Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No replacement for meditation

One of the features of my methods of magic that sometimes throws people for a loop is the importance I place on meditation. It is the keystone of my magic. You can do magic without it, but there will be somethings that I teach - especially if I launch a truly Advanced Sorcery or Strategic Spirituality course - that will have a very subtle explanation that relies upon certain experiences to even understand. Those who do the meditation will nod and understand. Those who do not, will either go "huh?" or will just fake it - possibly even to themselves.

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
• Running
• Astral Projecting
• Doing the LBRP
• Talking to Angels
• Using Sound and Light Machines
• Self Hypnosis
• Listening to relaxation tapes.
• Dancing

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.


Robert said...

at an instinctual level I know you are right but I resist it so much that my resistance pisses me off!

Unknown said...

I concur.

It was the practice of meditation that helped to grow in discipline in my own practice, and it is something I continue to this day.

A friend of mine who is looking for clarity and life improvement, I recently told him one of the things he needs to do is to meditate. He says he does, when he goes for walks. I felt somehow that what he said was right on some level, but not what I was telling him to take up. I didn't quite know how to respond, so I just kinda smiled and went on. Now I think you have given me the answer.

Anonymous said...
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wind said...

Great post.

I'm curious if you've read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel P. Ingram. I just started it (available in print or as a free pdf on his site) and he reminds me of you. Hardcore, no bullshit enlightenment tech.

Mr. J. said...

I think one of the big reasons people don't meditate more is not because they don't know how important it is, at least if they read your blog they do ;)

I think it is more of the fact that it is very very boring at first, and frustrating, and there is no instant cookie reward system. That is for beginners.

Then again, when you start to get real results, things can get life changing. Really for reals life changing. And that is scary. Meditation isnt just the quickest rout to Gnosis, it's the quickest rout to Theosis. And once you break that first barrier of boredom and conditioning a whole new world opens up, and that can be scary as hell.

The jarring sense of understand reality and yourself at a deeper level raises a lot of questions about self identity, and just about everything else. When you get to know yourself, and you arent who you thought you were, where do you go from there.

A good teacher or mentor is a great help there, as is a good grounding in a small bit of meditational theory or cosmology. When you see the Real of it, you are going to throw all that out anyway, but when you need it, it's good to have.

petoskystone said...

meditation is a practice i'm still trying to return to. it is also one of the most frustrating practices! when acheived it is one of the most rewarding practices i have experienced & it impacts every area of my life--including helping to calm down the ADD. much appreciation for this post-it has given me a needed kick in the ass ;)

Anonymous said...

A question.

This question is based on the assumption that you believe that meditation should be a constant daily practice.

If you have been doing meditation for a number of years(the mystical experiences have come and gone, thoughts have settled and vanished, etc.) and nothing is happening(no accomplishments, no realizations, no pleasure in doing it, you are basically staring at a wall, altar, or whatever it is you are staring at) why is it important to continue? You've settled your mind, you know your natural state, why keep doing it every day?

Jason Miller, said...

Excellent Question arxacies.

Ask yourself this: If you have achieved the body that you wanted and are no longer gaining drastic changes from eating right and exercising - do you quit the gym and go back to eating at McDonalds?

Of course not!

Ask yourself a few questions.

Are you free from clinging to thoughts all day long, not just on the cushion?

If so than you are highly realized and should use your powers to make the world a better place! Or you are fooling yourself.

If not, than you still have work to do. I would recommend interspersing shorter sessions of meditation more frequently throughout the day as well as a morning and evening session.

Are you able to revert to the natural state at will even after not doing sessions for months?

If not, than you still have a lot of work to do.

Have you reached the transpersonal state beyond individual ego and experiencing things as subject and object?

If not than you haven't REALLY discovered the natural state. Just one of the many states of higher realization that one can plateau in along the way.

If you have, than have you been able to integrate this state seamlessly into your everyday waking state?

If not than you are just day tripping into it. Meditate more both on and off the cushion.

If you are experiencing what you are indicating that you are experiencing you should congradulate yourself! You have meditated your way past mental distraction and agitation. Now you have to conquer dullness. There is much work for you to do, so get to it.

When you have conquered dullness, you will not want to stop meditating. Your body will crave your asana and your mind will crave the ecstatic calm of inseparable emptiness and bliss.

Lavanah said...

Magic aside, I would have lost my mind long ago without my regular and "official" meditation practice. When taking my magical practices into account, lets just say that the practice has lead me to understand what leads some people to think that magic has something to do with glitter and cheap jewelry. And some people, not.

