The Other Middle Pillar: An Org Chart Of Practical Magic

The Other Middle Pillar: An Org Chart Of Practical Magic


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We have inherited an historic tendency to stack aspects of western esotericism in some kind of cosmic food pyramid.

More often than not, this is explained as being for the junior’s own good, by not giving him or her anything they aren’t yet ready for.

Never mind that I reject that analysis as redundant, the story of magic is the story of being unprepared.

The young Janet Hodgson wasn’t ‘ready’ to be hurled across her bedroom by invisible forces in front of police witnesses, but it happened. I question how much a knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet may have helped her in that instance.

Over this last summer, three people have emailed to ask for suggestions on how one might become self-initiated. As in; do I have a recommendation for an incident that would definitely demarcate ‘before being on The Path’ and ‘on The Path’.

Helpful as ever, my suggestions were:

  • A four week peyote shaman tourism visit to Mexico.
  • Walking the Gates of The Necronomicon, and/or completing Liber KKK (which I haven’t actually done but is recommended by good people).
  • Spending the night alone in an abandoned mental hospital.

Yeesh. No wonder nobody ever emails me. (In my defense, there was some actual context to the last one. I’m not just laying elaborate rape traps.) But you see the underlying theme, here.

The goal of Capitalised Initiation is to have an experience so impactful that you will know for the rest of your life that while most of it is in your head, by no means is all of it is in your head. After that, there really is no getting the toothpaste back into the tube and what you do with the remainder of your incarnation should be determined by personal experimentation, practical efficacy and a sincere desire to not be a dick.

Initiation into various currents either kickstarts or capstones the wider experience of Capitalised Initiation. If it doesn’t, then you haven’t joined a magical order, you’ve joined a book club. Please adjust your wardrobe accordingly.

Once you are beyond this first stage, there is a near-universal tendency to accrue vast amounts of practical techniques, physical objects, ritual hacks, books, talismans, fetishes, allies, oracles, mantras, pun-based chaos magic blogs, power animals and stringent opinions. Minimalism this ain’t.

But where does all this new stuff go, in your head? Does it replace something? Does it augment existing evocationary techniques? Are you really going to squeeze another statuette onto your mantlepiece, with the vague promise of a candle or two each month? You just bought an awesome new chakra book but you have been Middle Pillaring for a year. Do you switch? Do you do both? Do you try and… what… blend them? How is all that working out for you?

A praxis org chart

Whipped this up last night at my desk, while waiting for a conference call. (Sidebar rant: Why can’t Californians get to their desks before 10am?)

Org Chart 2

Notes on the chart:

  • The trouble with a vertical praxis chart is that it implies a superiority of the upper practices over those beneath it. This does not match my experience and fails to take into account the needs and realities of most humans currently incarnate.
  • To my mind, ‘universal’ practices should be stretched to include non-practitioners in some way, hence meditation and energy work being their own entirely separate streams.
  • From left to right along the x axis, the techniques go in order of greatest to least personal utility. It is interesting to note, this exactly maps the greatest to the least amount of scientific evidence for the existence of -and benefits derived from- the listed phenomena.
  • Separating ‘energy work’ and ‘power raising’ turned out to be extremely helpful. Firstly, they are both words for things that probably don’t exist, and if they do, they don’t work in the way we think they do.
  • And if they do exist, they are probably separate things. This is a case of where Ockham’s shaving gel, rather than his razor, would be applicable. Multiply where necessary. Keeping ‘personal energy work’ separate from ‘ritual power raising’ means you don’t frontload practical enchantment with a whole slew of pre-ritual activity. (10 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of chakras, then the circle, then the invocation, and so on. Who has the time??) You also don’t have to struggle with the interoperability issue of your personal energy system with the often quite specific requirements of raising power in a ritual: Long-winded grimoiric prayers, cones of power, ZI KIA KANPA, and so on.
  • Besides, keeping ‘personal energy work’ on a separate track means you are more inclined to do it more often, and when it comes to practical enchantment, you’re in a better etheric position to pick up the wand right away. It also leaves a space for people who are happy to take yoga classes, but less happy when instructed to summon Yog-Sothoth.
  • Vanilla meditation. Until you can produce 30 years of brain scans to demonstrate that what you think of as replacing meditation, be it yoga or walking the dog or exercycling, provides the same scientifically observed uplift and brain repair as vanilla meditation… then it’s not meditation. Which isn’t to say you aren’t deriving benefit from it, just that I would speculate it probably falls into the next pillar along. Or a few more along if you think the assumption of godforms is meditation. The only hybrid I will begrudgingly accept is mantra meditation. But it is still more energy work than it is meditation.
  • Meditation is good for the driver. Energy work is good for the car. This is why you don’t go to a mechanic when you get a cold, but why we do have both mechanics and doctors.
  • Your own zoo: under spirit trafficking is where you would find the gods. Along with ouija board use, necromancy, demonology and whatever angels and spirits you’re working with at the time. I briefly struggled with whether to break ancestors out into a separate pillar but the reality is it’s not a universal practice and the physical actions are materially the same as any other form of veneration. That isn’t me telling you that you don’t need to do it. Quite the opposite, in fact. To my mind, it’s the most essential component of the far pillar.
  • If the lack of a deity annoys you, then just put its name slashed up the top: magic/sky fairy.

