Book Club Post

March 2018 Book Club

This week’s post is the ninth of a monthly series of open-discussion posts focusing on books I’ve written. Our theme for the present is Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, and this week we’re discussing “The Spiritual Ecology of Magic” (pp.85-99). I’d like to ask readers to keep their questions and comments focused on that chapter and the ideas it contains; we’ll have another Ask Me Anything post later this month, and of course a substantive monthly post or two in due time.

The chapter covers a fair amount of material, but the central theme can be summed up simply enough. The common modern pop-spirituality insistence that limits don’t apply to the spiritual realm, that the entire universe is utterly obedient to the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the individual, is not merely mistaken but self-defeating and self-destructive. Certainly changes in your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes can reshape the universe of your experience in unexpected ways, and some times in very dramatic ones; certainly a great many of the limitations that burden our lives are the product of our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes…but not all.

Limits apply to every plane of being. The Law of Limits, the fourth of the seven laws we’ve discussed so far in this sequence of posts, applies to the spiritual realm just as thoroughly as it does to the material realm; the limits are different but they’re no less inflexible. The initiate uses these limits the way a billiard player uses the cushioned sides of the billiard table, as limits off which he or she can rebound. Magic, in fact, can be understood in one sense as the art and science of using the limits of the mind and spirit to achieve one’s ends.

This chapter also deals with magical ethics. That’s a swamp these days, with half the crocodiles mouthing prissy Victorian sentiments and the other half insisting that ethics don’t matter at all, but there’s a simple way through the murk, which is to remember that magic is subject to the laws of ecology. What you put into the world will cycle back and influence your life—and no, it doesn’t matter whether or not you happen to believe this. Just as dumping toxic waste into the physical environment guarantees that sooner or later some of it will come out of your own faucets, dumping toxic energies into the magical enviroment guarantees that sooner or later some of that will circle around to bite you in the backside.

Questions? Comments? Discussions? Have at it—subject, of course, to the usual rules.

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Into the RuinsIn other news, I’m delighted to report that the next issue of Into the Ruins, the premier magazine of deindustrial SF, is now available for sale. Pick up a copy or, better, still, get a subscription, and enjoy first-rate fiction and essays about the kind of future we’re actually going to get.

128 Comments

  1. John–

    I must admit, I had never considered magic before as a method for spiritual bank shots. That wonderful imagery opened up something up for me on an intuitive level.

  2. Well how about that. I was going to ask you about black magic in the open post of this month, and here is a kickstarter to that. I will have to read the prescribed section of this book first (curious to notice that Seattle Public Library has two copies of this book, and King County Library has three copies). I wonder what fresh questions will turn up! Thanks, JMG!

  3. David, delighted to hear it.

    Erica, good heavens. I’m delighted to hear it. When I was growing up in the south Seattle suburbs, I spent a lot of time at the Burien public library (part of the King County system) and took the bus routinely up to the old downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library — now, alas, replaced by the ugliest and most poorly designed library building I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit — to borrow their much larger collections. It’s kind of a rush to know that my books are there now!

  4. John–

    As I have begun (and admittedly, only begun) to accept the boundaries of my own ability to enact change, I have discovered a couple of things. First, a deeper appreciation of my own lived experience and of those changes, however small, that I *have* been able to induce. In a way, it is like being able to savor every bite of a delicious but appropriately-sized meal because the experience isn’t swamped by a mass of quantity.

    Secondly, I have found that unexpected opportunities open up from un-thought-of directions. Recent example: I had sent in a a workshop suggestion into this year’s Midwest Renewable Energy Fair (Custer, WI every June) as I figured that I could use some additional ideas for trying to get local resilience initiatives enacted. Then, one day, it occurred to me that I could lead a round-table discussion as well as anyone else, so I proposed a workshop myself. Not only was the workshop accepted, but the organizers have said that they would like to highlight that workshop in some of their pre-event advert material. So now, the possibility to induce change has potentially expanded considerably. Had I not been experiencing my own limits, I’d not have thought to make the proposal in the first place.

  5. JMG:

    Do you think that this tendency to anticipate no limits is a particular disease of our contemporary society, having its roots in the seeming unlimited wonderfulness that technology, particularly 20th/21st century technology, promised? I would think that in the past – or even today in places where constraints of all sorts are a fact of life – limits to everything would simply be understood as reality.

    I spent a good deal of my childhood with my grandmothers, women who lived through WWI, financial depression and hyperinflation, then WWII in Germany, women who believed to the core of their being that one is obligated to be careful and put away for an even worse day, because any kind of abundance can never be counted on – just subsisting was dicey enough. They saw limits everywhere. Neither was especially religious although they did pray, but I’m not at all sure they expected any relief from God, as if he, too, had limits. And woe to any of their grandchildren who acted without considering the long-term consequences. I guess I’ve foolishly assumed that, if not universal, this way of seeing the world was at least widespread, so it always surprises me when I see evidence it’s not.

  6. I figure this is a good time to ask the group here something I’ve been brooding over lately: to what extent is the collapse in ethics as a field of discussion; the insistence it doesn’t apply to such and such for various reasons (ex: this other thing is so important; God said so; ethics is culturally determined and I don’t belong to it); and the moral preening that insists that of course what I’m doing is not what they do a desperate attempt to avoid admitting to the fact that our way of life depend on a brutal imperial system and the drawing down of so many resources that we are impovershing the future?

    This would be bad enough, but we know what we’re doing. I wonder to what extent the (likely subliminal) knowledge that we are willing doing so much harm to so many, and the unwillingness to admit that things are actually what they look like are distorting discussions on this topic.

  7. Could you give an example of how one might use the limits imposed by the hard boundaries of the celestial billiard table? For example, in the case of a problematic horoscope..?

    Kevin

  8. Posting anonymously, for reasons that will be clear.

    “What you put into the world will cycle back and influence your life—and no, it doesn’t matter whether or not you happen to believe this.”

    I had a roommate that I found extremely attractive. At the time I had a somewhat low opinion of myself, and didn’t think I could win her affections by ordinary means. I had been reading a book by a very popular occult teacher and decided to employ one of his techniques to seduce her.

    If I name the technique, it might give away the author, and I’d rather not do so– though it’s worth mentioning that he explicitly denies your version of magical ethics, and provides what sound like reasonable-enough justifications for doing so. It is enough to say that it wasn’t an act of ritual magic so much as an on-site manipulation of energies, if you follow me. And it seemed to work alarmingly well: Every time I employed it, Ms. Roommate would become increasingly flirtatious, making excuses to be near me, to touch me, even insisting on visiting a nude beach together (!). And yet she would also consciously deny that we were anything more than friends. And I would deny this as well, since I had a girlfriend at the time.

    Then one day an ordinary disagreement between the two of us– Ms. Roommate and I, I mean– blew up into a colossal shouting match. Everyone else that we lived with became involved. We had had a friendly and enjoyable living situation, sharing a decent house at a low cost in a city which can be very expensive. This situation was destroyed, as all of us came to hate one another.

    A few takeaway items–

    1. Ms. Roommate was herself a sometime practitioner of black magic. Her grandmother was a curandera, and she had had at least one experience with demonic possession. She once came to me to ask for a love spell to seduce someone, another woman, to whom she was attracted. When I refused, she got a couple of books of magic and came up with one herself. She told me the next day how startled she was at how effective it had been; the other woman (let’s call her Other Woman), who had been tepid about the relationship, was now quite passionate. This did not last very long, however. I haven’t kept in touch with Other Woman, but we have mutual friends; a couple of years ago I heard that she described Ms. Roommate as “the only person I can say I hate.” More recently a mutual friend of ours described a situation where he and Other Woman were in a car together, and Other Woman was driving. He brought up Ms. Roommate casually in conversation. He said that Other Woman appeared to freeze, even to black out, her hands locked in a death-grip on the steering wheel. Apparently Other Woman has a restraining order against Ms. Roommate, and the mere mention of Ms. Roommate is enough to send her into a ptsd-type of episode.

    2. After the blowup with Ms. Roommate my living situation got worse and worse, as, as I said, everyone who lived in the house took sides. Without going into the details, there really was plenty of blame to go around, and Ms. Roommate and her allies were incredibly cruel. One day I was avoiding going home after work. I was shaking with anger and I could not calm myself down. I went into a cafe to get some chamomile tea. It didn’t work.

    I recalled that chamomile could be used as a blessing. I took some tea into the cafe bathroom and did the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I blessed my hands and forehead with the chamomile, and recited the Lord’s Prayer. I kept hanging on the words, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I returned to the main room and sat down on the couch and closed my eyes. I imagined each of the roommates that I was so angry with. One by one I imagined the situation as clearly as I could from their perspective, forgave them for their part, and mentally asked for forgiveness for my part from them and from God.

    When I came out of the meditation, I felt such a sense of peace as I have rarely felt in my life. It was as if a golden light had descended on my heart. I went home, resolving to pay no mind to the hostility of my roommates– and to my great shock, every one of them treated me very politely. That morning we hadn’t been speaking to each other.

    3. On the Dreamwidth site, you wrote:

    “Every spell you cast is therefore a gift that keeps on giving; whether or not it affects its target, it affects you, and will keep on affecting you indefinitely.

    “If you decide you made a mistake, you’re kind of screwed; you can neutralize the effect by doing several spells with the opposite intention, but the original “track in space” is still going to be there, pulling at you and locking up some part of your capacity to do anything else.”

    I wish I had read that a long time ago, or known about it, or paid attention to it. I rarely think about Ms. Roommate these days. But when I look over my regular divinations, it seems that I’m always pining after some unattainable female friend– unattainable, in part, because I am not actually interested. I quite like my life the way it is. It’s just that the desire is always there, like a rut in space or a swale in a garden bed through which some of my energy is always leaking, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

  9. While I don’t disagree about limits applying in the spiritual realm, I’d also be rather surprised if there weren’t some differently-embodied beings eager to claim that, no no, that’s quite wrong, they know how to get around those “limits”, and they’ll happily show any interested parties for just a _small_ bit of compensation… It happens all the time with humans, after all, with a wide variety of particulars and severities.
    In particular, reading your opening there, I was wondering what the differently-embodied equivalent of Elon Musk would be like.

  10. After Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, what will be the next title in the Book Club?

    It would be to know in advance, since for many countries, including mine, international shipments take a long time to arrive.

  11. I like to think of the magical ethics swamp (and all other swamps) as filled with Crocodiles and Alligators. They appear different at the surface but when you fall in it really doesn’t matter which grabs your leg first. Our mantra can only be “drain baby drain”.

  12. David, excellent. And of course it’s precisely when we accept the reality of limits that we start to figure out where the actual possibilities for change are found. If you don’t believe in walls, you’re going to have a helluva time finding the door…

    Beekeeper, I think that’s an important part of it. There’s also a very large social-class element in it — ours is one of the few caste-ridden societies in which the privileged like to pretend that they aren’t the beneficiaries of a caste system, and so it’s fashionable for them to insist that their state of privilege is hardwired into the basic structure of the universe.

    Will, I think that’s a huge amount of it. A vast number of the weirder features of contemporary culture make sense if you realize that most people today realize, at some level, that our great-grandchildren will think of us the way we think of Nazis: the people who wrecked the planet so that we could drive around in SUVs a little longer.

    Kevin, er, we’ve already talked about that at some length. You can’t use magic to make the problematic parts of your horoscope go away — though you can use magic to learn to live with them, and turn the stresses and conflicts into sources of strength.

    Some Body, if I had a buck for everyone who’s told me a story like that, I’d be able to buy pizza for the entire readership of this blog. Notice what happened: the working you did definitely had an effect, but it didn’t get you what you wanted, and it ended up blowing up in your face. That’s pretty standard. Be glad that you didn’t end up with one of the more embarrassing blowbacks from a love spell! (The one I’ve seen most often is that the person who cast the spell ends up hopelessly infatuated with the target, who spends five minutes being mildly attracted to the caster and thereafter can’t stand him.)

    Reese, yep. A lot of channeled entities fall into that category.

    Packshaud, it’ll be The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune.

    Paul, that makes a fine metaphor. Thank you.

  13. Today, I found a way to shut the people who try to claim the universe is wholly subservient to our thoughts/desires: I get my conversation partner to agree that they accept my existence and my equality to them, and then I tell them I want limits, my thoughts revolve around them, and I feel them in my bones. The meltdowns are rather funny to watch, and then I think the topic will never come up again.

  14. Do you deny that there are cases, indeed many cases, where a person does immoral or irresponsible things, at the expense of others, and winds up profiting from this conduct for an entire lifetime–at least in the visible, material sense that we can see? And if you are willing to admit this (to me) self-evident fact, then how does the “pollution” come back to the person who put the “toxins” into the world? Haven’t both eastern and western religious traditions struggled for millennia to explain this appalling appearance of injustice by asserting beliefs in karma, reincarnation, final judgment, or other ultimate reckoning and righting process beyond our range of vision, beyond our ability to fully comprehend? The poet may have overstated his case, but I submit that there is a strong ring of truth in his lament: “truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” How does that jibe or not jibe with your contention that evil will inevitably boomerang?

  15. Archdruid,

    I don’t know if this counts as a spell, but about two years ago I asked the gods of companionship for help finding love. I worded my intentionality thusly “look, I’ve been through relationship after relationship, each time unhealthy and self destructive. It’s pretty clear I don’t know what I want, could y’all see your way to helping me find what I need. Help me grow up a bit?”

    Two weeks later I met my partner, and I’ve had to grow up faaasssttt. Things are progressing really smoothly. Does this count as a bank shot?

    Also what happens if I cast a love spell on my self?

