Saturday, April 27, 2013

No Fear

"A mirror reflects visible reality without judging it."
~ Gerd Ziegler, Tarot: Mirror of the Soul: Handbook for the Aleister Crowley Tarot

Mage Music 50
Mage Music 50: No Fear

By far the most certain impediment to successful Magick is fear. Together with its other insidious incarnations (doubt, worry, panic, hate, anger and the full spectrum of negative emotions), fear inhibits the process of Magick. Fear in itself isn't a bad thing - after all, negative emotions are meant to be a natural and useful part of the human survival mechanism - however, if negative emotions are present during Magickal process, they will impact the outcome in ways that are most likely not desired. In other words, what a Mage fears, dreads, hates or is just plain worried about will be included in what the Universe delivers.

We all know about this - that's why we don't look in the closet where the Bad Thing is hiding, and why we don't talk about the monster that is under the bed. We are given to know from birth that we have the power to project thought in a way that the Universe will respond to. Even if we don't purposefully use that knowledge, we still have an understanding early on that we don't want to give power to our fears by even acknowledging them. For a Mage - a person who purposefully aligns desire and will and ritual so that the Universe will respond in a specific way - allowing any undesired emotions to color the outcome can have terrible consequences.

Spiritual but not holy

Life isn't perfect and while we are spiritual beings in physical bodies that doesn't make us holy.  After all, if we were, there wouldn't be any need for Magick.  As it is, there are probably no humans walking around who don't experience negative emotions of some sort, no matter how evolved they are.

Going forward with Magick in the presence of negative emotion is clearly not a good idea, but negative emotions can't just be pushed through or pushed aside during a Magickal ritual as if they didn't matter. There is no benefit for Magick in carrying on in the face of fear, no point in being brave - because you can't fool the Universe.  The reality a Mage manifests through Magick reflects his actuality in full, not just the good parts.

Clearly the business of dealing with fear is something that needs to take place outside of the sphere of Magick, but it must be dealt with in the same way that a mirror reflects reality - without judgment. Fear (using the term broadly to include all the negative emotions) is useful.  It is a product of holding thoughts and feelings that are not congruent with specific desires, and so for the self-aware person the presence of fear can help identify more clearly the areas of the current desire that are weak.  Identifying the fear rather than being ruled by it, and letting the emotion point to a more positive direction, will negate the power of the fear and strengthen the desire.

Transforming negative to positive

"In the past I used to think I was nervous but it's the adrenaline tap switching on really early." Jimmy Page, 2012 Absolute Radio interview

Jimmy Page understands how to redirect negative emotion into positive. Nerves and stage fright are no friends of any musician if those negative emotions are allowed to run amok long enough in the musician's psyche. Focusing and dwelling on negative emotions encourages reaction rather than action, and reaction to fear is not subject to conscious control. Desire and will and ritual cannot overcome involuntarilyy freezing like a deer in the headlights. A musician and/or a Mage must be in the zone, able to open to the Universe, not closed up in self-protection.

For the Mage, no fear is not the same as not having fear - it is a matter of not being ruled by fear.  A successful Mage will take fear and transform it into a strength, for the Magick will faithfully reflect all that a Mage is.  Practical alchemy in action.

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Listen to Houses of the Holy (Physical Graffiti) if you're feeling a need to be reminded to heed the music's call.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Rite Stuff

"The need to use specific tools of magic is indirectly proportionate to the skill of the Mage"
~ Mage Music 5, June 10 2012

Mage Music 49: The Rite Stuff

Mage Music 49

Before you read this post, you might want to read some previous posts about ritual here on Mage Music so we're all working from the same concepts..

In fiction it’s all about doing the ritual correctly.  Harry Potter and friends have to go to a special school to get the rituals down, and they’re tested for correctness before advancing to higher levels.  Vulcans experiencing pon-farr who choose not to take a mate may engage in ritual battle that is witnessed in ceremony by other Vulcans.  Harry Dresden has to invoke his powers with ritualistically correct words and gestures.  

We all accept that ritual is a core part of Magick, but the irony is that the ritual itself doesn't really matter.

Humans have a tendency to think that there is a cost for everything.  This is unsurprising given that everything that lives expends – and therefore must obtain – energy in order to survive as well as grow and thrive.  This kind of thinking about using energy, however, tends to confuse the thinker about the whole point of living, which is not about gaining energy but rather the experience of making choices that satisfy desire. The gathering of energy is a process, not a goal.

Magick is the on-purpose use of energy to make the choices that satisfy a desire to change reality.  Ritual in Magick is simply the tool used to hold all the components of desire and will in place while maintaining a connection to the Universe long enough for the Universe to respond to the Mage's desire.  

