistake and became Shaivites.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rethinking My Soul Mirrors

In the first chapter of Initiation into Hermetics, Franz Bardon offers a method for identifying and categorizing one's negative and positive qualities. As detailed by Bardon, the student is instructed to construct two “soul mirrors”: a black mirror forged from one's negative qualities and a white mirror forged from one's positive qualities. By engaging in this method, the student lays the foundation for techniques of self-transformation that are discussed latter in the book.

Several years ago I worked this method with, what I now perceive to be, limited success. Looking back upon my initial dealings with my soul mirrors I realize that I was too eager to get past this portion of my schooling to get to the more “magical” aspects of my training. Recently, I have been preparing to reconstruct my mirrors in the hopes that they will be more useful (note that I say “useful” and not “detailed”).

Why have I not yet begun the work? Unlike my first undertaking, I now perceive a problem that has delayed my progress. Initially, I just thought about all the negative and positive qualities that have manifested in my life. It was not too difficult and the lists became rather lengthy (though my black soul mirror was easier to build than my white). Today, however, I find myself perplexed over the very nature of “positive” and “negative” soul qualities or characteristics. What does it mean to be a “positive” or “negative” quality and who decides which qualities are positive and which are negative?

Now, two sources can be identified for the knowledge of positive/good and negative/bad. The first is a source external to the individual, whether it is one's particular culture, parents or religion. The other, is some innate sense of the positive or negative (because I do not ascribe to an innate sense of good and bad, I will have nothing more to say on this issue). From my experience, the transmission of the understanding of positive/good and negative/bad from an external source to an individual can (and often does) occur in such a way as to present the various qualities as either inherently positive/good or negative/bad. In this world, such qualities as anger, hatred, and jealousy, for example, are always identified as negative while qualities such as kindness, loyalty, and truthfulness are always identified as positive. Upon reflection, I now see that this is exactly how I understood the positive and negative qualities of my fist soul mirrors. In other words, I have for the most part, merely accepted the dictates of some external source as to what constitutes good and bad personal characteristics. Holding a given quality as inherently positive or negative clearly has its advantages when it comes to constructing one's soul mirrors. It makes identification of positive or negative qualities rather effortless. In my case, I simply brought to mind all the positive and negative qualities I could think of and then determined if I had experienced them in my life. If I had, they were included within their respective mirrors. I now, however, find this method to be uncritical, superficial, and in need of revision.

Recently, after some reflection, I find myself taking the view that a particular quality is situationally positive or negative rather than inherently so. Thus, for me, a quality becomes negative if it causes adverse, undesirable, or unpleasant consequences in one’s life and positive if it causes favorable, desirable, or pleasant consequences in one’s life. This view is very much akin to the prevailing Buddhist view of negative and positive qualities. Here, however, certain qualities are negative because they always lead to adverse consequences while certain other qualities are positive because they always lead to favorable consequences. In opposition to this view, I can see instances where a quality or characteristic can be experienced as either negative (adverse) or positive (favorable). Consider the quality/characteristic of someone who is jealous. Clearly jealous individuals can behave in ways that bring adversity upon them. For example, they may retaliate against the object of their jealousy and find themselves in legal trouble. However, when a person expresses jealousy towards someone who perceives such a response as a display of love and caring, then it becomes more difficult to see how this characteristic can, in this situation, can be classified as negative. Indeed, by not expressing jealousy in this case a whole host of adverse consequences may arise. Again, consider the quality of being angry. Anger can lead one who is in its grip to speak and behave rashly, thereby causing all manner of adversity. However, reflect upon a parent that displays a sudden burst of anger towards an uncooperative child playing in a dangerous street that, when confronted with the angry parent, removes him or herself from danger. Here I see the child's transition to safety as a favorable consequence of the anger. Therefore, anger should be considered positive here.

