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An image constructed today - hopefully you'll relate if you found it here.


"Magic concerns itself in the main with that self-same world as does modern psychology. That is to say, it deals with that sphere of the psyche of which normally we are not conscious but which exerts an enormous influence upon our lives. Magic is a series of psychological techniques so devised as to enable us to probe more deeply into ourselves. To what end? First, that we shall understand ourselves more completely. Apart from the fact that such self-knowledge in itself is desirable, an understanding of the inner nature releases us from unconscious compulsions and motivations and confers a mastery over life. Second, that we may the more fully express that inner self in everyday activities. It is only when mankind as a whole has reached, or perhaps when the more advanced men and women in the world have evolved, some degree of inner realisation that we may ever hope for that ideal utopian condition of things - a wide tolerance, peace, and universal brotherhood. It is to ends such as these that Magic owes its raison d'etre."

"How, nowadays, do we deal with the psycho-neuroses in the attempt to cure them - to eliminate them from the sphere of the patient's thinking and feeling? Principally by the analytical method. We encourage the patient to narrate freely his life history, to delineate in detail his early experiences in connection with his father and mother, his reactions to brothers and sisters, to school and playmates and the entire environment. He is asked to dwell particularly on his emotional reaction to these earlier  experiences, to relive them in his imagination, to recount and analyse his feelings towards them. Moreover, his dreams at the time of analysis are subjected to a careful scrutiny. This is necessary because the dream is a spontaneous psychic activity uninterfered with by the waking consciousness. Such activity reveals present day unconscious reactions to the stimuli of life - reactions which modify, even form his conscious outlook. In this way the patient is enabled to realise objectively the nature of this complex. He must detach himself from it for a short space of time. And this critical objective examination of it, this understanding of its nature and the means whereby it came into being, enables him, not once and for all, but gradually and with the passage of time, to oust it from his ways of thinking."

~ Israel Regardie: The Art & Meaning of Magic

Experiencing the mytho-poetic conscious state...

The following is an excerpt taken from a rather cool book I was inspired to return to today, the title being - The Shaman's Doorway by Stephen Larson (ISBN: 0-89281-672-4)...

~ intriguing excerpt?

My observation has been that monotheistic and heavily orthodox belief systems exert a very powerful stabilizing and organizing effect upon the psyche. There is a polarization within the psyche between the central God-authority archetype and all the other parts. The monotheistic pattern seems more likely to produce powerful ethical and legalistic systems, intense confrontations between conscious and unconscious, and a stronger ego.

The polytheistic orthodoxies on the other hand, seem to allow the psyche more of its own innate polymorphous perversity. Sharp distinctions between good and evil are much harder to make. And though the deities of the polytheistic pantheon are prone to squabble, there are never enmities of the scope of that conlict between the Lord of Light and the Prince of Darkness. The pre-Christian Romans never attacked the indigenous mythologies of the people they conquered the way they did after Christianization. Polytheism seems much more open, both in culture and in psyche, to fostering a live and let-live atmosphere. Perhaps this is one reason why in our times of the reopening and unfolding of human capacity for pleasure, we may let a few of those myths - the banished gods and most especially goddesses - back in the door. After all, what's wrong with a "graven image" as long as you don't mistake the symbol for what it hints at, the finger for what it points to? Religious persecution, as well as religious evangelism, is the disease of the literal-minded.

Most of us have been trained by our literal Judeo-Christian heritage to think of our myths as either literally true or not true at all. The paranoid schizophrenic then, who projects his inner mythic drama on the outside world, is conforming to our cultural pattern. He has no training in turning the attention within to the living landscape and there allowing his energies to enact their symbolic play, the meaning of which is psychological, not literal. Hence, too, the plight of our callow shamans, who having ingested a few milligrams of freeze-dried mythology and feeling that they can fly, walk out of windows.