    Regards,

    Varun

  16. I reread the chapter this evening, and mentally compared it to my own path to see how that path stood up. Ethics – great. The Law of Threefold Return for the practical warning “…And it harm none…” for the basics, and as for avoiding the “moral means not having any fun,” the Charge of the Goddess takes care of that amply. “All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.” As for the hard work involved – depends on the teacher and the student both. Our group spent a year and a day in basic training before our 1st degree initiations, and another 5 years before getting our 2nd, when we were turned loose to form our own groups. I’m just now resuming my “post-graduate” work after a fairly long period of physical problems pain, and weakness.

    A couple of notes: the pair on my home altar are the Earth Mother in her oldest and most primordial form, and Pan. You don’t have any biophobia at all with that pair! They understand physical necessities down to the bone! Also — the fact that She looks nothing like the sleek modern scantily dressed comic-book versions of the Gods as sold in the metaphysical bookstores and through the most widely advertised catalog is a wonderful cure for snobbery. Especially if you envision Her in the clinging, skin-tight, every-bulge-showing fashions seen on the street and in places where the fashionable would never gather!

    And rereading my old journals, the first big result (during my 1st degree work, but an accidental byproduct of it dealt with my quarrel with society as I knew it then. The second, with my own unacceptable thoughts an impulses; hideous before examining; disgusting but harmless afterwards. I think both left enough of a mark on my behavior and attitude to – in my view – make me ready for both initiations. The third is underway right now, since my hip, eyes, and ears, are all working well enough for me to get serious again.

    So – thanks. This chapter and the next are very timely.

    P.S. It now comes to me that the reason I couldn’t make head nor tail out of the Cosmic Doctrine then was because it made no sense to one who reads science magazines regularly – because, of course, she was talking about something else entirely!

  17. “The common modern pop-spirituality insistence that limits don’t apply to the spiritual realm, that the entire universe is utterly obedient to the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the individual, is not merely mistaken but self-defeating and self-destructive.”

    It’s actually stunning how well this describes the Cult of Progress and the Liberal Left. And some of Trump’s MAGA-followers as well.

    Despite their professed adherence to science, their lack of knowledge and blind faith in fantasies is surprisingly apparent. ‘Innovation’ will overcome all issues, and we’ll get a techno-utopian future with interstellar travel, immortality, boundless resources, and of course, flying cars. (Perhaps most stunning of all is the notion inhabitants of such a fantastical world would have even the most remote resemblance to modern-day humans.)

    In politics, it’s even more apparent. Idols and dogmatic soundbites are marched to the stage and if people just think them hard enough, the desired results will somehow follow. I’d say this is actually on of the reasons why Hillary lost, her followers were more invested in believing in her than the reality of going out to vote.

    In this climate, I’m not surprised magic and spirituality fall victim to the same mental trappings. I wonder if there’s any god of blind faith in unlimited progress that’s profiting from all this.

  18. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Please and in earnest what advice do you have?

    I’d like to cast a love spell – There is another Scorpio I have been friends with for twenty-seven years. Our birthdays are nine days apart, me being slightly older. She should be the older one because I was a premature baby. (Even if I were born on time we’d both still be scorpios. Does this have any bearing?) I still remember the first day we met. Anyway I had a dream about her last night. I dreamt we were simply holding hands, and it occurred to me in the dream how our hands have interacted these many, many, many years. How we’ve aged together staying as we are. The dream ended when I gave her a kiss, that’s always been there, but silent. We can talk about anything, I mean anything and I’ve never mentioned how I feel. In the dream she said, I feel the same.

    No matter what spell I cast, both of us have to be ready to move with the opportunity the spell presents. If the world were just us and all the complexities of modern life fell away – I just know she would probably be the one. We are each from the same small town – And we both went away to college and then came home. She is now a teacher at the elementary school, where we first met. We each want to stay here. The sad part is we’re both in our thirties, working full time, and neither of us can afford to move out of our parent’s house…. College was mistake for me; perhaps not for her. It makes me happy for her, that she has come full circle, becoming a teacher in this town, in the school we grew up in. But she can’t make a living on it as our Second Grade teacher could before her.

    Is a spell in order? Or should I try to go about it in a more organic way? I think us each being in our thirties and stuck living with our parents is a BIG part of the problem. And I’d bet if somehow I saved up enough to buy some land here in town, that’s be enough of an ice breaker to officially begin courting her.

    We are also both recovering Star Trek fans. I liked the 1980s+90s incarnation, she jumped on the band wagon in 2008. I look at how we had the same Star Trek love affair, then disillusionment and how it kinda mirrors in our horoscopes, being nine day apart Scorpios. And how who was to be older and who was to be younger was switched because of modern medicine – I feel like there’s some MacDuff/Macbeth stuff going on here.

    Sincerely,

    Magical Beaver

    PS According to an online horoscope:

    “When Scorpio and Scorpio come together for love or any kind of relationship, it’s an instant psychic connection that moves fast. These two soul-stirring mystics crave sex and intimacy, which could become isolating since you’ll never want to leave the bedroom! A Scorpio-Scorpio relationship can move quickly, since you both understand each others’ need for lifelong perma-bonding.”

  19. Will, I like that. Thank you.

    Newtonfinn, all I can say is that all the people I’ve actually met and gotten to know, who go around hurting people, are by and large miserably unhappy. Are there people out there who do the same thing and have happy lives? Good question; I’ve never encountered one, and the people who insist that such people exist all like to talk about people they don’t know, of whose inner lives they have no clue. The fact that certain people have a lot of money, or what have you, doesn’t mean that their lives are bearable.

    The central point I’m trying to make here, though, is that people who practice magic under the delusion that ethics don’t matter are making a massive mistake, Here again, I’ve met plenty of examples; their lives are smoking craters. They stumble from one preventable disaster to another. If you want to become one of them, be my guest, but the point of the discussion I’m trying to have here is to encourage people not to make that mistake.

    Varun, no, it’s the basic formula of successful love magic. Start from the realization that in all your problems, you are the common factor, and you can then solve those problems by changing yourself. A love spell cast on yourself is the only kind that reliably works, provided that your intention is to become more lovable.

    Janitor, depends very much on what interests you. I’m very partial to her book Sane Occultism as a guide to, well, sane occultism, and to her book Introduction to Hermetic Philosophy, but depending on your interests, your mileage may vary.

    Patricia, glad to be of help — and I’m glad your health is improving. Get that Third!

    SpiceIsNice, excellent! You get tonight’s gold star for catching onto one of the hidden secrets of contemporary culture: everyone believes in magic. Some people just insist on giving it a different name, such as “progress.”

    Beaver, there is one and only one form of love spell that won’t blow up in your face. That’s a spell to make yourself more lovable — not, please note, to make yourself appear to be more lovable, but to actually get rid of your less lovable habits and embrace more lovable ways of being in the world. If you do that, I can guarantee good results.

    I want to be very, very plain here. People come to me all the time asking about doing love spells to make a specific person fall in love with them. Don’t go there. Seriously, do not go there. Trying to dominate someone else’s will and emotions — which is what such spells do — is a really bad idea, and even if you get a temporary success, which you probably won’t, when the effect of the spell wears off the other person will swing to the opposite extreme and will never want to see your face again. I’ve seen this happen dozens of times.

    My advice? Talk to her, let her know you’re interested in her, and see what the two of you can work out. She may be sitting there right now wondering how to approach you. Or not; there are no guarantees in life. But you’ll never know until you try.

  20. i don’t know how others might react, but if i found out that someone tried to use a love spell on me, to undermine my will and make me do something i was not inclined to do, the results could be spectacularly negative and not in the distant future either.. talk about bad karma! i’m not sure how i feel about magic, but i’m very sure that the little wheel spins and spins while the big wheel is turning around and around.

  21. Jaymoses, oh, granted! But the target doesn’t even have to know that a spell has been used. What typically happens is that the target spends a short time feeling uncharacteristically warm and fuzzy feelings toward the perpetrator of the spell, then stops cold, says “What the &%$# am I thinking?” and swings to the opposite extreme. Once this happens, the spell usually rebounds on the perp, who ends up hopelessly besotted with the target, and the target starts by finding him irritating and ends up hating his guts. It’s entertaining to watch, in a bleak sort of way. As John Lennon sang, “Instant karma’s gonna get you…”

    Spells to force someone else to fall in love, and spells to get money without earning it, are the two most popular classes of guaranteed-to-fail, blow-up-in-your-face, your-life-becomes-a-smoking-crater magical workings. In both cases, there’s a smart way to go about achieving the goal in question, and the vast majority of people just plain don’t want to hear about it. This is useful to teachers of magic, who thus have an ample supply of reallly good examples of what not to do and how not to do it…

  22. I have no icon and no website and I’m here because I liked what you wrote in a book named something like “The Dark Mountain.” I’ve been reading the comments and everybody knows something I don’t know. It’s OK, and somehow “Leave a Reply” sounded like a kind order, so here’s the one question I have. A male friend, former programmer and now grain miller and vegan believes in something called OAHSPE and does not believe the moon causes the tides. Maybe the Oahspe does. In every other respect he seems down-to-earth and more of a solid citizen than I am. Do you know anything about this…belief or cult?

    I believe I’m supposed to read something before I warrant an answer, so I don’t expect any. I forgot what i’m supposed to read, but tell me and I will do so. I’m busy getting used to being old, 92 in a few days.
    Mary Lehmann

  23. Dear JMG,

    Can I ask you to provide an example or two of how the ‘get money without earning it’ magical workings can produce a ‘blow-up-in-your-face, your-life-becomes-a-smoking-crater’ effect? I understand how wanting easy money can get people into trouble by getting involved into a speculative bubble, a ponzi scheme, or some other machinations. I actually tried to talk a few people out of these activities. I also tried to talk some people out of practising different flavours of ‘abundance’ exercises, which proved to be a more difficult task. I am not sure what have repelled me from these ‘teachings’ – possibly the fact that they all sound like marketing material – but I have no practical experience in attracting the consequences of that magnitude and I am not willing to learn from my mistakes in this field. :}

  24. John–

    I believe this ties to limits, but the discussion here and of inducing change generally also brought to mind conversations that Varun and I have had about opposing the various aspects of Empire (the imperial narrative, the “empire of the mind,” as well as the physical reality of empire). There are limits as to what can be done at various stages. Early on, one has to work in the shadows, so to speak, out of sight. We came up with the phrase “gardening in the cracks of empire” to describe the guerilla work of spreading ideas, building small communities, and generally fostering small seed-beds for later change. We noted that a dying empire can still be relatively strong, particularly in the earlier stages of its decline, and that a direct confrontation with those powers can easily result in a nascent alternative being crushed by brute strength. Biding one’s time, allowing the natural process to unfold, and waiting for the right moment to step out of the shadows and make a more direct challenge (which may be decades or generations later) is a part of understanding the boundaries of the overall system.

  25. I was really struck by the sense of the Law of Wholeness and the way all the other laws dovetailed together as I read this chapter. Also by how knowledge of self can create a better life for an individual. Very like what you can achieve with a good physiologist.

    When I was a child I had many great-Aunts and Uncles that so impressed me with their strength and personal power that I wanted to be just like them. Some time ago, I realized that I had, to large degree, achieved my goal. Through experience, self reflection, dealing with a sense of inadequacy and the practice of many skills, I have, within the limits of the my environment, achieved a sense of personal power and strength. It is a wonderful feeling, but it has been a lot of work and can’t think of anything more magical. Does that make my life perfect or without hazard, hardly. I still have much work to do and I don’t live in a vacuum. But I really have a sense that the seven laws really provide a foundation on which to build within a universal whole. Practice, practice, practice.

  26. Your descriptions of ‘love spells’ reminds me of Shelby trying to use her ‘reason’ on Owen. Kama got her good…:-)
    No luck finding “Introduction to Hermetic Philosophy” by Dion Fortune. LOT of others. I’m just interested in general.

  27. Congratulations Varun. To me that sounds like it was a good idea, as proven by good results. For how would giving it to God be dark magic?

    Beaver, I have had a similar experience some time ago. When it occured it seemed to have opened a door between us, so that this relationship could happen. Perhaps it couldn’t before. Perhaps the dream is the discussion of your souls agreeing. In any case, that would now need to be outlined with real agreements in the mental and physical worlds, but to me it says the door is now open if anyone is willing to move through it.

    Your situation is truly ideal, and I mean that. Among the top parameters for a lasting relationship are are similar age and geography, no joke. Who else is going to understand where you come from, what it’s like where you are? The other factors are 3) graduating from college 4) income 5) older when married 6) come from families with successful marriage. You have at least five of these. At the same time, it’s quite humbling because the top factors are nothing we have control over.

    Why geography? Why are we near our partner? In Judaism, they believe you set an agreement with your spouse before you were born, or “bashert.” Since you’ll have similar goals and life plans, it makes sense you should start closer together, although other stories are possible. This softens the path, but there is still free will, still say yes and no when it comes to it. Good luck.

  28. Magical Beaver, forgive my presumption, but if you want help with your situation, rather than casting spells, you might want to ask a god about it (assuming you’re open to such things). My intuition while reading your tale was that Frigg and/or one of Her handmaidens such as Lofn, might be sympathetic. Speak to Them with an open heart about your feelings and your hopes and fears, and ask Them for Their aid in doing the work that JMG suggested: making yourself more lovable and opening your life to make room for love. Prayer has answered many questions and opened many avenues for me since establishing a devotional relationship, though one does have to be willing to take “no” and “not yet” for answers, and remember that you must scrupulously keep any promises or vows made to Them. Good luck!

  29. What a great opportunity to ask a question I keep forgetting to bring up in the open posts!

    A mentor of mine gave strong warnings about unintended consequences – the example he would give is working for nice weather during a music festival, only to learn later of a farmer who could have really used some rain. If I took this advice to the extreme I’d probably become prone to err on the side of inaction, but I don’t want to discount it too much either. Is there a simple way to know whether one is striking a good balance? Intellectually I know that unintended good consequences shouldn’t be discounted either, but I’ve also seen many warning myths about using magic to deal with the unforseen consequences of earlier magic… Any advice on threading this particular needle would be appreciated! Many thanks

  30. @Ganesh Ubuntu: I’ll chime in with an example. The High Priest and High Priestess of the (Wiccan) coven I initiated into would tell this story of how they needed a certain amount of money, did a spell for that specific amount of money … and shortly thereafter she was in an auto accident. No one was hurt, and after the bills were paid and the dust settled, they had the exact amount they asked for, along with that wonderful experience of dealing with insurance companies, car repair shops, and the inconvenience of having a vehicle out of commission when living off a rural county road.

