Working in Service (Part 4): On Aggression
It’s a simple fact of life that every force manifests in power and direction. Each force might carry its individual threshold at which it converts from being stagnant to setting into motion. Yet once this level has been surpassed, the result is movement in a defined direction. Thus the two states any force within or around us can assume is either being stagnantly bound or being set free in motion.
When we look at the challenge of how to deal with aggression, this simple fact is of critical importance. Aggression is a force within us that more than others requires direction. Yet, unfortunately, it is a force so wild and untamed, that in most cases we fail to direct it with purpose. Instead, from the corner of our consciousness it abruptly surpasses the threshold of being stagnant and erupts into action - manifesting itself in situations that tend to spin out of control easily and often leave us with results we regret.
Now, rather than looking at this as a problem, one could see this as an opportunity: as human beings we are energy-generating beings. Some of this energy is of relatively low level and easy to assign to a specific direction. Other currents, such as angst or aggression are of a much higher voltage and equally harder to direct. The good news is that in magic having access to high levels of power is an advantage in principle. One could argue, it actually is a precondition of success.
While aggression is a force too powerful to be consciously controlled at all times, just like any current it will follow the path of least resistance once set free. So let's ask this question: What if rather than trying to control aggression directly, we focussed on altering, on rerouting these paths, the riverbeds of fire it follows within us? What if we managed to consciously release this powerful force - only once its path has been changed in accordance with our will?
Let’s pause for a moment. We will come back to this thought in a minute. For now let’s return to the subject of self-confidence and working in service magically. I think there is an interesting circle waiting to be closed here...
In the previous post we talked about how unimportant we are as human beings. We talked about how much self-confidence we can gain from the simple fact that no one cares more about our failures or successes than ourselves. This fact becomes a significant advantage in creating long-lasting self-confidence if we can look at it from the following perspective:
What a relief!, one may want to shout out, It's only me who is threatened! Damn it, that's the best news ever! Because the amount of horribleness that can happen to me, is now limited by the circle that I call myself.
Now, unfortunately many of us can argue from experience that there is at least one big obstacle to this perspective. It doesn’t really matter how large or small the circle is we call ourselves. For us to grow any self-confidence, we must love its very layout and nature first. Granted that we really do not matter at all to others, that life is not a competition, neither a fight or one huge stage play in front of an invisible audience - we still want to look good in our own eyes. There is this desire deep within us - to be able to love us for who we are. And it can be terribly, gut-wrenchingly hard to know you were meant to be different from what you see in the mirror each day...
Wether we matter or not, wether we are looked at or not, we all know the desire to be beautiful in our own eyes. Of course beauty in this context isn’t about physical form; even though it might be an aspect of it. Much more fundamentally beauty here is about who we have turned into on the inside. It is a question about the nature and shape of forces that express themselves through us. If we consider ourselves a gate, a threshold between the physical and inner realm, then the question of beauty considers the beings and forces and currents that pass through us and how much these are in harmony with the fibre we were originally made of... This type of beauty isn’t about narcissism at all. It is about becoming useful in the world.
Now, let’s return to what we said about aggression above: It’s a violent force that cannot be controlled, yet its riverbeds, the paths of least resistance it follows can be altered. Once we turn into adepts in altering these channels before the force breaks free, aggression turns into the elixir of change. Because how else do we find the guts to truly transform ourselves? We all can articulate so precisely how we desire to change - yet so often we lack the decisiveness and stamina to execute on it.
This is where Christianity is so utterly wrong in my eyes. It demonizes the very nature of aggression. Rather than offering it a man-altered path to flow through, it blocks it off, labels it as the goat-footed demon, locks it up in an image, buries it beneath the earth and condemns anybody who would consider it useful or - heresy! - even a part of ourselves. Unfortunately today the path to becoming a good Christian leads through destroying most of what has become of Christianity over the last two millennia. Because here is the thing Christianity tried to gloss over for centuries: Life is this collection of powerful forces that shape who we become and for the most part of our infancy we don’t get to chose where this takes us. We are thrown into the unknown and the forces we are exposed to start carving us like a soft stone or a piece of wood. For years experiences rush through and over us and mould and form the person we are likely to become. By the time we reach adolescence our shell has hardened and shows the marks of life like scars, like riverbeds running through the earth that we are. As the land has now settled the forces start to flow in these riverbeds continuously - and we start to assume that things were meant to be just like they turned out to be. We look into the mirror and start to see this face, these habits, this very life that we turned into - and just accept the distance between what we are and what we thought we could become.
