Posts Tagged ‘Reality’

I took a calculus class when I was 18 years old.  It was hard.  I remember studying what I was taught on Monday then being scandalized that something new was being taught on Tuesday before I was really sure I knew how to do Monday’s problems.  I finally figured out how to work Monday’s problems on Friday, but that meant I didn’t catch any of Tuesday – Thursday’s lessons.  Then came the Friday exam.  I got 25% correct.  Monday’s lesson.  This was what the whole semester was like for me.  I had to take Calculus again.

The second time through, I was able to keep up a little better (after all, I knew all the Monday lessons).  But what I remember the most about that course, and what flashes before my eyes every time I hear the word “calculus” after 30 years … is what happened one evening while doing homework in a little cold dorm room at midnight.

The homework that night was one question.  I was already 3 pages into solving that one question.  It had to do with a huge cylinder of water.  Some water was flowing in, but the cylinder had a leak that got bigger as more and more water leaked out of it.  The question was about the volume of water left in the cylinder after a specific period of time.

My pages of work looked something like the illustration above.  At the end was an answer to three decimal places.  Anyone who has done this work knows you are only half done at this point.  I turned back to the beginning and started going over my work to check all the steps and all the math.

As I was doing this, something magical happened.  My brain stopped looking at little numbers and symbols and started to read the math.  The comprehension had nothing to do with the squiggles on the page…and everything to do with it.  My brain was not thinking in words.  It was thinking in numbers and the concepts behind the formulae.  I grokked calculus fully.  *angelic choir sound*

The best analogy will be trying to remember being a child and sounding out each letter of the alphabet in order to read your first word.  Can you remember that transition from a phonetic reading to sight reading?

I was deep deep into that cylinder and that flowing water when my roommate came in and broke the spell.  I was never able to go back there again.  I know that scientists and mathematicians do this every day.  It is not special to them.  It was to me, though.  Very special.  A whole world opened up to me that night.  I got a glimpse of magic that came and went.

I think this happens to artists and musicians as well.  I have found myself lost in that world when painting, when listening to Wagner and Beethoven, and when writing.  There is a creative part of the brain that takes your consciousness and puts it in a timeless place where language only gets in the way of meaning.

Plato called this place the world of forms.  I have been there.


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Yeah...it could happen

Magical Realism.

Sounds like an oxymoron.  How can anything magical be real?  Did the idea of magic come from the wishful thinking thousands of years ago?  Was it born of coincidence, as when a hungry Neanderthal wished that charging mammoth would just drop dead…and then watched as lightning struck it?

Perhaps the concept of magic grew from enthusiastic explanations for the unexplainable.  Lightning was a mystery until just a few hundred years ago.  Thunder had various explanations in every culture before science made it less fun with diagrams of super-heated air and sound waves.  I prefer the bowling trolls, myself.

Other common events like illness and decay have been blamed on sorcery for as long as they have existed, and still do in cultures that have not embraced the scientific method of explaining the world around us.

Aleister Crowley defined magic as the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity of will.” (He spelled his magick with a k).

There you have it.

Is it possible to cause change to occur in conformity with your will-power?  If you cannot do it, the answer is “no”.  If you can do it, the answer is, “of course”.

How does one learn to use magick to get what they want in the real world?  Crowley has written many step-by-step guides.  What I have found is that he teases the reader with allegory. At the dawn of the twentieth century when he was writing about magick, there was no good vocabulary in English for what he wanted to describe.  He was a student of yoga, yet even the Sanskrit words he uses to describe what he means are difficult for Westerners to really understand.  He turns to classical metaphors and allusions to mythology to try to convey what is essentially impossible to do with words.  If the reader does not know Greek and Latin, and is not familiar with all the literature Crowley absorbed while at Cambridge, it is easy to get lost.

There are other, more accessible teachers, but the aspirant must eventually make his own path.  All paths will eventually lead to enlightenment, and there is a teacher on each one.  It is the realization that you must abandon them all and move toward the Abyss on your own that brings the magic to you.

