C O N T E N T S
Meditation, Tantra and Magic
A Guide To The New Nath
This is a collection of texts
I wrote which give some kind of an introduction to the Nath current as
I understand it. Future versions will contain further texts.
"Beyond Duality" is an introduction to Nath Sitting, a simple yet powerful form of meditation.
"Shivanath's Nickle Guide To Tantra" is a personal exploration of tantra philosophy.
“Understanding Magic” offers a new theory of magical reality.
July 1 2005
Study your own experience
and be your own authority. Nothing is real beyond your own experience.
A lot of this stuff is a million light years away from what Gurunath would probably approve of, but is generally in keeping with the old Nath ideals, and the Mahendranathi lineage. For those of you who don't know what any of that means, it means don't associate the folks from http://hamsa-yoga.org with this nonsense and madness ;-)
This material is (C) Shivanath, 2005. Please feel free to distribute it whole and unchanged. The final version will likely be under a creative commons license which will allow much more flexibility.
Tantra, Equanimity and the Stability of Mind
1. Meditation: Why?
Before meditating, one should know exactly why one is sitting.
This seems like a simple requirement, but it is not. Are you sitting to stop suffering? That implies a belief that suffering can cease! That's a major claim and may align one with a religious tradition like Buddhism or Hinduism. How do we verify if those claims about the cessation of suffering are true? Is faith in other people's results appropriate? How do we know?
To generalize, are you sitting with the expectation of a result or benefit of some kind? If so, be explicit about why you think that meditation can produce that result. Similarly, if you are sitting to learn something about yourself, or your mind, or the world, know exactly why you think meditation can teach you that particular thing.
Knowing why you are sitting is the first step to dismantling the mental framework we build around the spiritual experiences we have. It clears the way to experiencing meditation directly, without constantly being focussed on a perceived goal.
2. Meditation: How?
There are many forms of meditation - nearly as many as there are forms of physical exercise. Different forms appear to produce startlingly different results in the early stages, and claims that they all wind up in the same place have to be verified personally or taken on faith.
Furthermore, it is very difficult (or perhaps impossible!) to tell what a silent, non-moving person is doing with their mind. Although people may describe the experience they are having, and the technique they are using, exactly the same way, how can we know for sure that they are actually doing exactly the same thing?
As an example, take "mantra" meditation: repeating a phrase over and over and over again in your mind, and returning to the phrase whenever you are distracted by a thought. Two people might do this exercise, one hearing the mantra in their own voice, the other hearing it in the booming voice of a cosmic being thundering the mantra into their ears! Will these two meditations have the same effect? How can we know? What about more subtle differences: hearing the mantra as if in the center of your skull and in your own voice, versus hearing it as if you were speaking very quietly? How can we know for sure that these differences are significant or not?
The technique we will be using is called "Nath Sitting." This name is arbitrary: the technique exists in many cultures and under many names. I have seen an exact description of this technique called "contemplation" by Christian mystics, but other Christian mystics use the word "contemplation" to mean an entirely different process: comparison of meditation techniques in language is difficult.
Nath sitting is done as so: one sits in a comfortable enough position, preferably with the spine reasonably straight, and attempts to have a relaxed awareness of all of the contents of the mind and sense organs simultaneously.
Now, here are the two distinctions from just sitting in an arm chair vegging out.
1. One does not *think* about anything if possible. If you notice you are thinking, try and return to a relaxed awareness: watching your self thinking is relaxed awareness. So is watching yourself not think. Trying to think about something is not relaxed awareness. If you are thinking, let it happen, but try and observe with relaxed awareness. If you are feeling, let it happen, do not interfere, and observe your feelings with relaxed awareness. Don't try to stop thinking or feeling: that effort is not relaxed awareness. Just sit.
2. One does not process sensory stimuli if possible. If there are background noises do not go off on mental riffs about them and their meanings. Just let there be noises. Try not to fall into studying individual sensations as objects of meditation, simply let the whole sensorium wash over your mind.
Compared to other meditation techniques, this approach may seem to be only very slightly different from simply sitting there. This is because in the Nath philosophy, enlightened awareness is only very slightly different from just sitting there, if there is any difference at all. A very gentle tool is used to investigate a very subtle, or perhaps nonexistent, distinction between the two states of "enlightened" and "unenlightened" awareness. A few minutes of this technique will have some effect but things really begin to get started after a few months of a solid hour or two a day. This may seem like a large investment of time compared to the more frequently recommended fifteen minutes morning and evening, and it is.
3. Meditation: What?
So what, exactly, is sitting there not doing anything other than having relaxed awareness of your senses, mind and body going to achieve? What is the point of such an exercise, and why will it (eventually, perhaps) improve the quality of our lives?
The answer is that it is nearly impossible to do the exercise as described.
