I woke up sad today. I’m not particularly upset about anything. At least not apart from the same things that we all as humans could be upset about. It’s not that though. Existential angst has more of a nostalgic flavor to it. I think this comes from spending too much time while I was younger, being incredibly high from smoking more marijuana than I could handle, sitting and contemplating my inevitable death set to the soundtrack of Dark Side of the Moon. Other times, when I was feeling particularly angsty, maybe to the disillusioned sounds of The Downward Spiral. But I digress.
My first thought was that I am just bored. Too tired and apathetic today to really want to care. This is different though. Having gone from angsty teenager, to college grade psychedelic explorer, to wild discordian pope, I thought I had a grasp on mood swings. It wasn’t until I began the path of magick that I stopped blaming others for these feelings and instead began to understand that maybe it was coming from me. Studying the tarot gave me a method to discern the subtle differences in my emotional state. Though it was strange for a beginning tarot reader to constantly draw the 5 of cups card. It didn’t help that this lasted for a couple of years. It wasn’t until I delved deep into the significance of this card that it finally subsided. It wouldn’t be the last time I would be haunted by a card for an extended period of time, but that’s another story.
Then I hit my Saturn return. Seriously? A mid-life crisis still ten years from when I expected it. Chronos had returned to the same spot he stood when I was born. I had just moved back to Chicago having spent about 15 months living in northern Scotland. I didn’t know much about this idea of Saturn return, but quickly learned.
Was this it then? No, this still was different. I figured by now, nearly 5 years later, that Saturn had once again left my chart (certainly to come back for an official mid-life crisis). At this point in my magical career, with 5 formal initiations and countless unexpected ones from the Great Mystery itself, I realized what it was that I woke up with this morning. I realized that this practice had opened me up to a deep sensitivity both emotionally and intellectually.
Robert Anton Wilson wrote in his Masks of the Illuminati, “A true initiation never ends: we go through the same archetypal processes, over and over, understanding them more deeply each time. Isis, Apophis, Osiris! IAO…the Virgin, the halls of Death, Godhood…The Light shined in the darkness, and the darkness knew it not…” Qabalistically, the towers of Peh were crumbling before my eyes while the illusions of Qoph revealed themselves ruthlessly. The proud magician walks the path of the serpent towards enlightenment, only to have his ego smashed into a thousand pieces. Each piece reflecting a part of who he used to be. Indra’s Net of the microcosmic self.
Shattered. I feel shattered. Sure I can see how it fits neatly into my map of the Tree of Life (typical Qabalist), but that’s not going to dull the blade as I’m confronted with the reality of the situation.
Yet somewhere in between these two paths the sensitive magician walked through the doorway of Tzaddi and saw the Star of Aima Elohim. If illusion and suffering followed me then certainly she who is the Mother of the Gods could heal me. So I did what any self-respecting magician would do: I sat down before my altar and asked her directly for help. I was so distracted during this meditation that I’m not even sure if I even got anything from it. Yet amongst the family of monkeys that is my mind, I was left with the phrase “Keep moving forward” going through my head.
Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward.
There’s something about this message that is simple and almost expected. But I know there is a deeper meaning here. The sensitivity may be the cause of my sadness today, but it can also be the saving grace. Three paths that lead to the same place. Netzach is known as Victory. It’s good to know that at the end of this road awaits success.
It goes much deeper as well. The path had opened me up to experiences I never knew possible, testing my patience and concentration to extreme degrees. I found a depth to my mind that I hadn’t fully acknowledged before. Learning to swim and navigate through Jung’s collective unconscious had made me very sensitive. Not just to physical stimuli but with my emotions and my thoughts. I realized then that if I were to achieve balance through this work I would have to make great changes to my behavior. It was that even the smallest amount of something would have profound effects on me. Even my practice of enflaming myself in prayer became such an experience that I was feeling burned by the flames themselves.
So I reached out to the healing goddess hidden within the Star key. I received a very profound revelation: I was attached to the suffering itself. It wasn’t enough that I was growing more and more sensitive to the world around me but that I was relishing in it somehow. Dukkha, that first noble truth of the Buddhists, surrounded me. Samudaya, that second noble truth, was coming from deep within that unconscious realm.
