You may have noticed that books on magick, however interesting they are, eventually get onto the boring exercises which apparently you have to do every day in order to actually get on to the interesting magickal heights scaled by the experts. They're usually authoritarian about it, and the exercises tend to be deadly dull. They nearly put me off magick for life!
Well, I agree that it's a good idea to get hold of these skills. You'll feel more comfortable and more clear-headed as a result of them, and you'll be able to do ritual work more effectively. The whole thing will make a lot more sense, and you will, as the phrase has it, be able to Have Fun With Your Head.
But I don't see why getting hold of these skills has to be so dull. When you talk to people who are dead good at magick, they always seem to have had a ball getting into this stuff. Why shouldn't the rest of us?
But just what are these skills that we're talking about? Well, in roughly ascending order of difficulty, they are:
There's lots of stuff you can add on to these, but they mostly require these skills before you can do them, like the Qaballah, Astral Projection, Skrying, etc. Let's take ourselves through these skills one at a time.
This is very simple but it gets called all kinds of names. Basically it's easy - it's how you feel when you're comfortable, with the five regular senses kind of in a circle around you. You feel balanced and secure. You should always start off magick from here, and when you feel scared, under pressure, or uncertain, anywhere in your life, this is where you should be trying to get to. On one level, it's very "un-spooky" but the more deeply balanced and centred you feel, the more magickal you feel. That's why old occult texts call it names like "The Birthplace of the Soul" it is, but it doesn't feel like it most of the time.
The fastest way of getting centred is to take deep breaths, sighing a little (or a lot if you can get away with it) as you exhale. Be aware of your stomach - if it feels tight or nervous, you've got to breathe deeper or longer. And mentally, it should feel like you're looking at your own reactions and thoughts, so that you can identify what's happening to your emotions. It's probably impossible to do this perfectly, unless you're an advanced yogi, but the process of trying to do it is enough to calm you, make you feel peaceful (or at least a lot more calm than you were five minutes ago). The point is to do it to a point which is "good enough" and you'll probably find it so enjoyable you'll keep at it. By the way, this technique is probably familiar to you - it gets taught by everyone from Evangelical Christians to Management Consultants and health workers. Still magick though!
Centring is essential but it's also pretty easy. Meditation is a bit harder but still not nearly as difficult as it's made out to be. You'll find it dead useful too. Meditation, in this basic sense, is training your mental muscles so you can focus your mind where your Will tells it to go. Basically, one is gently pushing away thoughts that you don't want in your head, so you can get more energy and peace from out of your centre. Take away the static from the peace you felt when you were centering, and it expands, making you feel even better. The thing is, you have to decide you're going to do it, saying to yourself, "No, I'm not going to let that get in the way of my bit of peace and enjoyment."
Bear in mind, however, that you don't have to be in perfectly focused, Samhadic state every waking hour. Nor do you have to SMASH the extraneous thoughts out. Here's how:
1. Get yourself a reasonably quiet space. You need to feel confident that no-one will disturb you for, say, 15 minutes. Turn the lights down; if you can light it by candle, without the place getting too weird, so much the better.
2. Sit down in a comfortable straight backed chair or against the wall. You probably shouldn't lie down. Just make sure you're not liable to drop off when you get going. If you can do it in a yoga position, or even the full lotus, that's great but it isn't strictly necessary.
3. Take at least ten deep, cleansing breaths with your eyes closed, while focusing on getting centred.
4. Now drift into the "velvety-blackness of non-thought", as one writer put it. Remember how you felt when you were simply captivated by a trancey piece of music? Or when you were daydreaming at school, looking out the window vacantly? That's the kind of thing we're aiming for. This time your brain will keep on feeding your consciousness with bits and bobs of memory, information, reminders, etc., as it tends to do. Your job now is to say to it, "No thankyou, I'm not thinking about that, I'm thinking about this sensation of peace and calm coming from my relaxed body. Especially my stomach." And you should gently put the thought aside - you can always come back to it later, and your brain will supply it again, later, if it's that important - and go back to thinking about the sense of peace which comes from your Centre. Just keep on feeling balanced.
5. Drift along as long as you like. Don't worry if you keep on having to push away thoughts, this is only natural at first; just keep on trying to recapture that feeling of balance. If you're not enjoying it you're not doing it right! So aim for the feeling of balance, and keep trying to return to it.
