Alchemy for The Braindamaged XIII: Biting Through


Excellence or inferiority in learning to comprehend essence and life is all a matter of finding out principle. Understanding one part, you can practice one part; understanding ten parts, you can practice ten parts.
– the Taoist I Ching

Okay. For the sake of argument we’re going to presume that you can and will do everything you set out to do. That you can and will accomplish all of your goals, even if it takes you the rest of your life. With me so far?

No? Why is that? Are you secretly thinking that there’s just no way you’ll ever do all this stuff, and you’re hoping maybe just thinking about it is gonna make you feel better?

Fuck that shit. If you aren’t willing to believe that yes, you will indeed accomplish everything you set out to do, then you’re the happy owner of what we call a loser script. You’ve failed before you even started. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars, unless it’s your welfare checque.

But I digress. That is simply our opening proposition. We’ll assume you are instead winner- scripted, and proud of it. Like Chris Walken you are the man ( or woman ) with the plan.

But really, so what? You’re gonna get everything you want. Who cares?

I know you do, but why? It’s just content. It’s just a game. The world’s largest stack of monopoly money is still monopoly money. And you may be sliced bread in your chosen game, but have you ever stopped to consider the nature of the game itself?

And no, I’m not talking about some kind of conspiracy narrative or social control rant. That’s just content, too. I’m talking about the parameters that enclose the content.

Stop me if this sounds familiar: you get up in the morning or whenever, and you fulfill whatever you perceive to be your obligations or important projects, you enact the same rituals over and over again to reinforce a sense of continuity and familiarity, and above all to give you a sense of emotional satisfaction, or at the very least, to numb out the sense of not having any emotional satisfaction.

All the particulars. The things you eat, the things you say, what you do and how you feel about it, the people in your life, their games and whatnot. CONTENT.

For a second or two, ignore the content. Ignore the specifics, the colors inside the lines, and consider the lines. What are the parameters that constrain the content? How are you any different than all the other talking monkeys who quest for an abstract sense of emotional fulfillment every day? Probably only in the contours of your game. The size of the field, the rules and expectations. The limit conditions.

You could spend a million lifetimes shuffling around content inside the frame of whatever your current parameters happen to be. Is that satisfactory? Maybe it is. There’s always going to be some set of game rules, short of disengaging from them entirely. That’s an exotic option, but it’s doable. But generally speaking, most people wouldn’t do that even if they had the ability, which they usually don’t.

For as long as you’re attatched to anything resembling an outcome, you’re going to have to accept the fact that your life is a game. You can immerse yourself in the content and try to forget it’s only a game, like most people do, or you can take some faltering steps toward personal authenticity and existential commitment, and recognize it for what it is, and choose the parameters accordingly.

Gandhi was once heard to say: What you do doesn’t matter at all. But it is very important that you do it.

Think about that for a little while.

Now there’s not much chance you’re going to be able to disengage from the content when it’s bombarding you in some kind of endless confusing wave. When you’re fooled by the changing appearances of things into imagining that what’s happening to you day after day doesn’t follow any underlying principles. Until you see the underlying game rules, the game is playing you, not the other way around. As in I ching hexagram 21; you gotta bite through all that content and get to the root.

And again, let me stress, this is not some kind of high horse conspiracy rant. The rules I’m talking about are in your head. Every human has them, is born with them, and usually dies never even recognizing them. The only difference is how we apply them.

There are plenty of these archetypal modalities of consciousness, but we’ll start with four. Most cultures identify these with the elements, but for our purposes we’ll treat them the way the hermetics do: as your magickal weapons. The Wand, the Cup, the Sword, and the Coin.

The Wand represents the will. Your ability to engage an object of focus and hold it, manifest it, apply your intent and sustain it. It represents dynamic, active force. When you use the wand you are the actor. You are the center of the drama. You make the rules, and everything that you find is yours to play with. The wand allows you to enter a new game and make it your own, or even create a new game altogether.