Unlike inherently positive/negative qualities, situationally determined qualities make the construction of soul mirrors a more difficult task. First of all, any quality may appear in either mirror depending on the situation. This would require the aspiring mirror-maker to determine if a given quality is positive or negative on a case-by-case basis. Secondly, qualities would be identified as positive or negative in a rather indirect fashion. One would first need to seek out instances of adversity or favorability in one’s life and then identify the qualities that engendered them. Moreover, situationally determined characteristics or qualities would make the process of removing or promoting a given characteristic/quality a more complicated task. How might one simultaneously promote and remove a quality that finds a home in both mirrors? For instance, I am well aware that much of my behavior is governed by the characteristic of insecurity or self-doubt. It is clear to me that my insecurity has created many adverse circumstances in my life and should thus be minimized, if not eradicated. Yet it is also clear to me that my insecurity or self-doubt has at times functioned favorably in my life. My insecurity has at times kept me out of harm’s way and perhaps has even saved my life on a few occasions. In such a case how might I eradicate my negative insecurity and preserve my positive insecurity simultaneously? Clearly a comprehensive banishment or preservation of any one quality will not suffice.

While there remain questions yet to be answered, my soul mirrors await to be rebuilt. This time around, however, I will be exploring those moments of adversity and favorability in my life in order to discover those qualities that precipitated those moments. Once identified, these qualities will be used to forge my new mirrors.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A God Without Moral Worth

How do we perceive the minds of others?

According to Harvard psychologists, humans typically see the minds of others along two distinct and independent dimensions – namely, agency and experience. Here, agency refers to “an individual’s ability for self-control, morality, and planning," while experience refers to an individual’s ability “to feel sensations such as hunger, fear, and pain.” According to these psychologists, certain types of judgments concerning “the other” arise and are played out depending upon the type and degree of the dimension attributed to another’s mind. A mind that has experience, for example, is judged to have moral worth and by extension certain inalienable rights, chief among these is the right to life.

Kurt Gray, one of the members of the research team writes,

 If you see a man in a persistent vegetative state as having feelings, it feels wrong to pull the plug on him,  whereas if he is just a lump of firing neurons, we have less compunction at freeing up his hospital bed.

A mind that has agency is considered suitable to be judged for the choices it makes.

Kurt Gray states,

When we perceive agency in another, we believe they have the capacity to recognize right from wrong and can punish them accordingly….

While the research respondents attributed a high degree of both agency and experience to the minds of “normal” adult human beings, these same respondents attributed to certain minds a lack of either agency or experience (If this is utterly unclear, just follow the link above. The original article is much clearer). For example, a fetus or infant might have experience but no or little agency. For the research respondents, God is a being that has agency (capable of moral action) but no experience. As Kurt Gray states, “We find it hard to envision God sharing any of our feelings or desires.”

Now, the notion that God has agency but no experience got me thinking. If a mind that is in possession of experience is deemed to have moral worth and God lacks experience, then god lacks moral worth. What, if any, are the implications of holding this view? How might one’s interactions with such a God be shaped by holding such a view and how might these interactions differ from those that exist between oneself and a God that has experience or moral worth? I certainly don’t have any answers. What do you think?

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Pendulum Lied!

©All rights reserved *Silihari* at Flickr
Recently, I posted about my inaugural pendulum working. The initial post can be found here. Having some free time the other day, I spent the morning searching (again!) my bedroom closet for the missing book. I am sad to say that the book I am looking for, contrary to what the pendulum told me, was not to be found in the closet. I was really hoping that the missing book would turn up in that closet. Not only would I have found the book, but I would have gained a little faith in the efficacy of pendulum dowsing. The experiment was not a complete waste of time, however. I did find something worthwhile to read and a sigil whose intent has long been forgotten (a method for working with forgotten sigils can be viewed here). While I do plan on activating this sigil, no record of the sigil’s intent could be located. As a result, I will not be able to verify whether the intent of the sigil does or does not manifest.