    Unearned money usually comes with a price in discomfort and/or inconvenience.

  31. Mary, don’t worry about the reading; at 92 — happy birthday in advance, btw! — you have other things to do with your time! Oahspe: A New Bible was one of the very first channeled books that claimed to be a message from space aliens; it was written by a spiritualist named John Ballou Newbrough and published in 1882. I’ve never heard that there was a cult around it, but I know there are still some believers.They call themselves “Faithists,” and from what I’ve heard of them, they’re perfectly decent people.There’s an article about Oahspe on Wikipedia, which you might find useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oahspe:_A_New_Bible.

    Simo, the idiotic attempt to prop up the US retail sector by convincing people to run up debt they can’t pay off has finally run its course, and a huge number of retail businesses are in deep financial trouble. “Toys ‘R’ Us” is just one canary in a very crowded coal mine.

    Fuzzy, sure thing. It’s very simple: do a working with the intention of getting opportunities to earn money, and then follow up on the opportunities when they show up, even if they’re not what you had in mind. Everybody I know who’s done this has prospered, and even if there was some slogging involved — there certainly was in my case; I worked in nursing homes, copy shops, and dry cleaners before I finally clawed my way into print — the habit of following up opportunities pretty consistently leads to getting the kind of opportunities you want.

    David, it really is shooting fish in a barrel. Assume that current habits of thought will run straight out to absurdity, and you’ll call it every time.

    Ganesh, sure. When people do a working to try to get money without earning it, they suffer a sudden financial loss — and usually a fairly big one. It’s very consistent. Why? Well, for you to get money without earning it, somebody else has to earn the money but not get it. Your working, in other words, is intended to increase the total amount of economic unfairness in the world — and that inevitably rebounds on the person who does the working.

    It’s perfectly possible to get money you don’t earn, mind you, if you leave magic out of it, or if you use magic purely as an adjunct to some form of ordinary con artistry or theft. There’s blowback from that, too, but it’s nothing like as instant as it is when you simply do a working to get money you didn’t earn. The only two things I know of that cause instant blowback as reliably as “make me rich without having to work” spells are jumping into an ongoing speculative bubble, on the one hand, and fixating on winning the lottery on the other.

    David, excellent. That’s one of the great secrets of bringing about change — any kind of change, on any plane. There’s always a continuum extending from the things over which you have most control to the things over which you have least control, and if you start by changing the things you can control, success breeds success and cascades along the continuum.

    Kay, I get that. In my case it wasn’t family members — it was the sturdy, sane, hale and hearty old men I met in the Odd Fellows and Masons who made me rethink my entire notion of what I could become. What the Sar Peladan called “ethopoeia” — the making of a personal ethos — is from one perspective the most important magical operation there is.

    Janitor, hmm! Admittedly I’ve had my copies of her books for a while, and haven’t kept up on their availability. You might try her student W.E. Butler’s book The Magician: His Training and Work, then.

  32. Christopher, that’s why it’s important to do a divination before you do any magical working, asking whether the working’s a good idea and what the consequences will be. Divination gives a global view of the situation, and can take into account the kind of unforeseen results that rational methods of analysis so reliably miss.

  33. The idea of casting spells has always made me wonder, how would I ever be wise enough to effect an ongoing creation in a way that was complimentary, or why I would even want to try? Maybe the sort question a novice typically asks? But anyway, speaking of Dion Fortune, she seemed to believe that drawing from one side or the other of the tree of life tended to change the balance. I suppose that it could be done to bring one back into balance, if self reflection would allow one to see the imbalance. But she also seemed to believe that if the source kether, then it was ultimately drawn from God (Ain Soph Aur) and would not create an imbalance, but was an act of creation, bringing more “substance” into the spiritual, and then ultimately for the occultist into the material. I really wish you would do that piece on Astral Projection you mentioned a while back. Also have you ever known a person who self initiated, ie established communication with his Holy Guardian Angel? Maybe druids don’t do that? I enjoy your work and have many of your books now. 🙂 It will take me years to get through all the material, but none of it matters much if I can’t shift my consciousness to an Astral/Ethereal body. That first essential step. You don’t think I am impatient do you? 🙂

  34. Regarding Toys’r’Us, its closing is a perfect example how industrial civilization slowly unravels, bit by bit.

    Regarding the issues of Magical Beaver and Some Body, one point which is worth making is, that in contemporary Western culture, things to do with love and finding a partner are made incredibly complex and difficult through a wild assortment of contradictory and at least sometimes unhelpful advice. Added to this are dysfunctional ideas about what love affairs and partnerships ought to be like. The problems that John Michael Greer wrote about pop psychology books about getting rich fast through cheap magic exist in self-help books about love and flirting, too. My own experience is, that some of the advice in such self-help books do sometimes have a not very big effect, but overall, the experiment to try to find a partner with the help of such books don’t work out as intended.

  35. Regarding the possible blowback from trying to practice magic while ignoring limits, I have a question about healing spells.

    I’ve talked to a few different people who attempted to do healing spells and ended up landing in worse health, in a way that sounds parallel to how you’re describing a free-money working ending up. The blowback from free-money and free-love spells makes sense, but what about healing spells?

    This hasn’t happened to me, so I don’t know the exact details of what they did, and it’s possible they just really messed up the spell in question. I do know four details that might clarify things though:

    1. Consent was present in every case. They were either working for themselves or for someone who had specifically requested it.

    2. They were healing spells involving either Runes or sigils and NOT a specific healing modality (like herbalism or acupuncture, which you can obviously botch if you don’t know what you’re doing).

    3. All of the cases I know of were people associated with a single group, although there are many other members of that group who seem to pull off healing spells just fine.

    4. None of them did divination in advance to see how the working would turn out.

    Any idea if this is something that can run afoul of limits/magical ecology too, or do you think the spells just didn’t work and their health worsened of its own accord?

  36. I’d guess that one reason that love spells end up being so disastrous is because the kind of person who will use magic to manipulate someone else into a relationship against their will doesn’t stop being a manipulative creep once they obtain the object of their desire.

    My husband is in sales. It turns out that the best way to approach sales is to select for the potential customers who actually need your product and are open to hearing about it, then pitch your product to them. The first part of the sales process is just sorting through lists of companies to figure out which ones you should focus on. Using high-pressure tactics to coerce someone who doesn’t need your product into buying it only results in an unhappy customer who will tell everyone that your product is garbage. The unethical high-pressure method is also a lot more stressful and takes a lot more time than just selling to the customers who will actually benefit from your product.

    It’s the same with romantic relationships. You have to figure out who wants what you have to offer. Of course, then you also have to choose which of those people happens to be offering what you want! If you aren’t attracting the kind of person you want, you have to figure out how to upgrade the product (yourself!) or lower your expectations. It sounds like you, JMG, recommend an “upgrade the product” spell. That sounds like it would be more beneficial, even if you don’t get the person you initially wanted. It would help in other areas of life too.

  37. Magical Beaver, the fact that both you and your potential lady love can’t afford a place of your own doesn’t mean you can’t fall in love and get married. You are currently in a two-income household, just with your parents instead of the person you’d rather be with. If you can make that situation work with your parents, you can make it work with her.

    First, you should make your odds of success more likely. Do things that will make you more attractive and more self-confident. Work out, if you don’t already. Eat healthy. If you tend to wear jeans and a t-shirt, wear a nice button-up shirt instead. Jeans and a t-shirt don’t look good on most men, but jeans and a tucked-in, button-up shirt … Yummy! Be more decisive, without being overbearing.

    Then, ask her out. If things are going well after a few dates, it’s time to have a talk with your parents. They may be willing to let you put whatever rent you pay them or money you contribute to household expenses into savings instead, to be used for a security deposit or a down payment. You should set a time limit on this. If you aren’t in your own place by x date, then you resume paying whatever you normally would. This would probably be a relief to your parents, who must be worried about what you will do when they are no longer around.

    You’ve probably heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Whether you’re praying or using magic, I think that concept is a good thing to keep in mind. You can ask for divine assistance, but you have to do your part too.

    Good luck!

  38. Archdruid,

    A wealth spell cast on my self was one that allowed me to see opportunity where I missed it, for a chance to earn a decent living. That one worked too. Got a decent paying career type job in February.

    The pattern seems to be “help me find opportunity to grow as a person.”

    Jasper,

    Thanks!

    David,

    Except letters by April.

    Regards,

    Varun

  39. Magical Beaver, also, if you’re thinking of buying property, you might want to find out how the county you live in auctions off properties that they’ve taken for unpaid property taxes. Sometimes you can get a place really cheap. It may need some fixing up though. That works great if you have the necessary skills, but if not, you can learn. Your dad or other older family member would probably be happy to help you learn by hard work. 🙂

  40. To something Garden Housewife said, helping yourself and following through is essential if you you magic and fail to follow through it may well destroy you in the backlash.

    In essence you are shaping your “wyrd” or “fate” by power and will, making certain pathways stronger and making that your predominate fate

    If you go along with the new flow and do you part, you’ll get what you put in and a little more. But resist? It will hurt you badly.

    A fellow I used to do Workings experienced both ends of that kind of thing

    On one occasion we cast a working to increase his chances at well getting some well err action . Not that long after he managed a tumble with a very attractive actress well out if his usual league. This had no ill effects as he followed through, it wasn’t directed at her but in a more general sense and both parties ere willing adults and benefited.

    FWIW I was always taught that as Green Magic as vs White (healing and harmony) and Back (harm)

    Another spell however drove him mad , he cast a mate finding spell , mate was found. She liked him , he liked her and while she was a Jehovah’s Witness of all things otherwise met any reasonable criteria and than some . He however got cold feet and the energy he put out backlashed on him . Its fortunate for him the folks the Worked with at times new what had happened and were able to talk him down otherwise he’d have possibly hurt himself

  41. It seems to me that limits come from both ourselves and our environment. Back to love spells (such a good example!), there’s no way that I could get an NFL quarterback to marry me. A thousand love spells wouldn’t be enough. The cold, hard truth is that I’m perilously close to 40 and I have three kids.

    It’s equally obvious that sometimes our limits are in our minds. I’m starting to believe that that is one of the main purposes of religion – to reshape those parts of your mind that are limiting you unnecessarily. The example above from Some Body really illustrates this. He applied the Lord’s Prayer to himself, and the resulting change made a difference in his situation. But of course, there are limits to how much reshaping can be done and what the results of that reshaping will be!

    Personally, I’ve started praying daily. I’m not asking for anything big. I’m just saying the prayers in the Orthodox Christian prayer book. Sometimes a sentence or a phrase will make me think of something in a different way, or maybe reconsider something in my life. It’s about changing myself in small ways and building my relationship with God and the saints. That’s been a very positive thing in my life.

    On building a relationship with God … I wonder if that’s why I couldn’t feel his presence, because that relationship wasn’t there, plus there were some issues related to my fundamentalist upbringing that maybe affected that? Maybe there were limits in my mind and heart that came from harsh experiences and teaching in childhood. I decided to try again since my religious path seems to be going that direction (Christian, not fundamentalist) anyway.

  42. Thank you Greer for your generous helping hand. Ever since my young years I was interested in mystical learning as a result of a dream into a spiritual flight.. In the fifties I read Franz Bardon initiation in hermetics which covers a lot of the themes you address. Ever since , I was very interested in divination and over the years I found the recitation of certain alphabetical letter combinations is very helpful in that field. Devotional practice in a meditative mode with the intonation of such formations help a lot in raising the awareness of the pervasiveness of the spiritual world in the world of matter, Your honesty and your interest in ethical magic encourage me to say that the mantras (alphabetical letter formations ) are already used by the Hindus and Buddha in the realm of consciousness expansion and spiritual contact . I am sure you must have read or heard about the TM school in Holland. In the Koran I found similar formations with enjoinders that say that these formations are tool for divination. I been intoning these different combinations and found their beneficial spell effects, away from harming any person with malignant spells but on the country one find his/her soul in a very empathetic state that is craving to help the near and the far, I repeat my thanks for all the good works you are doing in this dark time The seven laws you addressed are excellent torching markers in the realm of human real growth.

  43. Hi JMG,
    When you say, “magic is subject to the laws of ecology,” how does that relate to the concept of karma? Is it the same thing as karma?

  44. I think the fact that you’re providing people with a decent, reasonable education in magic is very important. And I would just like to add that, yes, spells work, even when you don’t want them to anymore. It’s like throwing a stone into the pool and trying to stop the ripples. Too late for that. I’d sure like to learn more how to reduce the effects of an old spell effectively – if you could recommend anything specifically I’d appreciate it.

    Also, is there a planning committee or anything for your solstice gathering? I want to help if I can.

  45. @newtonfinn,
    perhaps your span of time is just not long enough. A lot of people, including the natives, believed that a culture as rapacious as the US would suffer the consequences of being so wasteful and greedy, and, indeed, the US will be lucky if it makes it to 500 years from earliest settlement till it crashes and burns. 500 years is a relatively short period of time, albeit not a lifetime. Thinking in terms of karma and consequences requires one to broaden their scope of time.

  46. that “what the $##^& was i thinking feeling” is something i have experienced. maybe i’ve been the target of a love spell after all. probably too late to do anything about it now.