Conversely, the Cup is acceptance. The ability to disengage from a set of foci. To rest in the role of being acted upon, to play a part in someone else’s game. To let go of a context that you don’t like anymore. To step back, and out, collapse the game. To let things come to you and accept them as they are. The passive principle.

The Sword is analysis. To divide things into their component parts. To scale down. To magnify a corner of the picture and make that your whole world. To break anything you see into pieces that you can handle easily. Chop it up and see how it works.

And opposite that is the Coin, also known as the pentacle or the disc. In each case we have an enclosed circle, a perimeter drawn. The root meaning of the word reality is ‘a small coin’.
The coin is synthesis. To place two different things in the same sphere and examine how they work together. To scale up your focus and take in a bigger picture. To rub out your old boundary and draw a bigger one. The limits of your coin are the limits of your world. This is why many rituals take place in a circle, or pentacle, drawn on the ground.

Now if these sound really abstract, it’s because each of you already uses them all, but in utterly idiosyncratic ways. One of you may have a strong wand and treat the world like your playground, another might be happy just to rule the roost at home. Some of you may habitually take the sword to everything in your life, analyzing it into it’s smallest details, others may accept everything uncritically until it’s time to place bets on football. Some may have a very small pentacle; many americans couldn’t find canada on a map, for instance, nor do they care to. Others feel comfy speculating on the nature of collapsed neutron stars in a distant galaxy and how it might impact on their lives.

You see? There’s so much room for variation there. Theoretically we all deal with the same shared cultural content, but the way we contexualise it, the way we place a frame around the stuff to deal with it, what we choose to engage or disengage with, what acts on us, or what we act upon, makes all the difference.

You could be the wand itself and feel like god on earth, or you could be the holy grail of christ on the cross. You could have a pentacle that encloses the whole shimmering infinite void, or you could use your sword to take your sense impressions down to the level of virtual particles blinking in an out of existence in the femtosphere.

What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of room to play with your toys.

Now it’s no more necessary to actually have a physical weapon of each type to experience these phenomena, than it’s necessary to have nice clothes to feel good about your appearance. But it can help. Sooner or later you need to drop the crutch. I tend to think it’s better not to have the crutch in the first place. Whatever floats your boat.


Homework: You’ve been off the hook for a while now, so we’ve got a hard one, in four parts. Time to dust off your list of delusi- I mean goals.

The Wand: this is the easiest because the act of setting goals in the first place is a function of the wand, as is much of what we’ve done so far. But take the time to see if anything on your list could benefit from more specificity. What exactly do you want and how exactly do you want it? None of this wishy washy crap. Quit buffering the fear of failure and just announce yourself. The universe responds to courage. And while you’re at it change any wimpy wording: no more I want, I hope, I’ll wait, I’d like…. fuck that. I WILL. Make it so.

The Cup: Now take a deep breath. Do you really need all this stuff? It’s all just content anyway, right? Some people only really do one thing for their whole lives. It’s castles made of sand in the end. Look at your goals and decide if you’ll really care one way or another in a few years. Quit trying to bang your life, your friends and yourself into some arbitrary shape. What really enriches your mind and your soul, and what’s just distractions? Drop at least one thing you want altogether and replace it with helping some one you love with something they want.

The Sword: What don’t you understand? What’s too big to get your head around? Your life is built on billions of tiny interactions and processes that you know NOTHING about. Why are you trusting someone else to fix something you won’t even look at? Why are you worried about politics when you can’t manage your relationships? Why are you worried about relationships when you can’t manage your health? Why are worried about your health when you can’t manage your own thoughts? Why are you worried about anything, actually? A taoist sage said once that worry is preposterous: we don’t know enough to worry about anything. So since you’re gonna worry anyway, you better get on that understanding thing, but quick.

What on your list could benefit from being broken down into something smaller? Take anything that’s too big right now and break it into steps. Make the first step your new goal.