Some off-the-cuff reasons for the failure:

1. Pendulum dowsing does not work.

2. My make-shift nut pendulum sucks.

3. My inexperience in pendulum dowsing was the culprit.

4. The book is really in the closet but my Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak is lying on top of it.

* If you are an experienced dowser and have some suggestions, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ray Sherwin and Sigils Reconsidered

Sigil magick, it would seem, has been an integral part of Chaos magick since its beginnings in the late 1970s. One of the first published works to deal with sigils at some length is Ray Sherwin’s The Book of Results. In this work Sherwin articulates not only a methodology for sigil magick but offers up some theoretical discussion as to how sigil magick works. Having recently reread Sherwin’s discussion, I have come to see a disparity between Sherwin’s method of sigil “implantation” within the subconscious and his understanding of the nature of the subconscious.

For Sherwin, who adheres to a psychological model of magick, the source of magickal efficacy is the subconscious mind, not some external “gaseous invertebrate” dwelling within the ether. As such, it behooves the reader to comprehend Sherwin’s understanding of the subconscious and its relation to the conscious mind. Much of what Sherwin sets forth concerning the nature of the mind is taken from or based upon a model of the mind known as dianetics. Simply put, dianetics states that at certain moments of unconsciousness or extreme emotional stress the analytic (conscious) mind shuts down and the reactive (subconscious) mind takes over, recording the events of which the conscious mind is oblivious. Dianetics thus provides Sherwin with a model to begin working with the true source of magical power (i.e., the subconscious).

It is Sherwin’s contention that one’s desires can be made to manifest by imbedding them within the subconscious. Unlike the unintentional imbedding of images within the subconscious mind at times of unconsciousness/stress, one’s desires/intents can be intentionally lodged within the subconscious through a particular trance state that paralyzes the conscious/analytic mind. Because the subconscious lacks the ability to reason, Sherwin proffers that one’s desires are best attained when they are first converted into symbols/glyphs/sigils prior to their implantation into the subconscious mind.

Now, my problem with Sherwin is not with his methodology per se, but with what I perceive to be an inconsistency between Sherwin’s technique and his general understanding of the subconscious mind. Sherwin’s technique of sigil embedding is based upon the premise that the subconscious mind only receives images or content at certain times – namely, during certain trance states (intentional imbedding) and during certain moments of stress or unconsciousness. However, this seems to fly in the face of his understanding of the nature of the subconscious as an ever-present recording device.

Sherwin writes,

In effect this (i.e., the unconscious mind) is the only part of the mind which is constantly vigilant and aware, even during deep sleep and unconsciousness. It is a store of memory inconceivable in size. No experience, no matter how often repeated or how insignificant, is unrecorded. All the data about your past are there …. (Sherwin, p. 34; italics mine)

This position clearly militates against the need for a technique to embed a symbol/glyph/ sigil within the subconscious mind. Being that the subconscious mind is all-seeing/all-recording the use of trance or ritual to deliver a message to the subconscious becomes superfluous. Even the necessity of the conversion of intent into a glyph become suspect, as the subconscious mind would have recorded the thought-intent prior to the glyphs construction.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Dowsing Experiment

A number of years ago a book seemed to have vanished from my residence. I looked everywhere for the damn thing without any success in locating it. What especially perturbed me about this was the fact that the book, although in my possession for nearly thirty five years, had remained unread by me. It had remained packed away in one of my book boxes until a relative had come to stay at my home for a brief time. Being that this relative had some interest in the subject of the book, I removed the book from storage and let this person read from it during their stay in my home. Shortly after their departure, I decided that I would like to read the book as well. To my dismay, the book could not be located. I searched everywhere – behind and under beds and bookshelves, in closets, in and under dresser drawers, etc. After some time, I just assumed that the relative to whom I had lent the book had lifted it from the premises. But I never knew for sure and this not knowing has been nagging at me for some time. Whether or not the book was taken from me (intentionally or unintentionally) is not an issue for me. Not knowing what became of this book is what is troubling.

