I thought it might be time to get round to this. I’ve never intended to be a simple alarmist, or a pithy commentator. That gets old rather fast. So let’s run the grand old experiment… start with some definitions, a little background, and some operating premises.

You can peek at the first part of this if you haven’t already and then come back.
It would certainly help to read a good block of what I’ve got on AB so far as well, just so you get a feeling for my take on magick, but it’s not mandatory obviously.

Okay. So are we talking technique, or are we talking visionary experience? Hopefully both. From the ‘spiritual’ perspective it behooves one to preference the latter, but part of the point of magick is that it empowers the personality to pursue the spiritual more effectively. My feeling is that done correctly, technique leads to vision, with the added benefit of also having a skill set to implement the vision afterword. In a nutshell, unless your natural inclination is towards renunciation and asceticism, or christlike devotion to others, you’ll get something out of cultivating some skills in this area. So we’ll start with technique.

Crowley would suggest and most seem to agree, that magick is about change and will. Alchemy traditionally of course revolves around the refinement of the base material of consciousness into ‘gold’. Yoga translates literally as ‘union’ or ‘yoking’ (as in yoking an animal to a plow). You could look at this as consolidating the scattered and disparate foci of the mind and body into a perfected vessel of the divine. The esoteric martial arts are similar to yoga, but slanted toward the practical necessities of battlefield survival, and other forms of violent confrontation.

For our purposes here, we’ll be treating magick as this: the cultivation of intent. Full stop. That’s it. That covers everything you need to know for now.

In terms of models, I’m going to go to what seems like the source of magic ‘systems’ which to me is hermeticism. You could make a case that shamanism is the oldest form of magick, and I’m not inclined to disagree, but my feeling is that most shamanism was and is idiosyncratic and personal. It’s like jazz. Each shaman makes it up as they go along. And while I have a lot of fondness for that idea, you don’t need me to go and make up your own shit. So we’ll start with ‘the royal art’.

First of all, you could learn a bit in asking why it’s called that. The royal art? Well simply, I think it was called that for three reasons. One, only the ruling classes had the education and time to learn magick. Second of all, the cultivation of intent is obviously quite useful to a priest, or a king, or for that matter anyone who aspires to be a king, chieftan, or a priest. It was sort of the ancient equivalent of personal empowerment seminar or success psychology, but obviously a bit different given the older and more rudimentary psychology of the average person of prehistory. I mean if developmental psychologists are to be believed, the structure that we think of as the ‘ego’ is a relatively recent invention, and is definitely less formed in archaic cultures. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is besides the point for our purpose, but it’s interesting to contemplate how much of the ‘modern’ mind is the product of ancient alchemy. You may not like what’s been done with it, historically, but the fact that you can even question or critique it, is proof that you enjoy its benefits… And Third, this path is sort of a symbolic process of merging with the godhead, which is about as ‘royal’ as royal gets.

It’s important to recall that in ancient times the ruler was synonomous with the godhead, and while we’re inclined to think of that as ignorant authoritarianism, those societies and systems of government endured for thousands of years, while our current ‘democratic’ experiment looks to have petered out in less than a couple hundred. So while the modern knee jerk reaction is to assume we know so much better than those stupid peasants and servants back in the day, maybe they knew something that we don’t.

But let’s leave aside any further theoretical preamble for the moment and get down to brass tacks. Surely we will be discussing all kinds of outlandish techniques and tools for exercising and developing the intent, but if you lose sight of what those things are for, namely to help you understand the workings of your own mind, you’re well on your way to the ghetto of the lost and the doomed. At all times keep in mind that it’s about discovering the difference between what you think you want and what you really need, and you should be fine. That can be hard to do when reality starts to feel like putty in your hands, and gods are offering you a seat on the board of directors, but the truth is, even dieties are unhappy sometimes and just because their experiences on a scale of 1 to 10 go to 1,000,000 doesn’t change the relative facts of it.

So. What I want you to do, provided you’re interested in playing along, is to make a list of what you want. Let’s say ten things. Ten things you want that are achievable from your current perspective. You may want to be a rock star, but if you don’t think it’s possible to be a rock star, for you right now, then leave it off the list. As well, for the moment, I suggest you make as many of the things on the list as possible relatively short term projects. The reason is, you want to be able to complete some of these relatively quickly and turn over your list a little bit–but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. By the same token, you want the things on your list to have bit of emotional juice to them. Wanting to make a sandwich is not so great. Wanting to drive for three hours to the nearest Arby’s is better. Wanting to own your own restaurant chain is better still. And yes it’s perfectly alright to want utterly banal and trivial things. That’s part of the point when we start. That’s the base material which we will proceed to refine.

Good enough for now? I’ll be participating in this myself and posting my doings, by way of illustration if nothing else.

Off you go!

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5 thoughts on “Alchemy for the Brain-Damaged I: The Royal Art

  1. ( homework will now be in the corresponding comments thread )

    Okay. Fair is fair. Here’s my list, minus any embarrassing personal items I might be tempted to add. I’ve decided to bump the homework sections to the end, so that newcomers may read the body of the article without being subjected to my interminable whining right off the bat.

    Homework: make a list of ten things you want.

    …In no particular order ( yet )
    1. I’d like to sell some of my old comics and gaming materials on ebay.
    2. I’d like to complete the practicum component of my medical message course, which I’ve been sitting on for a few months now.
    3. I want a used bike so I don’t have to spend so much on buses, and walk in the mornings when I don’t feel like it.
    4. I want more people to show up for my martial arts classes.
    5. I would like to have higher quality ninjitsu training than I have now. Preferably with a master level instructor, and ideally in the hombu dojo in japan
    6. I would like to attend courses at the Tom Brown Tracker school in New Jersey, or at least spend more time practicing those same skills with my friend Jeff who is long time student there.
    7. I want to feel secure enough in my finances to invest some savings in physical silver or gold bullion.
    8. I want to complete the study process for my buddhist disciple ordination test, and express my desire to take that test to my teacher.
    9. I want to improve the quality of my diet.
    10. I want a job I can be comfortable with and invest more of my personal interest into.

    Now, what you may find, or maybe not, is that once you have a list like this in front of you, it tells you some things about yourself, and the way you approach goals in life. For instance, I tend to phrase things in terms of preferences, and allow for lots of alternative possibilities. Some of that is good, as it loosens attatchements to specific outcomes. Some of it however is wish washy procrastination and an excuse to not assert myself effectively in the guise of being ‘laid back’.

  2. At one time communities would seek counsel from the elders on matters of import. More experience usually translated into lessons learned. Having survived my share of crises, I am still around to share a thought or two. The main lesson is to never stop learning. Reading is good as is seeking other points of view and new ideas like visiting your blog. Finding what is ultimately important leads one to appreciate actuality, efficiency and mindfulness. Helping others to see some of the forest through the trees is another. mindfulness

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