Those blind sages are at it again: grabbing different elephant body parts and variously declaring an elephant to be like a tree, a snake, a wall, a rope, a bag of pomelos (Whoa! Which part did he grab?). Sigh! Elephants are like elephants, guys.
To this day I don’t really understand what the fuss is about. Energy model? Spirit model? Information model? Any time I need to explain some magical (or any other) phenomenon to myself, I pick up each of these (and other) lenses and take a squint at what I’m trying to understand. If one of them makes the subject come into clear focus, then that one’s the most useful in that situation. Simple as that.
Mind you, “energy” seems to have become, to certain contemporary magical theorists, what “Dead White Men” and the dreaded “canon” have become to outre literary and cultural theorists. (I happen to still treasure a lot of my Dead White Men, such as Faulkner, even if I have greatly broadened my cultural horizons. Come to think of it, I’ll be a dead white man some day.)
And I understand the need to deconstruct nineteenth century occultism to make sure we don’t fall into some of the traps they fell into. But come on! Babies and bathwater, folks! I’m grateful for the realization that Crowley, Mathers, Waite, and a whole slew of others from that era were deeply flawed people, but I’m not so arrogant as to declare that I didn’t learn anything worthwhile from reading them and trying to understand what they were attempting (and often succeeding) to do.
But that’s sort of beside the point. We were talking about “energy”. In case you’re one of the two readers of my blog who don’t follow the other blogs in this cyberneighborhood, this all started with this rant (yes, it was a rant) on Frater A.I.T.’s blog, followed by this counter-rant by Frater RO, that was responded to by Jason Miller in this posting, and then counter-posted by DHR Balthazar in this posting. And just in case that’s not enough reading already, Jack Faust checked in with his thought-provoking observations in this posting, after which he and Frater A.I.T. (Remember him? He’s the one who started this whole thing.) got into a regular yack fest in Jack’s comment section.
After all that, I’ll do my best to keep myself brief (that’ll be the day!).
My basic observation is that your perspective on this will depend on which avenue brought you to magical/mystical practices. For instance, when reading A.I.T.’s blog I noticed his Twitter feed mentioned that he was watching his son’s kenpo class, and that he’d trained in kenpo himself. Aha! For those of you who don’t know jujitsu from Kawasaki, kenpo is the name of a Japanese martial art that was imported from China –whole cloth– into Japan in earlier centuries. Some of the sets and moves are nearly identical to traditional forms of wu shu practiced in China to this day. I suspect A.I.T. picked up some of his respect for “energy” from these practices.
I have this background as well. I’ve learned tai chi, chi kung (which I practice daily), and learned (and taught) aikido for a number of years. I’ve experienced “energy” in a very real way through these arts. I regularly experience getting up in the morning feeling like death-warmed-over and having a chi kung session transform me into a wild man with sparks jumping off my fingers. When you incorporate these practices into your life, you can’t just leave them behind when you shift into “magician mode”. It’s only natural to explore the ideas of how the circulation of various forces through the many levels of your being (your many “bodies”) can affect the manifestation of your will. I have experimented with these things with varying degrees of success. And will continue to.
And, to respond specifically to RO, I don’t see what’s wrong with learning these things from humans and books. I can see why it would be special to learn them from spirits, but I don’t have a problem with learning from people. Isn’t that one of the reasons why we’re incarnated together here? To learn from each other?
And part of my training comes from AMORC. The sixth degree is dedicated to healing. The Order teaches a method of charging the body to a positive or negative polarity using pranayama-like techniques, and applying that energy through the hands to specific nexuses on the body. I can make headaches go away very consistently. I can often bring down fevers and reduce inflammations. Am I supposed to forget this stuff when I do magic? Why?
To Balthazar I would say this: I realize that there is danger in recklessly combining everything in the world into a meaningless hodgepodge, especially when you are talking about spiritual practices. But that doesn’t mean that one should avoid synthesizing altogether. If one uses reason, intuition and aesthetic sensitivity, one can find pieces of a puzzle found in one culture or one discipline that fit very nicely into other puzzles, almost as if the architect of the universe really meant them to fit together (or did he, really?). One has to discriminate, as one should in other aspects of one’s life. I mean, whipped cream doesn’t go with dill pickles, right? Or a pink and green paisley tie with an electric blue shirt? Some practices fit together. Some don’t.
Regarding the diversity of experience in my life, I’m not that different than many other of my contemporaries. I have spent my life in several cities on two continents in three cultures (four, if you count California). I have learned Japanese and Chinese martial arts, read Latin literature and medieval German literature, learned to speak two foreign languages, and on and on… I find it frustrating when they seem to be separate, unrelated, isolated elements of my experience. I constantly try to integrate them, because that is a path to integrating myself. And that also means trying to figure out how my experiences with the energies connected with human life can be used in the practice of magic.
If you don’t feel the need to synthesize that way, that’s fine. Just don’t try to tell me that I’m doing something wrong if I do.