Monday, August 9, 2010

Customization and Creativity

In my Post "Opere Ex Operato Baby" I made the point that if you over-customize your path to your current personality, productivities, and beliefs you run the risk simply having that path reinforce the status quo, rather than actually using it as a tool for growth. Applying this idea to the field of practical magic, I also pointed out that the relatively modern fixation on belief and intent as the key to magic is bogus. Basically, I find a lot of people are a bit to solipsistic when it comes to magic. There is more involved than just you and your feelings.

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.


Anonymous said...

Enjoying this 3-part look at the Art greatly, even where I disagree with it (such as, I don't see how the example with the medallion given earlier *isn't* a use of belief - at least, the belief of the maker of the medallion) but that's a small thing.

You're making me want to take a good look at my praxis and see where it's a bit too comfortable (which, after 40 years of building, it surely is in many places.) I thank you for the nudge!

I would however suggest that a certain degree of... not comfort exactly, more like having a solid foundation to fall back on - is indispensable, especially in the more pointy end of the Work. (My 20-odd years of focus in combat/defensive magic suggests this, as well as my more personal Moist Way praxes.)

But, in my eclectic, I'll-nick-anything-me form I call Guttershaman, a fair bit does consist of finding the tools, mindsets and workings that do fit comfortably... to allow going somewhere less safe - physically, soul-based, sanity or otherwise. Like training before going on an expedition - the toolkit may be eclectic, but you know where everything is - which makes it quicker to find the right parts to improv around when shit hits fan.

I agree utterly that you need to know at least one system, two or more really, from soup to nuts, before getting 'creative' - worked out well for me My 3 systems were; post-Crowley but non-Thelemic low ritual, higher work involving a Moist Sufi/alchemy base and Japanese martial arts with acupuncture overlaid for qi strikes & healing.

I do hold to a strong view on tradition and authenticity in magic - in as much as I know it can affect matters due to sheer age, I don't think saying a work is 'trad' or has to be 'authentic' to work or have meaning. (Shit, one main deity I've worked with is fictional, twice over!) - and also, inauthentic (in the historical sense, but most authentic as a description of the mage) modern systems and neural models provide us a lot of range to hand-craft our toolkit - which looks increasingly like a hacker's bag of tricks.

But that's how I like it. Comfy? Not always, and damn uncomfortable until I reached a certain point... but a good time to take stock.

I'll follow future posts with great interest, and I wish you well of your Path and your faith.

Cat Vincent

Rufus Opus said...

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


Dude, you saw my sculpey Bune seal, didn't you!

hee hee hee...

Mehet said...
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Mehet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mehet said...

Using the Medallion as it is, as you did with results is a very good example of using an object, a personage, spirit, symbol or what ever is to be used at face-value to gain similar results to the original.

The thing that puzzles me is - if a belief does not play into this - then the assumption that the same result will arise if used in a particular manner is the motivation of any traditional ritual? Assumed results replaces belief?

The original power emanating from the symbol and spirit would come to pass with expected results as the original. The mentioned individual using the original power could not be defined as a devotee that would be recognized by that tradition and one of the intended users of the original power that resulted.

Then what I would be concerned about too would be that if the original power or result were sought in the prescribed manner --- would the user be exposed to all the other powers associated with the original power or result? Would for example with the use of the medal though from the mercy and actions of the Virgin Mary, would one end up with the negatives of the other spiritual beings /belief system associated with her? Could a person only use what is given and not have to take the whole bag? The use of Psalms in Root Work is the same sort of situation, but with the power emanating from words.

I respect the image of the Virgin Mary, but I don't want to become entangled in the other issues she happens to be associated with. Same with the use of Psalms in Root Work. I am of the mind to attempt to understand and not turn down any powers - and not reinvent the wheel as it were.

The articles brought up old issues and new questions for me. That is why I appreciate magic in my life, since there is knowledge to base results/belief upon and testing of results. M.

Mehet said...

The comment posting system said I went over, but when I got to the page there I was three times. So I deleted two of the posts... once is enough I would think. M.

Brother Christopher said...

and to think I have already slight adopted your pillars and sphere exercise to my own practice. Only slightly though.

Jason Miller, said...

@ Brother Christopher: If you do it three times than you should change it as you will.

If you change the colors or the sounds used, than that is only a slight tweak.

If you change it so far as switching the elemental arrangement or replacing the elements with sephira or something, than it is no longer my ritual at all.

Either way, if you know what you are changing it from, than you won't go wrong

Jason Miller, said...


You are over thinking this one a bit. No you are not taking on everything that comes along with a figure just by interacting with it.

Mehet said...

Thank you for answering. I will use that. Yes I tend to over think things to death at times. Just my inexperience being protected by a sense of caution on my part.

Mr Black said...

"don't try to run before you can walk" is springing in my mind.

as with any skill that's to be gained, a solid foundation of the basics must be completed; be it tennis, guitar or magick then refinement and experimenting are the next steps to finding your own path.

an example is the great Bruce Lee; he is widely known for creating his own system of martial arts called "Jeet Kun Do" (Tao of Jeet Kun Do, awesome read) but he started off and mastered a martial art called Wing Chun before going to his own path.


P.S: Did that lady every try the original format? Just wondering.....

Jason Miller, said...

I am very influenced by the philosophy of Jeet Kun Do. My own system of Strategic Sorcery has, much to my enjoyment, been compared to it.

No she never tried it the traditional way.

HilbertAstronaut said...

@Mehet i would say that things that are almost but not quite the same, tend to interfere with one another.

Linguists say English lost its case-declined definite articles ("the" variants) because Danish and Anglo-Saxon are sufficiently similar to facilitate linguistic crossing, yet have different enough case systems that people confused themselves to frustration and eventually threw away the whole thing.

The Blessed Virgin and Holy Sophia each have their own imagery. They cross quite a bit, but if you're using a Miraculous Medal, you're drawing from a particularly Marian strain. Trying to mix that up with Holy Sophia seems like it would result in confusion. (Also, i don't generally experience the two in a syncretic way, but perhaps that's a sign of my limitations!)

i understand the Psalms differently. People of so many different belief systems have used the Psalms for so long, that they aren't specifically Jewish anymore, or even Christian or Muslim or ... They also have a different character than a devotion like that of the Miraculous Medal; they are prayers, evocations, meditations, etc. rather than devotions focused on a specific figure like the Blessed Virgin. You could say that the Psalms are to linguistics like "Indo-European" is to English.

Mehet said...

@ HilbertAstronaut
Thank you. Yes on a physical level it is semantics used. Then there are intentions associated with each from the present user. Like you said the Psalms are not owned by anyone group due to their history of usage and the individual's present work and meaning focused upon them.

I am mindful of pitfalls and due to my lack of ritual experience am mindful of using objects and words I had associated strongly with previous experiences.

What you said is something to definitely note.