Someone recently said and asked of me on Facebook, “He must not live in the real world or have a real job. How do you cope? Do you walk the talk in your daily life?”
I do live in the real world, and I do have a wife and son and a career in Information Technologies. As with all of my spiritual friends, there might be a constant balancing act between spending time on my ordinary everyday life and on my spiritual life. Sometimes I am at work, and sometimes in my temple. Sometimes I am meditating, and sometimes watching TV. Sometimes I am deep in prayer, and sometimes I sit on the toilet.
But here’s the whole point to being a witch or occult practitioner. The purpose of systematic occult training is to give you meditations, practices and perspectives to remember. These create a network of reminders of whom and what we really are, with a repertoire of ways to express, celebrate, and act like That. Use of these reminders in daily life is the purpose of their design.
Armed with this training, while in ordinary everyday life I always have the opportunity to use those reminders to explore more about whom and what we really are (the subject is infinitely deep). Through these reminders, it is in my daily life that I always find new and different ways of expressing and celebrating That (the ways are infinite).
“In the beginning – which was not long ago, but NOW and EVER,
was and is Consciousness, the One Being.”
“Moreover, this Consciousness is what there is and all there is, so that no name can really be given to it.”
– Book of Shadows
In my daily life, the important difference that training in these Reminders has given me is this: there is always in the background of my life the unwavering Presence of Awareness behind everything I do and everything I experience. That statement is true of everyone, but the training has brought this fact into my understanding of whom and what we are. It has given me an identity with that Presence of Awareness, that Consciousness, instead of identifying with this individual. While I still often forget both who I really am, and forget to use my reminders, slowly I’m learning to do as the Goddess teaches, to make every experience a Reminder of That. Constant awareness of That Presence is of course, the supreme practice and I endeavor to make sure that I never lose sight of it no matter what I’m doing. The idea is to, in this ordinary everyday life, make that Remembrance and that self-identification such a habit that it will never leave my being. The idea is to perfect a balancing act, to always Remember, whether I am at work or in meditation, eating or chanting, watching TV or astral traveling, awake or asleep, alive or dead. Further, I hope that my magical practice will become just as much of a constant habit, so every thought, act or experience is part of a “ritual” or a sacrament to “Remembrance.”
Of course, that’s the idea. That’s the balancing act. The reality is that my habits present constant challenges to that Remembrance. I often forget, when there are extremes of experience that are engrossing. There are times of anger or disappointment or fear, of bliss or amazement or hilarity when it’s easy to forget that Perspective. At those times, the training comes in handy, because there’s always a reminder in the tradition that I can use to regain that Perspective when it’s lost. But it’s a constant exercise in mindfulness that I sometimes lose. The better I know the tradition, the more of a habit practicing it becomes, the more readily available those reminders are, in my ordinary everyday life.
The tradition is intended to be used in daily life. We practice in our Circle or Temple, but we use the system in ordinary everyday life.
“Now it is my life I must shape, as a carpenter shapes wood,
and the thing to be formed is a union with the gods
and the Ecstasy of the Spirit,
as Nothing is to me this body,
as Nothing the parts thereof.”
– Book of Shadows
What using the system in ordinary everyday life comes down to, is the moment to moment choice that existence always presents us with. It is possible to experience for yourself that the passage of time is an illusion and that there never has been, and never will be any other moment than Now. The illusion of a “passing” of time is simply the string of choices we make: choices in what to pay attention to, how to interpret what we perceive, and how to act and react. Certain moment-to-moment choices can take you to other universes of experience, other “times”, and other states of being. A belief system that’s designed to bring you to that Ultimate Perspective of who and what you are, offers a system of carefully selected choices that you can make right now. You can make them in this Eternal Moment, and they lead to a particular state of being. But sometimes it’s hard, playing the balancing act, being skillful at applying those choices in the face of life’s challenges. It comes down to a moment to moment choice of whom you’re going to think you are, and what you’re going to do about it.
“Here ye O my People,
of the Power which is within you
and the Help the Gods may give you.
You are Immortal, without Birth and without Death,
for the Soul of the Universe is your Soul”
– Book of Shadows
Through the daily hard work of trying to make the right moment to moment choices, I’m slowly changing my Perspective. Despite the constant mistakes I make, thanks to my training in a carefully designed system of reminders, I’m slowly building a habit in my ordinary everyday life. I’m building a habit where it is not this individual thinking, acting or experiencing. Slowly the habit is forming that it is That ever present Consciousness that is expressing itself in my every act, thought, and experience.
