Monday, August 9, 2010
Customization and Creativity
Now if I let this post stand alone one might think that I am a hard core traditionalist and believe that everyone must follow instructions to the letter. I do not mean to give the impression that all you need to do are follow pre-set steps all the way to enlightenment. Nor do I mean to say that the individual is un-important in the operation of magic. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, as I recently pointed out in a lesson on working with the Spirits in grimoires, when it comes to the "do it exactly as it says in the book" approach vs the "lets make it better, stronger, faster, we have the technology" approach I lean much further towards the view of the hacker than the traditionalist. In the end I am much more interested in being, and teaching people to become, someone who can author and effective grimoire not just follow instructions in one.
When I would run into people in the Vajrayana who would argue about how one teachers approach was universally better than another, I would love to point out that the only thing that the 84 Mahasiddhas have in common is that none of them attained enlightenment in the same way. They were extremely dynamic and Tantra manifested differently in all their lives. Some became wandering Yogi's, some remained Kings, some worked simple jobs in silence. Some attained through sex, some through mantra, some through contemplation.
In almost all cases in all traditions throughout the world advanced practitioners seem not content to simply follow a path and leave it unchanged, but feel compelled to contribute something new. New versions of old rituals and prayers or entirely new practices that originate from them, it is clear that Creativity is part of the great work. My own course and teachings are an attempt at this.
Once you learn principals of magic, the specific methods can be customized and changed. Just realize that when you are changing it, you are making something new. If you do a prayer to Sophia over your Miraculous Medal, you are no longer doing the Miraculous Medal ritual. If you use your Phurba as an Athame, you are not in any way being a Phurba practitioner. What you do may be awesome, but if you go far enough off the map, it is no longer tapping into the same source as the original.
So, if I accept that creativity and customization are part of the work, why all the bitching about letting a path inform your personality rather than the other way around?
Because in all arts, not just magic, the people who successfully break the mold and create new things, know what it is that they are breaking and bending. The beats broke all the rules of literature and produced masterpieces (well, some of them did). The wanna-be beats that followed didn't even know the rules well enough to break them and ended up producing shit.
So is it necessary to be advanced for creativity and customization to play a role in spirituality and magic? No. Some people will feel those urges right at the start. It is however necessary to learn what it is you are changing and to be honest in your assessment of your changes. Some people claim that any ritual that you write will be better than something someone else wrote. Same with tools: anything that you make will be better than anything that you buy. With all due respect, I have found this to be completely false. The power of DIY is another over-rated factor. It is quite possible to produce something slower, lamer, and weaker than what came before. It is possible to create a tool so ugly that it inspires nothing but shame. Honest assessment is the key.
This skill of honest assessment is needed right from the beginning. After all, before you can let a path challenge you, you need to pick a path to start on. If you choose one that fits your personality, has a strong internal resonance, and offers up a challenging ideal to rise to than its great. When you come accross those aspects that you have trouble with it will be worth the time to try and understand and grow through it. If after an honest assessment you think the tradition needs changing you can do that from a place of knowlege and power. You will be doing the current a service by assisting in its evolution. Any path that is not evolving is dead.
If you chose a path because it is comfortable and requires nothing of you because the essence of it is "do whatever you feel" right at the start, than you are not going to get much from it.