|Magick in the woods|
The Beginning Magician, Lesson 1
Continued from the Preamble
by Adam K.
Seriously, though... what is magick? Because surely this would be a helpful thing to know before one begins a study of it, right?
Crowley defined magick as “the Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will.” This doesn't just apply to metaphysical things, but also to one's everyday acts of conscious will. But how does it apply?
Well, here is an example, which is this author's standby as it's so concise. Say that you have the goal of losing fat and gaining muscle. Obviously your goal may be more precisely defined, but for our purposes this will suffice. In order to accomplish this goal, one must dedicate to a change in habits and behaviors that are conducive to a change in oneself and/or one's environment. This requires one to have a will strong enough to remain dedicated to such changes.
But then let's say said individual also has the desire to eat jelly donuts and chocolate chip cookies like they are going out of style. Obviously, that sort of desire is going to be in conflict with the fitness and health goals they've set. Magick in this case is changing oneself in accordance with one's will, and being able to do so despite the contradictory desires one is facing.
Will is Dual Aspected
In the above example we can also see an illustration of two types of desire. One is the desire we call the will. It is action. The other is the desire of impulse; it is reaction. Thus for practicality of purpose, one's will and one's desires will thus be seen as two different things. In order to perform magick successfully, one must learn to harmonize one's desires with one's will. If this cannot be done, then one must choose between accomplishing the goals of one's will and simply doing whatever one wants at any given moment. In the words of Liber AL vel Legis, the primary holy book of Thelema, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This means to do your will, and not to just do whatever you want. And that, my friends, is Magick.
Oddly, it does require a great deal of faith to believe magick does not work. That, coupled with a tendency to put no real effort into the task of performing or practicing magick, will guarantee failure. Like any task, if you don't perform properly or to completion, you will not get the desired results. If you want your magick to work, you must actually do the work!
There are a number of ways to strengthen one's willpower, and, naturally, they are not easy. We will attempt here to describe one method of accomplishing this task in a fairly straightforward fashion. We'll launch straight into the solution in the next section.
What are Pranayama and Asana, and how can they help with magick?
These two terms come from yoga. Pranayama can loosely and poorly be defined as the yogic control of the breath. Asana can also loosely and poorly be defined as proper posture. While these can be simple, they are, like magick, not so easily mastered. It is this simplicity which makes them a fantastic way to strengthen one's willpower, however. So here we will give a rather simple, straightforward routine for doing just that.
A chair will be needed that allows the feet to be flat on the ground with the inner ankles and big toes just barely touching one another. The forelegs should be flat to the chair as well, with the knees together. The back should be straight as if at attention, with the elbows tucked in at one's sides. The hands should be laying palms down and flat on the corresponding thighs, fingers and thumbs together as in a military salute. The head should be facing directly forward and slightly tilted up. The mouth should be closed, and the eyes should be focused on a point just above the horizon. Picture the manner in which Egyptian gods are often portrayed as sitting and you will get the idea. And there you have the reason it is called God Posture.
A simple yet effective breathing exercise that can be used as a sort of beginner pranayama is this. While seated in God Posture, with the mouth closed and the tongue sealed against the roof of the mouth, slowly and steadily inhale for a count of a full two seconds. Fill the lungs from the bottom to the top. Then, exhale slowly and completely for a count of four seconds, this also from the bottom to the top. Do this for sixty seconds without moving any part of your body, maintaining your visual focus on the spot in front of you and above your horizon while emptying your mind of all other thoughts except “breathe.” After the first sixty seconds, begin inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for eight seconds in the same way as before. While breathing, try to do so without making any sound. Just breathe calmly, smoothly, and evenly.
If it helps, use a metronome to keep the count for the breathing exercise. Metronome apps can be downloaded for free on most devices. The amount of time spent on this exercise should progressively increase as the practice of it moves forward. A recommendation would be to do it for ten minutes a day for one week, then increase the time spent in the posture one minute per week until one hour can be spent in the posture with proper breath control and a complete lack of movement. It can be guaranteed that a great deal of willpower is required to accomplish this.
It is advisable to keep a journal of progress in this and all other practices throughout the magical journey. This allows one to gauge progress and results in a more efficient, scientific fashion. The following is an example of how to keep such a journal.
What is a Magical Diary, and how do you keep one?
The Magical Diary or journal, whatever you prefer to call it, is a record of your daily magical practices, your dreams, and all the things that directly or indirectly may affect you practices. These things may include, but are not limited to, the weather, foods and liquids consumed, the time of day, moon phase, your emotions, the ritual or action performed, an objective description of how well or poorly you performed, the results of your performance, and so on. Each entry should indicate the date, day, and time of the entry. There exists a vast variety of instructions for how to keep a journal of this kind, and many are actually quite good. I would recommend one called Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary by the author James Wasserman, who is a respected member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a primarily Thelemic magical order.
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In the opening of every issue of Crowley's periodical, The Equinox, there is the phrase “The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion**.” This means that a scientific methodology is used to arrive at the results hoped for in religion. Part of that methodology involves the keeping of clear and detailed records of one's experiences within magical practices; it should be clear why the keeping of a journal of this nature is important. Furthermore, it is recommended for one to gain a clear understanding of scientific methodology. In short, the steps of the scientific method are as follows:
1. Ask a question for which you desire an answer.
2. Do background research relevant to the question.
3. Construct a hypothesis that explains what outcome you believe will result, meaning what you believe the answer to your question will ultimately be.
4. Test the hypothesis with experimentation.
5. Determine if the procedure of experimentation is working.
a) If yes, the procedure of experimentation is working, analyze the data and draw conclusions.
- If results align only partially or not at all with the hypothesis, use the gathered data as background research for a new project and go back to step 3.
When results do align with the hypothesis, #ad-journal the results and communicate them.
b) If no, the procedure of experimentation is not working, troubleshoot the procedure and carefully check the steps and set-up, then return to step 4.
In science, one learns as much from failure as from success. The same is true in magick. It is not necessarily a bad thing when a hypothesis is proven wrong. Many incredible things have been discovered by accident or by “failure” in scientific experimentation. So do not become discouraged when results are not as expected. Rather, repeat the procedure numerous times and note whether the results are the same each time. If they are, then a way has been discovered to achieve those results. If the results might be considered useful in some way, then a success has been had. If the same results are not accomplished each time however, there is a variable that is not being controlled or accounted for. That's what step 5 above is all about.
This should be plenty to keep the fledgling magician busy for a week. The next segment of this article will be out soon. Until then, keep to the practices and be sure to journal, journal, journal.
**The aim of religion, at least from the thelemite perspective, is Union with God, or the collective soul, or the universal consciousness, or whatever you ultimately discover to be the truth. The method of science is to discover things through experimentation, the gathering and objective observation of evidence, and the goal of disproving what you hope to prove.
If through serious, concerted, relentless effort, you cannot disprove a thing, it may be true. Then your task becomes to, through the same effort, prove your hypothesis. If you consistently reach the same conclusions through repeated and repeatable experimentation, your theory becomes legitimate until such point as it is disproven. The method of religion is to believe in a thing entirely based on faith, with no real evidence to support your belief. See the difference?
Links to the Segments of This "Lessons in Magick" Series
The Preamble :: How to Become a Magician
Lesson One :: Elementary Level Knowledge (this page)
Lesson Two :: Basic Rituals
Lesson Three :: Deities and Supernatural Beings in Magick
Lesson Three Continued :: Deities
Lesson Four :: Yogic Breathing