Some Thoughts on the Rewards of Magic
Some calls are so loud they just have to be answered... -- I was just in the middle of writing up the next part of the Tale of Bear’s Son when I came across RO’s recent post on the HGA and the Celestials. Now, for anyone who is following both of our blogs it is obvious that we are taking pretty different stances on ritual magic. This is not so much in the means we apply to our practice nor the largely hermetic paradigm we work in. Yet the difference lies in the ends both of us are trying to achieve through our practice. And this is why I feel it might be helpful to share a few thoughts on his post here.
The starting point of RO’s considerations comes from an earlier post by Jow. Besides pondering on the concept of the HGA Jow is asking how much the pursuit of magic should be worth to the practitioner. Both he and RO hold some pretty strong opinons on this. In essence they are in agreement that an epic spiritual journey is only worth the risk if it comes with an epic reward. Let me quote this section from Jow's post:
"Also if I am risking EVERYTHING in my life, I want a return at least equal to what I put in. If the risk is no home, no family, no job, and no sanity, I want the literal cash and prizes at the end of the book. I want my ass to fly, be invisible, demolish city walls, and have all the powers of a living God on earth. If I risk everything material, and human in my life, my whole material life's work, in an epic gambit for spiritual power and success, I want an epic reward. I do not want something that is "really useful". Also, I do not want it to be a product of some spirits I've bound into servitude. I want that shit to be MINE."
Well. Let’s pause here for a moment and reflect on the proposed equation...
Basically, what I am hearing is the idea that if we throw all our human weight into one side of the scales, the Celestials are supposed to throw in omnipotence for us into the other? I cannot help myself but wonder where this notion of grandiosity comes from? If one single human is ready to give up their home, their relationships, their perceived security of a middle-class live - then the gods are supposed to reward them with super-powers? Mhm. I am not so sure about this. Actually, I would suggest to ask a different question first: What precisely is it that any of us have to loose in the first place?
RO’s and Jow's approach makes me believe thy are under the impression that the alternative to a life devoted to magic (or the pursuit of attaining knowledge and communion with your HGA) is the uninterrupted security and soothing comfort of middle-class life? I guess, this is where our opinions on life in general deviate quite significantly?
Here is my view: We are all thrown out into an open ocean, with some time left before we will drown. All we really have to throw into the scales - and hope the Celestials will throw super-powers into the other one - is the decision into which direction we will swim. We can choose to follow the pack and swim in their direction - and at least have the comfort of other people around us while we grow weaker. Or we can choose to turn around and choose a direction of our own, simply following a different pursuit in life than most - unknowing wether it’s a mirage or island we see in the distance. The point is: It’s all open water anyway. We have nothing to loose or to negotiate with; we are already naked. Anything we hoard, anything we achieve, anything we think we secured for ourself can be taken away in a heartbeat. And that is true for a life with or without magic.
So you think the endurance of a Sun-rite is tough? You think the process of sun beings peeling away layer upon layer of your personality is arduous? It certainly is. But is it harder than loosing areas of your brain in a stroke? Is it harder than being eaten alive by cancer like so many of us are? Is it truly more gruesome than being left by your spouse for younger partner after 20 years of marriage? Let’s not fool ourselves. There is no such things as a security we could trade in. We can only choose to walk towards the painful experiences that are lying in wait for us over the course of our lives - or wait until they have caught up with us. There is some hope that the former will allow you to deal with some of this pain on a spiritual / psychological level predominantly, whereas the latter will come through on a material / physical realm in most cases. But pain and loss and grief it will be, my friends - with or without magic. The real question with regards to Sun- or Saturn-rites to me is: Are you ready to open the front door to your fears and give them a seat at your dinner table - or will you lock them out and wait until they come through from the inside of your mind or body? This is the choice the magician has.
All we have to through into the scales is the courage to accept life as it truly is. The courage to face life as a whole and to stop trying to cherry-pick peak experiences on the bright side. But please don't expect a life lived with courage to be rewarded with super-powers. The reward will be quite different - and very subtle in most cases. Here are some examples you can hope to expect:
- A personalty less delusional about the true power it holds
- A personality more understanding of the real processes triggered by grief and pain and fear within us - and the value they can bring
- A personality that is plainly speaking more magical, i.e. able to connect with beings on multiple layers and realms because it has taken off it’s armor of false identification.
Unfortunately super-powers are not in the game for us. It’s the spirits themselves, the living forces of the land, the skies, the earth who hold the keys to these. And our only way to participate in them - if there is any reason to do so at all - is for us to become a medium of their powers. At no point will we be the message.
Let me close this with a very little known - or at least spoken of - alchemical process within us. It relates to the development and shifting of influences of the planetary forces within humans over the course of their lives. So here is the thing: According to this theory the personality of the young boy is dominated by the forces of Mars just as the young girl's is dominated by Venus. Think of these two forces as the fuel their personality-engines run on, not defining what they do but how they engage in life.
Over the years and as they progress and mature in life these influences are meant to change subtly, yet with significant effect. The dominant influence of Mars in the boy transforms into and becomes replaced by the forces of the Sun as defined in his radix. Equally, for girls the influence of Venus gradually shifts and becomes replaced as the power source of the personality with the forces of the Moon. These transitions define and regulate the process of growing up from boy to man and girl to woman. We can consider the process of stepping over the thresholds from Mars to Sun or Venus to Moon deep personal initiations. In real life they happen gradually, over the course of multiple years. The magician obviously has the choice to support and accelerate this process - should they choose to.
I was reminded of this process when reading RO’s and Jow’s posts. So much in there speaks to the influence of Mars. The hunger for personal power, for seeing one’s own affect on the world, for leaving a mark and being recognized for it, for being seens as a strong and self-assured personality. I strongly believe in the power and rightfulness of these desires. Nobody will mature from boy to man, from girl to woman if they haven’t passed through the gates of Mars and Venus in the first place. Experiencing the power of these planetary realms is essential to build up the strength, coherence and self-esteem in our selves that is necessary to advance anywhere else from there. Yet, the process of connecting to one's HGA is the process that lies in wait beyond the gates of Mars and Venus - closer to the realms of Sun and Moon.