September 2006

“The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason the rest of us (doctors) succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing this truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.”

Albert Schweitzer,German physician, theologian, philosopher, and musician

Mesmerism, named after Franz Mesmer is the 18th century term for the therapeutic process which helps the free flow of an invisible “magnetic fluid” throughout the body. Proper flow is indicative of a healthy individual. If you are experiencing physical or even mental distress you do not have the proper flow within. Franz Mesmer used several different techniques including electrocution to facilitate healing. Now, I’m not really interested in advocating mesmerism since it’s mostly nonsense but it did have a very curious affect on society leading up to the French Revolution.

The discovery of gravity and electricity among other scientific theories in this era convinced many that there are invisible energies at work everywhere. For people in this time it wasn’t too preposterous to think an analogous human variant of this energy could exist. At first, the French academic institutions were not convinced and dismissed mesmerism from any serious study. Eventually, the French royal commission conducted a number of experiments in 1784 and concluded there was no evidence of its existence or efficacy of the animal magnetic fluid, and that its effects derived from either the imaginations of its subjects or charlatanry.

Mesmer claimed the academe and by extension the government did not want what was best for its people. But the popularity of mesmerism did penetrate the parliament, over half of which supported Mesmerists. They saw the ‘suppression’ of this panacea by the French establishment, as a clear example of the government acting against the common interest of its people. Mesmerism was perceived as the most humanitarian movement of their age, who could oppose it?

This antiestablishment undercurrent of mesmerism began to attract the radical philosophers, scientists, and pseudo scientists of French society. A snowball effect began to occur and more radicals were joining the cause. People of lower social standing believed they were suppressed, even being conspired against, by the government because their views were not taken seriously. To ignore mesmerism was to deny a cure to all the ills of society. The popularity of science at the time gave validity to mesmerism because it was considered to be a scientific political theory. If politicians and society underwent mesmerism, their bodies would be healed therefore, their morality would be improved and by extension politics would be perfected. It is safe to say one reason why mesmerism did not lead to the revolution directly but began several years later was because many revolutionaries considered undergoing mesmerism as an ineffective process for change.

I find it interesting that a popular yet inaccurate belief played a role in the revolution which is seen as a major turning point in the history of Western democracy. Bear with me but what if we replaced mesmerism with the 9/11 conspiracy movement? Even if we assume it is entirely wrong, its increasing popularity may be a factor in uniting those who would normally disagree. In the end it wasn’t mesmerism which played a role in the French revolution as much as it was the idea of the French establishment acting against the interest of its people. According to a recent poll, over a third of US citizens believe the government was involved with the attacks on 9/11. Just a thought…

“Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted”

To learn more about mesmerism check out: Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France

What is a Magical Operation? It may be defined as any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will. We must not exclude potato-growing or banking from our definition. Let us take a very simple example of a Magical Act: that of a man blowing his nose. — Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice

Aleister Crowley defined magic as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will. He called this magic magick (mainly because it sounded cooler), a word that was to become famous and internationally used by occultists and magicians alike. In this short essay I will seek to explain my very own and personal definition of magic, with the aim of proving why it is logical and preferable to believe in magic. A cause of epic proportions indeed.

Our views and the way that we view our environment and internal proceses is shaped by our beliefs – and in turn these mold the way we view reality. Everyone has a slightly different view of any one thing – an identical occurence experienced by any two individuals will create two different ways in which those individuals perceive what’s happening. Both individuals will therefore experience something different even though the outside influences acting upon them are identical. Their different ways of looking at the occurence will create two different realities in which they live. In other words there is only subjectivity in an individual’s existence (and even though we all breathe air and gravity has the same effect on all of us, we perceive this and use this in different ways) – objectivity is the attempt of philosophy and science – an attempt doomed to failure since objectivity based on subjectivity is imperfect and therefore inobjective.

Having understood that we all shape our differing realities using our beliefs (or our beliefs shape our realities) we can move on to explain why this should concern us at all.

Let us take an example – we have man a, a scientist, a materialist and an avid enemy of all things mystical, spiritual, religious or magic. He lives his rather normal life working a rather normal job, building a rather common career for himself. He does not experience coincidences and a warm summer day brings little happiness to his heart. He is cautious and quickly forgets anything that happens to him that would cause him to question his scientific/materialistic beliefs. We could almost say that his life is lacking in wonder, childish amazement, and pure happiness without a cause.

Then we have man b who is a rather open-minded (apologies for using this word – in this case it is not an excuse for gullibility), enjoys everything that comes his way and while he does not frown upon science (he may indeed be a scientist himself), his view of the world gives ample opportunity for amazement and wonder. His life is full of inexplicable coincidences, every event in his life has a sense of purpose behind it, and every bad event is simply an obstacle that is supposed to act as a source of learning and growing. You could almost say that man b enjoys his life to the fullest and loves the fact that in his reality there is no need to hide things behind the need to explain them. He is a very flexible man.