But can we really, as do the press and anguished parents, blame this tragedy on the drug? Are these people not equally the victims of a culture which has never been able to distinguish the diference between the mythic and the real? Experiencing and perceiving mythically for the first time, these neophyte shamans have never had a chance to learn how to deal intelligently or creatively with the mythopoetic consciousness. Like Dorothy and Levy-Bruhl's primitives, they have been living in "participation mystique," never learning to differentiate between the objectively real and the "glosses" that arise from the mythic and personal levels within. Surely this is another sign of the incredible deficiencies in our approach to education. Would even a very small child among the Senoi make a similar mistake?

~ a few thoughts of mine (the usual babble)

This particular excerpt proved rather poignant today, as I had just been reading the chapter and entered into an impromptu discussion with a fellow in the coffee shop that ultimately lead into a similar area of thought, in that, our contemporary society in it's current state of existential angst and crisis of identity, would do well to summon the psychonauts! We have become so externalised in our quest for material domination and material wealth, that I fear an important factor has been pushed to one side and that is the psychological landscape with its glorious theatrics and insights. This inner world of our being is crucial; helping us understand those things that blight us as an individual and by extension, as a collective. Yet we pay little attention to this fundamental state of being, instead, intoxicating and sedating our minds with distraction after distraction.

Whilst it is true that the predominant monotheistic church served to institutionally shackle mankind to dogma, it is also apparent that the erosion of this foundational structure has made society sway too and fro in a rudderless state; replacing holy idols with vacuous celebrities and corrupt politicians whose dubious motives are plainly discerned.

I am not suggesting that we abandon all reason and flock to the local church, or begin consuming heroic quantities of hallucinogens - far from it, as the excerpt suggests - society, generally speaking, has so little introspective sensitivity and insight, that the demons lurking in the abyss would no doubt consume and drive us to the brink of madness if we were to do so (or make us jump off tall buildings). Such is the infantile state of the average person. We are now psychonauts in nappies!

Let's face it, most drug users for instance, are simply getting stoned, and would do well to stay away from these substances if the sole purpose is merely to forget oneself, as these experiences are incredibly powerful and can be instructive if used wisely, otherwise, and is often the case, there is a price to pay - in terms of the eventual degradation of one's life. I find it depressing to see habitual users decaying, but they were incorrectly primed for the experience.

Likewise, people who gravitate towards religious institutions - do they do so after investigating a variety of alternatives, or is the lure a tick-list of black and white "does and don'ts" and the attendant appeal to external authority, potentially inducing a state of arrested development and childlike dependency through educational and emotional neglect?

The transcending and broadening of the nebulous state begins with that which ought to be a common sense and customary action; the initiatory step being quietly and soberly turning the attention inwards, for this is the gateway to the mysteries and through here we develop the wise man in our hearts.

After we see the substance of our being as clearly as we are able, then we can dance with others on life's stage and move towards greater external harmony. We can project the mystery of self outwards and engage in the yin and yang interchange of life's great theatrical presentation. But we have to know ourselves first, this is essential and the heroes quest - for we have been given the sword of enquiry, and the dragon lurks on the threshold of our own consciousness. Adventure awaits!

And so on and so forth...

Blood From The Shoulder of Pallas written by Alan Moore...

I felt inspired to post this essay. I have owned the book Watchmen for many years and this article appears between chapters and is absolutely magical. Written by the British author 'Alan Moore' and captured using OCR software by me... I hope you enjoy his thoughts.

Is it possible, I wonder, to study a bird so closely, to observe and catalogue its peculiarities in such minute detail, that it becomes invisible? Is it possible that while fastidiously calibrating the span of its wings or the length of its tarsus, we somehow lose sight of its poetry? That in our pedestrian descriptions of a marbled or vermiculated plumage we forfeit a glimpse of living canvases, cascades of carefully toned browns and golds that would shame Kandinsky, misty explosions of color to rival Monet? I believe that we do. I believe that in approaching our subject with the sensibilities of statisticians and dissectionists, we distance ourselves increasingly from the marvelous and spell binding planet of imagination whose gravity drew us to our studies in the first place.

