Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Labels, Laser Focusing, Big Pictures, and the Futility of Maps PART 2

Now, as I said, POS described me as a " Christian, Buddhist, Hoodoo-man, Magician, and Witch".
Truth be told, if he wanted to, he could have added: Tantrika (Buddhist doesnt necessarily covey that), Bonpo (a big one, since my main Tsaway Lama is Bon), Bokor (I have done lots of work with the Loa over the years. I hold no formal initiations into Haitian Vodou, but only because Papa Legba won't let me...), Khabbalist (all the Sangreal work we do is based in Khabbalah), and even Psychic (I do a lot of my magick using nothing but the gifts I have been given, not channeled through a system at all.)

Thankfully he did not describe me that way. 

Here's the thing: when I was coming of age, nobody was a trad-focused as they are now. Every member of the OTO was into non-Crowley things. Every Gardnerian I knew also loved ceremonial magick. Most wiccans in the area used a bit of Hoodoo in their work (think magickal childs formularies). Nobody was under the impression that their tradition had all the angles covered. Magick was just magick. Traditions were important, but in the end tech was tech. 

Than came Chaos Magick. Chaos Magick fucked the whole thing up. 

Chaos magick took the view that magick was beyond tradition and twisted into meaning that tradition didnt matter at all. It was all in the mind of the practitioner and Scroodge McDuck would be just as good as Jupiter if you believed in him. In fact the Chaotes argued that Mr Spock and Superman would be better than Mercury and Mars because they were more "real" to modern society. Sadly, the Chaos magicians confused attention with belief, and thought that psyching yourself up to "believe" something before a ritual was just as good as approaching with genuine faith. All sacredness was lost, as was any attempt to actually dig into the writings of the past and make an attempt to figure out what they were actually trying to say. 

Thankfully, other than a few hangers on, Chaos magick is mostly dead. 

As a reacton to its excesses came people that became laser focused on recovering the magick of the past and focusing on one tradition with near exclusivity. While I am not one of these folks, I love them deeply. 

Frater RO defends his laser focus on the Grimoires and their Hermetic roots, by noting that he only has time to understand that tradition in depth. He also notes that a lot of what he does ends up looking similar to what someone in Hoodoo or even the Himalayas would recognize anyway. Because tech is tech after all. It is easy however, to end up with wide knowlege of many traditions rather than deep knowlege of one. More does not equal better, in fact it usually equals worse. I agree completely. 

I am deeply thankful for the people with laser focus on a tradition. RO sticks to one thing and does it well. Cat Yronwode will not tolerate any non-hoodoo chatter on her hoodoo list, and I am glad she doesnt. Most Lamas work within Tibetan Buddhism only. Most in fact work only within one school, or even sub-school of it. I am most grateful for these people, they make great informants. I am grateful for them, even though I am not one of them. 

Why am I not one of them?  Two reasons. 

The first is that I have been doing this a long goddamn time.Over 20 years I have learned a lot of stuff. I do not believe in conversion from one thing to another. The Hoodoo that I learned when I started hanging out in Lakewood, did not supplant the two years working through Modern Magick and Franz Bardon - it expanded upon that knowlege. The five years that I spent doing Tibetan Buddhism exclusivly did not usurp the previous 8 that I spent learning western magick and hoodoo - it put it all into a new focus and deepened my undertanding of it. 

The second reason is that, to borrow a Krishnamurti quote, Truth is a Pathless Land. My first exposure to magick was not through a tradition at all. It was through reality itself. The ultimate truth and the ultimate power lie beyond the barriers of any specific tradition, and my fealty lies with truth, not with tradition. No tradition has it completely correct, and at this stage of human evolution, no tradition CAN have it completely correct. Individuals can perhaps (and thats a big perhaps) get it right, but we simply lack the tools to articulate it in any way that is completely true. You might disagree with me on this, but you would be wrong. 

At a certain point, the tradition becomes the obstacle to the truth, and the sage advances in spite of his tradition, not because of it. 

The trick is discovering when you arrive at that point. Abandon tradition to soon and you will be lost to delusion and fantasy. Hang onto it to long and you will spin your wheels endlessly. 

5 comments:

Lavanah said...

You used the Krishnamurti quote before I was able to. To a mouse or a snake, the way between blades of grass constitute a path. To a deer or a moose, that grass is a field. I've always held (even if I haven't achieved it) that if you had the skills and talents to stand up tall, and not look at the path, you would see that the paths together constitute a field.

And Fr. POS has my greatest sympathies in attempting to describe you, and what you do, to someone who isn't familiar with your work-it's very difficult!

Qabalier said...

Then I guess the "opere ex operato, baby" only applies to, for lack of a better word, "real" systems... (as you pointed out, even from a post-modern point of view, it would be hard to "really" believe in fictions -much as I'd like to-... and traditions would be backed up by the faith -and attainments- of countless practitioners anyway).
What you say about attention vs belief -or was that a Chaos Magick notion?- may be more related to concentration than to "believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast" - I think Ananael Qaa posted something along the lines of "self-doubt can prevent magic from working, but the opposite doesn't follow, or insane people would be warping reality at asylums".

Dohmnaill said...

Back in the day, there was no easy way for folks like us to find a specific tradition. We had to mix and match.

As far as Chaos goes. I cannot dismiss the usefulness I find in it. However, Chaos Magick is not unlike Dadaism...
It needs a proper context to be effective.

Granted - I arrived at my chaos on my own, only to later "discovered" that it was something other people were doing.

Jow said...

From the beginner's level Ogdoadic stuff that I am learning, the Chaots had it almost right. Scroodge MacDuck would be an archytypal manifestation of Binah (Wealth, Old Man, Wisdom, Hard work, tends to keep what is given to him, etc. A lot like Dis Pater.) from Briah, albeit an imperfect one. But the Images in Briah formulated millenia ago by priests who knew what they were doing were far better channels of force than something a Disney writer tapped in to for a show.

But like you I dissagree with the standard interperetation of "Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted." It's a very subtile statement, and the Ismalii of their day were VERY good at segrigating initiates of various levels so they didnt confuse one another.

Rufus Opus said...

Literally laughed out loud at "Chaos Magic fucked it up." One of the things I tried to get across in my piece was the difference between dilletentism and eclecticism.

The reason I used you as an example was because you have spent the hours and effort to get established in your core traditions. You didn't read *A* book on Dzogchen, you went to Nepal. There's a huge difference.