Once we have spent a considerable amount of time at the edge of Abyss a few things become incredibly clear. They become obvious not like a truth derived from philosophical speculation or from scientific hypothesizing, testing and retetesting. They become obvious like a truth that is part of who we are, of our own being, our very own flesh. We cannot call it faith, because we have seen it with our own eyes. And yet we cannot share it with others, until they have seen it for themselves.
One of the first things we begin to realise in this way is that all existence by its very nature is temporary. Life is a spark bound into light, moulded into a pattern, embalmed into substance and coming to fruition in organic matter. The further we move away from the divine source in this process the shorter and more fragmented that temporary existence turns. In the old Chassidic literature there is a wonderful expression for this kind of fragmentation as we move away from the edge of Abyss and further down into the desert. It is called 'Sondersein'; a word that I can only translate as 'being apart' or 'abstracted being'.
Now, it took me many years to understand what this Sondersein truly refers to. Our movement away from the Abyss and into the vast open of creation is a natural process. So the state of being apart doesn't refer to our being apart or discrete from the divine source itself. -- Spending time at the edge of the Abyss will certainly not teach us anything of what the Christian church has tried to make of this original wisdom: a feeling of guilt for being who we are, a feeling of being insufficient compared to the perfection of what we have emerged from. The Abyss doesn't know the concept of original sin nor do the forces residing on the far side of it hold any concept of judgement, grudge or any other kind of human emotions.
It's our very nature to be separated from the divine life from which we emerged. Otherwise none of us would be able to uphold boundaries of spirit, flesh and bone. The wisdom that will come to us at the edge of the Abyss is not about how separated we have become from our source, but how much we partake in every other bound being around us. Every other particle, cell and organism that is on the very same journey - into life and out of it again.
Every seemingly new impression our senses pick up - every new sound, smell, taste - is a thread both separate and united into the weave that is creation. This is the illusion that spending time at the edge of the Abyssd helps us overcome: While we stand divided in our created forms - in our shells, shapes and patterns - the very fabric of our being is connected to any other being that ever crossed over the Abyss and into creation. The thing we differ in is the purpose for why we have come here. But we all depend on each other to bring any kind of purpose to fruition. Every created form is a living cell in the organism called creation.
Now, don't make the mistake and reflect about this in abstract terms. As I said, the Abyss teaches us in wisdom that turns into flesh long before it turns into a matter of the cognitive mind. Maybe think of the blood underneath your own skin. Think of how much that blood is you - and then how little it is your own. The cells that form this blood will leave your body, they will drift on in the ocean of creation and become part of earth, of air, of a tree, or someone else's body and blood. Every state of creation is temporary and unique. What is eternal is the weaving that binds us all together.
As magicians we are living a life full of privelege. We have access to forms of wisdom that emerge from our blood rather than our cognitive minds. As magicians we hold the privelege of seeing ourselves and creation through constantly new and shifting eyes. Think of the compound eyes of insects, with its thousands of lenses each one capturing a different facet of creation, a slightly different angle of reality. That's how as magicians we are granted to look at the world - if we choose to. Each one of us holds the key to overcome the illusion of our Sondersein. It's the tools of our tradition that allow us to not get confused by a single thread, but to keep our gaze fixed on the weave. We are actually even allowed to interact with the weave, to talk to it and to travel on it. Inside and outside of our skins.
So I wonder - leading such a privileged life - what are we choosing to give back in return? What are we making of this gift for the world around us?
Clearly we cannot pass on the keys that were handed over to us to people around us. We all wish it was that simple! Yet, it's the unfortunate nature of magic and all its multifold traditions that they will never rest in the centre of any given time, but always flourish in its periphery. Magic threatens the collective consensus. Because - if well done, well handled and mediated - magic transcends all boundaries. And thus it is as powerful as it can be destabilizing.
Upholding our boundaries, the stability of our consciousness both as an individual as well as a collective is one of our highest goods. Transgressing it - as magic inherently does - is the exception from the norm. It's the journey we go on to serve a purpose, and then quickly return from it. It is not a constant state of being. You cannot go and live in the magic circle. You can only come to work in it - and then return to your human form.
So passing on the actual keys that allow us to see the weaving as magicians doesn't work - and never did. You'll only end up on the pyre, in the nut house or left amongst your own bitterness. Passing on the gift our traditions gives us requires more subtle means. Here are a few considerations on how to do this, while avoiding inquisition and asylum.
- Trust your presence. The first thing to remember is how the Abyss taught us in the first place. It teaches us by simply being present. It does not exude any effort, intention or will to make us learn. It simply reveals itself for what it is, and allows us to be close to it. Sitting at the edge of the Abyss, staring into its open, vast darkness, the heat of the desert sun in our neck. That's how we learn. By exposing ourselves to the presence of one another. -- The first step in helping others to begin to see the weave instead of the threads, is to do exactly the same. Shut up and be present. Trust in the power of your presence. Pull back any will or conscious thought, any purpose or intent. Become the medium, not the message. Strange things will happen when we allow ourselves to do what the Abyss always does, in any second, any daytime or nighttime hour. Trust that as a magician you act as a bridge, and trust that you do not need to see, control or intervene with what is passing over that bridge. Unconditional service as you promised it when crossing over the Abyss in the first place, that is how you bring its teachings back to real life.
- Embrace the human paradox. Once you have began to realise the power of simply being still and present at the same time, it is quite easy to be blown away by its effect. Or even by ourselves? Unless very careful this stage can easily turn us into arrogant pricks and chicks. Just because we mimic the Abyss, we still remain human, fragile, frail, fickle and most of all a very temporary state of substance. We all are but threads in the weaving that constantly renews itself; none more important than the other to the entire net. In an ecosystem no single species is more important than any other. Lions get taken down by viruses every day. Rhinos drown in quicksand and snakes will die of poison. Train to hold these opposites at the same time in your mind: you are divine and yet you are almost dead alreay. Your are pure grace and power bound into human flesh, and yet a cold can bring you down or even to the grave. You are a star indeed, and you are also full of shit.
- Apply the weave to the world. Now take a new look at the craft or business you are dealing in in your everyday life. Whether you are a parent, a wine-maker, an engineer, a doctor or student - the weave is everywhere. Find ways in which you can become more conscious of the weaving that both binds you and upholds your work. Here are a few examples:
- As an engineer consider the raw materials you are working with. What produced them, where do they stem from originally? Which consciousness do they carry (speak to them to find out)? By bringing them together in one product which new consciousness are you amalgamating? How do you see this consciousness interacting with the world (as reflected in its impact on customers, industries, the environment and its reverse impact on yourself and your company)?
- As a mother or father consider the school your children are going to. Where did it come from? How does it connect back to the past of the community you are a part of? How is it maintained today? If considered an organism, what does your school 'feed' on, what does it 'produce', what does it 'waste'? How is it doing in maintaing its balance?
- As a professor do you help your students to see the threads or the weaving? In your specific field of expertise what could be considered a single thread and what is the weaving? What difference to society will it make if you grow students who specialise on threads vs working with the entire weaving? If both is required, where should their learning start and why?
Anything we learn in magic wants to be grounded in the real, physical life. That is the power we hold as humans, as microcosmic versions of the ancient Abyss: through our minds, our hearts and hands we co-create reality. We shape and impact an entire world. And we always underestimate the power of all the little things. Like being silent in a room. Like speaking to the walls of our local school. Like for a moment delighting in the vista of the full weave. Seeing it breathe. Before we jump in again and continue to spin the thread we were given to perfect.