Achieving a simple, relaxed awareness of all of our senses and our minds turns out to be very hard. Usually the first realization is that our "minds" are in fact dominated by a constant stream of thoughts forming an "internal dialog" or "stream of consciousness." Not everybody has this constant internal radio station of mental static, but most people do.
Another dominant phenomena is repressed emotions: we're on the go all the time, then we simply stop and find ourselves weeping as the sadness or pain we are staying busy to avoid come crashing home.
Just sitting doing nothing is actually a fairly active process because it gives time and space for lots of mental phenomena which are usually dammed up behind activities like work and recreation time to come to the foreground. Old flashes of memory, distracting thoughts we never normally have time to be distracted by, wild speculations... All of this stuff comes up, and simply clearing the backlog of "deferred maintenance" on the mind can take literally months of steady meditation. Nothing happens other than watching a stream of mental junk.
Eventually, the stream clears, and we begin to enter the territory.
4. Meditation: The Territory.
The territory is where meditation begins to teach us things we did not already know about ourselves and the universe. There are some basic truths ("sitting being with myself is hard and upsetting sometimes") which which come almost universally, and quickly. However, "The Territory" is defined by four experiences.
1. Internal Silence
The "gap between thoughts" - the tiny moment of silence between the end of one mental word and the beginning of the next one - begins to be regularly glimpsed, or even enjoyed. Inner silence becomes a phenomena that one can produce at will with a little effort, or even an effortless state of mind and being.
2. Energy Awareness
Meditation brings to awareness input from senses other than the regular five or six, and you begin to sense your aura, the aura of other people around you, your chakras or energy flows, blockages in the energy flow in your own body or similar phenomena.
3. Spiritual Communication
Deep insights seemingly from beyond the human plane enter your awareness and begin to change your life. Perhaps you even see mental pictures of beings trying to communicate with you.
4. Emotional Catharsis
You notice patterns of feeling and thought which are usually hidden to you, such as repressed grief around the death of a parent or frustration with a career you thought was satisfying. You feel compelled to change.
Note that all of these phenomena are fairly common aspects of daily life which are simply magnified by putting awareness on them for long periods of time. Nothing new is being produced, but existing truths are being made more visible by holding relaxed awareness. Most or all of these things are experienced occasionally in flashes by many people: a premonition about the future, or a brief glimpse of halos of energy around trees... a moment of rapture at orgasm when the mind is stilled... meditation simply takes these phenomena and brings them closer to our daily awareness by a gradual process.
5. The Aura.
The human aura is a fairly widely accepted piece of energy anatomy: a series of roughly spherical shells which surround the human body, each composed of more and more subtle matter, or substances like "prana" or "chi." The objective existence of the aura appears hard to prove at this time, but enough people have the experience of one (going back thousands of years) that it seems reasonable to use the term without further justification.
It is my experience that meditation changes our relationship with the aura. Long spiritual practice of any kind tends to build an awareness of the aura, and a rapid integration of the body and the energy field, resulting in increased physical capabilities, better health, and many other side benefits. For whatever reason, constant mental noise seems to interfere greatly with the perception of the aura and integration of the aura and the physical body, and meditation cures that problems. Many people, particularly those with strong hatha yoga practices, are only a small step from a high level awareness of the integrated mind/energy/body and often sitting meditation is the missing next step to that state.
Both the "Golden Dawn" (a victorian occult society) and the ancients who worshiped Mithras identified the zodiacal wheel strongly with the human aura. Not all schools of thought agree with this mapping, but I do. In the old images of Mithras, a muscular god is seen emerging from a "cosmic egg" which is inscribed with the symbols of the zodiac.
In high energy environments, such as a retreat setting, a magical circle, or a gathering of adepts, the level of the aura which corresponds to the zodiac can be seen and felt. It serves as a receptor for planetary influences (and therefore is the real basis for astrology) and also governs the expression of a lot of "fate" or "karma."
I cannot speak much more for this experience and its uses at this time, but drawing a zodiacal circle around you while you meditate, facing towards the position of your natal sun (i.e. your sun sign, but please be more precise if you can) can be a smooth and rapid method of extending your awareness in radical new directions.
6. The Fullness (and Emptiness)
The human condition in its full reality is neither complex nor simple. Saints and sages from many traditions proclaim "you are god" or "you are pure awareness" in many different variations. Meditation is one key to beginning to tread the path to the discovery that in your current life this is already true. Discovering the reality of your aura is important because it breaks the cultural belief system which is so prevalent in the west: that you are your body, that the mind is a product of the brain, and that death is as permanent for the self as it is for the body. Furthermore, the aura corresponds closely to the "soul" and (in my experience) contains much of the "shadow" - those parts of us which are potential, but not manifest. If we are male, our aura will tend to be female and vise versa. Similarly, if we are young or old, the aura or soul contains the potential for the traits we had in youth, or will in old age. It is the well from which we draw our beings.
