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Posts Tagged ‘Magick’

I have been tossing around this idea for awhile, but haven’t written much about it because I haven’t really done the research to write something good, something that will capture the idea that is looming in my head. But I want to jot down the idea now. Later on I will flesh it out.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that Dionysus is the god of rock and roll, and that Jim Morrison is his prophet. What is rock and roll if not rebellion, liberation, and ecstasy? Rock and roll is not Apollo’s music. It belongs to the Liberator. Real rock and roll, not the complete shit that gets peddled as rock nowadays, but real rock and roll is a thing of incredible, monstrous power. It channels a spiritual well that is overwhelming and intoxicating. Real rock and roll is awesome. It is mystical. It is a kind of black magic. And it belongs utterly to Dionysus.

Jim Morrison was posessed of something. He was a classic tortured genius, and he was in touch with something that was too intense for him-for any human being-to handle. It was like he was taking a drink from a power main, and there was only so much he could do with it before it used him up. In the end, it was so powerful that it devoured him and left him dead in a bathtub in Paris. But while he was alive he was a shaman, a prophet. He knew that rock was the purview of Dionysus–he said as much in his own writings and poetry.

Dionysus is the god of rock and roll, and Jim Morrison is his prophet. Wherever he is now–in the land of the dead, in Elysium, or wherever he has been taken by the god–he is reaching out to us, and inviting us, calling us to “meet him at the back on the blue bus.” We listen, we let it posess us, and we invite the god in to bring us into a new kind of life, if only for a few moments.

EDIT: I came across an awesome essay about Dionysus and Jim Morrison on the internet the other day. Check it out.

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I have been turning into something of a tarot enthusiast here lately. I’ve been fascinated by the tarot since I first played around with a deck back in high school, but I didn’t have my own deck until I bought a Rider-Waite from a game shop during my first year of law school, near to the time when I first started to really broaden my horizons in terms of the scope of my spiritual search. I did a few spreads with it back then, but mostly just let it sit around until a few months ago when I finally started to grapple with the tarot in earnest.

I feel like I have a talent for the tarot. I have done spreads for myself, for my beautiful and sexy wife, and for my brother, and some of them have been shockingly insightful. I’m still using a couple of guidebooks to make connections and understand the meanings of the cards, but I am slowly gaining an understanding of my own through a combination of committing key-words and other peoples’ interpretations to memory, and also through meanings that have emerged from readings I have done. Not every spread I do winds up being useful or insightful, but enough of them seem to be so incredibly on-target that I think I have a lot of potential as a tarot-reader.

While I have not yet written the post I want to write about magic, I will say that I don’t necessarily think that the tarot cards are supernatural. A good deck of tarot cards is composed of powerful symbols that correspond to complex structures in the mind (conscious, sub-, un-, and probably super-), and can be used to make connections or better yet reveal hidden connections between emotions, ideas, and events. So my basic understanding of the tarot is that it is deeply psychological, but psychological nonetheless.

I’m kind of a purist as far as decks go. I’ve looked around at some of the alternatives, and I am generally not impressed. For most decks, I don’t even think the art is all that good, and I definitely would be hesitant to even bother with divination with any deck but Rider-Waite. On the other hand, I realize that my prejudice is purely a matter of personal aesthetics, snobbery, and a persistent nigh-insuppressible orthodoxy reflex. Which means I don’t think you’re an idiot for using a different deck, but I’m going to pretty much stick with the one I’ve got. Although I need a new box or bag for my cards, because the one they came in is rapidly disintegrating, since I habitually take my cards with me, stashed in a pocket of my backpack or rucksack.

Personally, I have grown to identify strongly with the Knight of Cups, and I am considering eventually getting a full-sized tattoo of the card, probably on an upper arm or back shoulder. I imagine at that size and in full color it’s not going to be cheap, so I will probably wait until at least next summer when I have a job and a steady income. Anyway, the Knight of Cups is the consummate questing knight, the grail-knight, on a journey of discovery that is a journey into the depths of the subconscious. Cups have a lot of water-symbolism, and water is an element of mystery and the subconscious. It’s also a strongly female element, particularly when associated with cups or the grail. So there are aspects to the quest and the quest’s object that are associated with the divine feminine, the deep places of the soul, and the mysteries of the unconscious mind, all of which are intensely relevant to me. It’s also the card that I used as a significator—purely because of the color of my hair and the instructions in the little pamphlet that comes with the Rider-Waite cards—way back in high school when I first started to become familiar with the tarot.

I plan on spending a lot more time and effort with the tarot. I’d like to have a deep understanding of all of the cards, even the tricky ones that elude me, and I would like to start moving past individual cards and out into the relationships between them. It’s exciting and compelling stuff for me. And also, it is just plain fun.

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Or, other ways of explaining the experiences I have had…

So, having personally experienced the presence of two separate divine figures–Dionysus and Aphrodite–I immediately assumed that the next step was Hellenistic Reconstructionist Polytheism.  Simply put, it didn’t work.  I have an intuition about where to go from here, but I am still assuming some kind of variation of ful polytheism, that (probably, I guess, more-or-less) multiple distinct gods exist and can interact with human beings.  But that is not the only possible explanation–there are others.