This is not to say that we should cease to establish facts and to verify our information, but merely to suggest that unless those facts can be imbued with the flash of poetic insight then they remain dull gems; semi-precious stones scarcely worth the collecting. When we stare into the catatonic black bead of a Parakeet's eye we must teach ourselves to glimpse the cold, alien madness that Max Ernst perceived when he chose to robe his naked brides in confections of scarlet feather and the transplanted monstrous heads of exotic birds.

When some ocean-going Kite or Tern is captured in the sharp blue gaze of our Zeiss lenses, we must be able to see the stop motion flight of sepia gulls through the early kinetic photographs of Muybridge, beating white wings tracing a slow oscilloscope line through space and time. Looking at a hawk, we see the minute differences in width of the shaft lines on the underfeathers where the Egyptians once saw Horus and the burning eye of holy vengeance incarnate. Until we transform our mere sightings into genuine visions; until our ear is mature enough to order a symphony from the shrill pandemonium of the aviary; until then we may have a hobby, but we shall not have a passion.

When I was a boy, my passion was for owls. During the long summers of the early fifties, while the rest of the country was apparently watching the skies for incoming flying saucers or Soviet missiles, I would hare across the New England fields in the heart of the night, sneakers munching through the dried grass and bracken towards my watch, where I would sit peering upwards in hope of a different sort of spectacle, ears straining for the weird scream that meant an old bird was out combing the dark for sustenance, a mad hermit screech, glaringly distinct from the snoring hiss of a younger owl.

Somewhere over the years; sometime during the yawning expanse between those snug years in the afterglow of a war well won and these current times, huddled in the looming shadow of a war un-winnable; some-place along the line my passion got lost, unwittingly refined from the original gleaming ore down to a banal and lustreless filing system. This gradual tarnishing had gone unnoticed, unchecked, finally calcifying into unthinking habit. It was not until comparatively recently that I managed to catch a dazzling glimpse of the mother-lode through the accumulated dust of methodical study and academia: visiting a sick acquaintance at a hospital in Maine on behalf of a mutual friend, walking back across the shadowy parking lot with my mind reduced to blankness by the various concerns of the day, I suddenly and unexpectedly heard the cry of a hunting owl.

It was a bird advanced in years, its shriek that of a deranged old man, wheeling madly through the dark and freezing sky against the ragged night clouds, and the sound halted me in my footsteps. It is a fallacy to suppose that owls screech to startle their prey from hiding, as some have suggested; the cry of the hunting owl is a voice from Hell, and it turns the scrabbling voles to statues, roots the weasel to the soil. In my instant of paralysis there on the glistening macadam, between the sleeping auto-mobiles, I understood the purpose behind the cry with a biting clarity, the way I'd understood it as a boy, belly flat against the warm summer earth. In that extended and timeless moment, I felt the kinship of simple animal fear along with all those other creatures much smaller and more vulnerable than I who had heard the scream as I had heard it, were struck motionless as I was. The owl was not attempting to frighten his food into revealing itself. Perched with disconcerting stillness upon its branch for hours, drinking in the darkness through dilated and thirsty pupils, the owl had already spotted its dinner. The screech served merely to transfix the chosen morsel, pinning it to the ground with a shrill nail of blind, helpless terror. Not knowing which of us had been selected, I stood frozen along with the rodents of the field, my heart hammering as it waited for the sudden clutch of sharpened steel fingers that would provide my first and only indication that I was the predetermined victim.

The feathers of owls are soft and downy; they make no sound at all as they drop through the dark stratas of the sky. The silence before an owl swoops is a V-Bomb silence, and you never hear the one that hits you.

Somewhere away in the crepuscular gloom beyond the yellow-lit hospital grounds I thought I heard something small emit its ultimate squeal. The moment had passed. I could move again, along with all the relieved, invisible denizens of the tall gass.We were safe.It wasn't screaming for us, not this time.

We could continue with our nocturnal business, with our lives, searching for a meal or a mate. We were not twitching nervelessly in stifling, stinking darkness, head first down the gullet of the swooping horror, our tails dangling pathetically from that vicious scimitar beak for hours before finally our hind legs and pelvic girdle are disgorged, our empty, matted skin curiously inverted by the process.

