“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our
With our thoughts we make the
The Buddha, The Dhammapada.
Knowledge is Power apparently. At the crumbling end of this fourth aeon, our ability to use these beautiful big brains for reason, categorisation and linear problem solving is valued above all else. As we are confronted by the confusion and pain of our existence we have sought to replace our fading myths with the Big Stories (meta-narratives) of hard science.
For Gurdjieff, the path of the mind with its intellectual and reasoning capacities was the way of the Yogi, and was the work of the “third room” or mental centre. To follow this path was to undertake the way of jnana yoga. As we’ve seen already (via the ways of the fakir and monk) in the fourth way teaching the “sly man” must integrate the best of this approach so as to pursue awakening whilst in the world.
In contrast to the path of faith, reason and the scientific method are friends to the gnostic magical practitioner. Magic has always sought to explore the mysterious and currently hidden via observation, reflection and experimentation. The Book of Baphomet brilliantly examines the genius of this approach as it vividly outlines the timeline of this bold adventure. Whether via the Royal Society, Crowley’s “scientific illuminism” or the on-going forays of Chaos Magick we can
see how the desire “to Know” has informed both science and Magick even if our lab coat wearing colleagues blush at our messy methodology!
Who would be foolish enough to deny how sexy and sleek science is? Here at the Blog of Baphomet we think its frickin’ hot with a capital “H”- a couple of us might even be scientists if not science-curious. What our sometimes reductionist cousins need to remember is that open attitude of uncertainty and wonder that drew them to this endeavour in the first place. If the magician needs science to avoid new age naivety and intellectual sloppiness, the scientist by giving up some of their “unsafe certainty” may access those beautiful right brain insights that provide those trans-rationale eureka moments.
The mind however is not without its problems. If Buddhism acknowledges the primacy of the mind, it also acknowledges that it is with our thoughts that the problem so often lies. How is our thought content related to our experience of suffering and how might technologies like mindfulness practice allow us to address our mental pain in a different way? While reason is a beautiful thing, sometimes as we try and think our way out of mental confusion, it feels as though we are pulling a large bundle of knotted fishing line tighter and tighter. The method of using the body and breath as a focus and gently acknowledging the arising of thought content, encourages a more lateral approach. From a place of knowing that this is all part of “monkey mind”, we create the possibility of increased mental spaciousness, were we become less reactive to our thoughts and fears.
In my own life this approach to managing the mind has been critical in a number of ways. When my psyche went into meltdown as my past faith slipped through my fingers, the quiet and space that silent meditation offered provided some vital respite. Being able to hold the “observing I” position allowed me to better negotiate the core incongruence between who I felt I should have been and the person that was emerging.
For me a solid foundation in mindfulness is also critical for healthy magickal practice. As magicians, I believe that the primary “spell” that we cast is on ourselves in adopting the remit “to know, to dare, to will and keep silent”. The ability to tell ourselves the story that we are magicians is the critical step in being able shift reality-both internal and external. If we choose to work with others in our magick, part our task is to continually re-infect each other with the meme that we can cause “change in accordance with Will.”
Now while this is a vital part of the great work, the obvious danger is that we lose the ability to wake-up from the story and stand “meta” to it. To fail to do so risks grandiosity and excessive narcissism (hey we all need some self-love!). If we pride ourselves in our paradigm shifting, we also need to be able to move back to the still point of the chaos star and realise that whilst a highly effective one, chaos magick itself is also a paradigm.
Whether we describe our mindfulness practices in terms of Vipassana, Zen sitting practice or Gurdjieff’s self-remembering, in order to maintain perspective and maximize new insights, such psycho-spiritual technologies are worth further lab work.