Life turns into a mirror that blinds: Here we are. Welcome to the world, we hear parents and bosses and people around us tell us. Get over it. This is life: nobody is perfect and all the flaws in your ethics and values, your very lack of integrity, the laziness that keeps you caught, the dizziness and numbness that you feel at times and that other people call being alive, it simply is what it is. The riverbeds have been carved, the land has settled down. These are the lands you will live in...
Well, remember? We mentioned earlier, as humans we are energy generating beings? We shelter this wonderful, powerful engine of energy within us that by its very nature breaks through habits and personas and characters and re-shapes the land... So we hold the key. Yet nobody ever taught us how to use it?
Here are my two cents of wisdom on how to set out to become a magician: At some point in our lives it requires a violent act against ourselves. A breaking through, a not accepting of who we are today and who we are likely to become in ten, in 20, in 30 years from now if nothing else changes. At some point in our lives it requires us to artificially create a parting of ways, to initiate ourselves, to take fate into our own hands.
The days are long gone when mystery cults would guide us towards this threshold. The days when all we had to do was to jump over it and fall into the abyss beyond. Today it is much harder to just find the threshold. The old cults don’t exist anymore. The old pathways are lost, the doors are forgotten and the keys vanished in graves and below the ashes of millennia. These days we have to dream up and create every threshold ourselves. Rather than searching for the old ones, we can turn around and create entirely new ones. A path of initiation made for us, by ourselves.
The reality is, if you want to walk the path of magic it is not enough to retrace the rites of a grimoire. What it really takes is to open your life like a wound, like a skin ready to be pierced through, ready to be burned and violently damaged and never to heal (i.e. to return to what is used to be). What it takes is to expose yourself deliberately, to cut through the circle you came to call yourself and to give it all up. What it takes to start out on this path is an act of aggression against yourself. This is why we were given access to this wonderful force, why we were turned into its host: Not to act aggressively against others, but to use it as a tool on ourselves. Our most violent force can turn into the knife that shapes our bodies from within.
Unfortunately, just this fist step on the path alone can expose you to such a painful level of loss that it will make you feel skinned to your bones, naked in front the people your fear as well as the ones you love. The test will be if you can hang on to your faith. Because faith is the key, it is what creates the path for us... David Beth speaks of the Merciless Path. I strongly disagree with the idea of turning mercilessness into the fundament of your magical path. Instead, I believe it can be necessary to create a beginning.
To overcome yourself means your current self has to surrender. It is the wise and deliberate use of this acid we call aggression that makes anything surrender or fall apart. This is the force that is needed in the rare moments when we need to free ourselves from ourselves. When for a short moment in time we use all the power that has been handed over to us - and allow it to flow into an entirely new direction - when we need to show mercilessness against who we think we had become at this point. It is in this moment, when we handover our entire being, our presence and past and future to a single wish: to see our path. We give up all control, all thinking, all projecting, and we step forward into the portal that is death.
When we come out of it on the other side, the path has already begun. From this moment on we don't have a say anymore in the turns our fate takes, in the directions our inner compass indicates. Despite everything I wrote before, this is the moment when we actually can come out as the winner, as the champion, as the Mr-Take-It-All: when we overcome ourselves. When we break our own wills. All the myriads of wills we host in ourselves. For just one moment.
I had the privilege of finding people who helped me break my wills many times. My teacher helped me break it when I spent my first night out in the open woods. I was so afraid I had a million excuses for why not to go out. I was behaving ridiculously, yet I knew this fear of the unknown to be a deep part of who I had turned into at this point in my life. Dusk was falling and my teacher said to me: “You are just a coward, Acher. You’ll go out into the woods this night, or you will never come back to my house.” And so I went.
When I came out of the woods the next morning, something deep inside me had changed. I had withstood the current of fear and aggression that had rushed through me this night - while they forged a new riverbed. I spent more nights in woods and carcers and deserts later one. Yet, from now on in any challenging situation I reminded myself of this very first night I had spent in the woods. I remembered the amount of fear and powerful force I managed to survive while allowing them to change who I had become. Whatever was waiting for me as the next challenge - I would assume the very same attitude: to walk right into it and allow the forces present to change the land that I am.