“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” From East Coker, T.S.Eliot The Four Quartets
I’ve recently been musing on my own use of mindfulness as it relates to my development as a magical practitioner. The idea that this practice can be used as a launch pad, is not foreign to either its Buddhist or Hindu origins. This can be seen in the Buddhist use of Samatha Vipassana as a preparation for entering the deepest levels of absorption or Pantanjali’s stages prior to the experience of Samadhi. So the western magician can be equally pragmatic as they pursue the Great Work.
The Illuminates of Thanateros in their training syllabus Liber MMM demand that the novice keep an unbroken record of their magical practice for a minimum of six months. Central to MMM is the cultivation of stillness and single point concentration. This seems hugely wise to my mind and perhaps reflects that at the centre of the chaos star is a still point which the magician must first cultivate before they can move in a direction in keeping with their Will.
In my own spiritual/magickal practice I have come to greatly value the use of mindfulness in seeking to develop states of greater shamanic receptivity; but I think that the ways that mindfulness can be utilised are manifold. A magical colleague of mine was wryly reflecting that some of his best ideas for things came to him when he was supposed to be focused on his breathing. We reflected together that the meditative state tended to allow greater access to the unconscious mind given that the usual cognitive filters were less in place.
One specific piece of work that I undertook in order to further investigate the magical use of mindfulness practice was the “Kaozen” rite. During classical mindfulness practice the practitioner seeks to maintain awareness of the breath and as distracting thoughts are noticed they are acknowledged then let go of so that the attention can be brought back to the breath. In contrast to this the magician in the Kaozen rite seeks to classify the material arising by mapping it onto the categories provided by the Chaos star. Once the arising material has been noted within the 8 sub-categories of magic (Purple for sex magic, Blue for wealth magic etc cf Pete Carroll’s Liber Kaos) then the daring psychonaut can decide how to respond to this gnosis bubbling up from their unconscious. They may choose to develop a piece of magical work as an outworking of these desires or alternately they may decide on magical activity that balances the material arising-“ Hey enough of all this red war magic thinking, it’s time for some green love magic!”
What this points us toward is that mindfulness practice as a weapon in the hands of the magician becomes a means for accessing and listening to the whole Self. In the working of the Void outlined in Michael Kelly’s Apophis he notes the key triad of Self, Desire and Outcome and the role that engaging with the Void has in shaping that desired outcome. This is a key insight in helping us listening to both ourselves and the situations we are seeking to transform; by truly listening we are more able to find the fault lines at which we can direct our energy.
In conclusion I can’t help recalling the Taoist tale of Chung Tzu where a butcher with a perpetually sharp knife is asked how is blade is maintained. For him it’s simple: in being to attentive to the Tao (the flowing Dragon if you will), he finds the points of least resistance where the meat seemingly falls from the bone. In our hands Zen becomes a weapon! Seek the Mysteries!