I am currently reading Josephine McCarthy's wonderful book Magical Knowledge, Vol.II. It is such a seminal work. It allows me to take a completely new perspective on the ground rules of magic... Once I am more grounded in her work and exercises I will share a longer review. Yet, there is one particular thought that came back again and again while reading the first half of the book. So I started to compare with the armada of 'training' books on magic I had read before. And wondered why this thought had never come up before? Here is what I found...
Jeeez - when did I lose my heart?
Looking at most modern training books on magic and curricula of the schools of magic it is striking how little time we spend understanding the language of our hearts. There once was a time when the heart was considered the source of life and a well of wisdom. Yet for some reasons these days are long ago now.... Today we can observe a striking neglect of the matters of the heart in most magical education and training courses. It almost seems we deliberately started to avoid our hearts in the equation of (magical) skill building? Maybe we fear involving our hearts will necessarily lead to a watered down New Age cult? Or a "love and light and peace" philosophy that doesn't pay due respect to the nightside of life? Whatever the reasons are, it's a matter of fact: Our hearts turned from wells of wisdom into minefields, avoided by the battling troops for efficiency and efficacy of magical growth.
So how did we get here?
To me there is a rather clear point in time when this change was initiated: Understanding and educating our hearts crumbled as a central pillar of magical growth when its name was replaced by its alter ego, the subconscious. Let me explain this idea: Two developments overlapped towards the end of the 20th century. The industrialization had created a new and rather mechanical understanding of the occult. Telepathy was compared to radio waves and mental powers were explained by magnetism. Many occult thought leaders shifted from a spirit model to a rather mechanical model of energy and magnetism. We can find this shift as early as with Eliphas Levi who mentioned in his "Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual" that everything is made of matter, every thought and every subtle force. Things are simply differentiated by the subtleness of substance, yet they all respect the same mechanical laws of gravity, attraction and rejection:
"Spiritual and corporeal are simply terms which express the degrees of tenuity or density in substance." (Levi, p.42)
Only a few decades later the field of modern psychology emerged and offered a new language that started to erase the knowledge of power and wisdom of our hearts: What had been called our mind became our consciousness, and our heart and inner demons were merged behind the veil of subconscious. Between the bi-polar forces of consciousness and subconscious a complex dynamic was introduced, which turned out to be so obscure that it took a whole field of study and research to explore it - and more than a lifetime for an individual to understand it. The entrance to the simple well of wisdom in our hearts had been thoroughly sealed.
Looking back this shift in language and perspective seems so obvious yet so daunting that it is hard to understand why it wasn't realized more clearly?
Imagine sitting at a dinner table. The third course is just being served... suddenly there is a new guest at your dinner table. He calls himself subconscious. Without a word of apologies he takes the seat of your heart - and acts as if he had been part of the family all along, taking all things for granted. Strangely enough, since he arrived all the candle flames died and someone turned on the electric lights. The whole atmosphere changed. Yet nobody says a word and you all continue eating... With the advent of your new guest things became rational and straight forward. The heart has left the table and with it seemingly all emotions have left the room: Where your heart speaks of love and affection, of desire and pain, the subconscious displays rational graphs of mathematical equations. Here you are, trading emotive authenticity for rational explanations. Trading the authentic reality of emotions you can actually experience yourself for an abstract reality that is inaccessible to your bodily senses. In a single moment your emotions turned into ghosts, they became expressions of subconscious mechanisms that could all be perfectly explained and engineered - if only the light of consciousness shone bright enough on them...
To put it simply: it is your heart that breaks and your subconscious that acts irrational. The former can get hurt, the later needs engineering; the former uses the language of beings, the later the language of machines. What a simple trick to put your heart under the domain of your mind. What a simple move to relocate and lock down the well of wisdom from your heart behind the veil of subconsciousness.
So what do we do next?
Here is a thought: What happened if you squeezed in another chair, made some space and invited the heart back to the table while keeping the subconscious there as well? I know, looking back at the last 100 years it's fair to assume that this will make for a lot of trouble at your table. I guess these two don't get along very well? Imagine a view on reality that accepted emotions as authentic and unique expressions of our hearts, while similarily accepting the subconscious as the secret board room of our minds and hearts? Speaking in the language of beings and machines at once doesn't make for good dinner conversations...
So let's try a trick: Whoever sits at your table, how ever many chairs you bring in, whatever light you use, candles or light bulbs, there is one thing that always remains the same. And that's you. You are sitting at this table, watching lights change, watching beings being replaced by machines and machines sitting next to beings. Meanwhile you have a sip of wine, sit back and listen and watch. And what you discover watching the craziness of this dinner is this: There are different guests at your table, different voices, different seats being taken. They all speak to you at different times and you chat along. And some conversations are more meaningful than others. It's not about your guests, but more about yourself. Sometimes you feel connected: You feel a bond, you are involved as a whole human being, you have a vested interest, you are emotional and rational and irrational all in one conversation. And sometimes you do not connect. Sometimes the conversation remains artificial. You keep on talking for a while until the words fade out organically...
For me this fade out, this disconnect happens when someone addresses me in the language of machines. If I am addressed in a language that isn't accessible to my personal experience as a human being, to the subjective reality of my little mind - I instantly lose interest. If conversations at my dinner table turn theoretical and abstract, that's when I turn back to my glass of wine and flip my 'bullshit switch' on. I disengage.
What is the language that keeps you engaged? How do you need to be addressed to be truly involved in a conversation? How does one need to talk to you to affect you, to pierce through your mind and heart, your consciousness and subconsciousness at all once, to create a moment of true presence? That's when the well of wisdom opens and a current starts flowing freely. May it be initiated by your heart, your subconscious, your inner demons or a just another guest without a name yet...
Some of us might need to be addressed in the language of beings. Others prefer to speak in the language of machines. Others again will find languages I haven't discovered yet, they will put new chairs at the table and welcome more guests. Reality is what we make of it: We can chose to speak in the language of beings, of machines, of spirits, of energy or information. They are all of equal value. What determines their subjective value is how well they allow us to have a meaningful conversation.
So I guess the language of wisdom is a subjective experience. It is what happens when we truly engage. It doesn't have any letters, grammar or spelling. It cannot be taught or searched for, it can only be encountered. It is what happens in the space between. In between I and Thou. In between you and me.
We just finished desert. I am relaxed and tired from the long meal. I can see the candles have been lit again. Opposite me my heart is chatting to my subconscious. I don't hear what they are saying. There is a veil of sweetness and peacefulness on my mind. What a wonderful night. Something good is going on. I don't need to be in control. I am just another guest at this table...
...someone has put on music. I take a sip of wine, I sit back and listen.
There has been but one true love
In my baby's arms, in my baby's arms
And I got the hands to hold onto them
I get sick of just about everyone
And I hide in my baby's arms
'Cause except for her, you know, as I've implied
I will never ever ever be alone
'Cause it's all in my baby's hands
Shiny, shiny secret stones
In my baby's hands
I get sick of just about everyone
And I hide in my baby's arms
Shrink myself just like a tom thumb
And I hide in my baby's hands
'Cause except for her
There just ain't nothing to latch onto
There has been but one true love
In my baby's arms