The physical components are implied rather than explicit in this chart. But they vary according to circumstance and physical ability, anyway. Mine are currently: fasting and dreaming, periodic entheogens for anxiety/depression maintenance, avoidance of all artificial sweeteners, moderate physical exercise and psychogeographic exploration. (I’ve always eaten well because I can afford to and food interests me.)

As long as you have something going on in each of the pillars, you are free to swap and change with gay abandon, as fashion and book releases dictate. Increase the rate of experimentation from the least on the left to the most on the right. Job done.


Further operating hypotheses from a busy magical season

Presented in no particular order.

Consider the demiurge as a personification of what McMurtry told Bob Wilson was the ‘psychic censor’

For whatever reason, certain notions struggle to exist very long in this realm, like unstable isotopes. Our luminosity is an unstable isotope, but so is the existence of a force or condition that makes it unstable in the first place.

‘Cooking the frog’

That’s what’s going on in the world right now. That is the best description for the etheric situation on planet earth during this post apocalypse. For both us and ‘them'; being the agents of the archons. I do still believe they’ll boil first, and it’s the increase in the heat that is giving the game away, that is waking everyone up to their true nature. (Think Syria.) You may think things are getting worse out there, but actually, they’re just getting warmer. There has rarely been better conditions in the physical realm for rapid, spiritual acceleration.

The consciousness model IS the spirit model

Whilst possessing superior practical efficacy, the spirit model has limited explanatory utility, especially when compared to the consciousness one. Consciousness has the benefit of sitting at the blurry edge of where the outmoded 20th century particle physics breaks down, the 125 years of scientifically observed psi phenomena (the evidence of which is 10,000 times greater than that for the Higgs Boson) and phenomenology (UFOs, mothman, paranormal, religious miracles) all meet.

The trouble is, it’s just not as sexy when the candles are lit and the incense starts to burn.

So I currently operate on a consciousness/spirit spectrum where it’s spirit for ritual and consciousness for post-ritual analysis. Hail chaos, eh? But it does seem to me that a spirit/consciousness spectrum is demonstrably the least-wrong of the plethora of magical models. (It’s also probably the key ingredient in getting paranormal research off the endless loop of “well if it’s not physical aliens it must be something else!” It is. It’s spirit/consciousness. Just admit you believe weird shit like I do. Ufology has been stuck at the door to The Temple since Vallée’s first book, but it refuses to enter.)

One final point before you get grumpy at this. It’s important to remember that we have absolutely no idea what either ‘spirit’ or ‘consciousness’ actually are. Literally none. So I can confidently assert they are the same thing in different contexts/mental states with an equal level of conviction that you are using to ignore my assertion. However… do not multiply unnecessarily. Why would there be two angels on this pinhead when there could be one?

Naturally occurring archons

What we know of as archons are naturally occurring functions of a manifest environment built for exploration and ‘the chance of union’. As previously discussed, we have mistranslated ‘everything is holy’ with ‘everything is nice’. There is surprisingly little evidence for this perspective before the modern era.

