In my last post I spent time thinking about the potential parallels between acts of creation at both a large and small scale. How might the way in which we view the origins of the Universe shape our perception of self and experience of being a human?
My own view is that the creative, cut-up style of Chaos magic provides us with a position of dynamic agnosticism that allows us to engage with the questions we grapple with. At a cosmological level I was keen to embrace an origins story that reflected a “fragmentary beauty and partial truths: a cut-up formed from moments of inspiration and hard-won life lessons…a custom job, slowly stitched together and arguably unique.” In this post I hope to explore the way in which such an approach can help shape the way we engage with the work of transforming the self.
As we seek to explore potential models of self, the Chaos magician (or at least this one) tends to exercise a degree of both skepticism and down and dirty pragmatism. Yes a specific model may provide a language with which to access new insights, but how do I take these lessons into the realm of my magical work so as to bring about lasting initiatory change?
Under the sway of Postmodernism, Chaos magic tends to be far more interested in the self as a process rather than seeing it as a fixed entity. Think more of a dynamic shifting river bed rather than a still pool of unfathomed depths. Rather than initiatory work being located in some far off idealized future, this “self as process” paradigm challenges us to experience the work unfolding in the moment as the primary location and focus of activity.
Most of us come to magical work in order to experience change. We may have felt trapped by the old, outdated scripts and principles we were adhereing to. If we were simply content with these we would not have entered the Temple of the Mysteries. Whatever the techniques or traditions we favour, my hunch is that we are seeking methods and frameworks within which to improvise new understandings of self.
I have previously written about how the artistic technique of cut-ups provide us with powerful insights into the shifting nature of both consciousness and identity. The dynamic and improvisational spirit of this approach captures well the experience of many and potentially provides a more fluid map for developing a more playful approach.
Cut-ups also happen at a cosmic level and the Mesopotamian creation myth Enuma Elish (lit. “when on high”) vividly depicts this. It tells the story of a struggle between the elder gods of primal chaos and the young upstarts embodying consciousness and order. The great primal Mother Tiamat is eventually slain by the heroic warrior Marduk who then forms the material universe from her draconian remains. This speaks powerfully of our own journey in pursuing the goal of self-creation; we may desire the coherence and direction of the ordered and linear, but if we fail to recognise the vital potency of the chaotic, our path is likely to become arid.
When we begin to pay more attention to the terrain of self, it can feel both challenging and potentially disorientating. Too great a sense of fragmentation and we risk both good mental health and the necessary cohesion needed for day-to-day functioning. Embracing fluidity and multiplicity can feel highly liberating, but we can also risk feeling distress if our experience of subjective complexity runs contra to older expectations regarding having a unified experience of self. Shouldn’t I be more consistent, less conflicted and frankly have my shit more together?
I hope you are beginning to spot how tricky it can be to find metaphors that help convey the complexity and mystery of the work that we are trying to do! In my own attempt to map-out some of my own exploration of what I experience going on:
In this circularity I have been trying to spot the links in my own chaos magical process and role that intuition plays in inspiring the form of play and ritual improvisation that takes place in the laboratory space of the magical circle. While my intuition can definitely have an unexpected and non-linear quality, the foundation for such gnostic insights has come by means of research, reading and the consumption of prodigious quantities of art.
When we dare to improvise, to step outside of the known and fully rehersed we can feel like The Fool in the tarot daring to step out. While that image is both powerful and inspiring, we should be cautious about taking it too literally! To improvise is not to disregard health and safety concerns or rely on blind-optimism, rather it allows us to trust in our own cultivation of poise and the possibility of what can occur when we relinquish the tightness of our control.
Such states of being are often associated with “flow” and the outcome of mastery and we know that these experiences often result as a result of concentrated discipline in acquiring the basics. We would rarely expect to be able to play an improvised guitar solo without hours spent playing scales, and yet in our magical work we imagine that the possibility of mystical experience isn’t enhanced by regular spiritual practice.
Perhaps with a new year and new decade beginning, it’s time for all of us to revisit magical bootcamps like Liber MMM (or others of your choosing), in order to reconnect to daily practices that allow the possibility of more creative experiences of both ourselves and our connection to others.
To conclude here’s a beasutiful quote from the preface of Viola Spolin’s excellent Theater Games for the Lone Actor:
“In the present time a path is opened to your intuition, closing the gap between thinking and doing, allowing you, the real you, your natural self, to emerge and experience directly and act freely, present to the moment you are present to.
You, the real you, must be seen. There are many facets to your basic persona unknown even to you , that you may come forth, appear, and become visible. You, the unique, invisible, unknown, must emerge, be seen, and connect!”
Deep Magic Retreat
Our 2020 springtime retreat will take place in April (17-19th). Please join us for this magical adventure, exploring the connection between Nature and ourselves!
This weekend will give you the opportunity to engage with a remarkable landscape in which humans and other species live and work together. Through group practices and solitary exploration we will discover how we can bring together spirituality and practicality. Using a range of artistic, ceremonial and meditative processes developed specifically for this site, we will re-engage with our humanity as a harmonious part of Nature. The key themes for this retreat will be regeneration and relationship; bring your curiosity, your open mind, and a willingness to participate.
Ragmans Lane Farm is nestled in the Wye Valley on the edge of the Forest of Dean, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. An hour from Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff, the 60 acre site is one of Britain’s most well established permaculture and organic farms. Ragmans has hosted numerous courses over many decades with teachers including Starhawk, Patrick Whitefield and Bill Mollison.
Accessible to novices, and beneficial for experienced practitioners, these days of practical deep magic will give you plenty of opportunity for personal transformation, learning and fun.
We will be staying in a superbly converted 400 year old barn, with three dormitory style areas (6 beds, 2 beds and 3 beds). The barn also has a comfortable sitting room, and a large dining room/kitchen, both perfect for socialising. The retreat includes full-board accommodation with delicious home-cooked vegan food, much of it grown locally, some at Ragmans Lane itself!
We will be using a separate meeting hall for indoor ceremony and practices, as well as several beautiful outdoor spaces.
The retreat runs from Friday 17th until Sunday 19th April.
Cost £300. Early Bird £250 (until 14th February).
If you have any questions, or want to know about alternative payment options, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org