This is what Nadira discovers in the sequel to The Hermetica of Elysium.   The Necromancer’s Grimoire explores the next step in her journey to understand the nature of reality: controlling it.

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Philosophers and poets through the centuries have wondered how we got here, and more importantly, now that we ARE here what we are supposed to be doing.

Blake’s image above, of Newton as architect is a representation of man’s mind as the creator of physical objects.  The “seat” he sits upon, however links his own physical body to the realm of the unknowable.  If Newton creates…who created Newton? Blake rejected the idea that the Universe is knowable through science.  In the poem “The Tyger” Blake wonders what kind of forge the creator of the tyger used to make that glorious animal.  He knew that there was something beyond both religion and science.

Blake found it difficult to give up his Christian Bible, though he rejected organized religion as losing its purpose in a sea of greed and power.  His art and poetry demonstrates a mystical element that transcends his Bible, yet while he hungrily explored the realms of the mind, he clutched the Christian elements that seemed to comfort him.

There was something more, however.  He wrote, “The Treasures of Heaven are not Negations of Passion but Realities of Intellect from which All the Passions Emanate  in their Eternal Glory.”  He knew from his own mystical experiences how matter is created.

It is the combination of passion and intellect that creates the world around us.  Intellect supplies the chart…the architectural drawing, and passion supplies the energy necessary to bring an idea into physical reality.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal
hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(1794 William Blake from “Songs of Experience”)

With intellect alone, there is nothing but the idea.  A paper Tyger.

With Passion alone there is just the storm of random energies dissipated into the ether:  “Sound and Fury, signifying…nothing”.

Combined we have all the wonders of the world.


And all the horrors.


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This is an example of the fractal Mandelbrot Set.  Giving the image a name isn’t really important, but some folks might see this and think it is an inkblot, similar to what Dr Rorschach flashed at patients to get inside their minds.  It is, and it isn’t.     If you took a magnifying glass and looked at one of the edges you would find a smaller copy of the image.  You could do that forever.

An inkblot test might get 99 people to “see” a butterfly, but the 100th might “see” a pig.  Uhm.  OK.  Is that person wrong?  Crazy?  Who is to say?  Experts?  Psychologists?  Psychiatrists?  a Judge?  In a complex society like ours the answer is ‘yes’.  Someone has to make that judgment.  But let’s step away from the social aspect and look at the blot from an existential aspect.  The pig-seeing person differs from the norm, but that does not make him wrong.

How about the wild rhetoric flying about America today?  You would think there was only one right way to run a country and if you do not agree, you are in league with Satan.  Why do people say, “My way or the Highway” or descend to ad hominem attacks if you do not agree?

So WHY do people get so hot when others disagree with them?  It is because they really really believe that there is only one way or one thought or one true and correct answer.   If you disagree you imply that they are wrong, and that feels like an attack on their fragile egos.

The most vociferous folks will battle to the death to MAKE you see it their way.   But why do they care?

(Read more in a related study here)

The first step in being able to navigate beyond physical reality is to understand how fluid physical reality really is.  Your ego is important.  It is there to focus your consciousness in this particular physical reality.  If you did not have an ego, you would find it difficult to steer.  The ego is like a lens, or the rudder of a ship.  When YOU use it for your own purposes, you have smooth sailing.  When you allow your ego to stomp around reality uncontrolled, you will be in for heavy seas.

You accept that everyone sees the world through the lens of their own egos.  The clearer you grind that lens, the more you will see.  If it is curved or flawed or colored, then everything seen through it will be distorted.  It will seem REAL to you, however.  “What do you MEAN that tree is red?  Of course it is GREEN!”  But if you are looking through a red filter you are just as correct as your friend.  Touch the tree, then.  Does it FEEL red?  You see where I am going with this.  It is foolish to argue with anyone holding on firmly to beliefs they will not release.  You cannot use reason to convince someone something isn’t “true” when they didn’t use reason to place that idea in their minds in the first place.  Just let it go.  It has nothing to do with you.