Which one of the two men/women are you? Which one is enjoying life more? Which one will break down under stress and pressure or death of a loved one, while the other finds ways to change his situation to serve a better purpose? Which one is happier? Which one is knowingly lacking, without being able to define what exactly it is that he is lacking?

I do not wish to say that man a or man b will have different lives or that their environment will react differently to them – they may even go through identical lives. They will take away different lessons though and be differently inclined to change. Actually, they will lead different lives because they will make different choices based on their differing beliefs, identical occurences will therefore create differing effects. Personally I have made the conscious choice to be man b, who I shall finally label a magician.

Magic to me can be defined by a single word – change. Anyone who is willing to undergo change for whatever reason and with whatever result is a magician. The benefits of accepting change – or even seeking it – are simple to explain. Positive change is preferable to the less positive state preceding the change. Negative change is reversible due to the understanding of the magician that he has been the cause of the change in the first place – on one level or another. Consequently the magician can turn a negative event into a positive one, sometimes it simply takes a different view or outlook. Changing the way we perceive an event results in different emotions being produced – so it is possible to change fear to happiness or hate to love (or vice versa).  Not to mention that the only way to find what it is worse and what is better is through experiencing both.

Magicians believe that change can also be created outside of the things over which they have measurable control – in other words they can create change in things or events that the scientist would not believe are changeable. Keeping in ming that both the scientific and the magical belief-systems mold the reality in which the two live, it is not too far-fetched to say that the magician can affect more of his reality than the scientist. Where the scientist can only change what he believes is changeable, the magician can change anything.

I will end by giving you two examples of change in my past week that prove my theory. Last week I was caught on a bus without a ticket – just two days before I was showing off to my parents by telling them that I have found a way to travel in London for free. I usually get punished for arrogance. And at first, after being caught without a ticket, I felt rather shit because my capture cost me 20 pounds and social ostricization from my fellow travelers. As soon as I understood that not only was I loosing money but also my good mood, I accepted what happened to me and seeked a way to improve my situation. Instead of sulking or being aggressive (and creating negativity in me and in the people who caught me) I became rather friendly and had a half an hour conversation with the ticket inspectors. They took me to a cash point so that I could pay them (which they wouldn’t have allowed if I was a dick about it) and they told me a lot about a career about which I previously knew very little. They were very nice and when I left them we were all in good spirits, laughing and cheerful. Not what you would expect from a criminal and his capturers. In this instance I created change through acceptance of the things over which I had no control and through changing my view of the situation.

The second instance happened this weekend when I accompanied my girl-friend to a goth wedding of her friend in Birmingham. Instead of being scared or negative about having to spend money and meet new people with a negative outlook on life I intensely wished for certain things to happen during the weekend. I wished to meet a diverse group of people, to meet people who shared my interests, to meet a magician, to discuss my views on spirituality with a Christian and some other things – they all came to happen. Now I do not care whether I caused these things to happen through wishing them to happen, or whether I was simply looking for them and therefore found them among the numerous other things present at the wedding. All that matters is that they happened. I somehow suspect that in a different state of mind I would have fared much less successfully in an initially hostile environment.

And this finishes my essay. I hope that some readers will be as excited as I was when it finally dawns upon them that they indeed are magicians.

For a more thorough de-personalised definition of magic look here.

I recently met an interesting person and we got into a rather lengthy conversation. I learned that he has been studying Hinduism for many years and spent long lengths of time in ashrams. His preferred method of enlightenment is through independent study combined with the occasional stay with a guru in order to sift through and organize the knowledge he gained on his own. The longest of his visits was around a year in duration. He travels the US and considers himself to be a wanderer.

While speaking with him, I got to the topic of divinity within man. My new friend told me several stories and then mentioned one of his favorite techniques in Hinduism. One can invoke certain Gods when in need of help, usually invoking the God whose particular attribute would be most helpful to you. I’ve never considered the psychological significance of this before. Putting aside whether these Gods ‘physically’ exist or not, this is a very interesting practice of self-empowerment.

That night I randomly flip open Peter J. Carroll’s ‘Liber Null‘ to find the following:

Metamorphosis may be pursued by seeking that which one is not, and transcending both in mutual annihilation. Alternatively, the process of invocation may be seen as adding to the magician’s psyche any elements which are missing. It is true that the mind must be finally surrendered as one enters fully into Chaos, but a complete and balanced psychocosm is more easily surrendered.

The Magical process of shuffling beliefs and desires attendant upon the process of invocation also demonstrates that one’s dominant obsessions or personality are quite arbitrary, and hence more easily banished.

There are many maps of the mind (psychocosms), most of which are inconsistent, contradictory, and based on highly fanciful theories. Many use the symbology of god forms, for all mythology embodies a psychology. A complete mythic pantheon resumes all of man’s mental characteristics. Magicians will often use a pagan pantheon of gods as the basis for invoking some particular insight or ability, as these myths provide the most explicit and developed formation of the particular idea’s extant. However, it is possible to use almost anything from the archetypes of the collective unconscious to the elemental qualities of alchemy.