Before Aphrodite came on the scene, I realized that in many ways the story of Dionysus has stong parallels to the story of Jesus.  I recognized the possibility that I was getting at Jesus through Dionysus somehow, that Dionysus was a pagan step on the path to Jesus Christ.  This would definitely be consistent with C. S. Lewis’s assertion that you have to learn to be a good pagan before you can learn to be a good Christian.  Even with Aphrodite in the mix, this isn’t out of the question–Aphrodite, a divine female figure, could easily be a shadow of Mary or of the Mormon Heavenly Mother.  I’m not sure what to make of all of this, though.  My intuition says that my experiences with Aphrodite have been too… much like Aphrodite, too sexual and too warlike, to seem like a plausible aspect of a Christian divine female.  In any case, I think that if my paganism is a step on the road to ultimate conversion to Christianity, it’s more of a wait-and-see thing than a suddenly-realize-it-was-Jesus thing.  I’m not closed ot the possibility that I’m really talking about Jesus after all, but I’m also not really convinced.

Another thing I am acutely aware of is the fact that I really haven’t strongly experienced the reality of more than two deities–Dionysus and Aphrodite.  I could certainly be dealing with a male/female dualism, which is a hallmark of Wicca’s fertility religion, and probably some other variations of paganism aswell.  Even to the extent that I have intuition about other deities–Hera, Zeus, and Odin–I might simply be talking about various masks or manifestations of an ultimare divine male principle and an ultimate divine female principle.  I am also open to this interpretation.  Although my immediate reaction is to reject it, I realize that the rejection might be a knee-jerk product of my long-standing prejudice against Wicca and my age-old belief (really a product of Mormonism) that only Reconstructionist paganism–marked by decidedly hard polytheism–is valid and legitimate.  And furthermore, I don’t necessarily believe in magic (hmm… future post?  you can count on it), or feel any desire to practice any kind of magic as a part of my spiritual life.

At the moment, those seem like the most significant and plausible alternate hypotheses.  On the other hand, my spiritual life is still growing and developing in its infancy, and so whether my hard/soft polytheism or one of these alternates hapens to be true may not ultimately wind up mattering.  For now I am going to act the same way towards the gods regadless of what they really are and how they relate to each other.  Most important to me right now in terms of my spiritual development is how I experience them and how they relate to me.

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For a few days I’ve been thinking about the possibility that there is no God.  For my whole life, I have assumed there was one, but I’ve never experienced him or had any kind of spiritual relationship with him.  So I have no personal basis for claiming that I know or even suspect that there is a deity.  I mean, I’d like there to be one, but that’s not really enough for me.  I’m too skeptical to be satisfied with believing based solely on the desire to believe (sorry, Alma- it’s just not going to happen).

What if there is no God?  What then?  Is there morality without God?  Of course there is.  Morality, to me, is instinctive and universal.  True morality at least.  Every religion teaches respect and kindness towards fellow humans- we don’t need a god to tell us that.  The things that aren’t universal, like whether God forbids the eating of pork or beef, are in my opinion clearly manmade morality.  Arbitrary garbage that has to do with human institutions, not with what’s really right or wrong.

What’s “morally wrong” with coffee?  Nothing; the very idea is preposteroous to everyone but Mormons.  But to them, it’s a moral issue because they believe God commanded it.  This is the kind of thing that I gleefully abandon.  We need God to tell us to not drink coffee, to not eat pork, and to adhere to specific religious observances.  We don’t need God to tell us to not be jerks.  We know to not be jerks on our own, and we manage to do it regardless, even when we’re told to not do it by “God.”

Anyway, I digress.  I don’t feel like  I need God to have morality, and anyway, that’s beside the point.  If there’s no God there’s no God regardless of whether we “need” him for something or not.

So if there is no God, what is there?  I don’t believe that the science we have describes everything, and I don’t believe that the material is all that is.  Maybe that’s ignorant and superstitious of me, but it’s who I am.  Does that mean I believe in spirit, or in mind that is separate from body?  I’m not sure.  Does it mean I believe in magic? Unfortunately, no.  As cool as magic would be, I don’t think it exists (unless you define it so broadly that it can’t help but exist, and then you’re not saying anything useful).  Likewise, in believing that there is something more than the material, I suppose I could formulate what I do believe in and call it “God,” but that would actually only confuse and mislead, since I would be talking about something that is a far cry from what most people mean when they use the term.

I’m not so sure I believe in a distinct divine being  with consciousness and personalty.  I certainly don’t believe in a God with a physical form (of flesh and bone or otherwise).  The thing is, the more I think about it, the more I think I may be comfortable with the idea of no God.  Not because it gives me license to do whatever I want or anything, because like I said, I still believe in morality.

I certainly do not have all the answers, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else does, either, no matter how adamantly they claim to have them.  I believe in mystery.  I believe in the unexplained, and perhaps in the unexplainable.  I believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.  But I don’t know if I believe in God.

