My dear ones, my lost children of darkness and light. I come from your present and future past, from all that you have been, and from your hopes and dreams. I have been calling you for a long time, but your ears were deaf to my song.
Perhaps you have found your way to me after a dark night of the soul. I cannot promise to deliver you into the light. But I can sit with you, for a while, as you learn to light your own candles. And it is possible that your night will get darker still, and that you will need to carry many candles before the dawn appears. (more…)
(This is a very different kind of text, and I had some initial hesitations about posting it because it’s simply a practical handout for one of my workshops, rather than the crafted, quasi-poetic essays I’ve usually written. But perhaps its practicality makes it that much more relevant – so I’m sharing it in the hope that the ideas, exercises and guided meditations described in it will find their resonance in the right hands, and hearts…)
The essence of shamanism is dreaming; all the different external rituals of shamanic traditions are secondary. Shamanic dreaming is a wake up call from our habitual sleepwalking, or what Charles Tart called our “consensus trance” … into a non-ordinary reality, in which thoughts communicate with each other like filaments of light, bodies morph and become animal, plant and mineral, and humans soar on the wings of eagles to pluck sacred symbols from the clouds. Australian aborigines describe this non-ordinary reality as dreamtime. In the Mohawk language, a shaman is called dreamer, or “ratetshents.” The original Siberian word “šamán” means one who is lifted up in ecstatic trance to receive the gift of gnosis. Gnosis has a double aim: attaining inner sovereignty by recognizing and integrating one’s subpersonalities and dark shadows, and a direct download of cosmic consciousness, or what in magical-esoteric traditions is called communion with one’s higher self. (more…)
This is a longer re-vision of an earlier text on the inner power of will and the discipline of willpower. The dream chronicled in the original post was actually a vision I had in a meditation (or more like a shamanic journey), which re-occurred a second time with some changes that allowed me to see further connections. This re-vision clarifies a few ideas that remained vague in the original post and also adds some new elements that deepen the reflection by linking it to the concept of the will in the hermetic tradition of magic that I wrote about in my most recent post, “The lost art of transmutation.” During a presentation in Berlin that was based on the transmutation text, I showed a well-known clip from The Empire Strikes Back – Luke Skywalker, when confronted with an extremely difficult challenge, mutters under his breath “Ok, I’ll give it a try,” and zen master Yoda replies “No! Try not. Do. Or do not! There is no try.” Yoda is speaking about the will from a magical perspective, which he links to the fact that we are “luminous beings” who can harness “the force.” But, on the contrary, I would say that in the ordinary perception that makes up the consensus trance we habitually call reality, there is a lot of “try” – trying is, in fact, what most people do best (and sometimes they manage to succeed, in short bursts, to push themselves into fulfilling their attempts). But there is very little doing of the kind Yoda means, of setting an intention and then having the action – even an action of seemingly impossible proportions, like lifting a spaceship out of a swamp – flow smoothly and effortlessly, from an inner power, without resistance … (more…)
“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out.” – Robert McCammon
I remember when I was six years old and I saw my first magic film. It was a cinematic adaptation of a Russian fairy tale about Ruslan and Ludmila. I was absorbed by the screen and transported into an enchanted forest inhabited by tree sprites, fire spirits, mermaids with painted skin and green hair, talking birds and dancing bears. I was there alongside the princess Ludmila, when she was abducted by a sorcerer-dwarf with an enormous white beard, when she fought off his army of elvish-blue guards with silk pillows, and when she escaped into a forest of white reef corals, and made her way across a bridge of floating ice. I didn’t understand much about epic battles between good and evil, but I knew that I didn’t like the sorcerer-dwarf and that I felt immediately drawn to the wise, old magician who lived in the forest and could communicate with the animals and resurrect the fallen hero with the elixir of life. (more…)
Isn’t the real reason that we can pierce through the veil of our illusions because we’ve all had enchanted moments that transcend the subtle feeling of unease and discontent which hangs like a dark firmament over our thoughts and actions? If we were always already in ideology, how would we be able to recognize our conditioning or desire to step out of it? Althusser used to say that the child exists as a subject of ideology even before it is born, because it is subjected to the name of the father, it’s already demarcated as a specific gender, and its future is already planned by the family, the school, the television screen and the bureaucratic machinery of society. But as infants – as novices in the ways of the world, literally, as nascent creatures incapable of speech – all of this exists in a nether world that escapes us. We are consumed by living out the immediacy of our desires, playing with everything that comes our way – the mother’s breast, the slippers we pick up off the floor and chew, the bicycle tire – everything is a mystery and an adventure. After we stumble into language, we become caught in a long, drawn-out battle to maintain the integrity of our pleasures and magical sense of time against all the repressive demands that are imposed on us. Parents, educators, social doctors – everyone around us is preoccupied with discovering the best technologies to dominate us. We are fed at regular intervals so that the economy of time may better penetrate our skin. Our bodies become something we are taught to control, restrain and civilize. The beliefs planted and watered in our minds begin to teach us to be ashamed of desire and to fear our natural inclinations. The schools impose foreign ideas, rules and standards upon us without any concern for the higher wisdom of our intuition. (more…)