A profound Wiccan spell: “It is not my hand that does this deed, but the hand of Cernunnos, the Horned One.” – a female would end with “… the hand of Aradia, the Great Mother.“
“Single is the race, single of men and of Gods, from a Single Source we both draw breath, for the Universe is One Thing and that One Thing is Consciousness and Consciousness is the True and Only Deity, and that Ancient Holy One sleeps in the stones, dreams in the plants, wakes up in animals and becomes self-conscious in Man. Learn, therefore, that everything is Holy and everything is Divine. That all things are basically God and Beautiful and evil is only ignorance and the shadows of the One Light.”
– Book of Shadows
It is important to keep this in mind: Everyone is the god or goddess whether they know it or not. All that’s new and different because of occult training is that one is now identifying with that Consciousness, in each moment to moment choice. By ceasing to identify with an individual human being, and instead identify with that core Consciousness that is the inherent nature of Existence itself, I am learning to think and express myself as That. Despite the persistent mistakes, I am slowly learning in my ordinary everyday life to stop thinking, acting, and interpreting experiences as a human being and instead do as the Goddess asks: be like the Gods.
“Yet we can in greatness of mind and of Soul, be like the Gods.”
– Book of Shadows
When I first started my occult studies and practices so many years ago, the difference between my spiritual and ordinary everyday lives seemed vast. Through my training, I realized that this has never been the case. I have been shown and realized that it is exactly in our ordinary everyday life that we are most holy, that we are closest to the gods. We just don’t know it. We need to come to know it.
We need to know that we have never been anything else but that core quality of Existence: Consciousness. We will never be anything other than That. We cannot, and have never acted in any other way.
“… and bless my feet,
that have always walked in Thy ways.”
– Book of Shadows,
blessing of the Third Degree.
What does this mean, “we have never acted in any other way?” It is simply this: as the Consciousness that constantly emanates the illusion of something to be aware of, we are all supreme magicians. Our every conviction becomes tangible reality. Reality is our own eternal invention. When we “try” to do something contrary to the way everything already is, we fail only because deep down, we have a stronger habitual conviction that we are only human and cannot really change reality. While being all-powerful, we are also our own worst all-powerful opponents, by habit. If we have the deep-seated conviction, the habit of countless lifetimes, that we are insignificant humans in the larger scheme of the Universe, So Mote It Be – that will be our reality. Like the witch on Sleeping Beauty, we have cast on ourselves an incredibly powerful, long-lasting spell of sleep and dream and illusion. It is the kiss of Death and of suffering that slowly brings us to waken. But Death and Suffering is only part of the dream. Death and Suffering, as the Great Awakener, the bringer of Light (the meaning of the word “Lucifer”) and life and freedom, is actually the Prince of our hearts desire in disguise.
If we realize, explore, test, and see for ourselves that we are the authors of reality, so we will act. Because we are the authors of reality, we experience what we believe deep down in the roots of our being, not merely what we might “wish” or say. (The mere words of a spell will not work, unless we are deeply convinced that they will. Magic is a deliberate, controlled, intentional “self-fulfilling prophecy.”) So learning to act like who and what we really are means: learning to act like the authors of reality, like the gods, not mere human animals.
Imagine identifying with Consciousness itself, the Supreme Author of all there is to be aware of. Imagine building the habit of acting like That, instead of acting like a limited human being. In that state we cannot help realizing, as the Goddess did, that everything we experience is an illusion of our own device. We cannot help “waking up” from our self-imposed sleep of ages (the word “Buddha” means “Awake”).
We are, underneath it all, Consciousness itself, the same One Consciousness that all creatures in the Universe share, and as That, we are the authors of our own illusory experience. Think about the implications of this. One could write volumes about these implications. This gives an intimate understanding of, to name a tiny few: psychology, physiology, magic, psychism, physics, history and sociology. But the most important implication is this: we need not take the illusion for being real. We need not change anything. We might appreciate the incredible drama of it all, just as it is, with all the seeming joy and all the seeming horror. What book or movie could possibly compete with such widespread and varied drama? What activity could compete with this incredibly convincing presentation? In creating this continuing drama for ourselves, since the beginning of time, how could we possibly act more like whom and what we really are?
