It is neither in your head NOR out of it.

So it seems that the “magic is in your head” vs “magic is objective” debate is going popping up again.

A couple days ago THIS nice little rant piece appeared and caught the attention of guys like Jake Stratton Kent and Michael Cecchetelli. Suffice to say I agree wholeheartedly the piece and wrote a similar one for Witchvox several years back. I would just add that it is not only a matter of failure or lack of attempt, but lack of gift. In the old days only people who had the gift would even think of crewing around with witchcraft. It was a calling that had consequences. Today it is pop culture and people get involved for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with Sorcery.

I would also add that such people are good for Paganism overall, even if they are bad for Witchcraft. The two are not the same thing. Paganism is fast becoming a big tent religion, or collection or religions, and will need to accomodate people that have no interest in self-transformation or magic. Any religion of a large enough size has an outer shell that basically just tells people what to believe and how o celebrate certain key points. There is nothing bad about this. It is helpful to people. Not everyone wants or needs to be a magician.

At the very same time The Hermit’s Lantern posted a Lon DuQuette inspired piece entitled “All That Magick Changes Is You” that essentially makes the “Its all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is argument”.

Now, this position has some history to it. Crowley said that the spirits were all part of your personal brain. This was further emphasized by Regardie and those that he influenced like Lon. Eventually even folks that held to this started getting results that were CLEARLY beyond just changes in consciousness, so the model got blown up a bit and the whole “you just have no idea how big your head is” thing got added in as a way of saying that even phenomena which seem external are actually caused by changes within yourself.

In the meantime other people who either always thought differently, or got bitten on the ass hard by things that they didn’t really believe in, started talking about magic in a more traditional way: the spirits are as real and as separate from your mind as anyone else is.

The only problem is that this kind of uber-literalism also misses the mark. While lower spirits like ghosts and some nature spirits are as separate as your or I (which really ain’t that separate either) but angels  and goets and other BIG spirits – yeah… They are definitely not parts of your mind, but they are also not separate entirely. Call it collective super-consciousness, or whatever you want. To be honest I am unconcerned with the exact mechanics of it Neither extreme fits the observations of experience.

If you simply must be one side or the other though, go the traditional route. The idea that its all in your head, you just have no idea how large your head is becomes something that at best is just a catchy thing to say, and at worst leads people to completely wrong-headed experiments. I know one body master of the OTO who, after attending Lons lectures on Goetia, was all set to recommend Goetic Evocation to someone in his body that was having serious mental problems as way of “getting his demons under control”. Thankfully he was talked out of it or the results would have been disasterous.

Even with the “you just have  no idea how big your head is” addendum, its still misleading. At that point, its not your head, and describing things thusly is eventually going to muck up your understanding of something that is really sublime at the higher levels of mystical experience.

As to the statement that the only thing magi effects is you – this is even further off the mark in my experience.  I cast a binding on someone so that they stop stalking a client of mine. The target falls from her 3rd story window and winds up in a wheelchair for months. That’s not making a change within myself, thats pretty directly effecting someone else.

In my experience it is actually WAY easier to make external changes than it is to make internal changes. If it were not we would just be able to magic up peoples habits and neurosis, which unfortunately almost NEVER works.

About Inominandum

Author. Sorcerer. Consultant. I have 30 plus years of experience making magic a reality for myself, my clients, and my students. For a complete background go to www.strategicsorcery.net
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13 Responses to It is neither in your head NOR out of it.

  1. Pingback: Heads, In and Out and Inside Out « Postmodern Magic

  2. Pingback: Inominandum: It is neither in your head NOR out of it. It is neither in your head NOR out of it. « The Conspiracy of Pleasure

  3. Christopher says:

    Good write-up Jason. I dropped that bomb on several FB groups and spent some time defending the position that Paganism without magick, gods, spirits, etc. is nothing more than a role-playing game. Didn’t realize it would be offensive…ok maybe I did…maybe not that offensive.

  4. ronin358 says:

    Please teach me a definition. Please define consciousness for me. No? Can’t do it. Even you, mister neurobiologist? What about you, mister priest? Nope. Well, mister artist…psychologist…writer…lawyer…??? Not one of you can explain consciousness, yet you all deem it proper to somehow limit it? To make rules and assumptions based off of…what? We have zero understanding of our most fundamental experience of reality, yet we feel we can moralize and legislate it. Label it and minimize it.

    “Nothing more than psychology” is just narcisissm.

    Perhaps the only one who can answer is the mystic. The mystic who says that consciousness is both within you and without you-of you and outside of you- that you do not…can not…”own” it, but simply partake in the experience of it. Trying to limit the Work to “in your head” is the direct result of ignorance…of yourself and the world around you.

    A spirit is “in your head”…it is of consciousness. But to think that means a spirit is simply an aspect of your conditioned psychology is to have no understanding of what consciousness truly is. We bleed into the world and the world bleeds into us.

    Damn, I love Scotch…Happy New Year, Inominandum!