Although I had recovered my motor abilities in the aftermath of the owl's shriek, I found that my equilibrium was not so easily regained. Some facet of the experience had struck a chord in me, forged a connection between my dulled and jaded adult self and the child who sprawled in faint starlight while the great night hunters staged dramas full of hunger and death in the opaque jet air above me. An urge to experience rather than merely record had been rekindled within me, prompting the thought processes, the self-evaluation that has led to this current article.

As I remarked earlier, this is not to suggest that I immediately foreswore all academic endeavor and research pertaining to the field in order to run away and eke out some naked and primordial existence in the woods. Quite the contrary: I hurled myself into the study of my subject with renewed fervor, able to see the dry facts and arid descriptions in the same transforming magical light that had favoured them when I was younger. A scientific understanding of the beautifully synchronized and articulated motion of an owl's individual feathers during flight does not impede a poetic appreciation of the same phenomenon. Rather, the two enhance each other, a more lyrical eye lending the cold data a romance from which it has long been divorced.

Immersing myself avidly in dusty and long untouched reference books I came across forgotten passages that would make mc almost breathless, dreary-looking tomes that would reveal themselves to be treasure houses of iridescent wonder, I rediscovered many long-lost gems amongst the cobwebs, antique and functional stretches of descriptive prose which nonetheless conveyed the violent and terrible essence of their subject matter effortlessly.

I stumbled once more across T.A. Coward's engrossing account on an encounter with an Eagle Owl: "In Norway I saw a bird that had been taken when in down from the nest, but it not only assumed the typical terrifying attitude, but made frequent dashes at the wire, striking with its feet. It puffed its feathers out, framed its head in its wings, and fired off a volley of loud cracks from its snapping beak, but what struck me most was the scintillating flash of its great orange eyes." Then of course there is Hudson's account of the Magellanic Eagle-Owl which he wounded in Patagonia: "The irides were of a bright orange color, but every time I attempted to approach the bird they kindled into great globes of quivering yellow flame, the black pupils being surrounded by a scintillating crimson light which threw out minute yellow sparks into the air." In long-buried words such as the foregoing I caught some of the searing, apocalyptic intensity that I had felt in that wet hospital parking lot in Maine.

Nowadays, when I observe some specimen of Caine noctua, I try to look past the fine grey down on the toes, to see beyond the white spots arranged in neat lines, like a firework display across its brow. Instead, I try to see the bird whose image the Greeks carved into their coins, sitting patiently at the ear of the Goddess Pallas Athene, silently sharing her immortal wisdom. Perhaps, instead of measuring the feathered tufts surmounting its ears, we should speculate on what those ears may have heard. Perhaps when considering the manner in which it grips its branch, with two toes in front and the reversible outer toe clutching from behind, we should allow ourselves to pause for a moment, and acknowledge that these same claws must once have drawn blood from the shoulder of Pallas.

The 3 Jewels of Tao...

~ Compassion

Foremost application... to self, in recognition of:

Our vulnerabilities
Our errors in judgement
Our fickle affections
Our self-glorification
Our lusts

We learn to forgive ourselves, work towards selflessness and grow in acceptance.

And through insight we learn to remain open to others; accommodating the flaws in their nature, that we find present within our own being.

And through remaining open to others, if we are wise, we humbly instruct through our compassion.

~ Humility

Through meditation we see that each is part of the other and although we feel separate, this is illusory, as we individually lend our voice or our presence to the collective whole (for good or for bad).

When we see this, we are humbled, and recognize value in all sentient life.

We are no greater than, we are part of... therefore, our humility acts to instruct the blind.

~ Moderation

Modulation, harmony, balance, the centre point - this we move towards as we follow the way. An excess of any thing destabilizes and there is ordinarily and naturally a high price for excess.

Moderation is a wise master and reveals true value.

My experience with Zazen...

While I have a few moments, perhaps I can jot down thoughts on Zazen meditation.

If you aren't sure what Zazen is, you may like to consider this article - click here for information

If you don't want to look at the link, let me briefly explain.