Deborah Castellano said...

While I do tend to express disinterest in meditation, I can understand what you're saying. I also agree that dance/trance state is different than meditation.

If I'm being completely honest, if I'm doing straight up empty my mind meditation with no mantra, no spirits to visit, etc., as I have a panic disorder, I panic. Once the hamsters get going, it's really hard to stop them and it's hard to get past the physical reaction. And I'm not really sure how to get past that. Doing something repeatedly that triggers a panic attack feels to me like deciding to voluntarily cause myself pain.

I would of course be interested in others' thoughts.

Rufus Opus said...
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Rufus Opus said...

Link was broke.

Jason, I responded, of course. :) Unlike Barrabas, who posted a comment to my post, I don't think you went overboard. I think you're expressing your own experience-informed opinion. I consider this disagreement the reason they make Chocolate and Vanilla flavored ice cream. I don't even really think we disagree, as much as we just have different aims, and different approaches to accomplishing those aims. Or maybe different understandings of the same goals, and the differences explain why we have different approaches, or different focuses.

Whatever it is, it's fun to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so I can be specific, Jason's words are in quotations, mine aren't.

Also, Jason, thank you for taking the time to respond. It is very kind of you.

"Excellent Question arxacies."

Thank you. I'm very good at asking questions. Sometimes even good ones. Just ask any of my teachers. Drives them nuts.

"Ask yourself this: If you have achieved the body that you wanted and are no longer gaining drastic changes from eating right and exercising - do you quit the gym and go back to eating at McDonalds?"

This is a good point but I'm not sure it's applicable. Isn't the point of meditation that it produces changes that don't become undone for a long, long time(ideally the rest of the practitioner's life)?

"Ask yourself a few questions.
*lots of good questions snipped*"

Well, in a nutshell, when I meditate it's nothing. Nothing at all. At the time it's not happy or sad, no bliss or anything. For awhile I thought I was doing something wrong, but I've been told that I'm doing it right. That feeling of nothing is something that is with me a lot of the time and I usually have to think to make it go away as opposed to make it come up. Of course, this might not be Natural Mind, but nobody seems to be able to say what it is(or they haven't told me yet).

I can definitely say, however, that I am not even a little accomplished or attained. Don't live off of nettle soup, no miracle powers, no cool stunts, still get irritated at things.

"When you have conquered dullness, you will not want to stop meditating. Your body will crave your asana and your mind will crave the ecstatic calm of inseparable emptiness and bliss."

Here is where I get a little confused and if you bow out at this point I totally understand(I might have to forward this question to a guy with a long name and nifty robes).

In the beginning of the meditation process if one has ecstatic experiences they are supposted to be ignored. After those experiences nothing happens get ecstatic experiences again? But these ecstatic experiences you don't have to shoo out the door like a guest that has overstayed his welcome?

Rufus Opus said...


Panic attacks suck donkey balls. I have seen how that particular affliction disrupts even the most sincere and resolute magicians attempting the Work.

I got nothing for you as a solution. I don't know why panic attacks occur. It's not just environmental events, there's a genetic component, but it's not all genetic either, there has to be an environmental trigger to set off the chronic return of the PAs.

I would strongly caution against Goety though, it attracts the kinds of spirits that feed on fear. Most Solomonic Magic in general does the same. Even some of the Angelic stuff in the Key of Solomon is "really" all about gathering a horde of base spirits and then using the talisman of the Angel to command them.

The Abramelin rite may help. I don't know of anyone using it to cure anxiety disorders, but it definitely wouldn't hurt to at least follow it through to attaining knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. I'd skip the conjure of the demon kings of hell part, unless specifically told to do it by the HGA.

Jason Miller, said...


I wish I had a good answer for you as well. There are a host of mental disorders that I think should keep people away from meditation. More than most magical disciplines, meditation has a very drastic effect on the brain. Even if you get past the panic attacks brought on by the lack of distraction, when the blood runs from your parietal lobe to the frontal lobe you will suddenly feel like you are accutely aware of the lack of boundary between yourself and everything else. This too causes some people trauma.

Whatever the accepted treatment is, I would say, stick with it until you are better. Than worry about meditation.

Basically the mind and the ego should be whole and healthy before you start trying to transcend them..

Deborah Castellano said...

RO, Jason, thank you for your kind responses.

I guess the issue for me is that I've done what I'm supposed to do - I've sat on the couch, I take medication, all in all it's pretty well managed. I hold jobs for long periods of time, pay my own bills, manage my own affairs, am a published writer, etc., etc. I lead a pretty "normal" life. :)

The emotional issues that could be triggering, I've come to terms with as much as one can, I believe. And it's been years and years since most of those things happened.