The Coin: Go outside on a clear night. Check the stars. How many civilizations do you think are out there? Even if you think there aren’t any, how many stars? How many planets? How many natural wonders exist on those worlds, do you think? Sunrises right here are pretty impressive. Imagine what a red giant or a binary star looks like coming up in the morning. You and I may never go there, but our decendants probably will. Is what you’re doing with your life going to be worth mentioning when they do? Is that okay with you? In the context of a universe that probably does contain an inconceivable number of races with an inconceivable number of languages, artifacts and works of art, are you going to feel honored to participate, or just small and trivial?

You may have some very small, very specific, very personally important goals. That’s cool. Just remember: There’s a difference between having a small world and being afraid of a big one. Don’t confuse the two.

Alchemy for the Braindamaged XII:Getting Yours


 Even if you’re currently in the throes of some divine revelation spurred on by your augoeides workings, you’re still going to need to give some thought to how you’re going to pursue your goals.
You may even say that being in the throes of divine revelation is the best possible reason to consider how you’re going to pursue your goals from one day to the next. Up until now we haven’t given too much air time to the prospect of ‘getting yours’.

Now we will. At this stage you can probably be trusted not to flip your shit, turn to the dark side, or hang yourself in the shower. If you’re just dropping in now… well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I hope by now, you’re not reflexively bound by some set of neurotic limitations in what you think you can and cannot do, but it may still be that you’re not prepared to put the more outrageous or grandiose things on your list yet. Not to worry.. You’ll grow out of that.

If you think about it there are really only five factors standing between you and pretty much anything you can imagine, no matter how seemingly ridiculous.

1. Insufficient knowledge
2. Insufficient skills
3. Lack of time
4. Being subject to unpredictable randomness, ie ‘chance’
5. The ‘laws’ of physics, or any other science

We’ve spent a fair bit of time already tinkering with the first two. Or at least tinkering with your mind such that you can approach the first two in the most efficient way.

Time is fairly elastic, and depends largely on how you structure it, and prioritize your life. Your mental abilities will dictate how well you can use, perceive and reinterpret time.

The fifth is the most seemingly intractable. ‘Seemingly’ being the operative word. Very little you do would be more fruitfull than figuring out how to circumvent the supposed ‘laws’ of the physical universe. But I don’t suppose most of you care to spend your lives that way. Rest assured that as you develop in the first four, the fifth will seem a lot less imposing.

Which leaves the fourth. How exactly does one engineer around the apparent randomness of events?

The answer to this is rather simple.

Just ask for it.

It doesn’t matter whom or what you ask. The universe, god, bugs bunny, valis, your own higher self. Makes no difference whatsoever. All that is required is the willingness to ask for assitance from a force outside your normal understanding.

You might be calling bullshit just now, but tell me… have you tried it? Have you tried asking for a seemingly random bit of life to come your way? Not begging, not pleading, not threatening, not asking to be shielded from something you know is coming. Just stating your intentions clearly and asking for help. That’s it.

Some people call this prayer. Some call it conjuration, or enchantment. Some call it flow, or having the touch. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Chaos magicians usually call it sigilisation, create obscure glyphs representing their requests and wank or flagellate themselves to sidestep the ego attatchment to not asking for help. It surely doesn’t need to be that complex.

Now let me be more specific here about what you do need: You have to have a clear idea of what you want, stated in the positive, and you have to be willing to accept it in whatever way it presents it self. Most people, even if they do become desperate enough to try this, are asking for something they don’t want to go away, or they’re asking for something in an excessively specific way, or they have too much emotional negativity tied up in not getting it.

What I mean by that last one, is, it’s all well and good to ask for the universe to help you out one time, but if your behavior and consciousness contradicts the thing you’re asking for, then you’re already asking for the opposite thing a hundred times a day.

For example: you ask to meet a new partner. You ask to make a connection to someone that you think you’re going to value and cherish. But in the rest of your life you’re treating people like shit. Guess what? The universe doesn’t just listen when you ask it to. It listens all the time, and it gives you what you ask for the most, sooner or later. If your behavior is saying you don’t respect your connection with people, then asking for a real connection one time isn’t gonna make much difference. Keep in mind what I said here about clearing out your contradictory focuses.

