in difficulty, creativity and development are effective if correct. Do not use. There is a place to go. It is beneficial to set up a ruler. – the Taoist I ching

I’ve incorporated some aspects of the I ching here because it’s a good map of this whole process from a non western perspective. I’ll be switching metaphors liberally however to give a multi faceted overview of this thing filtered through many systems.

Anyway. One of the big movements of occultism in the last century was to shed a lot of what was seen as ‘trappings’. Certainly even up to the Golden Dawn or OTO there were rather a lot of formal declarations, applications and sponsorship, oaths of various kinds and involved induction rituals before instruction would begin. These practices still survive in many forms mind you, but they are increasingly seen as archaic holdovers from an uptight and self important elitist practice that have no place in an egalitarian democracy which professes freedom and equal opportunity. Certainly the best example is the chaos magick current which prides itself on the complete absence of extraneous trappings.

Why the hell should I have to make all these binding promises and jump through hoops to learn this shit? Put up or shut up, guys!

The big problem with this mentality is that it promotes the same kind of crippling thinking that infests capitalism and consumerism ie; if I am prepared to pay the market price for something and show up, I should be entitled to have the product on a silver platter, at no personal cost to myself. I worked for my money already, so why should I do anything else?

This may work for buying a pimped-out ride or some fly new sneakers, but when it comes to inner cultivation, that shit won’t fly. This is not a market transaction. This is not a democracy. This is your inner world. Is your inner world subject to the constitution, to egalitarian social mores? Is your inner life subject to market forces? It is not. If you think it is, then you have my sympathy.

What unfortunately gets overlooked is that while a lot of those trappings seem unnecessary, they fulfill a very important function: they make you work for it. If you aren’t prepared to face some difficulties and perservere through some obscure rituals, if you aren’t willing to make some personal sacrifices and bind yourself with some commitments to your teachers, your fellow students and yourself, then you haven’t got the fortitude to do anything with the teachings anyway, so you might as well save everyone the time and the hassle and go home. Think of a buddhist temple, or old school martial arts. Go chop wood for a few years, or dig me a well, or stand out in the cold for a couple days, then you’ll be ready.

If you look at this thing from the perspective of cultivating intent, it starts to make sense, yes? You’re already learning something before you get in the door.

So before you run off half cocked looking to secure power and obscure knowledge, ask yourself this; what am I prepared to do? What am I prepared to give up? Am I willing to wait, to endure discomfort? Am I willing to let things slide in other areas? Are you correct in your intentions, or are you looking for a free lunch?

If you think you’re going to learn a new skill without making some room in your life, and cutting some things loose, you’re probably kidding yourself.

The other aspect to this, which I’m sad to say has gotten lost to a large extent these days is what the description of the hexigram calls setting up a ruler. Meaning, the willing submission to a larger principle. Be it a teacher, a religion, an overarching ideal, or a relationship. Where’s your compass? What will bring you through the difficulties of the path? Most people get by on the weak nourishment of an ego fattened on consumer culture and unearned luxuries.

If this seems too harsh or confrontational, I assure you it is in your best interest. The couch is always there if you get too uncomfortable. Your next assignment, should you choose to overlook your bruised sense of entitlement, is twofold:

Examining our list, ask yourself what you are prepared to do to meet that goal. How far are you willing to go? Will you do whatever it takes , or are you hoping it will land in your lap? Are there some things on that list you will give up to get other things? Are there items, that once you’ve thought about it, aren’t really worth the hassle? What’s the one thing you must have on that list above all others?

answer and revise your list accordingly. If you’ve dropped some things, add more using your new criteria. If you can, rank the things on the list in terms of importance.

Once you’ve done that, you probably have a good idea of how to set up a ruler. What’s the overriding principle? What unifies your life? What is your purpose? Who or what do you serve? If you don’t know, then put it on the back burner for now.

next time: how to banish demons!

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4 thoughts on “Alchemy for the Braindamaged II: Difficulty

  1. Okay. Homework:

    examine what you are prepared to do to meet your goals and revise accordingly. order them if possible in terms of importance.

    So, some thoughts on my own list…
    -confidence is an issue, as well as assertiveness. there are some areas where assertiveness is very appropriate. getting a better job, or doing my practical test. in terms of my ordination however it would be out of line to tell my teacher how ready *I* am to do certain things. it’s not really my decision to make beyond a certain point. so that’s a key distinction.

    – I’m trying to go in too many directions at the same time. part of it is my frustration at slower progress in my buddhist studies, so the temptation is to put energy in places where it doesn’t feel quite as blocked.

    – if i took the time to improve my job situation, i’d have the money and personal energy to do more things consecutively, instead of trying to do them all at once.

    – realisticly, there’s no way I will leave my studies here to go to new jersey or japan for any singnificant length of time. I will sacrifice everything else to keep my path correct in terms of spirituality. so the compromise solution is to hang with jeff as much as possible, and invest some $$ in going to some better ninjitsu training events.

    so, revising accordingly and placed in order now.

    1. I want to complete the study process for my buddhist disciple ordination test, and engage my teacher in a dialouge to discuss my readiness to take that test.
    2. I want a job I can invest more of my personal interest into, that won’t compromise my other interests, and ideally compliments them.
    3. I’d like to complete the practicum component of my medical message course, which I’ve been sitting on for a few months now.
    4. I want a clear idea of how to improve the quality of my diet, and what changes will have the desired effect for me.
    5. I would like to have higher quality ninjitsu training than I have now. I want more practical opportunities to do this, (seminars in my area for example).
    6. I want more people to show up for my martial arts classes.
    7. I want to spend more time practicing tracker skills with my friend Jeff who is very knowledgable in this area. I want more practical opportunities to make this happen.
    8. I’d like to sell some of my old comics and gaming materials on ebay.
    9. 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.
    10. I want to feel secure enough in my finances to invest some savings in physical silver or gold bullion.

    I haven’t felt the need to drop anything entirely, but I think I may still be asking for too much. as long as I know what comes first for me, then it shouldn’t be a problem as of yet. For privacy purposes I haven’t factored my girlfriend into the list here, but I obviously do in real life.

    it’s interesting to look at where the functional and practical limitations are at this stage. I only have so much influence over events and opportunities in direct way. this provides a chance to examine indirect causality ( enchantment ) fairly soon.

  2. “The other aspect to this, which I’m sad to say has gotten lost to a large extent these days is what the description of the hexigram calls setting up a ruler. Meaning, the willing submission to a larger principle. Be it a teacher, a religion, an overarching ideal, or a relationship. Where’s your compass? What will bring you through the difficulties of the path? Most people get by on the weak nourishment of an ego fattened on consumer culture and unearned luxuries.”

    This is great. I’ve been reading your site for a good while now but haven’t commented yet. Great stuff. Great series of posts.

  3. There was a time when communities would seek counsel from the elders. More experience usually translated into lessons learned. Having picked up a pearl of wisdom here and there over the years, I am now able to share a thought or two. The main lesson is to never stop learning. Seeking other points of view and new ideas like visiting your blog are steps in the right direction. 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 its own reward. discernment

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