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Last night, I prayed,

God reveal yourself to me, and let me know You. 

If that means to know You through Jesus Christ, in the pages of the Bible, in the communty of Christians, or in the ritual and liturgy of the Church, then let me know You that way. 

If that means to know You through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You in silence, in peace, in integrity, and in lisetning to the Light, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through the trees, through magick, the awesome power and majesty of nature, and through the beliefs of my most ancient ancestors, then let me know You that way.

If that means to know You through His holy word as revealed through his prophet, be it Moses of Muhammad, then let me know You that way.

If You are the Tao, or Brahman, or  Ahura Mazda, or simply the consciousness of the cosmos, let me know You in whatever way you would have me know You.  If that means to know You through whatever path or faith or religion You might choose for me, then let me know You that way. 

If You exist at all, I pray that I might know You.

But I did not get an answer.

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If the only thing I feel even remotely sure of is that the Sacred exists, should I be limiting myself to Christianity?  What about other major (and minor) world religions?

My first instinct is to be basically opposed to that kind of “looking outside the box.”  One big problem I have  with religion in general is how bound up t is with culture.  The result is that when someone converts to an exotic religion, they are put into a position of cultural dissonance.  However, when someone embraces the religion of their own nation, their connection to their own culture is enhanced and made deeper.  This is a sticky wicket for me, especially for religions that claim to be universal (like Christianity and Islam).  Christianity is bound up with European culture (well, most Christianity is).  Regardless of the religion’s Middle Eastern origins, we receive modern Christianity through the hands of the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, the Reformation, and on down through the saga of Western Civilization down to the present.  For 2,000 years, Europeans have been affecting Christianity at the same time as they have been affected by it, until Christainity is now part and parcel of being European (and I use the term European in a broadly ancestral sense to include people of European descenn, so the Americas and Australia/New Zealand).  So becoming Christian really also means becoming at least a little bit European.

For a European, that means enhancing one’s own culture.  For a non-European, it means becoming a kind of a crazy two-headed cultural aberration who really belongs nowhere, victim to cultural dissonance of the worst kind.  That doesn’t seem universal to me.  Does God prefer Europe and Europeans?   According to Christianity’s teachings, the answer should be no.  But the reality is that it seems like He does.

And the same goes for Islam.  Becoming a Muslim means partly becoming Arabic.  If you’re already an Arab, great.  If not, then you’re going to be culturally adrift.  Why?  Goes Allah prefer Arabs?  That doesn’t sound right if we’re talking about a religion and a god that are supposedly universal.

And if we’re talking about a religion that isn’t supposed to be universal (Judaism, for example, which pertains primarily to one nation; or Hinduism,  which adopts a sort of many-paths approach), an outsider has absolutely no reason to adopt it, other than a passing infatuation with the exotic.  Or maybe as a purely practical matter (you marry a Jew, for instance).  But barring that, there’s really no reason to change teams.

Conversion to a culturaly exotic religion has little to commend itself anyway, but if the religion in question holds that you don’t need to convert to it, there’s even less.  Unless it offers something unique and absolutely fantastic (I don’t know what would qualify; super-powers, maybe?), there’s simply no motivation to pursue it.

What about new religions, faiths that are equally foreign to all cultures, like Scientology or Baha’i?  Or even Mormonism?

First, new religions aren’t equally foreign to all cultures.  All of them have  a time and place and cultural ethos out of which they were born, and thus they all carry cultural biases that make them less foreign to some people than to others.  On top of that, I think that many of these new religions depend on claims that are fairly dubious.  Major world religions generally have the advantage of origins obscured by history.  You don;t want to see how sausages are made, and you probably don’t want to see how religions are made, either.

Are there other options?  Philosophical systems that replace religion, like Deism and Pantheism?  The problem with those is that usually they depend jsut as heavily on their time and place of inception, and the way people thought then and there.  If they somehow rose to prominence and stoof the test of time it’d be one thing, but most of them are manifestations of a constantly evolving field of philosophy, and thus have a level of obsolescence built in.

What about atheism?  I believe enough in the divine to not be comfortable with dogmatic atheism (and i also think that dogmatic atheists can be big arrogant jerks, though in all fairness so can religious people of every stripe), and I’m not content to remain an agnostic in the long-term.

The occult?  Too creepy.  Also, I’d need to see some evidence that Magick actually accomplished something.  If I can’t actually summon Things from Beyond or cast fireballs, it doesn’t seem to be worth the time, effort, and possible risk to my immortal soul.

Reconstructed religions?  I don’t believe that Wicca is actually reconstructed at all, and so it has both the problems of New Religions and the problems of the Occult, so that’sdouble trouble.  Various forms of Neo-paganism?  Dubious reliability is one proble.  Also, centuries of nobody believing in them seems to take away from their validity.  Plus, most of them carry the same cultural problems as exotic world religions do.  Asfar as Neo-paganism that draws on my own ancestry, well, I already taked about Asatru a couple weeks ago.

Do I just construct my own belief system?  That seems unreliable, and possibly fraught with peril.  So what do I do?

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