Hansel and Gretel by Arthur Rackham

A Magical Feast

Over on John Barleycorn Must Die, the blog started up by Rex Van Ryn and Howard Gayton concerning the process involved in the creation of their graphic novel, there is a magical, movable feast happening right now. It began with this post on the history of magic, continued here in a conversation with Dharmaruci, and I’m picking it up here, with ubi dubium ibi libertas, wherein Rex and Howard ask a few questions that I can’t help but attempt to answer.

I’ll begin by explaining that I am very interested in magic and the occult. I have been involved in this stuff in one way or another for at least thirty-two years, sometimes as a curious reader, sometimes as a student, and sometimes as a publisher of magical books and journals, with ephemera. I’ve encountered a million definitions of the word magic, hundreds of people who practice it and even more who condemn it as silly, superstitious nonsense. My personal participation in this realm is not something I openly talk about. Eliphas Lévi spelled it out in Transcendental Magic:

“To attain the SANCTUM REGNUM, in other words, the knowledge and power of the Magi, there are four indispensable conditions–an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE–such are the four words of the Magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.”

I’m all about that “keep silence” bit. Partly from the need to protect myself, but mostly because I’d rather just do a thing than talk about it. With that said, here are the questions and my answers:

Is there an objective reality?

There is a consensual reality, but I’m not entirely convinced it is an objective one. My question is, are humans capable of true objectivity? Everything we take in with our senses is filtered in some way, by nature or by nurture or both, and then again by the unique spin we each put on our perceptions. It is possible to achieve a state of conditional objectivity, which just means that we accept that these filters exist and go from there. As for reality… what, exactly is that?

Is dogma created by taking the mystery out of religion? 

Not at all. Dogma is created by people who feel they have the authority to dictate to others what is and is not true. Sometimes dogma is created to protect the mystery of religion, if that mystery is what best suits those who are creating the dogma. Take the mystery of the resurrection, for example. Certain authority figures want us to believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross, laid in a tomb for three days and then got up and walked away. Or floated away, up into the starry heavens to hang out with his dad. It is imperative to the authorities that we accept this mystery without question, because once we question it they might lose their authority.

Is magic an internal process? If so, is it only an internal process?

It can be an internal process, but it isn’t solely internal, no. Magic can be many things, such as bringing a smile to the face of a child, but this isn’t the kind of magic we’re talking about… or is it?

Magic is a noun and a verb. I think when people get wrapped up in trying to define magic as a verb, they tend to overlook magic as a noun, as a thing unto itself. Magic exists whether we like it or not, whether we believe in it or not. Magic, the noun, is the call. Magic, the verb, is answering that call.

Are matter and consciousness intimately connected?

Yes. Consciousness is a result of matter, the biological matter of the brain acting in tandem with the matter of the universe as we perceive it. Can we change matter with consciousness? I believe we can and do. Can matter change our consciousness? Yes, it can and does.

If you are creating and acting on a magical intention, can one ever fully know the consequences of that action?


If one can’t be certain of consequences, how then does one decide to act in any given circumstance? 

One sometimes examines probabilities and possibilities and acts upons their findings. At other times, one leaps and hopes the net will appear. What we must do is accept that there will be consequences, and accept our responsibility for them when they occur.

Does Aleister Crowley’s dictum, “Do as you will is the whole of law,” imply a lack of compassion?

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, Chapter 1, Verse 40 of The Book of the Law has spawned reams of discussion, controversy, and condemnation. When taken at face value, this phrase could be read as blanket permission to do whatever you want, regardless of consequence. However, I believe that the word will in this sentence refers to Will, with the capital W, which is something entirely different from doing whatever one wants. The Will is perhaps more correctly referred to as True Will, and a big deal is made in certain magical circles of finding one’s Will and then acting upon it. What happened to me was the reverse — my True Will found and acted upon me. This is possibly how one knows it is True. True Will is that thing we can’t help but do, it is that thing we are meant to do. It has long been one of life’s great mysteries that if we do what we’re meant to do, everything falls into place. That is Will, and allowing ourselves to respond when our Will finds us is one of the most compassionate things we can do.

Does one need to go on a journey in order to discover there is no journey?

If one has gone on a journey, then there is a journey. This doesn’t answer the question, I know, but I think it’s a trickster question so it deserves a tricky answer. Every journey is no journey. We are always right here, where we are. At the same time we are never right here where we are. We are always on the move, be that movement physical, emotional or spiritual or all of the above.

Is love the closest thing to truth?

There is no spoon.

[Header image credit: “Hansel and Gretel”, Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).]