No Wrong Rite

In Star Wars, the Force is about using energy directly to change reality – no ritual needed. Yoda didn't tell Luke how to raise the X-wing out of the swamp - the Jedi master simply observed that Luke’s own mental preconceptions were the true limitations to using the Force. All Luke had to do was get all the other crud out of his mind and then just…. do it.

In real life the ultimate failure of Magick is likely to come about because of the inability of the Mage to sustain pure desire and will long enough and powerfully enough to allow the process of Magick to manifest the desired change in reality.  Crud just keeps getting in the way.

Form Follows Function

A good ritual is simply one that provides the structure for Magickal success. Period. More is less.  The specific words, gestures or objects used don’t matter as long as they are meaningful for the Mage, since they are all merely symbols for aspects of the desired reality that the Mage wishes to remain aware of without actually thinking about as the rites are performed. The structure of a ritual should be based on its purpose and the purpose in Magick is to change reality. Thus the guiding principle for a Mage's ritual is to do whatever works and provides satisfaction in doing so, because satisfaction is an integral part of Magick.

After all, the whole business of Magick starts with desire. There’s no point in doing what thou wilt if it doesn't satisfy the desire.

A Mage can, of course, use a pre-existing ritual if it will get him where he wants to go – if it satisfies his desire. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.  If a Mage prefers to create his own ritual, then choosing what feels right and good will determine its form, and correctness of ritual will be measured as much by the level of satisfaction in performance of the ritual as by the resulting change in reality. The two must match, for as above, so below.

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Note:  All week long my sound system's been down and I haven't been able to listen to music.  All week long I've been hearing Writes of Winter in my head.  Just thought I'd let you know.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Can’t Hear You!

"...we would cry because of the intense beauty of the music, and nobody would have dreamed of disturbing the magic."
~ Ravi Shankar

Mage Music 48: Are You Listening?
Are you really listening?
Mage Music 48

I always recommend not actually looking at the videos that I link to in Mage Music.  I suggest only listening to them. That's what I do - I play YouTubes and DVDs without looking at the screen. I'm in it for the music, and music can't be perceived with eyes. 

Why does a musician so often close his eyes when in the deepest throes of musical passion?  It's because seeing interferes with the music experience.  If that's good enough for musicians like Jimmy Page, it's good enough for me.

The biology of perception
Hearing is so important that it develops even before a person is born.  Amniotic fluid is a good conductor of sound and a fetus can hear the mother’s heartbeat as early as the third or fourth month. Sounds can affect fetal heart rate, and research has shown that music can cause changes in metabolism in fetuses and babies. Some prospective parents, aware of this, play music to help their unborn child’s intellectual and emotional development. 

Of course there's nothing to see in the womb, so it's logical that eyes don't develop fully till after birth.  A baby is born only able to see things within about a 12" range - just enough to find a mother's nipple.  It takes a while before vision fully develops in a newborn - yet a baby can hear perfectly well right from the start. That's because hearing is crucial to development and survival of the individual and the species - and not just humans.

How important is it?  All this planet's complex organisms that have both eyes and ears evolved the ability to voluntarily close the eyes but not the ears. In other words, we have evolved a mechanism to choose not to see, but we haven't evolved one to choose to not hear.  There are eyelids, but not earlids. Hearing is such a fundamental sense that it is always on and we can hear under all kinds of circumstances, even sometimes while unconscious.  We can even receive sound through our bones.   

The parts of the brain involved with hearing are very closely connected with the parts involved with survival. The “reptile brain”, the limbic system, is the oldest part of the brain (in terms of evolution) and is the most primitive. It works on automatic responses, not intellectual decisions. That’s where emotions and immediate reaction to danger is handled, that’s where memory is processed.

And that's also is a big part of the brain that deals with music.

Visual illusion
To see or to hear, that is the question
Sound is so important to us and yet vision is such a brain-hog. Something like eighty to eighty five percent of our perception, learning, cognition and related activities are vision-oriented and involve parts of the brain that deal with conscious thought. When we see things, our brains fill in gaps of knowledge that then direct - and even overpower - the other senses and even our thinking. That’s why optical illusion can be so successful – our eyes can trick our brains into believing something is true that isn't. Even knowing that the bathroom floor in the image to the right is a trompe l’oeil (literally, fool the eye), we might hesitate at stepping onto it (click on image to enlarge).