So, there would be no pressure, no urgency to act more like That or celebrate That more, because you know that you never could and never will do anything else. There would be no pressure to do anything other than you already do. That is, except for one overpowering observation: one becomes chronically aware of the suffering and the needs of others who are still caught up in the illusion. One becomes aware of those who seem to experience their suffering and need as something painfully real. You know how horrible the drama can be, and how totally convincing it can be, because you’ve been there yourself! In fact, there you are there right now! When, in your own personal experience you know yourself as the One Consciousness, you realize that it really is You over there, so terrified, and in so much pain.
So, here again is a constant balancing act. On one hand, everything is a self-created illusion: the emanated Responsiveness of Consciousness Itself. On the other hand, so many beings of all kinds, all aspects of Yourself, do not know this, and they (you) experience suffering as something very real indeed.
So, knowing the nature of reality and of the True Self is one thing. Dealing with the ordinary everyday reality of it is a constant balancing act. One must learn to understand, and act like the beneficent author of the cosmic drama. One must find ways to, in daily life, contribute to the relief of those (yourselves) who suffer.
So in the face of the need of others, looking for the most effective way I can help, I examining my own characteristics and gifts. I know that I have an understanding of whom and what we really are. I understand that we are the authors of our own realities. I understand that we are the authors of a huge illusion that we constantly create for ourselves. I understand that we convince ourselves the illusion is real. I know that some Western mystery and mystical traditions are systems, cleverly designed, that can help us realize that we are the authors of this illusion. I know that such systems offer tools to help with the hard work of remembering this fact, and of learning to act like it. I realize that this understanding is something that I could pass on to others, in the hope that they stop taking their own suffering so seriously, and see the illusion for themselves. I also find that my teacher blessed me with the gift of some articulateness.
So I put these together and spend some of my time each day trying to explain what I have learned. I try to explain who and what we really are, and try to explain what the design of some magical systems is for. The hope is that at some point, someone, perhaps even one single person, will understand what I’m trying to pass on, and catch on to what’s really going on, which is ultimately Nothing at all. My hope is that a practitioner of the occult will realize what that practice is for, and with this knowledge, become the quality of magician or witch the Goddess intended. I hope that if I don’t have the right skills or am not the right person to explain these principles, perhaps I might at least make the job a little easier for someone else more skilled and qualified.
On this blog, in the coming weeks and months, I hope you will see more about the subject of whom and what we really are, and how Wicca and Western Mysticism are designed to help us to Remember. But I have to be careful. I must be careful because yes, it may be true to say “everything is perfect and OK just as it is,” and “you are the author of your own illusory life and everything in it.” Yes, it might be true but those are also heartless statements. They are heartless to say to someone who has just lost their parent or a child, or who is themselves enduring slow years of a lingering and painful death. It is heartless if they don’t see for themselves that it’s all a deeply engrossing movie that they have literally “dreamed up,” and convinced themselves to be so real. Saying something like “it’s all a dream, an illusion, or a movie” can make other people heartless too. Other people could take that statement to heart without understanding that they are One with those who experience the Dream as a terrible nightmare instead of the Supreme Adventure, and thinking “oh it doesn’t really matter,” abandon them.
So, for witches, I try to point out what the Goddess herself has tried to point out. She teaches us the nature of the Dream, having learned from Death Himself (Cernunnos, Hades) that She is the master of The Illusion. No one, including Death, is more of an expert of the dream than She. She is our example of the perfect balancing act. She is at the same time, the supreme sorceress, and the Supreme Mother, caring for all creatures as Her own children, as parts of her very Self. In that perfect balancing act, no one knows more clearly than She, it’s all an illusion of our own device, yet no one knows more clearly than She, exactly how convincing that illusion can be.
The gods are here to help man, but they need the help of man to do so. One way they are here to help is to be an example to us, but we are the ones that must take on the hard work and the moment-to-moment choices involved in following their example. It is we that must take responsibility for bringing ourselves back to their example each time we falter and forget. It is we that must make that balancing act a deeply ingrained habit, our core character, our absolute conviction. (And believe me, it is a constant practice, bringing my perspective back to The Perspective again and again whenever I forget, which is more often that I’d like to admit.)
The balancing act is finding the perfect union between these two perspectives:
- Everything is a self-created illusion. Nothing is really happening. All Experience is an incredible Adventure, the perfect movie, utterly convincing in seeming reality. This is both a snap of realization, and an eternal discovery.