(an aside:  I am not suggesting that folks should not be activists, merely that shouting at your friend is not the way to share ideas)

When you poke your head through the veil of physical reality, you toss that ego lens back to earth.  Its comforting images will no longer be there to guide you.  The Landmarks will be different.  For example.  You may drift through your living room.  There is your grandfather’s old recliner.  You “blink” and now it looks new, another “blink” and it is not quite the same color.  Now it has an extra cushion.  What is “there” is the idea of your grandfather’s recliner, not the chair you see when you are awake and walking around the physical room.  Plato went into some detail on this idea, so I suppose he traveled the ether himself.  If he participated in the Elysian Mysteries, I am sure he did.

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Whether you believe it or not, every second of your life you create your reality with your thoughts and feelings.  That bears repeating:  you don’t have to actually KNOW you are doing it…to do it.  Everyone does.  Even “wrong” ideas are manifested (that is how “bad things” happen).  It is how the world works.  But if you do know, ah…there is where the real magic lies.

So.  Be suspicious of new ideas.  Be suspicious if it means you think and explore before accepting a new idea as your own Truth.  I will encourage all people to NEVER believe what they are told without testing the information first.  In our society profit is made easiest at the expense of the ignorant.   You may notice that overall, Americans are becoming more and more ignorant as the years pass.  Certain groups are more knowledgeable…and information is now more available than ever before, yet the huge majority of Americans live in blissful ignorance.  Why?  I think it is because ignorance is blissful, but also because new information is so frightening.

Take the resistance to the Idea of Climate Change.  This Idea is very frightening.  Better to pretend it doesn’t exist.  How about Evolution?  Extremely frightening.  That Idea suggests that the world does not need a caretaker god to make things work.  Let’s vigorously oppose that Idea.  New Technologies and Ideas generate resistance at first.  Any reading of the history of science teaches that.  The Idea of Contraception was maniacally opposed in the first part of this century.  Imagine being imprisoned for telling someone that they could have sex without the possibility of conception.  This happened.  Remember the fear that cell phones cause brain cancer?  I hope I have made my point here in this paragraph so I can get to the fun part.

So, if you are handed a new Idea what do you do first?  You may stare at the Idea in your hand for a while, thinking about this new thing.  Hopefully you will then, say, read the instruction manual first (but how many of us do?) I think you will undoubtedly start to experiment with your new toy.

Good.  This Idea, like other new things, will be different for each individual.  Like a new video game you can program to your own preferences.  Do you want to play as the Warrior?  The Priestess?  The Thief?  The game is the same, but experienced from different perspectives.  A real game fan will play it all the way through as each of the characters.  You can do this, too, with your new Idea.

First, pretend that the idea is True.  All of us have the capacity for this kind of imaginary play.  Some folks had it stamped out of them as children, others are fortunate enough to retain the ability.  Then play with the Idea by imagining a small thing. I will suggest a common beginning from the visionary Richard Bach.  Let us use a white feather.  This object is common enough not to be shocking but unusual enough to be meaningful.  Think hard about white feathers, imagine one in your hand where the Idea was,  think hard about how much you want a white feather, and how lovely they are.  Now stop and go about your daily business.

Be ecstatic when the white feather shows up!  If the feather shows up in an hour or so, you have graduated Kindergarten and are totally ready for the next step.  If it takes longer, it doesn’t mean you can’t…it means you have some cross-current beliefs that need to be altered.  You didn’t start with the first step: pretend it is possible.  Remember we ALL do this every time we watch TV or go to the movies or read a book.  We love to pretend something is real.

What you are doing when you pretend is unhinging the belief that insists the New Idea is Not Real.  This unhinging is necessary before you can insert a new belief, so make sure you do this with a sense of play and curiosity, not fear.

Many people have started their journey with a white feather, if you are amazed at the avalanche of feathers that appear in your life, you may want to read more from Richard Bach:


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