Tantra provides a set of approaches to integrating the new phenomena that meditation reveals rapidly and easily relative to meditation alone. The creation of circumstances and contexts which facilitate insight and integration is the core of tantra. We are already our aura, our chakras, our souls, but we realize it not. We are narrowed and limited to a certain set of frequencies and experiences, and tantra provides tools to reverse this. The awareness created by Nath Sitting or other forms of meditation can be brought into ritual circumstances to quickly ripen understanding of what already is. This is the process of magic or ritual: creating circumstances which quickly allow initiation and insight into the real condition of our being! The stable mind, relatively deconditioned by sitting practice, can quickly see, understand and assimilate new phenomena which are made visible by unusual circumstances like visits to a shrine, a puja celebration and other places where energy is focussed on enlightenment. This dynamic, meditative awareness brought to ritual activities like worship of murtis or sacred dance produces rapid transformation. All of this is tantra.
Furthermore, the stable mind, trained not to flinch or distract itself, begins to see the roots of being-ness: what it is to be alive, what it is to be an individual, what in the self is eternal, and what is passing. All of this is eternally present, but our focus is narrowed to obscure it, creating the limited sense of self we so typically experience. Samarasa ("equanimity") is the quality of self which comes from the realization of what the self is, and is not.
At the start, we asked questions about "why meditate" - and this is basically why. Meditation reveals our life as it is by reducing the distractions and changing how we process sensory data. It gives glimpses, and perhaps full visions, of the Self, the Divine Indweller, and the Soul. All of these are notional phenomena unless and until one experiences one, after which they become as obvious: always was there, always will be. All of that is here already, and meditation is how we learn to recognize it. No more, no less. You stare at being with an open mind until you realize what you are seeing.
The final wall - the "fourth wall" if you like - is between us and other people. We live our entire lives behind the screen which separates self from other, and it, too, is illusion. We are all one, all co-create each other through a continuous dance of perception, of karma, of gain and loss. Meditation reveals the dance of interbeing in a new light, one which reveals the entire play as a grand pleasure, an adventure, a game fit for god itself. I myself struggle to hold that view, having stabilized many of the earlier ones through my own practice, but I know that continued practice will make it possible.
Meditation is observation of what is. What is is only god. Meditation is observation of god being god. All perception has that quality, but meditation is special in it's intention: to see what is true, beneath the great divine drama, and eventually to live as a conscious participant in creation, right along side all the other god. To enjoy the bliss of the creation as the creator entering into his and her own works. Some call it living from the divine source: I call it truth and wisdom.
I don't know why things are as they are. I do know that we suffer and die only in some part, and in other parts of our being we are eternally free, joyful, hopeful and optimistic. Meditation is one way to bring the wholeness of your soul to your attention and to experience that joy and bliss.
But don't take my word for it, or anybody else's. If you believe other people's assumptions it is hard to discover your own inner spiritual authority, your own kernel-of-truth bullshit detector, your own will in the world. I've painted a picture based on my own experience, written words to try and communicate how I think the meditative experience works but only the part which you verify for yourself is reality. All else is hearsay.
Study your own experience and be your own authority. Nothing is real beyond your own experience.
Shivanath's Nickel Guide
In which Shivanath takes a quick stroll through the understructures of Tantra with particular focus on stripping away the delusions which have built up around tantra and sex, orientalism, and Buddhism.
I’m a Nath. I’d been a practicing tantric sorcerer for about ten years before I became one, and I can’t say that it changed very much in my outlook, but that’s my lineage.
Almost all of the available material on Tantra is bunk. Most of the translations were done by non-sorcerers who were incapable of picking apart metaphor from literal description, were not deeply enough versed in Indian psychological and magical models, and were influenced by the early translations which miscast the entire field of study.
Let’s deal with the basics:
1. Tantra in cultural context.
Tantra is a branch of Hinduism. Tantric Buddhism is more or less Hinduism with a gloss of Buddhism added. Vajrayana Buddhism is a grossly sexist form of Tantra which really doesn’t seem to offer female adepts any social roles, and is nearly entirely staffed by male teachers, which should make you suspicious right there.
Tantra therefore operates in the general framework of esoteric hinduism: reincarnation, karma, the notion of the individual soul seeking a better relationship with the soul of the universe, chakras, energy bodies, gurus and the rest of the system. Tantra is “antinomian” - believing that there are no laws. However it is not undisciplined, and any tantric adept with addictions, or who can be controlled by other people, is not an adept. The discipline is self imposed, but it is ruthless and absolute.