  47. Someone earlier was looking for a Dion Fortune book. If it’s “Principles of Hermetic Philosophy” then that book is available on ebay and probably elsewhere on line. Regarding “The Cosmic Doctrine” I have discovered that I have two copies; an older and a newer edition, and that the chapter headings, etc. do not line up precisely. I have a 1966 Helios “revised and enlarged edition,” and the newer Weiser paperback from 2000. They aren’t quite the same, with the Weiser edition having some additional chapters. .

  48. @Ganesh Ubuntu:

    There is a fine example in John Michael Greer’s Star’s Reach. I do not want to spoil one of the parts of the book where I laughed–even though I shouldn’t, but I digress–so, if you read the book, pay attention to the story of nice Mr. Dell.

  49. Simo P:

    I suspect that people, or the middle/upper-middle classes in particular, have plenty of money to spend on their children. My observations of the younger members of my extended family tell me that instead of spending all that time taking their children to an actual toy store, they are ordering on Amazon or other website and having the stuff delivered. I have heard, although I have no direct knowledge thereof, that children are themselves using some electronic object in their home which they can speak to and will do their bidding/order their toys, sort of like a 21st century genii. It might be that Alexa thing, but I could be wrong. It’ll be a cold day in hell before we have something like that in our house.

    My younger sisters have smallish children and, although we are estranged, I hear through our family grapevine that these children have tons of plastic and electronic gewgaws to fill their time. I would assume that their situation is similar to that of many suburban youngsters, children of striving, successful Millennials, who deny their offspring nothing, because these parents are enslaved to their children’s whims and intimidated by the scrutiny and judgement of other parents.

  50. Following the idea of not casting spells to acquire wealth that you didn’t earn, I have a few thoughts on this. First, the concept of “earning.” How does the universe decide what is real work, and what the compensation for that work should be? For example, my husband started a ball-bearing company. He worked his butt off – long hours, below minimum wage pay – selling his bearings to auto shops, big factories, etc. most of the hard work involved convincing people to buy his product. He eventually built up his business to such a degree that he was living a comfortable upper middle class life, selling ball bearings to companies who then made products that were sold to consumers who went into debt to buy the newest, most fantastic new trinket. Eventually a competitor bought out his little ball-bearing company for millions more than it was worth, depending on how you define worth, and he was catapulted into a much higher standard of living. Then there’s me. I fell in love with autistic children. I worked ful-time at minimum wage while earning my bachelors degree (back when it was possible to do that) and have spend my life getting people with mental illness off the streets and into safe, supported places – at barely above minimum wage. I’d love to win the lottery. Does the universe set values for wages that are different from what society does, and does that matter, in the end, when your win-the-lottery spell works? Or does the universe still say, hey, you didn’t earn that so the next typhoon is aiming for your fancy solar panels on your fancy house that you didn’t earn.

    On another topic, the magical thinking topic, the idea that there are no limits to what you can do, be, or have… our 13 year old is growing out of the childhood beliefs that food just appears on the table, that the floors clean themselves, that behind everything she has and does, some human has labored. It is normal and developmental. Perhaps the belief that with magic there are no limits to what you can create is essentially a denial of adulthood.

  51. Ben, shifting your consciousness to the astral and/or etheric bodies isn’t a first essential step. It’s one option that some people who practice magic do, and most don’t, and it’s far from essential, or even that useful. The first essential step is establishing the habit of regular practice of banishing rituals, meditation, and divination, so that you can begin developing the astral and etheric bodies and senses you already have. As for the knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, yes, I’ve known people who’ve done that; I’ve also known people who’ve achieved initiation in other ways.

    Fuzzy, hah. Sweet dreams….

    Booklover, oh, granted. An excellent point, in fact.

    Yucca, it’s possible that the healing spells simply didn’t work; the fairly simple kinds of magic you can do with runes and sigils can only do so much, and so they may have been punching above their weight. It’s also possible that nothing anyone could have done would have helped the illnesses in question — especially when you have karma involved. That’s one of the reasons why it’s crucial to do divination before doing a working.

    Housewife, exactly. “Upgrading the product” is the most effective way to solve most personal problems through magic, since (a) the one common factor in all of your problems is you, and (b) you have more power over yourself than you have over anything else. One of the reasons sex, love, and romance are such a minefield these days is that people of both sexes approach them with absurdly unrealistic expectations of what they can expect from another person, on the one hand, and absurdly low expectations of what they should expect to offer another person, on the other.

    Varun, approach magic with that intention and you’ll go very, very far indeed.

    Simon, getting cold feet when your spell works is a very effective way to mess up your life. I’m glad your friend was able to get some help.

    Housewife, of course! Some limits are internal and some are external, some are flexible and some just aren’t. Life isn’t simple, and simple rules don’t work well.

    Abdulmunem, I’ve read a little about the use of Arabic letter combinations in Muslim magic and mysticism; it sounds like a very worthwhile practice to explore — and of course Franz Bardon’s book on Cabala covers that as well.

    Blue Sun, if you’ll page through a copy of the book we’re studying — Mystery Teachings From The Living Earth — you’ll find a detailed explanation of how the laws of magic are also the laws of ecology. Karma is a way of talking about one of those laws, the law of cause and effect.

    Aron, it depends very much on the type of spell. If you don’t mind discussing it in public, what did you do, and what effect do you want to neutralize? As for the solstice gathering, I’ll have an announcement about that shortly. In the meantime, if you’d like to put your email address in a comment here marked “not for posting,” I’ll forward it to the person who’s hosting the gathering.

    Jaymoses, yes, it might have been a love spell; on the other hand, it’s not uncommon for momentary passions to have the same effect. If you’re safely out of the situation, don’t worry about doing something about it now.

    Phutatorius, I have both editions; I prefer the Helios revised and enlarged edition, but will be giving the relevant pages in both.

    Skylight, you don’t need to worry about that when you’re doing a magical working. Just ask the universe to give you the opportunity to earn the money you need, and let it decide what “earning” amounts to in this case. As for the avoidance of adulthood, yes, exactly.

  52. JMG, the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram counts as a banishing ritual, is that correct? I’ve learned it from your Celtic Golden Dawn book (which I acquired legally, of course).

  53. You’ve discussed a lot of the book, and I see how the entire thing gels together. Two things come to mind when considering a path, whether it be casting a spell or dealing with the world around you.

    For me, the first one to always remember is TANSTAAFL..

    The second is to think things through and then whatever you attempt to change, run the Golden Rule through your mind, and place yourself at the receiving end of the change. That may be as a species or as a person – but look at it from more than the simplistic angle of “I really want to change’X’ because I just want and need ‘Y’ so very much…”

    It isn’t just spells that can boomerang on you – karma is quite thorny and usually asymmetrical – it makes the lesson easier to take to heart.

    Thee are ALWAYS limits – pick your venue and then look at what you have in hand. They rapidly define themselves. Trying to cross a desert with a liter of water just never works well, even if you have a tank full of fuel.

  54. “Spells to force someone else to fall in love, and spells to get money without earning it, are the two most popular classes of guaranteed-to-fail, blow-up-in-your-face, your-life-becomes-a-smoking-crater magical workings.”

    The short story “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs illustrates that point.

  55. Hello,
    I have unaccountably mislaid my copy of Mystery Teachings, and have begun doing a close reading of Cosmic Doctrine (it has taken me best part of a week to traverse the first page or so).

    So I am not feeling as conceptually in tune with the current reading as I might otherwise be.

    Still I have a story to relate about what now seems to me to have been a magical protection spell – though I did not call it that at the time.

    I was in my early twenties, living in a city apartment, and decided to offer Spanish classes in my sitting room. I had a decent turnout, but among them was a very intense young man, who, now knowing my address, quickly seemed to develop an obsession with me. He started tracking my habits and “turning up” almost everywhere I went, sometimes calling to the flat itself. He never did or said anything threatening, and was generally pleasant, still I felt unnerved at his habit of “happening to be” in all the places I was. Over the course of a few weeks I seemed to find him somewhere on my daily path at least once, sometimes twice – and our class was only a weekly one.

    I occasionally attended a Quaker meeting in those days, and the crux of the matter came one Sunday when I encountered him (a good Irish Catholic) sitting “by chance” in the Quaker meeting house. I found that with my eyes open or closed I was hyperaware of his presence, and did not want to be. So I spent most of the meeting doing a strong “anti-visualisation”. What I did was I memorised where each person was sitting (there were probably around 10 people present at the meeting), and closed my eyes. With my “inside” eyes I circled around and around the room, picturing each person in their place as accurately as I could, but when reaching the place of Earnest Young Man, I would visualise a blank seat, then continue around the room. It took me many “circlings” of this kind to gain a sense of inner peace, and a sense of disconnecting from the force of his attention.

    When the meeting ended, there was tea and biscuits and we cordially said hello to one another and then went our separate ways. I did not see him “appear” in my days again. We did meet at a large gathering many months later, but that really did feel accidental and not purposive.

    For myself, I was not trying to make “him” a blank (I don’t think so, anyway), just trying to reduce the overwhelming power of “focus” that arises from finding yourself in the glare of someone’s unwanted attention. It seemed to work, and I have found myself thinking about that from time to time. To my knowledge, I have never attempted anything similar involving another person.

  56. Hi John Michael,

    Interesting stuff. And lot’s of discussions about love and money spells – which I wouldn’t bother with. Sometimes I feel as if people have somehow forgotten that in order for there to be benefits, there must be costs, and that the two are more or less in balance – perhaps leaning a little bit towards the costs side of that equation. No matter, I feel that that reflects nature as entropy is everywhere You did mention long ago the maxim that: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! 😀

    Also speaking of which, I’m beginning to wonder if nature itself also has its own subtle language because if you look around you and observe what is going on there is always a story being told. Dunno, I’m just trying to get my head around that one.

    Hey, I was also going to mention that accepting limits are a form of freedom. I may have mentioned to you before about the story that people used to tell me when I was a kid about: how I could do anything? That was clearly a lie, but it didn’t stop them telling me that mantra No wonder so many people believe in progress. Anyway, if a person accepts limits, they can get to the task of actually accomplishing something. Most people appear to me to seem fearful of making a bad decision and so they fail to make any decision. Of course not choosing to make a decision is also an act of making a decision, although people may argue that point of view – as they have done so in the past with me.

    People try to hide limits under a story of ‘potential’ and that just annoys the heck out of me.

    Hot and windy weather here tomorrow. Very risky. Climate wierding is not very pleasant.

    Cheers

    Chris

  57. JMG,

    I think the Law of Limits as it pertains to the spiritual plane is at odds with the beliefs of many today. It certainly contradicts the description of an omniscient God as taught in Confirmation Class, if I understand your definition properly. And while I’ve thought that some people use their belief in an omniscient God to be “lazy” or fatalistic about their personal ethics, I made a similar error in logic in judging them negatively for that.

    Your description of “modern pop-spirituality” about limits implies that this view is recent, but hasn’t the practice of theism (and an omnipotent and omniscient Creator) been prevalent now for almost 2000 years, at least in the West?

  58. This is turning out to be a fascinating conversation and I wish to share something of relevance and ask for advice.

    For background: I’m what Dion Fortune labeled a “natural psychic.” Given that I have no training whatsoever, I’m highly sensitive and perceptive into the etheric and astral levels of existence, being highly affected by vibes and having many, many verified insights. Also, I’ve spontaneously produced highly effective magic spells, again, without any training. One, an effective money spell of spontaneous provenance I think deserves to be noted given the ongoing conversation this week. It involves carefully sweeping and deep cleaning a house and collecting all the coins that are discovered in the process. The coins are put in in a jar, which is tied with a red thread or cloth and placed on the altar or a window sill. I’ll say nothing more on this account other than it is, it would appear, highly effective.

    As a young adult I stumbled around the Neo-Pagan scene and fell into a relationship. I was the younger of the relationship and the healthier of the two. Thinking I knew what I was doing, and having read it was safe, I engaged in sending healing energy to this person on multiple occasions. This person asked for more and more of these sessions which left me feeling drained. After a certain point I stopped, but afterwards I developed similar set of injuries as this person, who was also using me as their workhorse. In the intervening 5 years, I have not been able to close the tear by which they access my energy. I also feel they may be draining my sexual energy. Dion Fortune speaks of this sort of dynamic in Sane Occultism but she, frustratingly, only mentions that there are ways of breaking the bond, not the practical techniques.

    My question is how do you decrease this sort of energetic connection with someone? I’ve stopped having any contact with her now for many months but think that there is still a tear in my etheric body that she is exploiting. I have a protective amulet (bent nail, salt, cinquefoil, st john’s wort, motherwort etc in red cloth over my heart) and vinegar evaporating in my room. I have your excellent Natural Magic workbook and do daily banishings and am seeking physical therapies as well. That being said, if you know practical techniques or can think of any books that discuss these techniques, I’d be delighted to purchase them and get to work healing the rupture in my etheric body.

  59. Sorry, but apropos of my story, earlier. What I did not make fully clear, though I think it is the salient point of the story. The “change” that I made was definitely within my own psyche and perception. But there was also a change in him, at least, there was an observanle behavioural response in that he immediately stopped gratuitously “appearing”. So, was he really *only* esponding to a change that had occurred entirely within me? Had his own will been altered? or just his perception of where my boundaries lay? And is that the kind of thing that can happen?

  60. JMG,

    I’m curious about something now: how would someone tell if an explosive mess in their life is a result of magic? It’s easy to do if you know you cast a working aiming to change things, or if you know someone else did something, but if all you know is a situation, is there a way to tell if it’s just a mess or if there’s something more to it?

    I ask because my group of friends exploded in a way similar to Some Body’s situation, and I know I’m not the only one interested in the occult in it. Among many other things there’s one person who seemed to be the focus of a lot of people’s romantic attention before they went “what the frack was I thinking?” and the discussion of love spells and the results seems to describe things a bit too well.

  61. I’m pretty sure that I have been the target of a love spell. There was a particular person who always seemed to be sitting in proximity to me when I was in the pub and had a particularly intense air to them. I wasn’t attracted to them at all, and just thought the situation slightly odd.