Zazen essentially involves sitting quietly, usually in a cross-legged and upright position, with the mind steered towards the flow of breath moving in and out of the body. This is the central practise of Zen Buddhism, and the discipline places emphasis upon bodily posture and we need to consider Dōgen Zenji whose central focus was just "to sit".

This particular form of meditation appealed to me, as it stripped away much of the mysticism in favour of seeking the essence of "what is". More objective than subjective if you like; and the physical discipline, along with directing attention away from discursive thought patterns appealed to that part of me that enjoys control and structure.

My practise began in 2009 and continued through 2010, but it took me a while to find a posture and setting that suited my requirements. I have occasional problems with two joints in my leg and when adopting a full lotus position, the pain after a while was unbearable, so I adopted the half lotus on two cushions which I found rather comfortable.

There are a variety of schools incorporating Zazen practise and they vary in terms of what is acceptable; many frowning upon a non-rigid formula.

However - meditation in my view can work towards a non-contrived naturalness, where sitting posture leans towards comfort rather than discomfort, as the mind in my view, is the central focus of the training.

There are schools where full lotus is compulsory and several of the more authoritarian monasteries in Japan will physically beat students when they fail to adopt this form.

(note: the beatings are carefully administered and are an accepted part of the program)

Of course there is a need for discipline, but a swift blow to the shoulder and back would never be to my liking. Being "reasonably" comfortable is perfectly acceptable in my view, and there are a range of options where one can be seated and alert, yet at ease. If a person has severe physical disabilities for instance, that one could lie flat on the ground or on a mat, or even a bed, and still train using the breath. Nobody should be excluded because of dogmatism.

Primarily this style of meditation helps highlight all that is apparent on a moment to moment basis. Yet to arrive at a heightened sense of alertness may take a student many sittings. Or as is the way of Zen, it may happen now, as you read this article.

A person usually discovers upon sitting, that regardless of how calm one may feel at the time, the mind is anything other than a pool of tranquillity, as upon inspection it appears to have an unbroken dialogue.

Buddhists comically refer to this activity as 'monkey mind' - in that, the general character of mind with its persistent analysis, planning, and prompts to act, reveals an inner world in constant motion; like chattering chimps in a tree, swinging from branch to branch. Yet this activity is perfectly natural and to be expected.

My own nervous system at times is fraught and when I study my body I find tension, so it was no surprise upon sitting to find this frenetic play of voices. The discharge and movement of energy around the body often flows from the mind and its conversation, so to sit and observe this chatter can be fascinating if overwhelming at first! This is the primary phase of the practise - to learn to observe and detach from these processes.

An illustration I like is this - that the student of meditation learns to sit at ease at the river bank and observe the river flowing by; remaining dry and unaffected.

The dryness in this sense means no actual emotional engagement with emergent thought patterns. So when the bodies energy rises because of a specific concept that appears within the conscious field of the mind, one learns over time to let go of the thought and remain unaffected.

Often I will feel an initial burst and glow of energy in the abdomen when an unsettling thought occurs, yet at times I can quietly monitor this surge of energy, and through non-attachment to the instigating concept, allow this force to quietly dissipate.

Do not be discouraged if you decide to meditate and find this non-attachment discipline awkward, or seemingly impossible, as this skill may take time to develop. Do not worry, this is natural, and we learn at our own pace. At times, even regular practitioners struggle, such is the human condition.

This may take a student a while to achieve and each sitting may vary. At times, I will sit and meditate and feel ill at ease for numerous reasons and arriving at the centre point where all is calm may be unattainable at that time.

I recall listening to Pema Chodron (a Buddhist teacher) explain that her meditative practise spanning several decades, still gave her trouble from time to time, but she was good humoured and counselled that this wrestling was part of the ongoing process.

The benefits of meditative practise are:

1. Concentration
2. Introspection
3. Relaxation

I have no faith in the metaphysical tenets of the Buddhist faith, but nevertheless, I have experienced growth through meditative practise.

Good health to you!