2. A brief overview on the
practical business of tantra
Tantra can be divided into technique, philosophy, practice and action. Much of the technique is standard magical stuff found anywhere: banishings, invocations etc. I’ve found it works a little better to use Indian-style banishings etc. in a tantric context than, say, the LBRP, but the difference is fairly small most of the time. YMMV.
Philosophy is very simple in essence: whatever “enlightenment” is, it is visible right here and right now if you’re willing to look there. It can’t come and go - it must already be here. Now, how to notice it? This philosophy winds up in some strange practices: doing things which are supposed to be distracting or grounding, and not being distracted or grounded. Sex, eating meat, getting drunk, working a day job, having low or high social status etc. Implicit within this is the idea of reaching enlightement while still having active karma. This is an explosive idea: normally enlightenment is said to be reached by exhausting one’s karma. Finish the game, get to zero credit, zero debit and walk off the board into Samadhi.
Tantra suggests that one can be enlightened while still having karma - still having a social role, obligations, even desires. It simply requires one to be master of that karma - able to destroy it at will, able to control it’s expressions. One must still master karma, but does not have to annihilate it to do so. In this respect, tantra is about taming and domesticating the experience of the universe, rather than destroying it. The steps are still the steps of Yoga, but the goals are a little different at an aesthetic and therefore technical level. This philosophy is often paraphrased as “learning to enjoy the created universe in the same way which god enjoys it” and I don’t know of a better expression of the heart of the matter than that.
Practice is simple. Start with meditation. Learn how to “surf” the emotions - to feel the discomfort and emotional pressure which meditation brings up, but rather than hiding out in the white light and the roaring stillness, camp out in your anger and your pleasure and your pain. You sit, you feel rage at your parents, you sit with it. You don’t judge it, you don’t try and get away from it, you don’t try and mask it. You don’t ask it to leave. You just be there with whatever it is. You do this for everything: bliss and horror. If you’re not feeling the horror, you’ve either cleared all your repressed emotions, or you haven’t hit them yet.
It’s in there, trust me.
Meditation is Goalless. NO ALTERED STATES!!!
One simply sits and watches. Once the mind is solidly established in that practice and has stopped trying to censor things at a gross level, so you can watch, say, a curious thought about incest or rape or theft or murder and not really be upset to see that your karma includes such ideas, then you can begin to take it out into the world. You can begin to hold the same kind of awareness of “stuff just is what it is” while performing activities.
Action taken from this perspective - of just being what you are - can be insanely and destructively dangerous. Here’s why. Most people are a finely counterbalanced network of drives and repressions. Dismantling the repressions without dismantling the drives can easily produce monsters. Here’s the key: the fundamental drives are not bad. Sex, food, good work, nice friends and so on - all that stuff is great. But the drives get twisted: your parents say “sex is evil” so you wind up with a block, and behind the block builds anger.
Vent the anger at it’s target: your parents and their beliefs about sexuality and you’re golden. Vent it at your spouse or your sex partner, and you’re an asshole. The skill and grace of tantric practice is knowing how clean you are accurately - what you can express purely, as-it-is, and what you’re still tied up in self destructive knots about. There are arts to this too: what to vent, what to burn, what to contain for future expression. You learn to “smell” material which is ready to blow, and to find safe ways of doing it.
Without that skill and discretion, tantra of any significant depth is a cheap and easy way to destroy your life.
I believe, although I have no first hand evidence to support this, that once there is essentially nothing left which has not been opened up in this way, one enters a “superconducting” state - zero internal resistance - at which point one simply exists and acts.
Sounds a bit like Zen, doesn’t it?
Tantra includes a set of practices which help people get to a frictionless state. Being pure divine consciousness in the bodies of hairless apes, we have a lot of issues related to the ape body. Apes are afraid of death, obsessed with sex and status, terrified of losing and so on. Full library of monkey problems!
The consciousness learns to flinch away from the ape. “No, I’m PURE MIND!” Tantra therefore gets people back into the habit of just being what they are - divine consciousness incarnate as an ape - this involves cutting through culture. One cannot understand what a thing is, if one already knows what it is. Sex, for example. What is it really?
Strip away the cultural context of sex. Put some apes in a room, and give them license to do what they please. Retain the awareness which was built through the meditation - see the desires as they are, not as you would like them to be. Fairly soon, inspite of all the fun and games, it becomes aparent that the SEX thing is actually fairly simple: it’s about reproduction, tribal bonding, power, and buried deep within, there’s a spirit of companionship, of god-as-ape taking pleasure in the simple joy of fucking.
Strip off the culture and there’s something rather touching underneath.
Cut a little deeper, and the reproductive aspect comes into focus: sex contains the antidote to death! Reproduction for the body is a shot at immortality! This is the beginning of unmaking the distinction between the goals of the body, and the goals of the soul - if the body understands that it, too, is pure consciousness….