    One evening she strode into the pub, and on seeing her I felt something like a giant ball of liquid energy land on my head and ripple down through my body, and suddenly my heart was racing and I was almost uncontrollably attracted to her. I kept looking at my beer and thinking “what in God’s name have they put in this?”

    I was immediately suspicious about the whole thing, and kept away from that particular pub for a few months. But I remain deeply impressed at just how powerful that spell was – it was as potent as any drug.

  62. Hi JMG,

    reading this chapter, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which limits can and can’t be changed. There are the big obvious limits like gravity, and it doesn’t require much insight to figure out that they’re not budging for anyone. I think it’s in the not-so-obvious, subtler areas of one’s inner life where things are perhaps not as hard and fast as they might appear at first glance.

    When I look at the many limits in my life, I wonder – are these limits actually the product of ‘my’ own beliefs and choices? Or is my identity really just a collection of values that has been shaped by my upbringing and society? As with many things, I think the answer lies somewhere in between those two ideas. Apart from the natural laws of the universe, the limits which currently affect me are a product of both my own choices and personal circumstances, and the values and expectations of my society.

    I think it’s quite challenging to get outside of the limits of culture and society, and start to recognize them as mere constructions instead of solid unchangeable things. Many of the limits I learned in childhood have become so ingrained that it’s difficult to behave in ways which they do not permit. Many are likely locked in my subconscious, and shape my worldview and actions in ways that aren’t even apparent to me. I can’t even see them or how they affect me.

    One example comes to mind here; my relationship with my father, which could be summed up, as much as it is possible to sum up an entire relationship, by describing it as me playing the victim to his cold, sad, angry persecutor. His own behavior was admittedly shaped by the limits of the Old-World culture of his childhood in southern Italy. Will I be forever limited to that kind of unbalanced relationship with men? For a long time and to a certain extent that’s just how I thought relationships were supposed to be. But the more I explored, the more I started to see how that formative relationship was based on a binary, and if I could only step out of that into a different way of being, it might be possible for me to change my future relationships with other people.

    Since I want to be truly alive and able to play with the universe, instead of just locked into a prison of dead and inflexible limits, I want to continue to find ways of exploring and recognizing the limits that shape my actions in the world. Some methods for doing that come to mind here – traveling and being immersed in other cultures has been extremely useful. So has reading books, especially from other cultures, other times, or with perspectives that run counter to the way I usually think – it’s like having a conversation with someone who has very different limits and values that then bring my own limits into light by virtue of their difference. You’ve mentioned the benefits of learning other languages, which so far I’ve only done in somewhat limited ways, but I could see how learning another language thoroughly would serve to challenge the way one thinks about the world. And then there’s magic, which I have come to see as a very useful tool for digging into the soil of the subconscious, uprooting the limits and beliefs which have been lying hidden, and sowing the seeds of some new beliefs which serve better. The process seems to be to almost fully lose myself in another worldview entirely, take on its limits and characteristics for a time, then come back to my own culture being prepared to see it in an entirely new light. This then permits me to question some of the limits which I previously hadn’t even been able to see. And maybe start to realize that those limits are not as immutable as I first thought.

    At that point the questions shift a little bit – if I find limits that no longer serve me, but are linked to values which our society upholds, am I then willing to pay the price for going against society’s values? Are there perhaps other people who are also starting to see through our culture’s values, which may or may not be still serving them well? Are they also ready and willing to try to redefine those limits? The paradigm of progress, seemingly linked to a patriarchal worldview, comes to mind here. In my own life, I’m finding that some of the limits of that paradigm are being called into question, and when I look around me in the world, it seems I may not be the only one who might be feeling that way too. Can we slowly start to redefine those limits and craft a new paradigm that serves better? Can some of those limits, which seemed so rigid and inflexible at first glance, actually be changed through my own actions, and the actions of others? I suppose that’s how paradigms, and hence limits, wind up being reshaped. The first step though, is to learn to see and understand the limits, as it’s only possible to change something once it can be seen.

  63. Bruno, yes, if you do it in banishing mode. It can also be used as a summoning ritual.

    Oilman2, those are very good things to keep in mind.

    KL, true enough.

    Scotlyn, nicely handled. One thing to keep in mind about the effect is that when somebody tries to cast a spell on you, a link is established between the caster and you, and that link works both ways — so if you then turn around and project something back at the caster, his chances of defending himself against that are very small. It’s no surprise that he stopped showing up.

    Chris, excellent! And knowing that you have limited time in this life, and therefore might not want to waste it dithering about making a choice, is just another form of accepting limits… 😉

    Drhooves, classic monotheism tends to claim that God has no limits, but it’s a rare monotheist faith that claims that human beings have no limits — au contraire, monotheist faiths by and large pile on the limits with a really big shovel. That has problems of its own, but people in the traditional forms of those faiths don’t tend to fall into the specific delusions of modern pop spirituality.

    Potentilla, etheric healing is best done hands-on; you might see if you can find someone in your area who does psychic healing and is familiar with the sort of thing you need.

    Will, unfortunately nobody I know of has come up with a magic-ometer that can detect the presence of magic in a situation. It’s a real pity. “Okay, I’m getting a reading well over 200 agrippas — yeah, there’s pretty obviously been a spell cast here” — that would so helpful!

    Phil, yep. That’s what it feels like.

    Stefania, excellent. These are some of the reflections I’m hoping to encourage with discussions like this one.

  64. Please relate this topic to your thoughts on what you would deem appropriate magical practice with respect to sacred power sites. Is there a line that would spur you to intervene if you were in a position to prevent it from being crossed. In other words, if you found out someone intended to desecrate a mostly forgotten ancient site of obvious sacred and healing energies, at what point does this become something you will take personal risks to prevent? What would qualify someone to be appointed to guard against such incidents?

  65. I have a couple of questions about curses/malefic works/bad legacies, and how best to deal with them in an ecologically responsible way;

    First story;
    My Dad’s Mother died during the Great Depression, and my Dad’s Father left his two toddlers with the Maternal Grandmother to search for work. He eventually found it several thousand miles away, but never sent for his children. He remarried, had more children, and never returned.
    My Dad was never able to forgive him for this, and took steps to be sure that none of us, his children, ever had contact with, or met his Father (although his Father tried several times to renew ties to my Dad). They have both died now, and never renewed family ties.

    When Dad died, I told my sibs that I thought we should try to reconcile with that grandfather’s other descendants. This idea was not well-received. Dad had several times discouraged us from making any contact with that side of his grandfather’s family.

    Even before Dad died, I could see this bad legacy continuing among his children. We tend to hold grudges that keep us apart. I have been on the receiving end of snubs and insults from a few of my siblings, but have decided to do my best to ignore the insults, speak well of my family members to my son, and help the children of my sibs in any way I can. I have to say that these efforts have not helped to restore friendly relations. They thank me for the help and seem to benefit from it, but the snubs and insults continue.

    Question 1: Is there anything else I can do to lessen or dispel this family bad legacy/generational curse?

    Next story;
    For several years, my wife, son and I have had a run of unfortunate incidents that make me wonder if we are the target of some sort of curse or malefic work. I am considering defensive magic.

    Question 2: What down side, if any, is there to doing defensive magic? If our spiritual ecology is a closed system like our environmental ecology, and I deflect bad workings with defensive magic, will that deflected bad stuff pollute the local environment for everyone else, or even hit some innocent bystander?
    I remember, for example, the Biblical story of Jesus casting out a legion of demons from an afflicted person, and allowing them to go into a herd of pigs, driving them off a cliff. The innocent bystander in this story is of course the pig farmer, who instantly went into hard times with the loss of his livestock… This account makes me feel that such collateral damage is possible with defensive workings….

    Thanks in advance for any insights! –E.G.

    PS– SomeBody, thanks so much for sharing your very bad experience! I am certain that it will keep other people from making the same sort of mistakes, and I hope that the good that results will come back to you quickly!

  66. On changing yourself– I’m reminded of the Serenity Prayer, and also of the variant on it you hear in some 12 Step Programs: “God grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the Courage to change the one I can, and the Wisdom to know that it’s me.”

    On the ecology of magic, I’ve noticed that small variations in my daily magical practices can have large repercussions in my life. I am specifically thinking about elemental pore breathing. For those who aren’t aware, this is a common practice of “inhaling” one of the 5 elements through the pores of one’s body. The magician focuses on breathing in the specific qualities of the element that he wishes to enhance in himself. In the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn which JMG heads, we do pore-breathing to open each session of meditation.

    In general, I use either Water or Spirit to open my meditations. I have found that Fire and Air are very unbalancing for me. After doing a bit of Air breathing I often start laughing maniacally, as though I had just taken a giant lungful of pot. Breathing Fire I feel like a terrible dragon. And like I said, the effects don’t go away after the meditation ends, but influence my mood, my thought processes and even my dream life and my sexuality (there is a story here, for another time).

    I live in a hot and dry– that is, fiery– climate. My tendencies are toward excess activity and movement, emotional reactivity and injury (fire, air). I’ve come to see the interaction of my personal temperament with the landscape in which I live as its own ecosystem, which is then further influenced by my magical practice, including the elemental work. Adding more heat to an already hot situation throws me out of balance. I found that, after I started breathing Water regularly, I saw measurable improvements in my life– the bad temper that I had developed calmed down quite a bit, for example.

    @ Beaver– You’ve probably had enough advice at this point. But I’m going to add my two cents. My experience suggests that a regular magical practice, focusing not on attaining love or money, but on spiritual growth, will have the side effects of improving your life in every other area as well. The basic daily practices in the Golden Dawn tradition of banishing, energy work (i.e. Middle Pillar) and meditation have over time the effects of removing weird and toxic energies from your aura; expanding or “brightening” your own energy; and clarifying your emotional and thought processes. People really do respond to this, even when they don’t know that that’s what they’re responding to.

    @ Scotlyn– Oddly enough, I hit upon a similar technique on my own. When I’ve had to share a room with people whose energy I find distracting– in some cases because they seem excessively focused on me, as with the man in your story, and in other cases because they simply feel unpleasant to be around– I’ve closed my eyes and imagined them being “deleted” from the room. I find a noticeable shift in my posture and general energetic feeling when I do this– but I’ve also found that it doesn’t last very long. I am going to try the more fully realized version of the practice that you’ve described here.

  67. On the raspberry jam principle…

    I’ve only ever known one person who deliberately practiced evil magic. This was a Wiccan who once told me “My specialty is hexing the crap out of people.” This Wiccan is an emotional basket case who radiates self-loathing in every direction.

    The way I understand this is– Magic functions at the level of consciousness, so every magical act is akin to a thought-act. We all know people who spend all of their time resenting and hating other people and being angry and starting fights. Whether they’re pagans, Christians or atheists, they’re profoundly miserable people. Concentrating one’s resentful thoughts into a magical working just seems to enhance and concentrate this rather ordinary phenomenon.

    There are people, though, who seem to work evil magic without realizing it. I know one person who seems to be very psychically sensitive– she has known on at least 2 occasions the nature and manner of a person’s death months before it happened. She is both very manipulative and very hateful in the ordinary manner, and seems to have a capacity for producing the kind of effects Phil Knight described in his post. I’ve personally experienced it, more than once and just as Phil described. I’ve also experienced psychic vampirism in her presence. And she’s also one of the angriest, most emotionally incontinent and most unhappy people I’ve ever had to deal with.

  68. And lastly, JMG– Barring an agrippanometer, do you consider divination useful for determining whether evil magic is present? Lilly mentions this in Christian Astrology, but I’ve personally never used any means of divination for this purpose, because I consider a false positive way too likely. (I also once saw an account of one of those disgraceful internet “flame wars” between magicians in which a person was told, “You are doing black magic– and I have the tarot readings to prove it!” That’s stuck in my mind under the heading “Don’t be that guy.”)

  69. Agh! Okay, one more, on topic for the series as a whole but potentially off topic for the post in question.

    Can you give me a quick summary of how close reading works?

    Googling is as unhelpful as you might imagine, directing me to such worthless things as Common Core and modern literary criticism.

    The Cosmic Doctrine arrived in the mail yesterday. Would “Read a sentence and reflect on it for a bit before reading the next sentence” be enough of a close-read to get what I need out of the text? Or is a full meditation per sentence or paragraph required? Or are these opposite ends of a spectrum along which every point is a degree of close reading?

  70. I have been reading the back and forth commentary on relationships, unrequited love, and love magic and the ramifications that fiddling with and trying to control this stuff can have on a person.

    My simple advice, for what it is worth, just ride the thing as it is and see if you can hang on for 8 seconds. You can’t control it. But if you cinch the rope tight, and trust instinct, you might just come out in one piece after they pull the gate. Hell, who knows, you may even win the buckle. Of course, you may end up on your arse in the dirt.

    There isn’t a cowboy who didn’;t say a prayer as he sat in the chute and there isn’t a cowboy who didn’t get thrown at some point. It is the nature of the beast.

    Lord knows, I’ve ended up on my backside a time or two. But I also hit the lottery.

  71. Sometimes there’s something else going on, something fairly mundane, when a person or a situation makes you wonder whether you might have been the object of someone’s love spell. I have known a handful of people who appear to be able to make anyone around them love them on first sight, or at first interaction, without going through any work or ritual of spell-casting. (It can be the selfless love known as “agape” in Greek, but our culture easily confuses that with erotic love, or “eros” in Greek, so mostly it’s a blend of the two that these people produce.).

    There’s a common factor to the several people like this whom I’ve gotten to know rather well: they all had childhoods that left them feeling not merely unloved, but downright unlovable.

    What I think might be going on here is that these children, desperate to be loved, learned early on to nudge the pheromones they emit in such a way as to induce attraction and affection, or even desire. I expect this always happened unconsciously at first; and it seems to remain unconscious with most such people I have known. However, I have met a few who I suspect have gained some empirical control over this bodily process of theirs, and can turn it on and off more or less at will. — This isn’t precisely magic, in the crude, popular sense of the word. But since pheromones are hardly talked about in our culture, it feels like magic.

