Friday, January 15, 2010

What is "Strategic Sorcery"?

I had a great conversation last week with a fellow occultist who, for reasons relating to his profession, needs to stay in the closet. He is a bit older than me and asked me a lot of great questions about Strategic Sorcery. It is the kind of conversation that gets you to think about what you are doing in more concrete terms than ever before. Below is my own re-creation of pertinent parts of the conversation presented as a Q&A. If anyone reading this still doesn’t know what Strategic Sorcery is, this should clear it up.

Q. So how did you start on this whole “Strategic Sorcery” bit?

A. Well, as you know I have been practicing magic for over 20 years, starting in my mid-teens. Like 90% of teens that start looking at magic and witchcraft I got into it because I had the silly idea that I could cast spells on people and enchant events in the real world. Unlike most people in the occult scene, I never gave up on this idea. Like others in the occult world, I am very much concerned with the spiritual evolution of both myself and others, but this progress just made me better at the spell casting part. I had enough success in my early efforts that I knew it could be done, so saw no reason not to keep doing it. I saw no conflict between material and spiritual progress and still don’t. After studying system after system and tradition after tradition I had arrived at a place where I was learning lots of different ways to do the same thing. I was learning a lot of occult information, but my progress as a magician was stagnating.

This left me with a choice to make. One: I continue to study different forms of magic and spirituality that I am not familiar with (Druidry, Native American, Peruvian Shamanism, etc, etc) until I die. Two: I could pick one of these traditions, stick with it like glue, and become one of its representatives (Jason Rinpoche?, His Eminence Bishop Miller? Houngan Jay? Inominandum the OHO?). Three: I could focus on taking what I knew in a new direction, making it better, stronger, faster (“we have the technology!”). Since I had no interest in learning yet more ways to accomplish essentially the same goals, door number one was shut. I flirted with door number 2, but in the end I realized I am just not called to be a Priest, Lama, or high order muckety muck. I chose door number 3.

I started to deconstruct all the practical magic that I had learned so I could see what was really good tech, and what was not. When I began to take a look at the methods outside of the various symbol sets they are often attached to, it became remarkably clear to me how methods could be teamed together for better effect. For example, most of the magic I write about in my book combines tapping into the divine and energetic levels of magic in a way that is familiar to most ceremonial magicians, and channeling that through very intricate workings with physical links that would be familiar to rootworkers and other folk magic practitioners.

I realized that everything I valued about magic came down to one thing: making life better by doing things differently than how most do it. I began to see practical magic as type of what has recently been called “Life Hacking”. Realizing this, I began to take a look at other methods of life hacking.
So I began to read books on time management tricks, intelligence gathering, pick-up techniques, asset building, and neuro-plasticity. I picked the brains of friends that knew hypnosis, NLP, applied disinformation, martial arts, and interpersonal mediation. I listened to CD’s on sales techniques, geo-arbitrage, social dynamics, and neural reconditioning. In short, knowing that magic works best when it is followed up by other types of work to support the goal (the blending of magical and mundane methods), I studied anything and everything I could to help make the magic I did, as effective as it could possibly be.

Applying all this to building pro-active strategies of life building, rather than reactive emergency magic that most people resort to when its already too late, gave birth to Strategic Sorcery.

Q. In your blog and class material that you have showed me you have started referring to “Strategic Sorcery” as a system in and of itself now, and not just as an approach. I thought you were against starting yet another system of magic or trying deliberately to be the founder of a tradition. How did this happen?

A: It just sorta happened without me trying. I think that way too many people are going out of their way to deliberately create systems just for the sake of being the founder of a system. This is even sillier when we talk about “traditions”. How can you call it a tradition if it has never been worked by anyone before or passed down to anyone but yourself?

Systems that do not say anything new abound and are pretty much useless exercises in ego. In my case I really just wanted to share my thoughts on how to do magic effectively, not start my own system. Eventually my ideas started to spawn rituals and inspire symbols, next thing you know, I have the makings of a system. At this point it is starting to accumulate its own “current”, complete with the egregore and strange synchronicities that accompany it. This all just sort of happened. I hope that it remains an open system. I want to make sure that it can be used by people who also work other traditions, as well as be used as a system unto itself. I also hope it keeps growing and changing after I am gone.

Q: So if systems are pretty useless unless they say something new, what would you say that Strategic Sorcery has to teach, that isn’t covered elsewhere?

A: If I had to write a Strategic Sorcery Manifesto, I would point out the following six points as the main features of the system.

1. Most books on practical magic, even the good ones, provide a spell or ritual for what you want to do and tell you to do non magical work to support your magic. Strategic Sorcery poses the exact opposite: that you develop a strategy to attain your goal and use magic to support that plan.
2. Many systems of magic focus on spiritual growth or religious worship, insisting that practical magic is a side issue that should only be used to support a spiritual practice or to provide aid in dire emergencies. Strategic Sorcery again poses the opposite: by focusing on the magic of finances, sex, love, health, and power you naturally get drawn into spiritual work. By having such immediate and material concerns tied to your spiritual practice, your motivation to actually do the work is often much greater than if it is aimed only at an ephemeral goal like enlightenment or worship.
3. Most systems of magic do not maintain a balance between the three levels of Material, Energetic/Astral, and Divine/Causal level. By making sure you hit all these points, your magic will be more effective.
4. Most systems do not maintain a balance between temple magic and magic done in the field or on the fly. By using both the magic of the constructed circle and ritual, as well as magic performed right in the workplace, nightclub, bedroom, courthouse, or street, your magic will be more effective,
5. Systems of magic can be broken down into symbol sets, and tech. Symbol sets are usually dependent on culture, time, tradition, and sometimes only available through initiation. Using a symbol set outside of its culture, or initiatory stream can sometimes be difficult, disrespectful, or even downright dangerous. Tech on the other hand works because it works, and thus can be looked and examined from outside of any specific tradition. In this way you can find the most effective techniques without falling into the trap of making an eclectic mess.
6. Strategic Sorcery is Achronistic – it does not value old magic because of its ancient roots, nor does it value new magic because it is supposed to be cutting edge. Magic works or it doesn’t – that’s all there is to it.
7. In the old days magicians and witches used to not only use “supernatural” methods as part of their craft, but all kinds of skills that were not widely known to the populace at large such as medicine, illusion, and hypnotism. The modern Sorcerer does the same by learning the hidden skills of persuasion, financial prowess, alternate medicine, computer hacking, media manipulation, and so on. By fusing these so-called life hacking techniques with traditional magic, we arrive at what it really means to be a Cunning Man or Woman.

That is what Strategic Sorcery is all about. Over the next few weeks I will be dedicating one post to each of these seven points.


Brother Christopher said...

I look forward to these future posts. Your post has also spawned a great deal of food for thought on myself. Thank you!

Qabalier said...

"I realized that everything I valued about magic came down to one thing: making life better by doing things differently than how most do it. I began to see practical magic as type of what has recently been called “Life Hacking”."

My thoughts exactly - "There must be a better way", be it through 'science' or 'magic'.

k. sequoia said...

Always enjoy your perspective, and I agree, Brother Christopher: always good food for thought. Geez, I might even have to buy one of your books now! ;D

Kim @ redhandferi