Again, I haven’t gone far in that direction. But Goraknath - codifier of Hatha Yoga, inventer of Laya Yoga and Kundalini Yoga we’re told - is said to be physically immortal and living in a cave somewhere in India.
There are a lot of short cuts. Most of them boil down to “if you’re obsessed with something, why not put it in a lab context, study the hell out of it, and then figure out what it really is and why you want it.” Most desires drop away when examined that way. Disassemble a complex aggregate desire which has been hard to satisfy into the three or four primal desires which compose it. Satisfy or release each individually. The few which do not go are typically very worthy and easy to satisfy.
It’s the *process* which produces the apparent madness, the antinomian indulgence in the depths of human nature, the eating of feces and liking it. All of that stuff is just ways of seeing forbidden desires in a ritual context which allows them to be denuded of the glitter of being forbidden.
Nothing is forbidden. Do you really want to fuck a nun in the ass while a cardinal watches? Or did you just want to reclaim your sexuality and experience it on your own terms, not the terms of the Catholic Church? Ok, very good, now go back to your house, buy the wife some long-stemmed red roses, and have a good night. That’s the real spirit of the thing right there: most of the basic material is very clean and very loving. It’s the repression that produces the anomalies and the fearsom perversions.
One side effect of all of this is bliss. It usually starts around the process of realizing that one is both male and female, and that the two can be unified in a variety of fun and interesting ways, but it can start around food, or love, or a bunch of other ways. It’s basically a realization that you can be blissful regardless of what you are doing or feeling. It’s pretty cool but not that informative.
I wouldn’t give it up for the world, mind you.
It’s a great gift. Afterwards, everything is sort of pleasant, even the stuff which really sucks. However, it’s easy to mistake this feeling of well being, which is still rooted in the physical body, with the BLISS OF CONSCIOUSNESS which is a much deeper thing. Or is it?
There’s only one way to find out. Spending a lot of time in bliss. Poking around at it, turning it one way and the other, trying to see what it is and where it comes from.
To study bliss by being blissful is a high tantra. One comes around again to eating, drinking, sleeping, fucking, and all the other arts and parts of life, but enjoys them so much more because the seeds of suffering are largely toasted and sterile and disgarded. If you don’t make yourself suffer, it’s remarkable how little suffering there is in the world around you.
It’s not a perfect world. But the world is much, much closer to perfect than the crappy self image - self myth - we start out with. Perhaps it is a perfect world… and a little more bliss… will show me how to see that….
It’s important to remember that you can still fry at every stage. Bliss is wonderful - but if you’re an asshole… it can collapse. You can blow it by creating hatred in your own being. You can blow it by lusting and hurting people who are drawn to your balance. You can do all kinds of stuff which creates bad ripples in the force which kick you out of paradise.
Just don’t! Basic goodness, basic goodness. All of that Vajrayana mayhem? Advanced practitioners. Stabilize the bliss and study it and, if you find that to maintain it, you have to bend the rules of the world a little, please do it with grace and love. That’s the tantric way.
5. Blood sacrifice, death
If death disturbs your consciousness, if you shy away from it, buy a rabbit and a book on skinning rabbits. Kill it, skin it, cook it, eat it, wear it. If that wasn’t enough, do it again.
Do it too often, one day you’ll be the rabbit, seeing the experience from the inside.
Better to pray to Kali and ask her, if you dare, to help you with your problems around death, ask to be allowed to live happily and well, because your meditation is teaching you all you need to know at a fast enough rate.
Right? Do you see the model? The universe brings whatever you need to learn from, or you reach out for it yourself. The more you learn in meditation, the less in manifestation. It’s critically important to understand why all of the darkness and death worship and orgies and the like exist: rapid ways of puncturing the garbage bags of the unconscious, spreading the junk all over the floor, picking out the useful stuff, and burning the rest to nothingness.
6. Why Bother?
The core of tantra is the theological understanding that the universe was created by intelligent entities which want us to have fun in it. All the conditioning and the karma and all the rest of that stuff can be let go of, just as you can allow your mother to tidy your room, if you don’t care about the lego models on the floor.
Your life is nothing but a hill of little yellow plastic bricks that you dance around as if it was the Goddess.
If you’re willing to let Her sweep it away, and put herself in the center, she will. It may still look like yellow plastic bricks to everybody else, but you’ll know. Oh yes, my precious you’ll know.
On the Magic of the Modern Naths
1. What's In A Name?
Magic is a bad word. Nearly everything associated with the word "magic" leads to misunderstandings of the subject: parlor tricks, guys in funny robes muttering in strange languages, Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn. All these things are instances of magic, but magic is a great country. To understand magic by these fragments is like understanding France through pastries and the Eiffel tower.
