December 2nd. 2012
Engaging in magick pushes the magickal practitioner to have ever evolving beliefs that are outside of the box. These beliefs include how we think, what we believe in, and the very essence of the nature of language, words, and the structure of thought. Thoughts, words, and symbol sets allow us to understand and define things, but can also act as mental chains and prisons that limit our belief structures and our ability to have new ideas and even our ability to empower our magick through willful intent. Becoming aware of the different ways in which we cut ourselves off from the ability to believe in and have an understanding of the metaphysical nature of the universe is a critical step in encouraging fulfilling engagement with the Mysteries, the Gods, and successful spell-craft.
In the popular, often quoted, science fiction movie blockbuster, The Matrix, the main character Neo goes through a labyrinth of experiences that makes him question the nature of reality. Toward the end of the first movie, a child prodigy that can bend spoons with his mind looks to Neo, and says, “The trick is, there is no spoon. You bend your mind to the reality around the spoon, not the spoon itself.”
What allows Neo to make advances that no one ever has, thus making him The One, is that he is able to fully grasp that in this holographic world that people are plugged into, none of the rules are real and can be bent to one’s will. Most of the characters in the Matrix, even when they find out that what they thought of reality was a computer-generated fantasy, are unable to convince their minds that all of the rules of physics can be bent. The characters all put pre-set limitations on consciousness on themselves.
We all put pre-set limitations on our minds in terms of what is possible. These chains of the mind are the main limiting factor in what we allow to be possible in our spell-craft, psychic skills, and mystical belief. Many of these pre-sets are unconscious. These limitations are based on definitions of reality and morality that were imposed upon us during our formative years. Those limitations of upbringing may have been imposed by our parents, education (including current scientific, psychological, religious, theological, and philosophical theories) , peer pressure, and societal expectations.
Hard sciences such as physics, biology, and mathematics, as well as soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology help us to make determinations about how the world works and how we fit into that world. In fact, the word to define can be iterated in several ways, such as: to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of, to make clear the outline or form of, and to identify the essential qualities of. Words and language, as well as science, use forms of categorization to create containers of thought to understand the essence of ideas and how things work. A container (whether through definitions or even a glass holding water) contains, creates boundaries, and also limits movement into other shapes. This means that in order to learn a system of categorization or any field of study, you must limit the rules in which you are able to think about something. This can be helpful as long as we also allow ourselves to be cognizant that we are also limiting the possibilities.
An important aspect of the work of a witch is to be consciously aware of the choices we make, including what we choose to believe in. Galileo posited that the world was round based on his studies. This idea was so outside of what society, driven by the church, had said was truth, which he was considered a heretic and was incarcerated. Yet, we are taught that the world is round currently in grade schools, where in every classroom there is a globe. If someone were to walk into a classroom, throw the globe out the window, and demand that we believe the world was flat, we would either stare incredulously, or just laugh. Yet, hundreds of years ago, “societal truth” was just the opposite. We see this battle of wills going on right now with the evolution vs. creation theory struggle. Both sides of this coin cannot even fathom that the other side is “right” or is speaking truth based on what they hold as core beliefs.
We easily get hung up on words. Those coming from very religious backgrounds can find that, even while exploring alternative religious options, they may hold onto the core beliefs of what is real and what is false based on what was taught to them as children. For example many find that they still have firmer literal belief in theological constructs such as the Christian Trinity than they do when engaging the stories commonly put into the category of mythology. A way to unlearn a biased belief is to also categorize the Judeo-Christian stories as mythology as well. Mythology then becomes a set of religious, archetypal allegories, rather than equating the word myth to mean tall tale or fiction. In this way, you start to work with both the underlying archetypal and psychological themes of all myths equally. This will help foster the development of relationships with the spiritual entities, i.e. the Gods, which are the characters described in these stories. Myths can act as keys to accessing spiritual entities, but without the possibility of considering these entities as real, you shut the door to direct mystical experience.