    And there are definitions of magic that would clearly cover manipulation of one’s own pheromones toward specific ends. Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers once defined magic as “the Science of the Control of the Secret Forces of Nature.” Since knowledge of what pheromones are and how they work is still far outside the ken of the average layman (and very poorly understood even by scientists), their production and use can indeed be called a secret force of nature.

    And of course, in our culture unloved children are rather common, and very many of them have grown up to feel inherently unlovable. (I saw a lot of them while I was still teaching at my university.) Most of these children, to the best of my own knowledge, never do develop any skill in using their pheromones, but they either just keep on toughing things out despite their sense of being unlovable, or they find ways of numbing their pain. (The choice between these two options varies with the child, and many do both.) Only a fortunate few seem to have found the third option I have been describing here.

  72. Chris at Fernglade, one interesting thing about modern pop psychology and self-help books is that they are bad at acknowledging limits, with the result that people are bewildered in the way you describe and have difficulty actually achieving things. Another cause of the fear to make bad decisions is, that in the modern Western world, there is often no clear idea how this or that problem should be treated, and the ideas about accomplishing things are often dysfunctional.

    Besides that, I have a question: Is it true that some things I or other persons do in the course of my daily life, particularly when attempting to achieve a goal are a kind of magic, which is less effective, but at the same time less risky than ritual magic?

    And, by the way, this thread turns out to be an interesting and sometimes facinating one!

  73. How do you tell the difference between blowback and ordinary spell failure? I cast an anti-gossip spell on a former employer that I thought was slandering me – only for the matter to end up in the local paper. I was perfectly happy to accept any limitations on my own speaking about the matter, and yet it failed.

    Thanks for the discussion on learning Tarot, by the way – it’s been very helpful.

  74. Robert Mathiesen,

    Interestingly enough, the person who seemed to draw a lot of attention fits your definition. I’m not sure that’s it though, because while awkward, things didn’t start falling apart until she got interested in the occult. To the best of my knowledge she never cast anything, but the explanation of what I think happened is that I was the target of a love spell (which probably didn’t need to be well done to work, since I was already interested, but there’s a very long story here as to why I didn’t express the fact I was), which she wouldn’t want to tell me about.

    JMG,

    What about divination, just asking if magic was involved, or asking for further clarification of the situation? Interestingly, looking back at my notes, when I tried any Ogham divination of something involving that group I almost always drew either Nuin or Ur, both of which are associated with magic….

    On another note, you said that getting cold feet when a spell works is a pretty reliable way to mess up your life. I’m curious: is that just because you have to live with whatever you cast, or is there more to it?

  75. Will J,

    It might well be that both things were at work here together: she was beginning to control her pheromonal emissions at the same time as she was getting into the occult, and a synergy developed between the two practices, I can easily see where one’s growing mastery of one’s pheromonal emissions could be aided by a ritual practice as a (Pavlovian trigger) stimulus. Think of the Mentats in Dune (in the movie only, not the book) who had a small ritual they used when they also enhanced their abilities by the juice of the Sapho plant: “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains.” etc.

  76. JMG
    I appreciate in the chapter your discussion of virtue and vice and the ethical dimension of magic. Magic seems part of the inner life and thought with the same ethical dimension and practical results. Your practical suggestion for using the Seven Laws as rules of thumb for testing the ethic could be a useful habit across any training. You write, for example, virtue sits among the vices according to the Law of Balance between cowardice and recklessness. Ah me … well I know it! But from time to time some other, the universe, the occasional angel has stooped with a steadying hand.
    best
    Phil H

  77. It seems to me that it would be rather easy and unfortunate to start to conclude too readily that one must be the victim of maleficent magical workings if several things in succession go wrong – a state of unhealthy paranoia and self-obsession could result.

    A safeguard against this might be to remember that, proverbially, ‘Troubles come in threes’, so a run of bad luck is really nothing special or out of the ordinary.

    And, also, to question to what extent one’s problems are a result of one’s own actions and attitudes – I’m sure we’ve all seen self-reinforcing ‘bad luck’.

    And I would suggest a third approach: is the ‘bad luck’ really bad at all? What possibilities does it contain?

    The worst things in my life have, in retrospect, been among the most beneficial.

    The old Chinese tale of ‘The Old Man on the Hill’ is illuminating in this respect -what his neighbours took to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ luck were quite the opposite in the wise Old Man’s eyes…..

    Only then would I be inclined to cast about for a wicked magician to be countered (and clearly they do exist, I have no doubt).

    Ordinary human malice, if concentrated and persistent enough can also have a profound effect, as I have found living in this village: luckily, the nasty old buggers are all dying off – not wished for, of course, but sometimes not uncelebrated…….. 🙂

  78. I may have missed it but the magical plane is one not often acknowledged by many people but just as we are born and present in the physical plane without our having control of that situation, I imagine so too we are all present on the magical plane and thus are able to impact and influence the magical plane without even being aware we are doing so. And just as we are doing dumping tons of toxins into the physical plane, I imagine there are tons of toxins being dumped into the magical. If this is all the case, surely there are some tools to deal with this situation?

  79. Since it seems everyone here is already talking about the mechanics and ethics of spell casting, I’ll pose this question to anyone who can offer insight:

    My elderly mom is being abused and neglected by one of my siblings who, as it turns out, is Mom’s legal guardian. Among other things, Guardian is preventing Mom from seeing any doctor to address minor (so far) medical issues. We – the rest of the siblings – have already sought help through the ordinary avenues, but I can report that Adult Protective Services doesn’t actually protect adults, and the court system, through which we are currently working, is slow, unbelievably expensive, and not necessarily sympathetic.

    I would very much like to bind Guardian from causing further injury to Mom. Since I am not, and would never be, perpetrating such mistreatment, I don’t think that I would suffer from the repercussions of the spell and I could happily live with being bound from hurting my mom. However, as a person with limited experience I’d be interested in hearing from wiser minds before I decide to do anything.

  80. Robert Mathiesen – As someone who’s skeptical about popular magic, I find your proposition that we can modify the ways in which we communicate chemically (e.g., pheremones) is a plausible area of unknown science. Scientists have little trouble explaining the response of other mammals to the scents of their peers, yet we humans don’t take it seriously (unless we’re buying or selling perfume!) Perhaps it’s one of those fields that’s too dangerous to investigate? Thanks for sharing it.

    Beekeeper – One plausible outcome for a spell to protect your Mom from her Guardian is for you to take the place of the Guardian, whether or not that’s what you actually imagine. If that’s not an acceptable outcome, well, be careful what you wish for. (She could also pass beyond the realm of physical danger…)

  81. Hi Beekeeper in Vermont,

    Have you called the police? If there are elder abuse laws in your state they should be able to get Mom out of there pretty darn quick, especially if she’s able to testify that she’s been prevented from seeing a doctor. Even if she’s senile she might be examined as part of the investigation. It’s worth a try.

  82. JMG,

    On the subject of the etheric body, is Robert Bruce’s Energy Work compatible (or at least not incompatible) with your system of Druid Magic? I would like to develop my etheric body as well as doing the Sphere of Protection and discursive meditation, as in my present domestic situation I’m not really able to set up an altar or use scented candles etc.

    Thank you for any advice!

  83. Sometime I feel strongly that our cosmos and ourselves are filled with information energies that never stop throwing their spells negative or positive radiations. Our thoughts, our words representation , our letters and their combinations are part of that setup. We live in an ecology of emissions,missions and transmissions. As there are soldiers of vice, there are soldiers of virtue, all sitting on the same table watching each other, sometime in balancing manner and sometime in a non-balance manner that decide the outcomes. The divine protective law, like all other laws, plays a major role in not allowing any bad or good effects inflect humans without his permission, this is to help the humans to exercise their free role in an an inhibited atmosphere, without fear and without falling under the spells of certain flowing words or combinations of words, such as troubles come in threes or misfortune never comes single, with the realization that we are living in a ruled cosmos that nothing runs amiss It is the human wills that are the decisive factor in the outcome of these processes. There is a verse in the Koran which says that good and bad are from god, then say . that what good you receive is from god and what bad you incur is from yourself , at the end he ask interrogativ why do not these people understand the rules of the game.
    It seems we are moving to understand the rules of the game and to learn that each person is pawned by his intention. Thank you Greer for your ethical magic that helps a lot in the way of our spiritual resurrection .

  84. Lathechuck:

    I had not thought of taking the place of the guardian by erasing Guardian from the situation. It is an interesting idea that I think I’d be comfortable with and capable of doing. As for replacing Guardian through the court system, well, our attorney warned us that courts are loathe to replace guardians until the behavior gets genuinely outrageous and even then there’s no guarantee.

    I should mention that Guardian is a licensed mental health counselor and is managing to keep all actions just within the line that separates legal from illegal. (Keep that in mind if you should ever seek counseling help; licensed does not mean competent or safe.) Guardian fleeced Mom for all the money that Dad had carefully saved during his life, then had Mom declared incompetent so that Mom could not testify about the theft. I realize Guardian is piling up a whole mess of bad karma, but that doesn’t help Mom right now.

    Fuzzy:

    Police have been no help because Guardian is well aware of the law and is staying just inside what’s legal/provable. The county judge has ordered a physical exam, but Guardian has so far blown the judge off. I hate to say this about my own sibling, but this is not a normal human being.

    Thank you both so much for your suggestions!

  85. Norm, the best thing to do in that case is to call on the powers of the sacred place itself, alert them to the danger, and ask them to take such action as they feel is appropriate. It’s very easy to get sucked into various kinds of drama around issues such as this one; since you have no way of knowing what the energies and entities guarding the sacred site do or don’t want to see happen, that’s not a useful habit.

    E. Goldstein, your family legacy would probably be better dealt with by a competent therapist or counselor than by the use of magic. If you can afford it, in fact, I’d encourage you to ask around and see if there’s somebody who does family-related therapy and counseling. That won’t help your siblings any, but they have the right to make their own bad decisions, you know.

    As for defensive magic, this is why I (and most trained ceremonial magicians) so highly recommend the regular practice of banishing rituals. The point of a banishing ritual is to restore balance — it’s like having the third prong on your electrical plugs, so that excess current can drain away someplace harmless. In many cases, furthermore, runs of bad luck or the like are produced by imbalances within the individual or the family, and regular ritual work — together with meditation and divination — can help with that considerably.

    Steve, I like that version of the Serenity Prayer! As for people who radiate nasty energy and cause the equivalent of magical attack to all and sundry, yes, they exist. Say this very quietly: that’s what the word “witch” used to mean, before it got picked up and redefined, first by the Christian church, and then by Margaret Murray, Gerald Gardner, et al. As far as divination as a way of detecting magical attack, yes, but it’s wise to use modes of divination that don’t allow lots of interpretive wiggle room. There are ways to do it with geomancy and horary astrology — you look for significators of hostile magic ruling or present in the eighth and twelfth houses — but I’d be very slow to rely on Tarot or one of the other highly symbolic modes of sortilege in such matters.

    As for close reading, we’ll get to that — it requires an entire post of its own, and will get one as the series of posts on a rhetorical education gets going.

    William, for a variety of reasons, comparing relationships to rodeo strikes me as at once very funny and very appropriate…

    Robert, that’s entirely possible. I’d wonder if etheric influences are also involved — the effectiveness of incense in magical settings has a lot to do with the interaction of volatile aromatic compounds with the etheric plane, and I could easily see pheromones having a similar effect.

    Booklover (if I may), sure. We all practice magic all the time; most of us don’t do so consciously, which is why we so often get things that (consciously) we don’t want. There’s a whole spectrum of practices ranging from the very simple and lightweight right on up to all-out ritual magic, and a lot of people figure out some of the simpler things all by themselves.

    Kfish, it may just have failed. Magic is no more omnipotent than, say, medicine or engineering; sometimes, no matter how hard you try and how carefully you make sure to do everything right, it doesn’t work.

    Will, as I noted to Steve above, yes, you can do divination, although it’s a good idea to be careful if you’re using an oracle that allows a lot of interpretive wiggle room. As far as getting cold feet and trying to back away from the results of a successful spell because you’ve changed your mind, what that does is lock up a bunch of your will and your magical energy in a self-canceling loop, and any aspect of your life too close to the subject of the spell will be drawn into the same loop and get stuck. Say you do a love spell, and it works, and then you decide that you’re tired of the person the spell brought into your life — sorry, you did the spell, you own the results. Even if you manage to get that person to leave you alone, a string of people with similar personal qualities (very much including the ones that irritate you most) will keep on falling in love with you, and you’ll keep on getting drawn into relationships with them; what’s more, your attempts to get a relationship going with anybody else will most likely go nowhere. Around and around you go! This is why working on yourself is the better option. If you do a spell to become more lovable, and follow through when it leads you to recognize the unlovable aspects of yourself and change them, why, you own the results; you’re a more lovable person, and that will tend to attract lovable people to you.

    Phil H., exactly! Magic is no different from the rest of life, except that the blowback tends to come faster and hit harder.

    Xabier, of course. Especially in small, close-knit communities, it’s very easy for fears of hostile magic to poison every relationship and turn very nasty very fast. The witchcraft persecutions of the Middle Ages generally had that as their basis. Regular banishing rituals and the recognition that life just sucks sometimes, without any need for supernatural nastiness, can help keep that sort of thing at bay.

    Prizm, here again, that’s why the daily practice of banishing rituals is such an important thing. Every time you do one, you’re helping to clean up the magical litter.

    Beekeeper, I’d encourage you instead to reframe your intention to get what you actually want out of the situation: good treatment for your mother. Don’t worry about binding your sibling, just focus your magical work on achieving the best possible outcome for your mother, and add in something to the effect of “without causing harm to any person.” That way, any blowback you get will be entirely welcome — presumably you’d like good treatment too, after all!