I guess, the question I have is, while obviously, Jason, you're not espousing that meditation is the only path to higher magic, what is there for someone like me to base her practice around? I do mostly hedge witchery/kitchen witchery and I've thought a lot about trying to engage all three levels in my magical practice. I have a good relationship with my deities and I have a pretty high success rate in the magic I do. But it is hard for me to figure out what my magical base should be, if not meditation.

Again, I just want to encourage conversation and it's an interesting issue that a lot of people deal with I think. There must be answer, I just don't know what it is. Maybe it's an interesting case study for future books. :)

Mr. J. said...


I would say that first you have to decide what your goal is. First decide the goal, then the plan of attack!

Find something that fulfills you, benefits you, and that you can do on the regular.

Meditation doesn't seem to benefit you, thus, don't do that thing. It's like medicine, it has to help to keep taking it. Some practices aren't good for some people, even if those practices are good for the majority of people. Even if you want to be doing them.

It's like when I eat mangoes. I stick my maw in the mango skin and nom away.. and then my face swells up, and my throat gets itchy. Though I enjoy eating mangoes, I should not, because I am in fact, allergic.

What are the practices you find most helpful? See if there are any commonalities. What practices to you have a taste or hunger for? Experiment and see what feels right for you and for your goals.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your commentary on meditation. I have practiced meditation for years, sometimes sporadically and sometimes committedly, and have noticed its effect of permanently stabilizing the mind in a way that other practices do not.

I have had spiritual experiences both inside and outside of ritual practice but I have found that these experiences are either entirely situational or utterly random. The experience goes away and what remains is a valuable realization perhaps or only a memory. For me, meditation brings a sensibility that spiritualizes and makes "magickal" everyday life away from the altar and specific practices.

After reading your post I am inspired to really make the commitment to make meditation a lifestyle choice (I have done this before and received the benefits I noted above). However, I have quit meditating before in order to move on to more "glamorous things", but not any longer. I'm considering going "all in" this time but need a bit of direction.

Do you recommend any particular form of meditation (mantra, Kriya Yoga, Contemplative Prayer, Vipassana, etc.). I have done various forms of meditation in the past, but am quite interested now in Vipassana (Mindfulness) and even recently purchased a 12 month course by Sharon Salzberg but haven't yet had a chance to really dig into it.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Jason Miller, said...

I myself practice Dzogchen. Specifically i focus on the Zhang Zhung Ngan Gyud which I learned from Lopon Tenzin Namdak and John Reynolds.

I like Vipassana and of some types of Christian contemplative prayer as well.

Kriya Yoga and other energy based systems are fantastic, but I wouldnt call them straight meditation. I like to have a pure meditation practice as well as those other things. Keep the meditation as simple and non-contrived as possible.

Anonymous said...

Jason, thanks for your input. I'll give some consistant Vipassana or Centering Prayer a chance (a year at least)and see what what happens.

I currently do Qigong and think I do enough energy work for now so I am happy to get into a form of meditation that isn't about energy so to speak.

Great Blog by the way.

Jason Miller, said...


You wrote: "(I might have to forward this question to a guy with a long name and nifty robes)."

To be fair, while not a Lama, I am a Ngakpa and my name is Kunzang Rigdzin so I have both the funny name and nifty robes.

"In the beginning of the meditation process if one has ecstatic experiences they are supposted to be ignored. After those experiences nothing happens get ecstatic experiences again? But these ecstatic experiences you don't have to shoo out the door like a guest that has overstayed his welcome?"

Bliss and Emptiness and Clarity are not ecstatic experiences. When you have them you will realize that they are the natural state and that your every day clinging is in fact an altered state of consciousness.

It is tough to explain in text, but its really easy to distinguish when you get there. For now, just keep at it and get through the dullness. Don't worry about the goal or think of meditation as something that you are doing until you get to X. That is the surest way not to get to X.

Rufus Opus said...

Kunzan Rigdzin:

In Heartdrops, the guy talks about the ways to observe the mind, and then become aware of that which is observing, and I think of that awareness that observes the observer as "the mindful observer."

Is the Bliss/Emptiness/Clarity thing the natural state of the mindful observer?

Jason Miller, said...


The Bliss Emptiness Clarity thing IS the natural state of the mindful observer. The realization of it comes several stages after you become settled into that level of awareness.

Than after you taste it, the trick is remaining in it.

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