In the previous posts of this series we discussed the basics of Power and Magic. In Part 1 we introduced a simple model allowing us to connect the What, How and Why of Magic and explored its impact on our own ritual practice. In Part 2 we took a look at the fundament of magical power built from experience and meaning and how these need to be in balance for a living approach to magic. Furthermore we examined an example of abuse of magical power that can be encountered both in past and present times.
Initially I had a couple of key thoughts to share in this series. Yet, the deeper we march into the topic the easier it seems to connect the dots and more material comes up. Alan Richardson in a recent Facebook conversation mentioned he has studied the relation of power and magic for 55 years and there is still no end in sight... For now there are two more parts I want to share with you. This one is taking us one step further in the journey towards the What. We will explore some of the dynamics that allow or inhibit us to store significant amounts of powers within or around us. The fourth and potentially final part for now will be a personal story.
5) Crafting Vessels of Power
In ancient times the major purpose of magic was to ward off crisis. In times of great need and suffering the powers of the gods that had been charged in ritual vessels before were harvested. Power was released from statues, from temples, scented fires and sacred groves. The closest practice to this we can still witness today are the official parades of statues of Saints or the Holy Mother as practiced in some parts of Europe to this very day. Only that the Catholic church was smart enough to cut out the ritual of actual energy release while surrounded by the community...
However, on close examination we find that magical power was not only released from sacred objects or holy parts of the land, it was also released from human bodies - as stored in their physical vessels. So how can our bodies become such strong containers of magical power that their outpouring can effect entire communities or parts of the land?
We discussed the basics that are necessary in the previous posts - knowing your Why, understanding the How of your tradition and mastering the What of the craft. Assuming we all have to explore our Whys on our own - may it be on visionquests, in dreams or therapy - let's talk a little more about How we can craft such strong containers of magical power from our bodies?
Here is the trick: it is exactly the same amount of power that you want to apply in your magical practice, on your boss, your neighbors or generally in life which needs to be stored within your own body, mind and soul in advance. I.e. the pressure you want to apply on the outside needs to be channeled through the inside first. Think of a magical invocation and you'll understand immediately what I am talking about: the forces of the spirits flow through you. Before they can reach anything on the material realm, it is your mind, body and soul that form their gate.
Here is how you can think of the two roles of the mage as initiator and mediator or vessel in a short graph:
Well, I know what you are thinking? Can't we outsmart this law of magical power balance by applying evocations rather then invocations? Can't we just lock the door to our own sphere with a magical circle and contain the demon in the triangle of Arte. I guess in principle that should work, in practice, however history has proven it rarely does.
Sooner or later there will be physical contact between the spirit summoned and yourself - may it be in the realms of dreams, while cleaning up your temple or even in bright daylight on your local kids playground. In essence the idea of bypassing this law of balance by techniques of evocation is just as smart as the idea we could actually get rid of nuclear toxic waste... In theory we sure can - yet even after decades of research and trial-and-error we rarely do in practice.
That's why if you want to do yourself a favor you only deal with the power your physical body is ready to handle. Any demon that you wouldn't want to encounter during an invocation rite - I suggest to put it on your list for workings in the future. Future defining the state when your ritual techniques as well as the qualities of your magical power container, i.e. yourself had time to mature further...
Let's illustrate this basic of law of magic by use of an example:
Think of a regular water pipe in our walls. If the water contained in it flows with low pressure the pipe itself only needs to be able to accommodate a low amount of power. I.e. if it is old, somewhat fissured or if it contains some sediments inside, it doesn't really matter as long as it can still pass on the water delivered through it at a relatively low amount of pressure.
Now, if we suddenly increase the level of pressure in the tube, what is going to happen? Clearly the water will gush out of the end of the pipe more powerfully. E.g. If the purpose of our action of increasing the level of water-pressure was to fill our bathtub quicker at first glance we will consider ourselves successful. However, at the same time the pressure inside the pipe has increased as well - and all the damage of the pipe will suddenly become highlighted. All the tiny flaws that had been acceptable before suddenly become obstacles and the risk they imbue on the overall process has significantly increased. Fissures might become cracks, sediments might be washed out and over time the whole pipe might blow up...
Strip away all magical tricks, all Ifs and Buts and you'll find: The same amount of power that is applied to support our intent is also applied against ourselves. And so we are back to our original question: if we aim to become better containers or mediums of power, what inner and outer qualities do we need to change? The actual act of increasing the water pressure in the pipe, i.e. opening the valve further is simple enough. Actually it is quite helpful to understand at this point that there are unlimited amounts of power around us. Literally, power without boundaries surrounds us. We are the boundary that matters. And that is especially true in magical rites.
None of us need to be a genius to perform the rites of the Goetia. The practice of Grimoires doesn't contain rocket science, but very clear instructions on What one needs to do to achieve certain results. Yet, as we have seen the true risk doesn't lie in the nature of the demon, the quality of our circle or that missing lion belt for our collection of paraphernalia. The real risk lies in the echo effect which any magical power has on our minds, our bodies and souls - well, even on the people that live with us.
A very wise man once said to me: Every contact is erotic. Every touch of a fruit, every moment in the sun, every sip of coffee, every rainfall, each contact is erotic. Slow down your life and you feel it: Our conscious is drawn out from its centre, towards its boundaries, contact is established and true experience begins. It is the boundaries of our bodies, the boundaries of our minds and souls where all erotism is taking place. Two boundaries meet and our potential as a human beings unfolds: smell, taste, sight, touch... Let's be gentle to our boundaries. Let's respect the fine line between where we begin and where we end. Because a skin full of scars feels less.
To achieve true magic, to charge our experience with true meaning for ourselves and others, the real question isn't about the amount of power we can hold. It is about the qualities we bring to life when we get in touch.