    Mouse, I’m not at all familiar with Bruce’s work, so can’t offer any help there. One caution, though; as a rule, it’s never a good idea to try to learn two systems of magic, or any other kind of inner work, at the same time. Learn one, and then learn the other.

  86. Beekeeper, you’ve got a tough problem! Does Guardian have a buddy in the court system? Few people can get away with ignoring a judicial order. Have you tried publicity?

  87. @ Robert (and Will J.),

    I recognized myself somewhat in your description in your first paragraph “of people who appear to be able to make anyone around them love them on first sight, or at first interaction”. Not quite at first sight, but after a few short minutes, I can usually connect with most people (not everyone) in a way that has women and most men smiling ear to ear with eyes glowing, and some men mistakenly thinking about romance. It’s deliberately done on my part, if I choose to do it, but I don’t think it has anything to do with pheromones.

    What I do is project outward an energy of quiet acceptance of exactly who they are at that moment. No judgment of any kind. Just a friendly, interested, open, accepting warmth. I smile, look in their eyes while deliberately projecting that energy, and they melt. Sometimes I get startled looks, but usually just a warm response back. I suppose you could call it agape love. My supervisors at work have said a number of times that I seem to have a gift for connecting with just about anyone. Some men get confused because, as you say, they assume it is erotic love, but if they attempt to go there, I immediately make it very clear that I am not available. I have no intention of leading anyone down that path. Some remain confused.

    I think people are responding to my energy because it makes them feel better, which is why I do it. There are so many lonely, hurt, desperate, lost souls out there that put on a brave smile! I’m guessing these souls are hungry for acceptance, or validation, or some human connection at a deeper level, and they can’t help but respond.

    But I was shocked to hear of the common thread you found: “childhoods that left them feeling not merely unloved, but downright unlovable.” The shock came from the recognition of a fact that I had not previously been conscious of about myself, but is true. I mentioned before that I was raised by a full-blown narcissistic mother. And at 56, I am still trying to heal from that.

    I mention this to give you my perspective on what I do to people. I didn’t spend any time during my childhood trying to induce attraction and affection. I must have given up on that fairly early, because, on the contrary, I spent all of my childhood hiding, withdrawing, daydreaming, reading books, and just trying to put a barrier between myself and the world. So I doubt that this is about pheromones.

    You have observed that people who do this all had terrible childhoods, in my case this is true. I can’t speak about why others are doing this, or even what they’re doing, but I can say I do it because it makes others feel good and making others feel good makes me feel good. Maybe because, as a strong empath, I feel the pain behind the masks? Maybe by alleviating a little of their pain I relieve mine? Maybe the response they give me creates its own energy which I readily pick up and it touches my own emptiness? So maybe I am doing my own version of the vampire? I’m wondering now, given this discussion, if I am wrong to do this? I will have to do some meditations on all this.

    In any case, thank you for mentioning this. It was an eye opener.

  88. JMG, there may well be influences from pheromones on the etheric plane; why not? I’m not in a position to say one way or the other, not at this stage in my thinking about it.

    The magic that came down to me on my mother’s side, and that I’ve been working with ever since childhood, didn’t make use of any concept of various planes (whether discrete or continuous), nor of any passage through various states of existence as one reincarnates. So I still don’t have much theoretical grasp of these things, and I’m not really used to thinking about magic in terms of them. I’ll need to understand them better before I might risk forming an opinion.

  89. Lathechuck, back in the day when I was teaching a course on the history of magic (“Magic in the Middle Ages”) at my university, I spent about 9 hours talking about the various ways in which magic could work, or at least could appear to work, and I did this as much as possible in terms of uncontroversial scientific phenomena, that is, in terms that would not raise doubts even in a skeptic and illusionist like James Randi. As it happens, one actually can account for the real or apparent effectiveness of a huge part of all the historically attested magical practices from Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. (Note: “real or apparent” effectiveness, not simply “real.”)

    I’d be happy to send a copy of the handout your way. You can find me on facebook under my real name, which is the name I use here, and send me a message with an email address. Or you can send an email address to me privately, via out host’s kind offices.

  90. Village life is fun, even in the 21st century, but a lot tamer than in the past: apparently, the last ‘witch-pricking’ incident in this part of England (East Anglia) . occurred in 1861.

    If you suspected someone had put you under a malevolent spell, you surrounded them with your chums and stuck them with pins and knitting needles -this was meant to make them repent and reverse the spell. I don’t believe people were actually murdered, and I suspect this was more about running them out of town.

    This was before draining largely a rather watery and ‘fenny’ sort of place, (I live on the edge of that) and in the 17th century it is said that witches were in those cruder days in fact bumped off and buried in the dyke banks. This also happened to tax collectors, Dutch water engineers and other such riff-raff.

    The very bad atmosphere in this village was maintained by two distinct groups: the ghastly hypocritical middle class church-goers, very English, and a peculiar group of – mostly Irish – working class people who were moved here in the 1950’s from town (into new public housing).

    I simply told myself not to wish them ill and that all would change in time; now they are dying off and much friendlier people have moved in. Mortality and change is a wonderful thing! Every evil passes, and hopefully while you are still alive and well.

    Curiously, I have always been great friends with a women from one of the oldest farming families here, from whom I buy a delicious butchered sheep every year – it was the outsiders who caused all the trouble, not the people who have been here for hundreds of years, and maybe forever…..

    If anyone has heard of ‘witch-pricking’ elsewhere in Europe or the States, or even further afield, I’d be pleased to hear from them.

  91. A friend of a friend used to joke about writing a book called “How I found Jesus, Lost Weight and Improved my Sex Life Through Witchcraft.” Judging from many responses to this post, he would have a best seller on his hands.

    A fellow who blogged under the name Rufus Opus told a humbling tale of how he had invoked a goetic demon and asked for a certain amount of money. Yeah, you know . . “the rest of the story” After a house fire, the insurance check was for the amount that he had asked for. He was a lot more careful after that. I admired his honesty–he could have just deleted the posts about goetic workings without any embarrassing explanations.

  92. “…since you have no way of knowing what the energies and entities guarding the sacred site do or don’t want to see happen…”

    I know enough that if the guardians didn’t want me living on the site for basically the last 52 years they would not have let me survive past the age of five, and guided me to the elders who have preserved the traditions of its ceremonies, many of whom have now passed, and did their level best to prepare me for what those who took it from them might be driven to do by forces I probably should try to buffer myself from.

  93. Well, I seem to have the opposite effect on people. I have a knack for being a lightning rod, and enraging people, and have for as long as I can remember. I just know how to push people’s buttons. Part of it is a willingness to slay sacred cows as well as a willingness to say that, indeed, the emperor has no clothes. Is it possible for a place to have a tainted egregor? I ask because I’m living in a very strange place. I’m living in a city that is defined by the farmland around it, that is one of the largest cities lacking either a freeway or decent public transit system that is notoriously difficult to get around (I’ve heard it competes w/Winnipeg for the title of largest city w/out freeways or decent transit) Growing up here, I had a miserable childhood, and viewed living here as a prison sentence. Upon returning after an extended absence, I became an agorophobe for reasons unrelated, and it took me forever to venture out. Once I finally did start to venture out, I kept telling myself that I needed to change my outlook, and look for opportunities. Now, a few years later, after many bad experiences, I’ve kind of thrown in the towel, as I’m not really willing to put myself out there anymore. I’m wondering if I’ve simply concentrated too much negative energy here? I have run my thoughts past others, and they seem to agree that the area is a very isolating, odd, and strange place. I’ve heard that a curse was place on it by the natives, and, indeed, whenever I commune w/nature here, I get the distinct feeling that the land hates the people, and I feel a lot the same way, in that I really connect w/the land but have an aversion to the people.

  94. One of the common sentiments I am noticing in this week’s comments is the idea that it’s impossible to completely neutralize a spell that you have changed your mind about. Now, I have no problem accepting the Law of Limits or even this week’s discussion of magical ethics. However, this particular idea gives me a pause. How come it’s possible to neutralize a negative spell cast on you by another, and yet impossible to neutralize a spell that you have cast, or that has rebounded on yourself?

  95. JMG,

    That sounds a lot like what is apparently happening with the person I think cast the spell. I really don’t care too much anymore: it’s run its course for me.

    Myriam,

    For what it’s worth, I see nothing wrong with your ability. It’s not something I view as immoral or anything. It doesn’t sound like it has a negative effect on people, and it may have a good impact on some. It’s worth thinking about, but I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with it.

  96. Robert, oh, granted. The entire language of planes got introduced to magic via specific intellectual currents in the 19th century — I don’t happen to remember whether it was originated by the early Theosophists or simply popularized by them, as it’s been too long since I’ve read Andrew Jackson Davis et al. — and plenty of traditions never adopted it. It’s simply so much a part of my own mental furniture that I default to it.

    Xabier, I seem to recall reading in American witch folklore that if the victim of a witch’s curse scratched her skin with iron and drew blood, the curse would recoil on the witch. (I used that in an old short story of mine that’ll be published for the first time in an upcoming issue of MYTHIC.) I’ve long since lost the source, though.

    Rita, yes, I heard of Rufus Opus’ little problem! That’s why smart mages don’t summon demons; they always do their level best to mess with you that way, and there are so many better ways to work magic that don’t have that downside.

    Norm, if you don’t like my advice, make your own decision and accept the consequences.

    Shane, I somehow got the idea from our online interactions that you really enjoy putting the cat among the pigeons; is that not the case?

    Rationalist, that’s a good question, and it has a straightforward answer. When somebody’s trying to affect you with a spell, there’s no intrinsic connection between you and the spell, and banishing rituals and other protective methods can keep such a connection from being established, so that the spell has no effect on you. If you yourself cast a spell, though, there’s an intrinsic connection from the get-go. That spell is charged by your life force and directed by your will; it’s part of you, and that’s why you can’t just make it go away.

    Will, good. Emotional detachment is a useful habit in such cases.

  97. dfr1973, JMG, Rita E Rippetoe, and others,

    Thank you all for the examples on how the money spells can blow back. It’s fascinating!

    packshaud,

    Thanks for reminding of Mr. Dell! I have read the book and enjoyed it a lot. And yes, Mr. Dell encounter does expose some of the mechanics of what’s being described here.

  98. JMG, I do have to admit, your answer concerning spell cancellation is pretty logical. Still, it is very worrying if this is really true. I mean, I have never cast a spell which I regret (not that I remember, anyway), but some of my friends have not been so lucky. What do I tell them? Won’t even multiple workings be enough to cancel the spell completely?

  99. @JMG
    Re: Planes

    I’ve always just assumed, with no particular evidence, that the idea was a retread of the idea of multiple levels of Heaven from early and Medieval Christian theology. Since I’ve studied computer architecture a bit, the basic notion of the way planes work is pretty much second nature: that’s the way layers work in a layered architecture, and woe betide anyone who violates the separation of the various layers! That way lies impossible-to-diagnose and repair bugs.

  100. Fuzzy:

    I do not know if Guardian has any personal contacts within the county court system. There is another hearing already scheduled with the judge, and our attorney thinks Guardian’s lawyer is going to have a tough time providing a rational reason that Guardian has failed to arrange a physical exam in the time allotted.

    In the meantime, we have been carefully gathering evidence regarding the theft of money and all of the other sordid goings-on. We were fortunate at first to have my sister’s friend, a former US attorney who used to prosecute organized crime, giving us advice and helping us ferret out information properly so that when the money thing finally goes to court we’ve got the strongest case and Mom will be repaid. We are also immensely lucky that Guardian is a lousy criminal and has left an awful lot of evidence lying about.

    JMG:

    Thank you for your suggestion. It is exactly what I need to be doing instead of dwelling on my disappointment and disgust at the guardian and the whole situation.

  101. A novel set in Australia had as a minor subplot point the practice, said to be English, of “scoring above the breath” – same thing as scratching the witch with iron and drawing blood, though fingernails were also effective. In this case, someone in prison had done it to a fellow inmate who was intimidating the others by playing at being devil-possessed. The real witch who exposed him had never been in the States in her life – Australian-born, Romani mother. So apparently the idea was either fairly widespread, or two separate people were very well-read. Fascinating, how scraps of folklore travel!

  102. Xabier writes about English villages being tamer than in the past. (In this one case I have checked for ‘witch-pricking’ round here, but turned up nothing so far.) Old notions, however, can live on even if the shadows are largely departed.

    We live adjacent the Scottish Border. Many curious tales have come through, some from a very remote past. For instance a local named historical landowner picked up the credit for a legendary event. This is commemorated in a stone relief carving over a church door, where the knight on horseback with lance is defeating the local ‘Worm’.

    I have always been surprised by how sunny the atmosphere of much of the Scottish Borderland has become considering the atrocious nature of the past prior to the Union of the Crowns. Not all matters, though, have been resolved. I had never lived near a major battle site until 35 years ago and had not expected that uneasy presence we noticed when we first moved in. Even the Civil War and the later Jacobite risings have left their lesser marks. I can’t help thinking of egregores. Despite, especially perhaps on the Scottish side, the more generally good atmosphere there are areas that retain their old unease, quite distinct from anything I have encountered elsewhere in most of Britain outside of the Tower of London and Hampton Court. (Ireland is something else.) ‘The Hermitage’ (Castle) for example is not what you might think it is from the title!

    I guess the more noticeable Border ‘sunlight’ results from the balance of many good lives, accrued even despite hardship. These outweigh the bad old days. Generations can move on, or even recover something from more distant, perhaps better times? (h/t Druids et al)

    best
    Phil H

  103. Synchronicity! I work as a software developer and just stumbled across a reference to a book called “Exercises in Programming Style” by Cristina Lopes. Promptly went across campus (the joy of working at a university) to fetch a copy from the library. The book is modeled on Raymond Queneau’s “Exercises in Style”, which I hadn’t heard about either. They both illustrate Law of Limits: take a trivially simple computer program (Lopes), or a trivially simple story (Queneau), rewrite it a number of times, each time applying different limits to the writing. What comes out of that is very powerful indeed. Highly enjoyable reading and great study material.