6. When you've had enough, do a few more deep breaths to wake you up. If you want to use things like meditation videos, or even just a picture or sculpture to look at, that's fine. But start off with feeling balanced - that's what it's all about.
You do have to be self-disciplined about meditation; you have to decide that you like doing it, and that you're going to do it for a while, so you can get better at it. If you can fit in five minutes a day, that's good; if you can do it for five minutes twice a week, that's good too. But make a note of how it feels after the first time, and again after a couple of weeks, so you can assess your progress. And it's not that hard, because you should always be looking for the pleasurable feeling.
There are payoffs that you can't discern at first too:
your Will Power is becoming more disciplined, more effective, because you're trying to DECIDE to go for that pleasure and calmness. This is useful Magickally and in the rest of your life too.
you're activating the centre, (toning up that "mental muscle"), so that when you feel balanced, it feels EVEN BETTER!
you're reclaiming Time. It's only five minutes, but it's five minutes that are yours. And that means that you are caring for yourself, making yourself happier and stronger.
Once you've got the hang of meditation - and that doesn't mean that you're perfect, just that you feel you're "good enough" you can use it in all kinds of magickal techniques. Especially when you've built onto it another basic technique which is even more useful.
This is perhaps the most important skill for a lot of magickal work, and it's also the one that seems to put more people off than anything else. People tell you to close your eyes and draw a picture in your mind, and of course you can't! You just see blackness. Actually it's a lot easier than that.
But why is it so important? Think of it like this: if you can't imagine how something is, then you can't imagine how you want it to change. If you're trying to access the stuff which is locked away in your subconscious and in the structure of your brain, you can't do it without using imaginative flights of fancy that trigger them. So whatever kind of magick you're doing, knowing how to visualise is bloody useful.
All that visualisation is, is the imagination. Obviously, the imagination is a big place, but you don't have to explore all of it (or be a hyper--imaginative artist) just to do some useful visualisation. You just have to use a bit of it.
Another useful idea in understanding visualisation is that of day dreaming - but day dreaming under your conscious control. Just as you can be reasonably aware of your surroundings yet still be off dreaming about that special person (or that special glass of beer) which is just around the corner, so you can be thinking consciously about magickal stuff while still being aware of where you are. Eventually, you can see what you've visualised in the room with you and switch it on and off at will - but you don't have to be that good to get started.
Here's how you start:
1. Centre yourself.
2. Go into meditation - i.e. pursue that enjoyable sensation of contentment, gently pushing away other thoughts. Use your breathing to gently keep you in the right place.
3. Imagine whiteness spreading as far as you can. Don't expect the image from your eyes to suddenly turn from black to white - it's in your mind's eye. Try using memories of a blank wall to get you going.
4. Once you're fairly comfortable with the white, imagine a nice bold figure on it - a psychick cross could be a good one, or another symbol you're familiar with. The idea is to just let it be there, while gently pushing away intruding thoughts. If it's a real pain trying to get it, stop, open your eyes, get comfortable and centred, and pick an image that's easier, even if it's apparently more complicated. Try a memory of some graphic pornography, perhaps, or a favourite album cover, or the front of the 73 bus. Perhaps even a piece of music. Anything, it certainly doesn't have to be "occult". The point is to be able to keep it in place while retaining the comfort and enjoyment of being centred. It really is a lot like daydreaming when you've got the hang of it.
One TOPY Trick you can use is to look at the graphic of your choice from a paused video or a computer screen and remember it. Then close your eyes and recall it, keeping it there. You may also wish to use some ritual or ambient music, but that can be distracting - try it and see.
5. The next trick is to make it move around, do what you want it to, in your imagination. This is lot of fun, and you can soon find yourself doing visualisation all the time. But it has to be consciously controlled - don't let it turn into bog-standard day dreaming.
6. Now you need to experiment. This should be easy once you've got the basic technique under your belt - it should feel good.
That's enough to get you started. Once you get centering right, it's not too hard to pick the rest up. Try to keep a brief record of how you're doing - that act of monitoring is enough to keep your Will active, so that you're actively pushing your skills along. The first magickal act you should try is a simple protection ritual. All you do is go into meditation and visualise a circle of light going round your head, and then around your body. All the while you're focusing on the thought that this protecting you, and no bad energy or hate or attack can reach you when it is activated. This is the most basic ritual and one of the most effective. Now all you have to do is go out and enjoy yourself.