Partly to cut through this baggage, I will be using the term "sorcery" frequently, mostly to refer to "getting something done by non-ordinary means." You can read it all as "magic" if you like.
2. The Social Construction
A dog is only called a dog because we all agree that it is a dog, and that it is called that.
In some cultures, a lot of the things we call dogs - Paris Hilton's carpet slipper, for example - might not be recognized as such. In other cultures our definition of dogs as pets rather than food animals would be similarly puzzling. Both the boundaries of the object, and the definition of that object are both socially constructed. We say "this is a dog" but they say "no, dogs are larger and brown and aggressive." We see the carpet slipper and the feral hound as two examples of one species, and they see two entirely different animals. Who's right? We might argue that it's Canis lupus familiaris but we're appealing to Science, which also has some socially constructed aspects. Those words mean only what other people from our social group construe them to mean, regardless of the objectivity of the phenomena to which the words refer. There is no way out of this maze: even if phenomena are objective (which they are not!) words are completely relative.
"When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." (H. Dumpty)
There's a need for this kind of pop-pomo linguistics because without it, magic will revert to being defined by a series of examples, which one person can define one way ("that's magic") and another defines another way ("that's just a coincidence"). While (nearly) all magic is subject to attack-by-denial-of-agency in this way, a properly constructed definition of magic is proof against this predation by petty tinkerers.
3. What is Magic?
Magic is whatever everybody involved in the conversation agrees magic is.
Now, this is a remarkably obvious and unhelpful definition in all cases except the practical one: this definition works. If I perform some act, and I say "I did this by Sorcery" and you say "No, that's just Chance!" then we are in two different universes of meaning: in my universe, there is pattern and causality, and in yours, only lowly chaos, unordered events open to any interpretation. This argument will not be resolved without new evidence!
I'd like to point that out again: the assignment of causality between two events, like "smallpox is caused by an organism" versus "smallpox is caused by invisible hobgoblins" is purely a personal choice and only rarely in magical practice is there enough available evidence to be completely sure.
If we all agree "smallpox will not touch us if we get rid of all the hobgoblins" and then we get rid of them, and nobody gets sick, this is the best case of practical magic: we make a plan, we act on the plan, the plan works, and we assign our success to magic. "We" is the social group which performed or knew about the magical act. We is the tribe, and almost all magic is performed relative to a tribe. If the tribe rules "magic" then it is magic. If not, it's just coincidence.
This is the big key to understanding the fuss-and-nonsense about "magic" - each different tribe has a local definition, ranging from the Western Rationalist perspective ("stuff and nonsense, except for Science") through to, say, African Shamanism ("that car goes fast because of the strong spirits!"). When these local, tribal definitions are not in harmony you get "reality wars" - places where conversation and narrative communication break down because of clashing definitions of words and cause-and-effect relationships. It is hard to talk coherently with a person who has a different model of cause-and-effect to your own: their narratives make no sense at all!
This is the first good diagnostic for detecting sorcery: localized breakdowns in cause-and-effect relationships which make communication and storytelling with people outside the tribe difficult. This indicates that something transpired which is only "real" inside the tribal group: local reality has diverged far enough from cultural norms to be called magical reality.
4. Baby Steps in Sorcery.
To a baby, the entire world seems very god-filled and mysterious and beautiful and terrible. Enormous beings of unlimited power are responsible for every part of your survival and experience: your parents are god and goddess, lords of creation, makers of you. This is the universal imprint to which magic returns again and again and again: children playing in a reality they do not understand, overseen by enormous forces they do not control which they hope and pray are benevolent. To be a magician is to stay a child, living in the unknown, learning more each day about a universe it seems like you will never understand. The cheese of Televised Consensus Reality is Swiss, shot full of holes: the New Age, the Snake Handlers, the Scientologists, the Hindu and Buddhist nations, Islam, Fundamentalist Christianity. Everybody who appeals to a higher power, to a notion of reality above and beyond the level of Fox News is a magician of one sort or another with an alternative model of reality, and access to alternative models of cause-and-effect.
"This Happened Because Baby Jesus Is Angry With Your Sorry Ass" is a magical narrative, ascientific, heinously heretical, arbitrary and childish. This is magical thinking in the raw: vile blasphemies against common sense and good reason in the name of a god who would almost certainly disavow all interest in the situation.
That quality: "this makes no fucking sense and is completely wrong by all reasonable reference points" is a second good diagnostic for detecting sorcery. Anybody who lives in a world like that, even for a short while, is a magician of some kind, hacking cause-and-effect if only in their own minds. Magic is about redefining reality around your goals, your desires, your needs, your dreams, your ideas.
Sorcery is about getting your way in the world.
"I did it MY way" is the cry of the solitary magician. "WE do it OUR way" is the cry of the magical tribe.