Recently, I became, through a rather circuitous route, introduced to pendulum dowsing. Having spent a couple of hours learning the absolute basics, I felt confident that I could at least elicit a “yes” or “no” reply from a pendulum. All I needed was something to ask the pendulum. As an absolute beginner I needed something simple. I also needed something that I did not have a conscious bias towards - but what? Then a thought came to me. Maybe I could locate that lost book of mine. Thus, I made a pendulum and proceeded to ask the following questions:

Question: Is book (X) located in the house in which I live?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Has book (X) been removed from the house in which I live? (I like to double check)
Answer: No.

Question: Is book (X) located on the second floor of the house in which I live?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Is book (X) located in the room were my dresser drawers are kept?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Is book (X) located in the room on the second floor that contains a couch? (a double check)
Answer: No.

Question: Is book (X) located in the closet in the room where my dresser drawers are located?
Answer: Yes.

Question: Is book (X) under the bed where I sleep? (another double check)
Answer: No.

Needless to say, I will tear my closet apart at the earliest opportunity in order to determine if it is indeed there. Now, I have searched this closet several times already with no luck in finding that book. It will be a real shocker if I eventually find it hiding in there!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Working With Forgotten Sigils

©All rights reserved Katielouise at Flickr

This last winter I found several sigils in a coat pocket that I created the previous winter. I had totally forgotten about them. Not only did I forget that they existed, I forgot the intentions behind their creations. At first, I was rather disappointed that I had not worked the sigils. I mean, I had let an entire year go by without taking steps to manifest my intentions. However, I soon realized that the “losing” of the sigils for a year might actually help me to work with them. Since I had no idea what they symbolized, it would not be difficult for me to activate them without bringing their intentions to conscious thought. In addition, having absolutely no conscious awareness of their intents, I would, once they were fired, be less likely to obsess about their results. (The intentions to these sigils were with the sigils, but separate from them. Thus, I can, when I actually get around to activating them, reflect upon the success or failure of my intentions to manifest. I have not looked at the intentions since I initially sigilized them, however. I wonder if any have already become manifest).

Having come to see the benefits of possessing sigils whose intents are completely forgotten, I have recently taken up the task of devising a method for working with forgotten sigils. Working with forgotten sigils is certainly not a new idea and I am sure that others have come up with methods for working with them that are more artful than what I have come up with here. Nevertheless, I set my ideas down here to record my initial thoughts concerning the matter and to provide some ideas for those who have interest in working with sigils.


Materials needed: stack of 3x5 index cards, package of post-it notes (any size, but no bigger than 3x5), small box that will accommodate the index cards, envelope(s), an utensil for drawing sigils.

Step 1. Create a sigil and transfer it to a post-it note (some sigils will obviously not lend themselves to be treated in this manner) and adhere the post-it note with the sigil to one side of a 3x5 index card.

Step 2. Write the sigil’s intention on another post- it note and adhere it to the side of the index card opposite the sigil.

Step 3. Place the index card in a small box with the intention facing down and the sigil facing up.

Step 4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the box contains several sigils (this need not be done at one sitting but can be accomplished over time.)

Step 5. When you decide to activate a sigil (you should allow some time to pass since the creation of the first sigil to aid in the forgetting process), take all or a few of the index cards (depending on the number of cards in the box) out of the box and carefully mix them up. Be sure that the sigil remains facing up or towards you and that you do not inadvertently remove a sigil or intention post-it from their card.

Step 6. Look at the first sigil. If you think you recognize the intent, return it to the box. DO NOT CHECK THE REVERSE SIDE TO VERIFY. This will only reinforce a connection between intent and sigil and make it harder to forget. If you do not recognize the intent, set it aside and place the remaining cards back in the box.

Step 7. Remove the sigil from the 3x5 index card you set aside and activate it any way you so chose. When finished, dispose of the sigil by burning, etc.

Step 8. Remove the post-it note with the intent from the same 3x5 index card WITHOUT LOOKING AT IT and place it in an envelope. Determine the date that is four weeks from the time that you put the intention in the envelope and write this on the envelope. When this date arrives, take the intention out of the envelope and record it in your magical diary (or however you record your workings). This will keep you free from obsessive thoughts for at least four weeks.

