Sunday, September 11, 2005

crisis magick

I had wanted for awhile to address the subject, and couldn't remember where I even heard the term, but have located it here Phil Hine, of course, talks on it much better than I can, but it is something I feel strongly about (as does he). I quote: "I felt quite happy a decade or so ago to be labelled as a 'Crisis Magician'. The definitive characterisation, according to Peter Carroll, is that of an individual who devotes most of their energies to normal everyday pursuits, only resorting to The Wand in times of crisis. To the best of my knowledge, Carroll has never gone into print on the matter, but from his perjorative tone when conversing the subject one may gather that such a 'modus operandi' is thought unbecoming for a serious occult practitioner. Personally, I would contrast the relatively orderly lives of many occultists who resort to praeter-natural tactics only in dire emergency, with the experience of many habitual magicians whose lives seem to lurch inexorably from one grotesque scenario to another. Perhaps the time is ripe for a re-definition!"

Indeed. I remember early conversations w/ various co-magicians, myself eagerly looking to them all for insights and delighted w/ the fact that I was talking to them at all (this after spending the first thirty plus years of my life reading about magick and wondering if I would ever be so lucky as to know actual people who practiced these things. And doubting it.) I was severely chastised for being interested in magick for "low" purposes--money, say, or love/sex, etc. The only "appropriate" purpose for magickal practice was to evolve spiritually!, I was told. If I wanted to get anywhere, I had to give up wanting to use magick to get ahead in life!

I submit to the court that 99.9% of all people who pick up the Wand (to use Phil Hine's term), do so for one of 3 reasons:
1. money
2. sex
3. control of material circumstances
And since 1 and 2 are both actually subsets of 3, you can say that most people originally start messing with magick because they want to control the circumstances of their lives and feel powerless to do so following conventional routes. (Let's face it: If you could get what you wanted out of life by becoming a cheerleader, a city councilman, a lawyer, etc., you would just go do it. But for those of us who, for whatever reason--and I'd call it more "personal disposition" rather than "inability," since virtually every magician I've met has been quite bright--do not follow the path of legitimate career or other socially acceptable routine, magick offers, or seems to offer, profundity and fun, and a huge dose of the Strange, which, as all I hope will admit, is as important as any other dimension of our Quest for Meaning.

Which takes us back to the topic. What *is* "crisis magick"? Phil Hine points out that the adrenalin generated in any "fight or flight" scenario may be the key element which causes magick done under such circumstances to work. It took me many months or years of thinking and reading to understand that a magickal mass was "magick" in the same sense that the word meant when I did a sigil to get my rent, or invoked Mars to get up the nerve to have it out with my ex-wife.

Eventually I got over some of my early fears--e.g., that if I progressed spiritually far enough, things like money or having a place to live would become unimportant to me, and I'd end up living in a cardboard box, or other people's laundry rooms, or in any case end up like someone like Harry Smith, one of my heroes, who was so amazing, who made films, collected music, created entire systems of thought, and yet who never had a place to "keep" anything, and so by the end of his life and lost or discarded more works of art or genius than most people ever come close to creating, because he just didn't care. It is one thing to romantisize such behavior, a la Henry Miller, but Henry Miller only needed a typewriter, and if not for people who loved him despite his contrariness, Harry Smith wouldn't have survived to create the few things we do have left, much less all the lost works.

I got over worrying about stuff like that, and began to understand that what magick really *is* about, in addition to keeping a roof over your head, is evolving what's in your head. But I never want to relinquish the earlier concepts. Maybe I'll reach a point of understanding where things on this plane don't matter. I *know* they aren't "real," but they sure seem real to me right now--and getting feedback in the form of magick working in small matters, gives me faith that it can indeed also work in loftier regions.


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Blogger Michael said...

Difficult to put my finger on it precisely, but there's something disturbing in all this, no less so because indeed I've indulged in "crisis magick" myself. Rather than develop a full and in-depth critique, perhaps raising a point or two will suffice.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the material world, at least not in the sense that it's "evil" or anything like that. The problem arises when we attach ourselves to something that is guaranteed to change, often in unexpected and undesirable ways. The difficulty with pleasure is not that it's pleasant, but that it ends and always does. Things and the circumstances we enjoy have their season and slip away. There is nothing we can do about it in the long run, but if I'm reading you and Mr Hine correctly, that is the essence of "crisis magick", isn't it? It is not a process whereby we seek to better ourselves in some fashion, or consciously create the world we desire, or even necessarily to explore those desires in a systematic way. Rather, "crisis magick" seems a reaction to something jostling our little applecart, forcing us to take action against some agent of inevitable change. I think you might as well sit on the seashore and command the rising tide to halt and advance no further. While keeping things as they are can work for a time, it cannot be kept up indefinitely. Crowley seems to be talking about this sort of thing when he writes about the "Black Brothers".

This is, to my mind, what is meant when we say material existence is merely an illusion, not that it doesn't exist in some absolute sense, but that our perceived dependence on some specific arrangement of the dust of this world is necessary for our happiness and wellbeing. I have seen a lot of this sort of error in modern occultism, often tricked-out in deceptive jargon and the buzzwords of the day. Too many like to pretend that their wanting thus and such is their will - variously defined - and somehow different in kind than when the neighbor across the street wants a new big-screen television. I fail to see the distinction, myself. Things are just things and the desire for things is simply that, a part of the human condition. Accepting that condition is one thing, but mistaking our starting point for the goal quite another. If what we call magick isn't blasting to Hell and gone the illusions from which we and most everyone else suffer, then to me it isn't really magick, or at least nothing worthy of the name.

Good to see you writing and thanks.

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Blogger Scryberwitch - rational mystic said...

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Anyway, as to the topic at hand: Therein lies the lesson to be learned from the Hierophant/Devil dichotomy: both are extremes of a natural spectrum. Going too far in one direction - say, disdaining the material world altogether for the sake of "spirituality" or "enlightenment" (a la The Hierophant) - is just as unhealthy as going too far in the other (a la The Devil, becoming a slave to base desires and materialism).
We are creatures of both spirit and flesh. Living in extreme poverty and going hungry does not help you become more spiritual. It is a gesture of faith in the abundance of the Universe to manifest your material needs.
Yet, it is in the pursuit of spiritual evolution that we come to face our issues with material things. Perhaps our needs are not as complex as we thought. Does a big-screen TV make your life fuller, richer, better? It is in the self-examination of your assumptions about material things that you truly begin to grow.
Keep on keeping on!

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