- There are so many (all aspects of Ourselves) who don’t know this, who are completely convinced, and cry in a dream that seems a horrible nightmare. There are so many that cannot find joy or ecstasy, who even wish they had never been born and curse the gods for creation and such heartless evil. But Remember. These wretched souls are part of your illusion. They are part of you and your experience. Like the Goddess, they are your children, parts of yourself. If you but cast your attention on them, how can you not feel their pain as though it were your own, since it is your own after all?
This is the nature of the Great Work: in every moment-to-moment choice, to keep the balancing act: never lose sight of suffering around you, and never lose sight that it’s all an illusion. You are not facing reality if you forget those that suffer. Yet, you cannot really help them, if you lose sight that it is all an illusion.
In the myth of the witches, it was the Great Mother that felt such anguish for all Her children. It was Death (Cernunnos, Hades) who taught that it’s all an illusion. Too much of either perspective is horribly wrong. The key is to always remember the Goddess and the God are One (what witches call “The Ancient Harmony”), and inseparable in Primordial Awareness. They are one, just as the illusion and the Awareness from which it arises are one and the same. Thus, to cease to behave like a human, and begin to behave like the gods, means never losing either of two automatic impulses. It means never losing a helpless, permanent commitment to helping others, and never losing a perfectly comfortable awareness that the whole illusion doesn’t matter in the end.
It’s a balancing act. Too much of either view will make you mad and destroy your life. Too much sympathy for the pain of others will drown you in the infinite ocean of need and hopelessness. Too much aloofness that it’s all an allusion will make one drift away from humanity, from the gods, from acting like who you really are, and away from everything that makes you wonderful.
It’s a balancing act. Too little of either view will make you a monster. Too little sympathy for the pain of others will make you cold and heartless and eventually numb to life and withdrawn, unable to enjoy life. Too little awareness that it’s all an illusion will make the challenges in life insurmountable, and again, you will be unable to enjoy life.
It’s a balancing act. While one can never balance perfectly, one has to make the effort of the Great Work, to help in any way one can with what seems to be terrible suffering, never losing sight that it only seems to be real. I know it’s not easy. I constantly falter in my balance, sometimes not caring, and other times in anguish. But as in the practice of meditation, I always eventually remember to bring my mind and my perspective gently back to that balance again, each time I forget. That’s life. That’s the ordinary everyday life of a real magician or witch.
One of my favorite tools of Remembrance is the Goddess herself. I use Her example as a Reminder of someone who embodies that balancing act. After all, she is the expert of the self-created illusion, and she also feels the pain of every one of her children. So, as our Supreme Example of who we really are, and of how to act like and celebrate That, the Goddess is constantly helping us Remember, and helping us wake up from our dream, by making statements like:
“Existence is pure joy, all experiences are sacraments, all sorrows are but shadows, they pass and are done, but there is That which remains”
– The Goddess
In this sentence, the Goddess reminds us there is joy, and there is sorrow, and she never forgets either. However, remembering both, she points out that while joy, experiences and sorrows may seem real, they all pass and are done, so they are, in the end, not real at all. Yet, after all is said and done, there is Something that does remain. There is One Thing in all of it that is real. What exactly is it that remains, beyond joy, experience, sorrows and shadows? What? You know the answer. You are the answer. It’s the real You, the Consciousness behind Existence itself, that watches the Dream, that experiences everything, that’s reading these very words.
Like the rest of traditional Wicca, this sentence is a gift from the Goddess to help us Remember, and help us to act like Her. There is true genius in this sentence, that helps me when I’m forgetting. The genius in this sentence helps me when I’m laughing so hard, or in a blissful state as if I were detached from the whole illusion of experience. It helps me when I have forgotten how serious things can seem. The genius in this sentence is in Her pointing out that “all experiences are sacraments.” I had to look up sacrament in the dictionary. Then I understood. Here sacrament means: every experience is a concrete physical proof of the final nature of Reality, a stark Reminder of the way things are, which is: an utterly convincing illusion. “All experiences are sacraments.” Remembering this, all I need to do is pay attention to any experience at all, and Who it is that’s Experiencing it, and I have proof. I have undeniable, immediate, nonconceptual (often physical) proof. I have tangible proof on one hand: of the blatant presence of the illusion, and how incredibly real it can seem, and on the other hand: a firm Reminder of “That which remains.”
The balancing act. Every experience is an opportunity for that moment to moment choice of the balancing act.