My house. My rules. Be the parent of your own magical self!
5. Brass Tacks: Bell, Book
Much of the stuff of sorcery is siddhis - minor powers which are developed by spiritual practice and meditation. If you can see auras and feel other people's chakras, you can sometimes detect when someone is lying, or foretell short term events, or get little visits from spirit guides (your own and other's). You can communicate with astral beings by telepathy and ask for favors, sometimes push luck and happenstance by will alone and so on. Humans all have all kinds of capabilities, and mostly spend their lives with almost all of their capabilities fully absorbed in the material game we all play. When you begin to break away from that game, powers of various kinds just come. The New Age scene is full of people with minor capabilities which would be totally unremarkable in any shamanic culture, but stick out like sore thumbs here.
None of that shit really matters. You can develop it all in a few years of hard work if you want it, and it'll probably just come to anybody who's serious about living their life.
No. Real magic starts when you get ready to slide sideways in reality, crossing over from one form of existence to another. When you are ready to allow your core definitions of reality be redefined according to your own will and the will of god, you're ready to be a real magician, a sorcerer.
The magic circle, that most potent archetype, is completely real. It represents the personal reality of the sorcerer, the human aura's projective surface on which reality-as-we-know-it is shone. The Magic Circle is Plato's Cave, and we, that chained-down god, amused into captivity by the show on TV in our open-doored prison cell.
Sorcery is the remote control on reality, the game controller on life. Punch in the cheat codes and the game changes. But at every step, you find yourself surrounded by peers, others playing the same game as you, like-meeting-like on the open field.
6. On Angels, Demons and
From time immemorial magicians have conjured demons: creatures of darkness, evil, hatred, below-bestial lust, delighting in the murder of hope. Why?
Similarly, consorting with Angels and Gods is an ancient sport among mages. Why?
None of these creatures is different in basic structure from you or I at an essential level: each is a created entity, just like a horse or a dog or a person. They may reside primarily in the same place you go when you have a dream, a vision or a nightmare, but rest-assured that you are as unreal to them as they are to you: one can approach the reality of nearly any being if one has the skill and agility. If you have a recurring dream of kissing an angel or being groped by a demon, night after night after night, that it is only a dream matters little: it is "real enough" to transform your life.
Whether seen with the mind's eye, in dreams, in visions, in dark glass mirrors, or as apparitions it matters no more than talking to a person face to face, by email, phone, fax or postal mail: communication with real entities occurs. They are as real to you as you are to them, and you can usually decide how "real" you want to make those kinds of phenomena. If you can experience telepathic connections with other human beings, why not non-human beings, creatures from other planes and so on?
Obviously, care and discretion must be exercised. You don't want, by and large, to hang out with crack dealing gun toting hoodlums to whom you are a wallet on legs - but if you want to buy crack, that's where you go. You're sick, you see a doctor. You're soul sick? Go see an angel, by whatever means necessary.
7. The Hack
The reality you are in is already magical reality to beings other than you: your talents, your mind, your body - those things are magical. It is your familiarity, your accumulated habituation to being your self which produces the illusion of the mundane world you live in. Because the inside of your aura has the same basic properties every day, you assume that this is the "real world" and because the surrounding culture tells you the "real world" is non-magical, you believe them.
However, the upper chakras or sephiroth (energy centers) control the parts of the psychic body which shape the aura and the reality projected within it. As one gains conscious control of those energy centers, it becomes possible (nay, easy) to simply decide that reality will change it's flow, events will happen themselves into a different pattern, and it will soon seem normal too.
This interim phase: the gap between the decision, and that new reality becoming normalized, is magic. It's the shifting, the crossing, that is magical. When you die, it's possible "you" will incarnate on a different plane of existence: perhaps a world where you (and everybody else) can fly, or manifest food from thin air. Those worlds exist, or at least are written about very often. Somewhere within your soul there is the ability to exist and manifest in a world that works in such magical ways.
Sorcery, in essence, is finding out how your soul could operate in such a world, and then opening a bubble of that reality in your present environment, so that you can start exercising those unusual-for-this-place capabilities.
This is The Hack: to use the full powers of your awakened, expanded soul in a way which revolves around opening bubbles of alternate reality around yourself and perhaps your magical tribe: giving reality permission to soften, be changed, and harden again. To shift local reality in the direction in which your desires are possible, then to experience them. Note that order: first move reality such that it is possible, or inevitable... then experience it. Manifesting things directly in the mundane reality is possible, but very, very hard...
If you stay in that place of new potentials indefinitely, however, it is no longer magical. It's just normal again: a higher level normal. It's the shifting which is magical - the understanding that local reality is defined by consensus, and can be affected profoundly by your own intentions and the intentions of those people around you.