  5. It is no secret that I am a traditionalist. When you witness that things that I have, one stops doubting the objectivity of spirits and realizes they are far from aspects of your personality.

    That said, I believe certain types of spirits like those of a chthonic type are intimately tied to your psyche. While not aspects of your mind, they share a deep, primal connections and so can play as a powerful mirror for on the path to gnosis. It is in this situation that man delves into the underworld to truly find himself and rise up.

    This also explains why the same spirit may appear and act differently to different magi. They aren’t projections of the mind, but rather the read us and act as a mirror, in this way becoming rather powerful teachers. Afterall man, is spirit himself so there should be no difficulty understanding how we can share a connection to the realm of Spirit.

    This, at least, has been my experience with various spirits.

  6. Spooky. I didn’t even know this debate was happening again and I inadvertently blogged about it in a roundabout way.

    Personally I think the notion of unconscious mind requires the same amount of faith as believing in fairies. It always surprises me that people never question that construct just because it is promoted as valid by the western world-view. That’s why psychology isn’t considered a true scientific discipline by hard scientists – it’s purely discursive. Freud came up with the idea of the unconscious and everyone just ran with it. Where is it? What is it? No psychologists knows for sure – but they are happy to claim it filled with ‘archetypes’ and stuff about Oedipus and your mum!

    I’m being a little obtuse to make my point, but there you go 😉

  7. I posted this in the comment thread, but I’ll post it here as well.

    “Okay, I can see what you’re saying and I agree. But there are many instances in magick where the above is true. Most of the work I’ve done with RO’s material has been internal first, and “external” second. The explanation [in my post] gives lucidity to a lot of my own experiences. But it definitely isn’t a sufficient explanation for all magick. So, it is on me for making a blanket statement — but I still stand by my point. A lot of magick dealing with personal development and building up your own Kingdom functions in exactly the way I’ve outlined [in my post]. You after all are an advocate of looking the part, playing the part, saying the part, becoming the part. What other than becoming the kind of person who [specified desire] happens to are you getting at? I’m sure you see what I am saying.

    Also, I left out the “in your head” motto for a reason. There’s a grain of truth in that sentiment, but I wanted to discuss something more specific and not really discuss what I believed the spirits were and were not. Sure, I think there’s some level of validity to what Lon has to say about the spirits, but I definitely believe that on a certain level, we are dealing with conscious entities in subtler planes of being.

    And of course, we could toss theory all day long about how and why the more unusual things occur, but I think what you have to say is valid. I don’t do client work yet, and I’m only assuming that when I do, I’ll see more of what you are saying. But when the majority of the magick I practice is for me, my development, my benefit — the above model explains a whole hell of a lot.”

    Thanks again for your input.”

    To elaborate a bit further, it would seem that these ideas are all bound up together. For Lon, perhaps, they are. For me, these ideas are not bound up together. I can believe in the objective (and subjective for that matter!) existence of spirits and *still* believe that a lot of magick functions primarily in making changes in the magician that allow for the things he/she is after to occur to him/her. I believe that a spirit who exists objectively can and do affect your sphere and can also trigger events which result in changes in oneself, for better or worse, to bring about the result. I really never wanted my post to become a discussion on the objective/subjective existence of spirits, but I understand why it’s relevant and why it evolved into this.

    For me, so much of working in the spheres with the archangels have been an inner-alchemical process of transmutation, being burned by the fire, totally dissolved and ruined, having my shit rise to the top, and then having to deal with it. When I wade through the messes this work inevitably causes at times, I not only get the thing (or more) that I intended, but I get transformed into a better person than I was.

    Anyway. It’s been good having this discussion with you, I hope you can understand why I would really like to keep these topics as separate as possible.

  8. Jacob says:

    I think it best said by Robert Anton Wilson, “What the thinker thinks the prover proves”.
    Since we are both the thinker and the prover we will ultimately set out to prove what we
    allow in our belief system. That is why Magick works better for some people than others,
    a stronger belief system. That same belief system allows, for some a stronger connection to spirit. The premise that it is all in your head and out of it is true. It exists within you and without you.

  9. Nox Sabbatum says:

    Mr. Miller, I have to agree. Spirits are not apart of our head.

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  13. Leananshae says:

    Hmmm. Maybe it’s more to the point to shift your perspective and restate the concept of “the only thing you can change is yourself” as “the first Magickal act we must undertake is Self Mastery before we can ever hope to have the wisdom and skill to decide the fate of another”. This approach doesn’t presume that effecting the outcomes of others is impossible… it merely points out that we have a journey to make before we’re ready to do so. I’d like to add that the Reality we inhabit is designed in such a way that the efforts of those who dabble in Magick before they’ve Crafted the Temple of the Self usually end up effecting nothing important and only invite Karma to find the newbie with speed and homing true! That, interestingly, is in itself a part of the journey to Self Mastery. *cackle, cackle* Blessed Be All! Ly. Lea-shae

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