Note: You can reuse the envelope by crossing out dates and adding new ones and index cards once the sigil and intent have been removed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Phurpa and the Liberation of Demons

If the thought of liberating a demon has never crossed your mind, you might want to take a look at this post. If you ever decide to attempt to do so yourself, I would suggest that you invite Phurpa to the party.

Who is Phurpa?

In some instances, Phurpa is seen as a manifestation or form of Hayagriva. As such, Phurpa can be held to be a protector of the Buddha’s teachings (a category of Buddhist deities known as Dharmapalas). For others, Phurpa is a source of power that bestows luck and fortune upon the fortunate and misfortune upon the unlucky (as a dealer in luck, Phurpa is associated with the planet Jupiter and Thursdays). For these individuals, Phurpa is typically held to manifest physically in three ways:

1) A wooden spike or dagger used to mark a sacred or protected area.

2) A large stylized metal dagger used to indicate the deity’s presence in a location, such as the inside of a temple.

3) A small iron dagger (phurpa) used by dagger specialists to, among other things such as yak banning, speed-walking and weather making, “liberate” a demon, thereby effectively ending the demon’s ability to cause misfortune among human beings.

The following is a short description of the dagger specialists’ tradition (#3 above) and their use of the phurpa as an instrument for demon “liberation” (Henceforth referred to as the Dagger Tradition).

Origin of the Dagger Tradition in Tibet.

According to traditional accounts, the Dagger Tradition was brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava who, while journeying to the Land of Snows, discovered the Dagger texts hidden in a cave.

Who are the Practitioners of the Dagger Tradition?

Apparently, dagger practitioners form a diverse group. Although textual references to female practitioners exist, they appear to be all males. Many are married and do not follow any ascetic rules. For the most part, the men of the Dagger Tradition come from the margins of Tibetan society - the socio-politically disenfranchised - and predominately hail from the Old School of Tibetan Buddhism (rnying ma). What appears to be a common feature among these individuals is their training in Tantra.

While a preponderance of dagger practitioners would appear to be members of the Old School, other schools have, to a lesser degree, enlisted dagger practitioners among their ranks as well. Even the 14th Dalai Lama, though he himself a proponent of the Virtuous School (dge lugs), is known to have had a dagger magician among his entourage.

The Liberation of Demons.

Despite its multifarious use in the past, the dagger practice of recent times seems to be primarily concerned with the exorcism of troublesome demons. What the excised demon undergoes as a result of the dagger ritual is not entirely clear from a reading of the dagger texts. In some texts the demon is said to be “killed” (bsad). In others, the demon is said to be “liberated” (sdrol ba). In yet others, the two terms are used interchangeably. (One may reasonably hypothesize that the term “kill” (bsad) exists as an older stratum of the texts and is a remnant left over from a pre-Buddhist dagger practices. This can only be determined by a careful analysis of the primary texts, however. ) Irrespective of these difficulties, the official Buddhist position is that the demon is liberated from the three poisons – namely, ignorance, hatred an desire.

The Liberation Ritual.

After an extensive preparatory period, the Liberation Ritual commences with an invocation of Phurpa. Whether Phurpa in invoked into the dagger practitioner or the dagger, or both, is not entirely clear. Through magical utterances (mantra) and magical gestures (mudra), the dagger magician entices (compels?) the demon to enter an effigy (either drawn or sculpted) that is situated in the center of a “demon trap” (Oftentimes, this “trap” takes the form of an equilateral triangle (drawn or otherwise) called a “yantra”). Once the demon is imprisoned within the yantra, the effigy is impaled by the dagger and the demon is “killed/liberated.” A burning of the effigy usually concludes the rite. Apparently, this ritual can be performed physically or mentally by the magician.

Two diverse interpretations of the ritual itself exist among dagger practitioners. The first is that the troublesome demon is an actual entity separate from human beings. The other, that the demon is an internal obstacle.

SOURCE: Dagger Blessing by Thomas Marcotty. A dated yet decent introduction to the Dagger Tradition.