Zoomorphic gods are more trustworthy than civilising ones

This is the conclusion, shared with Mr VI, that I have reached following the last couple of years of shaman-ishm. It dovetails into the next point, which you will all skim, but is probably extremely important:

The Lindy Effect

The longer a technology is around, the longer it will stay around. Go back and re-read the vanilla meditation bit again. Then think about the underlying techniques of shamanism and traditional spiritual belief and how long we’ve had them.

A higher standard for hypotheses

When it comes to psi effects, magic and the paranormal, we really do have more verifiable evidence than ever before. As a result, we should aim for better standards in our magical hypotheses beyond “everyone’s opinion is equally valid.”

For some reason, the magical world seems to cite its occasional use of commercial air travel as an example of how they are “okay” with science. But that technology is more than a century old and means nothing. We can teleport shit now. (Okay, photons.) Sony accidentally discovered telepathy while building Playstation games. We may soon discover that the entire universe is a hologram. From Peter J Carroll’s impossible-to-subscribe-to blog:

Theoretically this QNP paradigm could lead to a rapprochement between religion and science and between one religion and another, but only if both science and religion abandoned some of their more grandiose and unfulfilled conceits and pretensions.

As Harlan Ellison says, “everyone is entitled to an informed opinion”. There is certainly no need to get rid of our beloved gods and monsters, but let’s be wrong together from an informed base, rather than an uninformed one.

That way lies progress.


Add yours
  1. 1

    Very much agree with this, both on our obvious shared conclusion, and re the left/right pillars. I think the fact of the matter is, where most Western Magic falls down, and I include Chaos Magic in this, is the analytical stage.

    By that I mean when you bump into Cthulhu/Set/ZoomorphicShapeshiftingAlien/Thing/spirit/god, folk have a tendency to go reductionist – it’s just a ‘paradigm’ or a ‘thought/godform/mythologicalshape/qlippothic/angelic/divine’. That ‘just’? That “Aha category A beastie means technique B’ gets you either in the shit, or deluded in what’s happening. Apply analysis after experience, by all means, but don’t deny yourself the actual nipples pressed against squidlord frisson while whatever is happening is happening. You may learn something! Or end up with a craving for sushi,,.

    (Sidenote – as you say, ultimately I suspect honest analysis will always/should leave you with WTF was that that just happened? Bcause if you’re ever 100% sure, then yer doing it wrong)

    I will however point out to readers that not all human shaped things are civilised, and that of course civilisation is a young idea. Humans are far older and weirder than we think we are (pig-chimps? aquatic apes? lost cities?) Gobekeli Tepe? Covered in nasty grim weird animal stuff – because whoever the hell gathered those people together knew there was a complex ecology of spirit/consciousness to deal with here.

    The reductionist attitude is fine, just make sure one doesn’t have an archon wearing you like a glove puppet, trying (and failing) to castrate the profound wild roaring jungle which is the Garden of Eden. Because it *is* a jungle out there/in-here/ rather than the manicured suburban copies we’ve had foisted off on us for a few thousand years.

    And yes, the mental hospital, the sitting in the charnel ground eating human flesh, drinking out a skull cup, theetheogenic rocket-trip; the sitting blindfolded in a graveyard in the middle of the night, or wrapping yourself in the cloak as you sit out all night on a burial mound of your ancestors….these are old technologies. And more to the point they *work*. (They can also drive you insane if not done right).

    I’ll shut up now, because I’m mostly repeating stuff our gracious host has writtten about.
    VI´s last blog post ..Drinking from a Deeper Well: The Perennial Weird

  2. 2

    There is a price. There is no metric for being invited to a frame of reference that judges, and chooses, regardless of personal power. Maybe not anything but the thing itself, subjecting timelike and spacelike to the same evolutionary pressures.

    Really not pressure, just the living, whirling, thing itself. Hides in some of the relativity, probably just an accident of birth. You may get used to being invited, trying to save others, well, that is not doing what you want, and doing what is commanded with some reservation. Like I said, it is some price, Mound Priests, and Shield Teachers, probably know more about that.

    They may tell you not to go there, but that is just humility, not wanting anyone to stay behind, and knowing that is not a thing to be passed in without payment.

    They really just want someone that can stay, and go, and be in both place and event. Some even are instructed to kill any form that has those skills.