As you shift your sense of reality, you will tend to attract and be attracted to people and places with compatible realities: what starts as an individual decision about the nature of reality rapidly takes on the appearance of a "hard reality" as you find yourself surrounded by others with those beliefs. This is "planar travel" - moving between different tribes with different normative realities, or being drawn across the globe to places that are resonant with the reality you want to feel. Not everybody exists in the same world and although we do seem to share the same physical space, countless billions of people will simply never meet.
8. Secrecy, Boundaries and
The separation between one consensus reality and another is maintained on many planes of existence simultaneously. The "causal" level is most notable: cause-and-effect explanations do not travel well between realities. One group will say "it was the holy spirit that brought us together" while another will say "well, it was just one of those parties." It might be the same phenomena, but the local conventions and names and narrative styles form a divisive "hull" on that world-view. The linguistic level is an easy way to see boundaries between realities. There are also often energy membranes that reflect the emotional and psychic levels of those same divisions.
Secrecy is another powerful way of partitioning reality: "To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent" goes the old magician's saying. Silence has many purposes, but one of the primary ones is to partition the local reality of the magician fiercely: if one simply never speaks of magic, then essentially one's magical tribe is a tribe of one. This approach gave people a great sense of power and importance but at some cost in sanity and balance: it matters little how much you can bend and warp reality in the privacy of your own temple. It's taking your show out on the road that counts.
A "magical order" or a society of magicians is typically defined by a large body of shared secrets that construe the "hull" - the boundary - of the Order. Within that hull reality often has radically different properties - when all present are members, and the door is locked, consensus reality can be drawn far, far back without seeming ill effects. Anybody involved in such a group should realize, however, that the fluidity of reality is a product of the agreement of all present that it should be so, and the relative rigidity of reality outside of the temples of the order likewise: we are all god, and all of equal "power."
This is key: even the most pig headed being is also god. Their wishes for reality have equal weight to yours, from the god's eye perspective. All divine children are loved and respected equally by their cosmic parents, perhaps with some exceptions for the exceptionally ill-behaved. Just because you get to fly around on the astral plane or make bubble worlds where nearly all the confining laws are gone, don't start thinking of yourself as qualitatively better than other people. You are not. They have collectively willed the mundane world into existence for reasons we may not even be able to guess at, and we exist within or alongside that creation.
Only a fool would think that we are lords and masters, and they are slaves and servants.
9. Of Technique and Purpose
The odds are very strong that you incarnated in this life for a definite reason. The most fundamental reason to do magic is to attain the goals and objectives that drew you to incarnate in the first place.
The shock of incarnation is huge: the pain of birth, the limitation of infancy, the stress of childhood disappointment, the drag of age, gravity, the passage of time. The upside of incarnation is pretty fantastic too, but using magic to cushion the shocks of the world is no bad thing in the general case. If you came to be an artist, a performer and a healer, keeping yourself in tip-top shape by living in a reality in which your body is almost always fabulously well is no bad thing unless there are specific reasons not to do it. Magic to that effect might be symbolized as a high energy yoga practice, a special diet, an amulet, a practice like herbal baths, or just an attitude towards your body. The creation is of a field of intention, and beyond that, a field of definition. That is magical in and of itself.
Tactical magic tends to be a bit more concrete, rather like the difference between interior decor and jewelry. A small local magical act to fix a specific problem is only a focus, a concentration, of a more general understanding of reality: a tiny body decoration rather than an ambient environment. If you need NOT to get another parking ticket until the next grant check appears, a little shamanic work to get that end is only an aspect of a more general "everything here is going well" field.
But the techniques, whatever they might be, really are just that: they're triggers, ways of harnessing the innate power of an individual human being's manifestation engine, incarnation engine, life engine. Ways of tapping into what we all do all the time unconsciously to co-create the world we live in. There are some exceptions: invocations in angelic languages, for example, tend to work not so much because the magician thinks they will, but because angels hear their names, read intentions and can choose to respond... one of the few cases in which magic is rather more objective than subjective.
Magic is nothing less than the creation of reality at will. We are all doing it all the time, but the reality we choose to create most of the time is defined to be concordant with the ambient reality of the planet, the nation and the social group we are in. Taking responsibility for tuning your own reality for the effect and lifestyle you choose is a big step but that's really all there is to magic. True magic, or sorcery, is in realizing that we have this capability, that we use it all the time to create the "normal" world, and that we can optionally become conscious and capable of action on those levels of reality, redefining our world at will and pleasure.
This is my understanding of the Nath Way, the Nath Sampradaya. It is a society of beings who, understanding that they are in some sense god, and fully vested members of the cosmic family, choose to live as they will, using intention, will, ritual, magic, and every other aspect of life as means to the end: enjoying the universe that god created with us.