Wednesday, March 31, 2010
No replacement for meditation
In his latest post, Frater R.O. makes some very kind comments about my magical style, and notes that we have a very different style of magic. This is very true. If we appear thick as thieves here in the blogosphere it's not because we are doing the same things. It's because we like each other a lot personally, respect the work that we each have done, and agree on certain points. We also both possess the ability to disagree, talk about it without getting upset, and walk away as friends - a rare trait in some circles.
In the aforementioned post, he notes that a few of my students have asked him if he does all the meditation that I recommend. He doesn't, but does go on to say that " until you've learned to still your own mind and recognize where your own thoughts come from in your head, you will have a very difficult time differentiating between the Voices of the Spirits and your own meandering thoughts. The best way I know of to learn to do this is to practice meditation outside of ritual. " Needless to say, I agree.
In the next paragraph though, he talks about how he reaches these contemplative states by being in the presence of the spirits or God, and that for the meditative state is a side effect of magic. He notes the states of contemplation and trance that people at Thelesis entered by attending his lecture there. Knowing several of the folks there, I can attest to the fact that many people did enter trance or altered states. That this is in any way comparable to meditation is where we need to part ways.
People have told me that they don't need to meditate because they reach "the meditative state" by any number of things including:
• Taking psychedelics
• Ice skating
• Astral Projecting
• Doing the LBRP
• Talking to Angels
• Using Sound and Light Machines
• Self Hypnosis
• Listening to relaxation tapes.
All of these activities are good. All of them can bring you into altered states of consciousness such as trance, ecstasy, or deep calm. NONE of them does what a solid meditation practice does. NONE OF THEM. This isn't an opinion thing. It is a fact. All you need to do to verify this fact is meditate for at least 20 minutes a day for three months.
A lot of people seem to have a real problem with meditation. Even after I dispel the "I'm no good at it" stuff, people just do not like to do it. Especially occultists. There are a few reasons for this:
• Magicians like to do stuff. Meditation distinctly lacks the doing of stuff.
• Magicians like to see visions and get visited by spirits. Meditation instructs you to ignore those visions and politely tell the spirits and gods that show up to please STFU because you are meditating.
• Magicians like altered states of consciousness. Meditation is actually all about your NORMAL STATE consciousness.
Note that last one. Meditation has NOTHING to do with reaching altered states of consciousness. It ONLY has to do with getting to know your own mind in its most normal and fundamental state. It can help you reach altered states because you know your mind so well. It can help you reach relaxed states, empathic states, or just about any other state of mind that you choose because it is NOT a type of trance or altered state thing.
In the beginning stages of meditation, you are focusing on one thing, or if you can, you empty the mind completely. This lasts for seconds before you get distracted. You than gently return to the meditation. That is it at first. If you are doing anything else than you are distracted. If you are having visions of Gabriel than you are distracted. Meditation is the practice of cutting through distraction.
It is true that you can make yourself mentally absorbed in running, and sports, and other activities that put you into "the zone". You enter this state ONLY because you have made your activity the single focus of your mind and thus you are technically meditating. But here is the problem, if you are doing something active like this to cause you to enter into clarity, than you are locked into doing that thing. What good will it do you in the office when you are in a heated exchange with your boss? Are you doing to stop so that you can run around? Of course not.
Real meditation, seated and walking, takes the GOAL AS THE PATH. Clarity cannot be linked to some external activity. You must learn to be clear naturally. After you achieve the state of clarity, you realize that it is actually your normal state.
Eventually you stop being distracted as easily: you win the battle against wandering trains of thought, you win the battle against agitation, you win the battle against dullness. Now you drop even the focus of the meditation and are able to just be clear, naturally and effortlessly. This is contemplation.
Contemplation, in the mystical sense, cannot be given to you by spirits. Demons, Angels, Buddhas, and Dakinis all place one into altered states of consciousness when you encounter them. They can empower you and even give you glimpses of clarity, but if you are not doing the work to step through the door that they open, than it is not going to get you anywhere near what meditation and contemplation will. The whole point is that it is in YOU. It is your Primordial state of awareness, NOT the gift of some external being. "If you see a Buddha on the road, kill him".
This is not an eastern vs western thing either. There is a very strong western meditative and contemplative tradition. Drawing from Christianity alone, we have the Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Ekhart, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, etc, etc. In the Christian sense, if you are relating to God as a being that you are in the presence of - you are still not meditating or in true contemplation. As Meister Ekhart said: "The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge."
The practice of meditation and contemplation itself has nothing to do with beatific visions other than increasing the ability to have and to exploit such visions as a side effect. This is also how you know if people are actually having the abyss experience. If you are describing things in terms of subject and object, you are not there.
You can do magic without meditation. Most do. I do not. For most practical magic and evocation a little ability to concentrate is all that is needed. So RO is quite correct when he says that he can do magic without meditation. As for the side effects that mimic some of the gifts of meditation, I have this analogy that I was taught by my fellow Chthonic Auranian, Alobar:
The various gifts that meditation can bring are like treasures buried underneath a kings castle. By aiming at these individual effects, you can be like a thief who breaks in and makes off with some of the treasure. By meditating, you become king and do not have to move a single piece to possess it all.
I am quite serious when I state in my books that I would give up every scap of arcana, every spell, every ritual, every energetic manipulation and astral venture for the practice of meditation.
There is no energy exercise, physical action, ritual, incantation, spell, or mental effort of any kind that can replace your meditation. Period.
It is my most earnest wish that every man, woman, and child on this planet take up the practice of meditation.