The ‘sooner or later’ aspect is something to keep in mind too. The universe seems to be made of energetic wave material, that responds to intention the way lucid dreams do, but much of it is very thick, and very slow. If you want it to respond, you have to be consistent and you have to be willing to wait. If you change your mind a hundred times a day, or you can’t spend more than five minutes focusing on your stated result, the material universe is going to respond to the guy next to you who has it it a bit more together.

You also have to consider that there could be dozens, or even hundreds of people pulling in different directions. The smaller and more personal your arena the easier it is to make things flex for you. The public sphere is a heavily contested region for the ‘gangs of rival shamen’ that RAW likes to talk about. So you either have to wait for your opening, or get some help.

The one last thing to keep in mind is that because the material world is slow moving. It tends to preference what already exists. It’s inertia. The guy or gal who gets to it first has the edge.

All of this mitigates against your ability to influence probability, so it’s not suprising that almost nobody does it successfully, on a consistent basis, but since I like to think I’m such a nice guy, I’ll offer you a little exercise to sharpen your skills in this area.

Every day, compose a little story about how you want things to go. Don’t ask for completely out-of-context occurrences just yet. Just your regular routine, but specify how you want all the normally random stuff to go.

Specify how long it takes to get to work. Specify who you bump into on the way. Specify who phones you in the evening, specify what episode of your tv show is going to be on that night, which songs on the radio or in the setlist for a band you’re seeing. Specify which videos are going to be rented out at the video store. All the trivial random stuff that nobody pays any real attention to. Every day state in the positive how you want all the random stuff to happen. Don’t ask for something to go away. Say what you want instead. If you’re one of those folks who gets approached by strangers, who do you want to talk to, what do you want them to talk about? Etcetera etcetera….

This serves a few purposes. Firstly it trains you to formulate and state your intentions consistently, in a sphere that is least likely to intersect other people. And secondly, it teaches you to PAY ATTENTION. Most of you are so fixated on your big flashing shiny dream goals for a few hours a day and then shut your intention off the rest of the time. Is it any wonder your mind is so weak? The real exercise is in the down time. That’s where you build strength and that’s where you have to worry about resistance the least. Notice that these benefits all accrue irregardless of whether any of the things you ask for actually occur or not.

The last thing to be wary of is what crowley calls the ‘lust of result’.


justcan’twaittoget whati’ve

Clear enough? DON’T do that. Just chill, banish often, and assume that it will work if you stay with it and hold steadily.

Have fun. And when you start feeling extremely paranoid, just remember: it’s not you. It’s the nature of the universe. The world is a friendly place. Any problems arise from deranged people who aren’t shy about asking for help with their deranged ideas.

next: weapon of choice

” Now we know who I am…”


 One of the hurdles I’ve had to deal with from the very beggining, in my writing, has to do with what you might call the banality of evil. Tim has mentioned this in the past and has done again. I have to say that baroque criminality and florid megalomania fascinates me in some ways. The possibility that there might be true monsters is tantalizing, for reasons I’ll go into below.

But the thing is, you move from the superficial evidence which would seem to imply some truly bizarre and potent evil lurking in the wings, and the deeper you go, what do you find? Boring, banal little freaks. Tedious, emotionally stunted adolescents and raving paranoids. Shell shocked two dimensional fanatics who lack anything resembling a creative imagination. Squalid psychopaths and perverts.

It’s disheartening in some ways. And why is that, you might ask? Surely it’s better for us all that there seem to be no ‘real’ potent monsters lurking about?

Maybe so, but it depends how you define ‘better’.

Back in the early days of AB I spent a fair bit of time rapping back and forth with the now sadly dormant Rev Max about this stuff and those exchanges helped me arrive at much of my current understanding of the matter. Anyway towards the end of that trajectory, Max posed the question: are there ‘evil kung fu masters’ or not? If so, then that would change everything. I agree. Maybe not in the way he meant, but I do. But how exactly would it change anything?