    Did I mention this is a War? Very sneaky stuff, hard to know why some cannot give Life, some cannot Kill, without some kind of reset, more playing, and paying.

  3. 4
    Andrew B. Watt

    It’s posts like this one that make your blog, as you’ve described it in the past, a moderately successful Chaos Magic blog. I appreciate the thought you put into laying out what starts off like a Kipling “Just So” story, before running a U-turn into a Tesco parking lot by way of a peyote trip and a UFOlogist with a hand on a black pillar and a hand on white pillar, screaming, “You just CAN’T MAKE ME GO IN THERE.” No one’s pushing him of course, but that’s where all the Grays and whatnot are. It’s like the old joke about the bank robber — “Well, I rob banks because that’s where the money is.”

    A technology that I think should be one of your columns, though, is the tech of ritual itself. I forget which prehistoric cave had a stone structure inside of it, with nine bear skulls arranged 3×3, all facing the same direction, or which hominid burial is currently being wildly heralded as “first”. Yet ceremony itself, although currently widely divergent, is probably as old as meditation, slightly older, or only slightly younger.

    Nitpicking, perhaps, to differentiate between ceremony and spirit work, but worth at least a brief consideration for its own pillar.
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..Tai Chi Y2D185: Early in the morning

  4. 5

    If you lived in California, you wouldn’t want to be at your desk before 10 am either, but it could also just be the traffic.

  5. 6

    @Br.Christopher If you want to run an empire, you need to get up early. And it’s Silicon Valley’s turn to run the empire. Basically, I’m saying I can hit snooze and they can’t. :)

    @Andrew Looks like nitpicking to me, buddy. I remain unconvinced that ceremony is a separate category for anything, anymore than ‘red’ or ‘cold’ are separate categories. Find me a non-ceremonious goetic evocation, for instance. But this is why we put these things out there… have a crack at it, yourself. Org charts at dawn! GO!

  6. 7

    @Andrew Also I may have to adjust ‘moderately popular’ as posts like these make it significantly less so.

    But like I said in Chris Knowles’s newest facebook group, I didn’t come here to make friends. “I came here to drink tea and kick ass. And I just finished my tea.” :)

  7. 9

    Spirit / Consciousness. I’ve been sailing that ship for years. You’re right. We know nothing certain about consciousness or spirit. This model at least allows adjustment as information comes in.

    Why isn’t that magical enough, anyway?

    Exhibit A: Stress.

    Stress is bad for you. Chronic stress es muy malo, hombre. We’re talking about increased risk of heart disease, weakened immune system, insomnia, strokes, and on and on and on. All very empirical and true. Stress kills, yo!

    Here’s the rub. The next time you’re stressed out, freaking out, going deeper and deeper down the anxiety flush, try this mental trick. Tell yourself all those symptom – the speeding heart, sweaty palms, and the whole range of the stress response – is REALLY you’re body getting your prepared and strengthening you for the situation at hand. Your body will experience the stress response with blood flowing easily and no ill effects of stress. Also empirical and true. Stress is good for you, yo!

    Consciousness. Brought to you by exploding stars. Good stuff.
    Lonnie´s last blog post ..Jason Collins IS A Hero

  8. 10
    Phinehas Roy

    “What we know of as archons are naturally occurring functions of a manifest environment built for exploration and ‘the chance of union’. As previously discussed, we have mistranslated ‘everything is holy’ with ‘everything is nice’. There is surprisingly little evidence for this perspective before the modern era.” -Says it all really.

  9. 11
    Jon S

    ” a moderately successful Chaos Magic blog”

    dude sir andrew, blogging is a dead art, and while it is true that this blog is only the second best blog on the internet, behind (sad, considering rigorous intuition has been on hiatus for 5 years or so) still, that is worth something, because after after vellum came paper, and after blogs came weaponized porn, and blogs, like vellum, were / are superior, even as they are defunct.

    I love to criticize critics. It feeds something in me.
    Jon S´s last blog post ..thinking machines and their pitfalls

  10. 18
    simon tomasi

    Gordon, can you please clarify what you mean by your “Think Syria” statement?
    And what is your vision of th ideal outcome to the conflict in Syria which has so far claimed more than 100k dead and 1 million children refugees?

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