The same goes for so called mythological beings. Many have memories of seeing ghosts and faeries as a child, and yet, through the process of growing into adulthood, shut down psychic sight in order to let go of childish things and grow up. This process shoves the existence of etheric creatures into the realm of imagination, thus closing off the door to the possibility of them being real. When we shut down what is possible, our brains do a great job of closing off our perceptions to be able to process information from such things that we consider impossible. A good example of this would be several of the Native American tribes could not see the ships of the conquistadors anchored off shore and in fact, saw only the row boats that ferried the men to shore. It was as if the rowboats appeared out of the misty horizon, literally out of nowhere. They had to be shown several times where to look and keep concentrating in order to see the larger ships in the distance because it was outside of what they their normal scope (read container) of reality.
We are much like these tribes, in that we have shut the latches on the portholes of reality and the portholes of our third eyes that we have to experience the Mysteries repeatedly over time in order to retrain our minds to bend to the point that we can then start to engender new ways of thinking. A definition of a greater Mystery is that which cannot be put into words and can only be understood through experience. We tenaciously cling to the familiar and only change what we believe when there is enough stress on the old system that it no longer can function in the past paradigm without causing us too much dissonance to cope.
Furthermore, metaphysics will never fit within the container of the bounds of scientific research. The scientific method uses a very narrow set of rules in order to observe phenomenon. Because science requires quantifiable variables, it will never be able to explain the nature of that which is beyond physics—the very definition of meta-physics. (Aristotle first coined the term metaphysics as the title to a book that he wrote as the sequel to the book titled Physics) . If we use the same sets of rules that we use in the scientific dissection in the study of the Mysteries and metaphysics, the adage, “if it isn’t dead when you start dissecting it, it will be by the time you are finished, ” will apply. Metaphorically, if we use enough of the analytical scalpel to narrowly categorize a mystical experience in our attempt to define it, we will cut the threads of connection to the spirit behind any mystical experience.
This is the case specifically because our minds are mostly disallowing us to engage in experiences that we had previously believed to be false or imaginary. It is indeed difficult to think outside the box! In anthropology, it is considered a sad fate when a scientist “goes native” or starts to believe in magick and the mythologies of the culture he or she is studying. It makes the anthropologist no longer a logical, observer, but a subjective participant in the culture. When this happens, the anthropologist is tapped into the group mind of the subject culture enough that he or she starts to get internal validation of the efficacy of the experiences of that culture.
Belief is therefore, in some ways, a matter of faith. Faith means the willingness to allow for the possibility of beliefs that are not based in provable science. This idea does not equate to blind faith however. In the craft you are not told to believe in something that you think is false and take it based solely on a book or someone else’s word. Faith in this case is the wiliness to open your mind to the possibility that reality is more and different than the box in which you have previously held your beliefs. When you start to allow your mind to let down the defining bars of the prison of what you hold real, possible, or even allowed, you start to experience more of the mystical, that which can only be proved by personal experience rather than through scientific method.
Our society wants us to stay within very narrowly defined limits of what is possible, what is moral, and what is proper. Any time that you have an immediate gut reaction to something, anthropology teaches that chances are you are having a societal driven conditioned response. Such responses can be signposts to open your awareness. Ask yourself, “Why am I having this response? Do all people in the world feel this way? When did I first feel this way?”
Anthropology has shown over and over again that, for the most part, gut responses do not carry through to all cultures. TV and mass media of all sorts, political parties, religions, and ethnic groupings all proscribe ways for proper living. We hear constant messages about how to follow the American dream, how to be good citizens, and most importantly how to be good consumers, to keep the engine of the societal system running smoothly. Not only are people in power motivated to stay in power, but also societies are built in order to uphold the status quo and discourage its members, to use the previously mentioned allegory, from metaphorically waking up from the Matrix and see the underlying (metaphysical) nature of the system itself.