…the aim of invocation is temporary procession by the god, communication from the god, and manifestation of the god’s magical powers, rather than the formation of religious cults.

I enjoy reading several books at once so after I got my dose of Chaos Magic I flipped open ‘Cosmic Trigger‘ by Robert Anton Wilson, which I’ve been re-reading. It’s definitely worth reading books over in order to understand its subjects in a new light. Now, there isn’t much significance that this book has similar ideas to Liber Null because they share the same origins. Nonetheless:

The Shaman also experimented extensively with Crowley’s method of achieving and transcending religious visions. This is based on Hindu Bhakti yoga and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, with a typically Crowleyan difference. In bhakti yoga, you form a love-bond with a particular divinity, dedicate every waking moment to Him (or Her) and invoke that Divine Being by every method possible, especially vivid visual imagination. Loyola’s method is similar, except that you have no choice about which divinity to invoke. Crowley’s twist is to carry this through until you experience a real manifestation of the God, and then immediately stop, and start over with a different god. After you have run through three or four divinities in this manner, you will understand Nasrudin’s Donkey (the neuro-programmer) and you will be increasingly skeptical about everybody’s reality-maps, including your own.

So many things going on and so few posts…

Hugo Chavez made an address to the United Nations. He criticizes American imperialism, calls president Bush the devil, and advises all American citizens to read Chomsky’s ‘Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States’.
A few days ago FOX News interviewed Bill Clinton and the “reporter” asked the wrong question. “Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president?” And so what was meant to be a 15 minute interview takes 22 minutes with Clinton nailing it on all accounts. Now, I’m not a huge Clinton fan but at least someone is saying something.

First Part and Second Part of the Interview

It’s interesting to compare the media’s reaction to both stories. The same tactic was used, attacking the speakers as being “furious”, “combative”, “losing it” and “having a complete meltdown”. Unfortunately, the content of what they actually said was ignored or in the case of Hugo Chavez, edited out. Compare the video to the transcript of the speech and find out what Fox News doesn’t want you to hear.

A sample of what was edited out:

“As Chomsky says here, clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination. And we cannot allow them to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated. The world parent’s statement — cynical, hypocritical, full of this imperial hypocrisy from the need they have to control everything. They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democratic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons. What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it or others who are at the root of democracy. What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?”

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show does have a valid point. You do lose credibility when you call someone the devil. It’s just a shame that most of the media cannot focus on anything but this aspect of his speech. Does anyone find it significant that such an address was even made at the United Nations?

The congressional outrage went into overdrive when, six months after the September 11 attacks, the Immigration and Naturalization Service sent word to the Florida flight school where two of the terrorists had been trained that their student visas had been approved. The agency had granted approval the previous summer, before the attacks, but “backlogs and antiquated computers” had delayed delivery, and the INS had failed to recheck what was in the pipeline.

-CQ Weekly, March 16, 2002

One of my favorite tales of healing, found in Hermann Hesse’s Magister Ludi, involves Joseph and Dion, two renowned healers, who lived in biblical times. Though both were highly effective, they worked in different ways. The younger healer, Joseph, healed through quiet, inspired listening. Pilgrims trusted Joseph. Suffering and anxiety poured into his ears vanished like water on the desert sand and penitents left his presence emptied and calmed. On the other hand, Dion, the older healer, actively confronted those who sought his help. He divined their unconfessed sins. He was a great judge, chastiser, scolder, and rectifier, and he healed through active intervention. Treating the penitents as children, he gave advice, punished by assigning penance, ordered pilgrimages and marriages, and compelled enemies to make up. 

The two healers never met, and they worked as rivals for many years until Joseph grew spiritually ill, fell into dark despair, and was assailed with ideas of self-destruction. Unable to heal himself with his own therapeutic methods, he set out on a journey to the south to seek help from Dion.

On his pilgrimage, joseph rested one evening at an oasis, where he fell into a conversation with an older traveler. When Joseph described the purpose and destination of his pilgrimage, the traveler offered himself as a guide to assist in the search for Dion. Later, in the midst of their long journey together the old traveler revealed his identity to Joseph. Mirabile dictu: he himself was Dion – the very man Joseph sought.

Without hesistation Dion invited his younger, despairing rival into his home, where they lived and worked together for many years. Dion first asked Joseph to be a servant. Later he elevated him to a student and, finally, to full colleagueship. Years later, Dion fell ill and on his deathbed called his young colleague to him in order to hear a confession. He spoke of Joseph’s earlier terrible illness and his journey to old Dion to plead for help. He spoke of how Joseph had felt it was a miracle that his fellow traveler and guide turned out to be Dion himself.

Now that he was dying, the hour had come, Dion told Joseph, to break his silence about that miracle. Dion confessed that at the time it had seemed a miracle to him as well, for he, too, had fallen into despair. He, too, felt empty and spiritually dead and, unable to help himself, had set off on a journey to seek help. On the very night that they had met at the oasis he was on a pilgrimage to a famous healer named Joseph. — Irvin D. Yalom, The Gift of Therapy

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