If vision hogs the brain then we sometimes need to shut down visual input. That's when the eyelids come into play. For instance, people squint when trying to focus on an idea, or close their eyes when trying to identify something is by touch. That's why when people want to savor a sound, smell or taste - or increase the intensity of an experience like sex or music - the eyes so often are closed.
The sound of music
Sorry for putting that ear-worm in your brain - here's a link to a YouTube to make it go away (Down By The Seaside). Now that you've clicked on the link, I've got a bit of homework for you. Watch the video carefully. Read the lyrics. Look at the pictures. Now play it again and don't watch it. Close your eyes, sit back and listen. The second time around I promise you'll hear more. This is the way to hear music.

The ability to explore and share knowledge of the  fundamental nature of being and the world - the "metahuman" or "metaphysical" level of existence - is possible because of human language, which is sound based. But while language has brought humanity beyond itself,  it is still a human invention to communicate about reality as it relates to humans, that is, the finite. Music, on the other hand, connects to the infinite.

The Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), wrote the following: 
What we call music in our everyday language is only a miniature from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything...   Music is not only life's greatest object, but it is life itself.
Or, as Hermann Hesse put it in his book The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi), the world is sound, a microcosm of the whole spiritual cosmos and thus music can reproduce the entire spiritual content of the world.

Music is too important not to hear fully.

Vision or music - but not both  
Basically, if you watch a video, the sensory distortion provided by the predominance of vision means that you are cutting off a significant percentage of your ability to hear the music. The sound waves still enter your ears and make your ear drums vibrate, your brain still receives the input from your inner ear, but the majority of your brain is involved with the signals that are being received visually.  In essence, your brain “ignores” most of the received auditory input. The part of the brain that that processes emotion – and the emotional interpretation of music – is barely engaged.

In other words, you aren't really hearing much of the music if you’re watching a music video.

And if you aren’t hearing the music, you’ll never get the Magick that's in it, will you?

Additional reading:
What Happens in the Brain to Make Music Rewarding?
"...the brain assigns value to music through the interaction of ancient dopaminergic reward circuitry, involved in reinforcing behaviours that are absolutely necessary for our survival such as eating and sex, with some of the most evolved regions of the brain, involved in advanced cognitive processes that are unique to humans.... The integrated activity of brain circuits involved in pattern recognition, prediction, and emotion allow us to experience music as an aesthetic or intellectual reward."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Evolution is an ascent toward consciousness
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881- April 10,1955)

Mage Music 47

The anniversary of the death of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is coming up in a few days. One of the world's greatest thinkers and philosophers, few people aside from theologians and students of religion have heard of him, although his work has had a vast influence on science and the arts.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest. The Catholic church denounced almost all his work during his lifetime and long afterwards, declaring it offensive to doctrine.  This included the theologian's teaching that original sin was not something brought about by an Adam and Eve, but that rather was part of the state of all finite matter from the beginning of time, well before any Adam and Eve showed up on this planet.

Teilhard de Chardin wrote that evolution is directional, with all matter constantly increasing in complexity as it leads to higher forms of consciousness, with human consciousness evolving in complexity as well. He postulated that a sphere of thinking ("noosphere") would develop when humans have evolved to global human consciousness and self-awareness, this being part of the evolution towards an Omega Point or the sphere of God.

Even though Teilhard de Chardin was forbidden by the church to publish his writings, documents were secretly passed around and discussed until after his death, when his incredible (but challenging to read) book The Phenomenon of Man was published.

Teilhard de Chardin has been described as a truth-sayer and even a prophet. I would say, bringer of light.

The Power of Magick

What does a Jesuit priest and theologian have to do with Magick? Teilhard de Chardin wrote that human spiritual development is founded on the same universal laws as material development. He described matter as evolving towards consciousness, and consciousness evolving towards a god-state. He understood that the all-that-is is one continuum, that the difference between the infinite and finite is a matter of degree of contrast rather than an exclusionary opposition.

In other words, as above, so below - a basic tenet of Magick.

Magick is not a religion, and it is not in conflict with religion because they both are about connecting with the energy that forms all of reality - the Universe, God, Great Spirit, Source or whatever you choose to name it. The stuff reality is made of is the energy that Magick uses to change a Mage's reality. It is what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin believed all the finite universe was naturally evolving towards.

Let the Magick - or anything that works for you - connect with that energy. Use any tool that feels right help to evolve your own consciousness.  Let any ritual that speaks to your heart take you there.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Message from blogmaster: Slight delay

There will be a delay before I get the next Mage Music posted - sorry.  I'm doing some celebrating here and that's going to take some quality time!  Look for the next Mage Music post tomorrow, April 7.

(No, it has nothing to do with Led Zeppelin or Jimmy Page - I just like the font)