The Selfishness of ‘My Path’

It’s probably no surprise to those that know me, but I have many bugbears with the New Age movement. However, no bug is so big to bear for me as the concept of one’s individual ‘path’.

And I know, I get it. For those that don’t feel they belong sufficiently to a specific religious tradition to adopt the label, the words ‘my path’ are a convenient way of talking about what you do and believe. Your ‘journey’, in other words.

Not that I’m a fan of the term ‘journey’ in this context either, but that’s another conversation for another time.

However, I think when you start thinking in terms of individual paths, it’s not going to be too shocking when you also start to consider those not on your path as being either intersecting forces, or people to help you on your way. In fact, I *know* some people that think like that. Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of an angry ‘my path-er’ for not playing what they saw as my role as being a helpful means to an end on their spiritual path.

And that right there, in this society of selfishness, is where the problem lies. It’s spirituality meeting the ‘people-as-means-to-an-end’ mentality of corporate retail culture in which instead of seeing others as rational beings that are (to paraphrase Kant)’ ends as themselves’, you treat them as means to your own ends. When you treat others in this way, what then is the difference between how you treat other humans and inanimate objects? Honestly, I fail to see how anyone can ‘develop spiritually’ with such a mentality.

Moreover, if you really care so much about your own path, what of family? What of children? What of community?

After all, if you’re only caring about your own individual path, what time do you have for others? It’s all about *your* enlightenment, *your* development, *your* progression along the path.

Me. Me. Me

Underestimating the Power of Simplicity and Other Stories

Throughout my years as a magic-worker, I’ve noticed that when it comes to working with others, several things seem to hold true. This post is going to take a look at four of those things.

People *want* you to build them a mystery

Regardless of whether or not a person is your client or a potential student, very often, that person has a mental image of how what you do should look like, and for all they’re decried, sometimes the ‘Dog and Pony show’ can be useful for this very reason (it can also simply just be the tradition of the group in question).

As a magic worker, I understand the importance of ritual, of building those actions and setting the scene for that *shift* to occur. It can be useful when your mind is being more of a chattering monkey than usual. It can be useful in getting the non-active participants into the right frame of mind. You see, depending on who you speak to, ritual either works to facilitate an internal psychological shift that allows the individual to get past whatever mental blocks were hindering them and allowing change (something which Terry Pratchett referred to as ‘Headology’), or it works via that far less intangible medium that we call ‘magic’.

However, there comes a point where this becomes problematic. It’s no longer that which facilitates and enables, it’s the whole *point* of the exercise.

And it will suck a person in as surely as a black hole.

When inhabiting a mystery, there is no rational thought, there is no consideration of the subtleties that are happening, or indeed if there is consideration, it’s interpreted from within the mindset of what atheists call ‘magical thinking’. And it doesn’t matter what that person is interpreting, even running out of something in your cupboards at the wrong time can be interpreted as some kind of ‘sign’.

Now this probably sounds like a weird thing for a self-described ‘magic-worker’ to discuss. Almost like I don’t believe in magic, right? That it’s ALL headology.

While headology is a good and useful (very useful) part of a magic-worker’s repertoire, magic – at least real magic – is rarely how we think it’s going to look, and it’s far simpler than we might imagine. The fact of the matter is, the rituals, the garb, the tools, the drums – none of that is actually needed. We do it because the dog and pony show is paradoxically easier than doing it without. But to forget the role of the dogs and ponies…well, as I said before, that’s where trouble starts. Moreover, you miss what’s actually real.

People want the shortcuts to somehow work

In a way, this sort of plays back into the ‘building a mystery’ section, as the mystery can be one big shortcut in a lot of ways.

When you bake a cake, you typically cream your butter and sugar, then add your eggs, flour and milk (and whatever else). At no point does anyone say, “Well, I don’t have flour, so I’ll just omit it, it’ll be fine, I’ll have cake!”, no, you have to substitute it for something similar that performs the same function as flour in the recipe. However, when it comes to magic, people never want to work on their mental discipline, which is as key to magic as the flour in a cake. Again and again, I hear people lament that meditation and/or visualisation is just too hard, and that they just ‘can’t’ do it.

Let me get this straight, most humans can do these things. It’s just that meditation and visualisation take work, practice, and losing the fear of failure at something that looks so easy from the outside.

Meditation is hard, visualisation is hard, these are skills that have to be built up by the practitioner, and along the way, you also get the bonus of developing mental discipline and your Will.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to this, you put the work in and have it, or don’t, and well…don’t.

People gravitate to the ‘wolves’

I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen this over the years; perfectly good people interested in magic and getting taken in by a charismatic wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, I heard about another case of this, this weekend just gone!

Thankfully, when you know what you’re looking for, these sweater-wearing wolves are easy to spot.

1. Do they have a discernible goal from being around you? What is it? Some of these folks use magical learning as a way to secure sexual favours from the naive. Others use it to feed their desire for power over others. Is anything that they want to do, or do, in violation of your bodily sovereignty?

2. Do they give you what you want? In other words, do they ever correct you or tell you you’re wrong about something, or do they allow you to labour under false ideas (as long as you don’t question them)?

3. Do you ever *actually* learn from them, or do they mostly tell you that you’re learning (and progressing) and yet you can’t actually quantify what you’ve learned?

4. How does the thought of bringing up a disagreement with them feel? How does the atmosphere in the room feel when you disagree even respectfully?

5. Is there a reliance on building the mystery as opposed to emphasis on the actual skills? Are people encouraged to stay locked within the mystery?

People will gravitate to the chaotic thinking they understand it better than ancestors that eschewed it

We live in the age of the underdog and the anti-hero. Our villains are portrayed in film as having a hidden sensitive and misunderstood side that just lures an audience in. We learn to forgive the negative because, “Oh look, he’s not a pure bastard, he’s *redeemable*!”

When looking at figures from mythology, figures that people now worship again, that mentality transfers over with some people, and beings that were given offerings to keep them away, are now being taken for ‘patrons’. There’s a romance there that our ancestors would have found truly puzzling.

Over the years, I’ve seen many take this path, and a good number of them have their luck turn to poo. Instead of accepting the cause of their troubles, they turn to other gods and beings to try and fix matters, and in the most extreme cases, they become serial ‘luck grabbers’. Jumping from deity to being, fostering a reciprocal relationship, and then moving on to the next once the initial excitement wears off.

Typically when questioned, they’ll talk philosophically about how chaos and order need to be balanced in the world, not once considering that maybe it’s plenty ‘balanced’ and doesn’t need any ‘help’ from them.

And that’s the thing, natural chaos that happens organically is good, natural chaos strengthens and leads to overcoming and growth. Inviting more in just makes no sense.

Final Word

We humans are complex creatures, and as products (mostly) of societies that are based largely in a religious worldview that devalues personal power, and values complexities, it can be hard to discern what’s actually needed and what is simply fulfilling a psychological need.

I’ve had a few teachers over the years, and though not always in a formal format, without exception, each of them emphasised the importance of developing the skill of discernment when it comes to working with anyone in any capacity.

More than being able to discern spiritual or social matters, the skill of discernment teaches us something far more important – to know ourselves, our motivations, and how they affect our actions.

For it’s all too easy to fall into a trap when you’re not looking where you’re going.