The problem is it’s a chimera, it slides through your fingers. Surely there are profoundly skilled and adept people in the world, and there are also profoundly evil and malevolent people in the world. But are there those who are both profoundly adept and profoundly evil and sweeping in their ambitions? My observation has been that those who want to fuck with people tend not to be especially masterful at much, besides lying and manipulation. The growth of consciousness and the drive to abuse others seems to be at cross purposes. Nevertheless, there is a void there. A gap in the evidence, a gap in the explaination. Something is implied here.

In short, are there real supervillains out there? And if not, then why not?

It’s not a trivial question I think. And it’s part of the reason I started this current iteration of alchemical braindamage. It was one of the first things I talked about when I came back.

If you’ve been reading my other strand of writings, then you know my overriding concern is with evolution, with personal transformation, with alchemy. It’s kind of psychological chemistry, with agents, reagents, catalysts, solutions, sytheses. The world is the vessel wherein our person psychology is cast and recast. It is our mirror, and our fuel.

My fear for the world has always been that fail to live up to our potential. That we don’t aim high enough, dream big enough, feel or think deeply enough. We devalue ourselves, devalue others, and demystify the world until it falls over and prepares to kick up it’s heels. We engineer catastrophes at the same time as we psychologically disempower ourselves to deal with them.

Most people seem to take one of two approaches to the question of evil. Either you have the quavering deer in headlights approach where you neither understand the problem nor equip yourself to deal with it, or you have the dismissive postmodernist skeptic who deconstructs the problem till it carries no urgency, and no real meaning. Just sick people, just stupid people, just the way things are. Crippled by hysteria or blinded by reason. In either case you’ve allowed no real room for yourself to grow. You’re either a deer, or you’re a product of impersonal forces.

I rewatched the movie Unbreakable with my girlfriend the other day, and it makes me think of that. The Elijah Price character played by Samuel L. Jackson is, by any reasonable standard, a broken person. Physically broken, mentally broken, and we begin to suspect, spiritually broken. He seems to grasp at some bizarre notion that Bruce Willis is a larger than life figure, a superhuman savior for the world. And until the end we don’t understand why.

We finally see that Price is searching for his complimentary opposite. For the counterweight that would set his life purpose into motion. By helping David Dunn discover that he is a superhero of sorts, this allows Price to step into his own personal vision of greatness. His purpose is validated. He is no longer the sick, broken man. He is the supervillain, the archnemesis. In some way by giving a stranger the permission to become something larger than life, he himself assumes that stature as well.

The psychological mechanism at the core of this is very real. If we insist on stripping others of their meaning and purpose, then we simultaneously strip ourselves of our own meaning and purpose. If we insist on not understanding the truth in the darkness then we will never understand ourselves either.

Like it or not, this plane of existence seems to operate on the principle of duality, on the dynamic of self and other. As we grow, the other grows, in some complimentary and mirror way. As our understanding and recognition for the other grows, our understand and recognition of the self grows as well.

This is a strange thing to contemplate, and sort of counter intuitive. But if you approach the monster with understanding and respect, if you allow him to crystallize in your mind in his fullest expression, you will at the same time crystallize within yourself to your fullest expression. This is how the world works. How it has always worked. There is no ‘utopia’, no ‘dystopia’. There is no final resolution to anything. Only this dialectic, this endless round of conflict, communication and synthesis. The only release is to step into the timeless, but that is another matter.

I think in some ways our real and enduring problem is a kind of enforced neoteny, and prolonged infantilism. We refuse to face the cycles of growth and maturity, we refuse to evolve into our true selves and thus we refuse to allow the other to grow either. And our world putters and gasps and seems to fall into upheaval.

And I feel quite sure on some level that the only way to end this apparently aimless chaos, the only thing that can end it, is this cultural rite of passage, this hero’s journey into the dragon’s lair. Where we will know ourselves through knowing the dragon, and the story will continue as it always must. Otherwise, we too will remain locked into stasis with the sick, broken and stunted children that we imagine to be lurking in the shadows.