  104. @Will, Steve, and John Michael Greer,

    Regarding the Magic-ometer or Agrippanometer, there is the Random Event Generator or Mind-lamp that came out of Princeton’s Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) labs. It is a relatively crude instrument, used in experiments mostly to detect mass attention at sports events or group meditation practices – but with a bit of work, I think it might be a useful tool to at least detect a disruptive presence in an otherwise harmonious group. I’m working on a cheaper version using a consumer EEG and custom app, so I’m quite curious what people make of that approach.

  105. Rationalist (if I may),

    There are some spells I’m not sure have a good opposite. To use a love spell as an example: I’m not sure what the opposite of it is. A spell to make someone hate you? Well, yes, that’s the opposite emotion to love, but is it the opposite intention? The intention included attention, and hate still involves attention.

    Maybe a spell to make someone indifferent to you? Maybe, but isn’t that also manipulating their will, which is part of the love spell?

    How about a spell to release them from your influence? That doesn’t counter the part where you tried to make them love you. I’m not sure that a spell would work, unless it’s explicitly done to cancel the spell, and I’m far from sure how that would work….

  106. This probably belongs on Magic Monday, but I can’t remember the exact form my password took, so —

    If someone is trying to harm you and other mundanely, what about a spell that everything they do to harm the targets should go amiss? Backlash? Or legitimate protection? This matters because a friend of mine is up against a very common form of such harm, which happened to me once: an immediate superior working very hard to backstab everyone else in the office, and with influence over the next boss up the ladder. In my case, it was with the connivance of HQ, which wanted to “clean house” of all the older “overpaid” workers who ran their departments very well, and reduce the remainder to less independent clerks.

    In my friend’s case, the superior is stirring up strife and dissension and made everybody else look bad, and is rumored office-wide to have influenced the higher boss (of the opposite sex) in the age-old way. Both supervisors, BTW, lied like Pinocchio!

    So … bad idea? Or good? Not wishing the evil boss any harm, just that the harm should fail.

    Thanks,

    pat

  107. @JMG,
    well, enjoy and being good at something are two different things, tho I guess I do enjoy poking the bear at times. Chalk it up to masochism, I guess. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea, though. As you’ve said about children and hammers, not every flock of pigeons is in need of a cat out of the bag. There’s forbearance–just because you can let a cat out of the bag among a flock of pigeons, doesn’t mean you should. (Though opening an automatic umbrella in a henhouse causes an interesting reaction.)
    As for comments, I’m from the South, so I don’t do direct confrontation well. Pretty much have to be in a rage to do it, and it’s not comfortable. It’s pretty much smile and say, “how lovely!” when someone natters on about flying cars or God bless America or what have you. I’m guessing that from a magical standpoint, that people are intuiting that the “how lovely!” is not real and responding accordingly.

  108. Beekeeper In Vermont: You said “My younger sisters have smallish children and, although we are estranged, I hear through our family grapevine that these children have tons of plastic and electronic gewgaws to fill their time. I would assume that their situation is similar to that of many suburban youngsters, children of striving, successful Millennials, who deny their offspring nothing, because these parents are enslaved to their children’s whims and intimidated by the scrutiny and judgement of other parents.”

    My question is what will happen later to such children when they grow up.

    JMG: Your thoughts on successful child rearing?

    And on opioid epidemic? according to the Guardian “Donald Trump called on Monday for some drug dealers to receive the death penalty, in a new opioids policy rollout in New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the national crisis.”. Maybe the doctors who so eagerly prescribe them be also made responsible? Anyways, the real cause of opioid epidemic is not addressed, just the symptoms.

    Here is the article: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/19/donald-trump-death-penalty-drug-dealers-opioids-new-hampshire

  109. On planes: My working hypothesis (which may or may not pan out) is that “planes” in the magical sense are pointing to the process underlying the multicellularity transition. AFAIK there’s no good English word for that process. (Interestingly, astrology *does* seem to have a conceptual label that corresponds to that process: Neptune.)

    That’s led to… a bunch of thoughts, really, but three in particular come to mind:
    – Narrative as the astral? analogue to the cell..
    – Thisat hypothesis gives a working hypothesis of why at least some kinds of prayer work: it’s the egregore analogue of cell signaling. (I wonder if there’s a split in different kinds of prayer akin to the difference between, say, hormones and pheromones?)
    – I’m not entirely sure what to make of increasing organism complexity in relation to the multicellular transition. That said, there’s one other group of species that definitely jumped the same threshold that humanity has: the eusocial subset of order Hymnoptera. That would in turn suggest that there are gods of hill, mound, and hive… and I’m suspicious, given the fragments I’ve seen of traditional lore, that not only do such gods exist but that there’s a very old English word for them. That term, of course, is “faerie”.

    Shane: FWIW, I grew up in northeast Texas and have had very similar experiences when I’ve been back – strong affinity to the land, aversion to the culture built on top of it, and the sense that (to grab a quote) “this land tires of its long occupation”. It’s possible that’s just projection – I fit very poorly in the local culture (I don’t like to say things I don’t believe*, I’m uneasy with mass rituals and doubly so with people trying to cajole me into participating in them, fully participating in the local culture would require both), and you strike me as similar – but it’s another data point.

    * – Ironically, in this I’m not that different from at least some of the conservative Christians I grew up around!

  110. And while I’m thinking about it: in off-topic news, two ill omens of the zeitgeist:
    https://townhall.com/columnists/kurtschlichter/2018/03/12/why-democrats-would-lose-the-second-civil-war-too-n2459833
    http://cyclideon.tumblr.com/post/171352808774/cyclideon-in-the-gun-control-debate-one-reason

    The second link is only a single sparrow, we’ll see if more fly – but I’ve suspected for a while that if the left actually drops gun control at this point it should be viewed about as favorably as the shoreline receding after an earthquake. The first is just reminding me of the late 1850s.

    (Also, it looks like I posted my last comment under my other username. Oops.)

  111. Simo P:

    I haven’t the gift (or curse) of being able to see the future, but I suspect that unless someone or something else influences their lives profoundly, they’ll be unbearably self-centered, dissatisfied, and bored with life in general. I imagine this because I have often seen the children of materially well-off parents turn out to be unhappy people with similar characteristics. Although I did not necessarily think so at the time, I’m now rather glad that, while we could always pay the bills when our sons were small, there wasn’t money left over for unnecessary things so our boys spent a lot of their time playing in the woods with sticks and the other flotsam and jetsam young boys find.

  112. off topic and likely too late for this post, but could you, at some convenient point, address the relationship, if any, between druidry and rosicrucianism? the term ‘golden dawn” seems to be associated with both.

  113. Ganesh, you’re most welcome.

    Rationalist, unfortunately for them, the universe is not their Mommy, and it’s not going to clean up the mess they made. What should you tell them? I have no idea, not knowing the people in question — but the sooner they figure out that magic isn’t make-believe, that it has enduring consequences for good and ill, the better.

    John, interesting. I see some historical research ahead of me.

    Beekeeper, you’re most welcome.

    January1, fascinating. I’ll put it on the look-at list.

    Christopher, interesting. Let me know how it goes.

    Patricia, why not simply focus on protecting and blessing the people who need protection, without fixating on the source of their problems? If your blowback consists of you being better protected and more blessed, I can’t see a downside there… 😉

    Shane, oh, granted, it may not be a good idea, but you seem to enjoy yourself so much!

    Taredas/Username, hmm. That’s certainly one angle worth exploring. Your sparrows are indeed worrying.

    Jay, I’ll consider that as an option.

  114. OT, but my mom went to the AT&T store to replace her “smart”phone, which is very old. According to her, they no longer offer a discount for a two-year contract, and you now must pay the full price of $400+ for the privilege of feeding your digital addiction. Wow, no wonder people get so angry when they see my flip. Perhaps we’ve reached peak dumbphone? I would never pay that for a dumbphone. I’d love to discuss this more on AMA/open post.

  115. “You don’t actually know a time or a culture until you discover the thoughts that its people can’t allow themselves to think.”

    I regard myself as an explorer in the realm described by the above sentence. My first question was rhetorical. If am guilty of violating a sacred space by posting it on this blog, then I’ll apologize for that and ask where you indicated such lines of questioning were offensive to your spirit or any of the others who frequent this blog, which I admit you have nicely created a sacred tone of protection around with your skills. If I pose a topic to relate to an ongoing discussion, that does not constitute a request for advise, though maybe at times it feels so much like an advise forum to you that you forget you had other goals in mind when you claimed your “electronic talking stick address” here.

    My response was a test to see how well prepared you might be to meet with others who have known what they are up against as caretakers of places you once said on a podcast something to the effect of “what I wouldn’t give to get my hands on one of those” in a tone I has over the years taught me to raise an eyebrow when my ear catches it. I am hoping to find someone (actually several someones) who can speak eloquently and knowledgeably about the history of such places in America for a retrospective and to hopefully gain allies in maintaining and respecting their sanctity and exploring ways of nurturing and cultivating them in a way most respectful of their “dharma” (maybe you’d have a better word for what I’m thinking here). I was hoping to alleviate any residual tension I might have felt lingering over what I imagined a person charged with protecting such a site might have felt upon hearing your interview. I was hoping it was nothing, and that I would never have to let that concern intrude. I like your defensive stance. I am looking for strong responses. Yet it occurs to me now that there probably is something there that may still need exploring if it came up in another context. If you should decide to allow me to continue considering you for a potential writing gig that has, at least in my view, the workings for, well…that’s one of the things I’d prefer to share if you are willing to consider exploring what I hope is the kind of opportunity you keep your radar on 24/7 to detect.

    I have been a loyal follower for more than 10 years now. Maybe then we can review what some of the “consequences” have been for me personally when I have put your advise into practice.

    Cordially, Norm

  116. Many thanks to those who offered a response about ‘witch-pricking’: my casual research into the customs of this damp island continue……

  117. Dear John Michael,

    The library system is interminably slow. Or is it that your book was in demand? It took a while for Seattle Public to reshelve this copy and then put it on the hold shelf for me.

    Here it is! In front of that damnable new central library downtown at Fourth and Madison. I hope this photo will show up:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/n1dux6Siny9rOYx32

    I think that building is hideous as well, though it is fun to get lost in the interior (not terribly useful for finding things – but fun for getting lost and wandering). The Czechs have a great word to describe this building, “paskvil.” Just the sound of the word feels about right to me–“paskvil” translates as something that doesn’t fit, or is just out of place.

    Managed to read the section on magical ethics on the ferry to Vashon. I think I am left pondering what makes something “dark magic” and what makes something less benign or even (hopefully) beneficial. It seems that wishing someone or something ill, and having a kind of malicious intention is what characterizes black magic. I have witnessed something that I call “black magic brain rot,” where even an ordinarily stable practitioner becomes quite rapidly deluded that they are entitled to do whatever they want with the bodies and lives of their targets. The attempt to manipulate others progresses rapidly into more and more outrageous forms in pursuit of the desired effect. It seems like a sort of blinding intoxication with the idea of having control, and perhaps this is especially prominent amongst those who go in for “shamanic studies” or “shamanic practice.” I have always given those communities a wide berth and I think it is because it seems to attract many power/control obsessed types. I’ve met plenty of ethical people in those communities, too, but it seems like many teachers of those studies don’t spend the requisite time and attention on integrating the disparate parts of one’s psyche (and discovering one’s own baser drives such as jealousy, lust, sources of insecurity, etc) before ever teaching advanced techniques for altering consciousness. Hilarity ensues….

    But it seems like harm can come through even the best of (conscious) intentions! I laughed at the part about needing to be very specific in one’s requests, recalling an incident where I enacted ritual and requested things in such a way as to ask for help with letting go of or coming into right relationship with someone, but without being specific about exactly what that help would look like (and in hindsight, I realized that the land and its wisdom was trying to help me by preventing my ritual but I managed to carry it out, not understanding what the wind was trying to say until…..oh). My intention was sterling…I felt I was out of balance with someone, and I wanted to clear it. But man oh man, I got the help alright, and also managed to really emotionally hurt some people, which I much rather would have avoided. And could have avoided!!

    That was very humbling and saddening and the consequences of my actions–as revealed/deepened/”released” by my ritual–managed to unravel some pretty deep karmic threads. I tried my best to show up for that as skillfully as I could given who I was at the time. (As one friend said over the past weekend, it may be better to regard our mistakes as leading us to viewpoints, rather than to dead ends. There are no dead ends, just viewpoints. I did learn a lot, put an end to a particular pattern of relating, and tried to make amends where I could.)

    I am grateful that a friend who was impacted in a tangential but tangible way by this reached out to ask me for my version of events–and I was honest with him about where I had screwed up–and then expressed his disappointment in me, shared how it created strife for him and made a request that I be a better person, further holding me accountable. (Those are the true friends, those who care enough to have difficult conversations and point out shortcomings.)

    The nonspecificity of my ritual enactment created strife, but perhaps the intention, which persisted through my own reaction to what the ritual exposed about my behavior, is what helped guide it into an experience that ultimately imparted wisdom. Oh how it sucked at the time…but the precious treasure of humility is so often won in such a way. It seems like even though this caused harms, it wasn’t in the black magic category–I wasn’t trying to manipulate, on the contrary, I was trying to free myself (and others) from an unhealthy pattern. I wish I could recall the exact language I used! I could feel the power of the ceremony, that the depth of my sincerity was being met, and there was the wind of Point Reyes, trying so hard to steer me clear of harm. As a result, I also know better how to listen to those greater-than-human intelligences. (Ouch, but…okay.)

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss . Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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