Finally, we psychologically set limits on what we think we deserve and what outcomes that we are comfortable with and deserve. These limits are called the ‘set point’ in medicine. The set point is our comfort zone, and can refer to body temperature, level of physical activity, hours of regular sleep, emotional state, stress level, or even our social standing. As a magickal practitioner, you can choose to push past your comfort zone, your boundaries, in order to stretch and bend the limits of your previously experienced reality. If in a spell you are asking for a new car because your old clunker just bit the dust, do you expect a brand new BMW to fall out of the sky with your name on the registration, or do you think that you only deserve another clunker that has a running engine?
Another example of a self-imposed limitation would be coming into the Craft after being inspired from watching the TV show Charmed and feeling that your magick will only work right if it is not for personal gain at all. With this limitation, you set the expectation for the outcome of the spell to be that if you did conjure yourself a brand new car, something horrible will have to happen because of the personal gain involved. In this case, you have actually programmed into the spell an expectation that if you experience a personal gain, you will also pay dire consequences. Aleister Crowley’s definition of magick is “to cause change in accordance to one’s Will”. If you set up magickal workings with specific limiting factors as to the outcome, the change you affect will indeed fit within your limitation.
So how does one go about changing preconceived notions about reality and the limits of belief?
1. Analyze What You Believe In
At the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi, were inscribed the words, “Know Thyself”. Knowing oneself does not just involve being able to describe character traits and likes and dislikes, but also taking an inventory of what makes you tick. Where do your beliefs come from? One of your parents, a bad experience in school, or your previous religion’s proscription for guilt? Unpacking what you are mentally made of may also involve therapy and some in-depth shadow work so that you get to know not just your reactions to your external environment, but also your subconscious motivators as well.
2. Educate Yourself
Read, study, compare, synthesize, and read some more. Become an amateur anthropologist, sociologist, psychologist, and historian. While the big three religions have sometimes been called the religions of the book, Paganism can be referred to as ‘the religions of the library’. Figuring out the underlying nature of humanity is a big task that draws from interdisciplinary study. Rather than using a specific scientific discipline to dissect a particular teaching, compare the approach of different disciplines to build mental bridges. These bridges can fill in gaps of perspective and give you a broader, more detailed sense of the big picture. When you start to see correlations between disciplines you can apply these underlying principles to metaphysical, psychic, and mystical experiences as well and gain a greater understanding of the nature of the universe.
3. Give yourself opportunities for new experiences
Engage new experiences without commitment to thinking you already know the outcome. Plan new adventures and new experiences of what the world has to offer to you. Thoroughly experience a forest walk, trying to note as many subtleties as possible. How can you relate things to previous thoughts, memories and what you have read? Go to a lecture on a new topic. Try foods that have flavors that are foreign to you. Pay attention to nuances. Compare how you feel in the experience both didactically, emotionally, as well as mentally.
4. Push your Magickal Limits
In magick, push past what you think has been possible for you in the past. Move your set point slowly and reinforce your goals with affirmations. Affirmations will guide your intent and help you feel more deserving of your goal. Affirmations also help you consciously push against the constant pressure of societal indoctrination that can work against both magickal and spiritual development. Little by little, make bigger goals in your spell-craft and ritual intent. Taking baby steps outside of your comfort zone will help you to find a new equilibrium within an expanded scope of belief.
It is through the development of conscious awareness that we can start to slough off the bonds of mental limitations on belief. The more we move out of our self-imposed mental prisons, the more aware we become, thus widening our belief structure and the nature of reality of the physical, metaphysical, and mystical Universe.
When one walks away from mental prisons, one can seek to become adept in the realm of air, through knowledge of the self, constant education and the pursuit of knowledge. Therefore, one develops a receptive attitude that allows for evolving perspectives. Education can include interdisciplinary study, exposure to and conscious engagement in new experiences, and the growing of one’s magickal practice. In these ways one can seek to be consciously aware of the fullness of reality, and to be fully awake, choosing our thoughts, our beliefs, and our limitations.