The magick path itself had begun to make me nervous. The deeper I went the greater the sensitivity would be, and the realization of dukkha became overwhelming. This then became a time to reflect on the experiences that led me to this point. More magick wasn’t the answer. Instead I found a period of integration necessary. I still kept up with journaling as a way to “keep moving forward.” My conscious mind was being transformed in such a way that I was no longer merely reacting to the world around me but instead finding clarity on how to respond truthfully. And with each interaction I had, I felt I was moving closer to this truth of suffering emanating from deep within. Each moment of truth that I could speak, even if it was just an approximation of truth, was released instead of held prisoner in my mind. I no longer was storing information to be processed at a later time. Nirodha, the cessation of dukkha and the third noble truth, manifested microcosmically in each small interaction with the world around.
Clarity became the result. It is a slow, uphill struggle to work within this sensitivity stemming from the realization of suffering. Making drastic changes to behavior, diet, and thought processes has not been easy. Magga, the path to liberation from dukkha and the fourth noble truth, was revealed, though only in glimpses. The moments of clarity were less of an “aha moment” but instead a form of remembering. Didn’t Socrates say that all learning is just a form of remembering?
I feel much stronger about the mindfulness that I am cultivating, but still have feelings holding on from a lifetime (or more) leading up to that moment of realization. How does one fix past karmic ties? The knots of experience needed to be slowly untied so as not to cause any more psychic damage. I am reminded of a personal revelation from a ceremony last year. In this revelation, I had asked for a deeper understanding of how this type of work actually heals us. The response was quite simple: the conscious mind needs to acknowledge the experience through remembering and in that moment with a practice of mindfulness must not reattach again to the suffering. Remembering to do this in the midst of a deep emotional remembering is not an easy thing to do.
One practice that I have found to help in this goes back to early scrying techniques I learned. When scrying or traveling in the spirit vision, dancing through the phantasmagoric spaces of consciousness, the magician will eventually begin to encounter intelligences seemingly separate from the self. Instead though of tripping over myself trying to decipher whether a spirit was separate or a part of me, I had learned a technique of testing the intelligence before any type of communication was made. To do this one creates a symbol of power, such as a pentagram or a cross or something of significance to you. In the moment of contact you are to formulate the symbol before you. If the intelligence is not phased by this symbol it can be assumed to be of help rather than distraction. A banishing pentagram works well with this. If further testing was necessary, I would ask the intelligence to perform a gesture of importance. You can ask for it to bow before you, open its hands, or even to stand still momentarily. In the case of non-anthropomorphized spirits, the latter may be used.
This practice took some time to get used to doing, but became an invaluable tool when learning to be present with the experience as it was unfolding. Little did I know that I was also training to be more mindful in my thoughts rather than just reacting to stimuli with likely unconscious pre-meditated responses.The mindfulness practice in this way then also became a reminder of integrating experiences rather than just tying more knots in the fabric of my psyche.
Another practice that has helped is to go back and read old journal entries. The practice of the magick journal is one of the, if not the most, important practice for the budding magician. All one does that pertains to the path is recorded, including rituals, ceremonies, meditations, transformations, initiations, dreams, coincidences, synchronicities, chance encounters, breakdowns, and breakthroughs. It’s all part of that stream that flows ever onward from us, all in harmony with the world around us. I go back and reread older entries from when I was early on the path. Going back I noticed something interesting. The further I went back in time the more common emotional outbursts, anger and sadness seemed to be. It was as if over time I had become capable of controlling my emotional state to a certain degree. Reading back on an old entry seeing myself in such a state and remembering that particular instance. It’s just a piece of a larger puzzle. Or is it an image? Am I just a microcosmic sculpture of a macrocosmic artist? Unlike the anger and sadness, the existential questions haven’t subsided.
It’s the soldier and the hunchback all over again. “Then again we spin words – words – words. And we have got no single question answered in any ultimate sense.” However, by some miracle, as a friend, teacher and taita from Colombia would say, I will have found some sort of peace through the cathartic release in these words. I’m still sensitive, and perhaps I have given too much for the dear reader to take in. I thank you for lending your proverbial shoulder. This is a ceremony. This is a miracle. This is an integration. That is my intention and so it shall be. I may still be sensitive and I may still be sad. “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional,” as the same Colombian friend and teacher would say, though this adage certainly predates all of us. He may as well have said it because when we do this type of magical work we are becoming channels for the voice of eternity to speak. It is our duty to be sensitive so we can be aware of the universe in its myriad of forms. It is our duty as warriors that we be sensitive. As emotional beings this shall be our temperance to overcome the cyclical nature of I up towards our higher self.
May we all be sensitive and open to the messages me receive. In this way we become a warrior.