Today’s post is another Training Day post. This time our training was more philosophical in nature and had us examing, well, essentially the nature of the beast that is magic and groups. I’ve long been at a phase in my spiritual and magical path wherein I’m looking around at the flamewars and bitchcraft in the pagan and occult communities and wondering what the f*ck is the point of pursuing something spiritually advanced yet so tribal in nature?
My training often spans a dozen different cultures and places in the space of a few hours while practicing Zen Buddhism, Mindfullness Meditation, Yoga & Yogic Breathing, Japanese & Western Weapons Training, Western Pagan Chants and Songs with a lot more that doesn’t really have a name or a location yet. Not so much original as originally used – we have a specific function which is to explore different states of being. Lately, as this blog might suggest, the focus has been on Mindfullness as a means to creating a sangha-effect whereby we can reach out to others and like I’ve said before the ability to protect that sangha while it is in use. The catching point which more or less lent itself to the VERY deep discussion the other day was that a Sangha is generally short-term or an interim state, Wiccan covens and magical temples are a little more sem–permeable because they are constituted for purpose and then redone while the fraternity is extended all the time (at least in theory).
Satori (悟り?) (Chinese: 悟; pinyin: wù; Korean: 오o; Vietnamese: ngộ) is a Japanese Buddhist term for awakening, “comprehension; understanding”. It is derived from the verb satoru. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, “seeing into one’s true nature“. Ken means “seeing,” shō means “nature” or “essence.” Satori and kenshō are commonly translated as enlightenment, a word that is also used to translate bodhi, prajna and buddhahood. – Wikipedia (accessed: 06/05/2014)
Satori is a state, generally prolonged, in which the Zen practitioner is awake. They are no longer accepting the truth of things at face value but are more ready and open to seeing things as they really are. When I came upon Wicca and witchcraft in my teens I read very favourably the ascensionist paradigms which peppered the Wicca 101 material of that time. Everything from Reincarnation to altered states entrigued me greatly. I’d come from a Catholic background and had heard of Jesus and his ascension into Heaven but Wicca basically offered a cheat sheet and a means to implement it actively in my own life. To add to the sweetness of Wicca there were spells and magic to make life not only easier but more immanently sacred. So unlike the Gnostic Christians I didn’t have to feel repulsed by the physical world.
Thing is as training into Wicca seemed more and more distant and unlikely and to be honest with more and more teachers faffing about and giving pseudo-Koans, like, “When the Chela is ready the Guru will come” or like, “when the time is right it’ll happen” followed by a knowing look which could just as easily belied the fact they thought I was a raving lunatic and couldn’t wait to see the back of me! (I’m not self-degerating here… I’ve caught myself doing it to a few people too!). Koans work when the Teacher asks the Student to consider a question or concept and reach an understanding based off that question. So for instance mine is, “How can I make Wicca better?”
Obviously I went off into memory land to pull out all the mental fartery (it’s a word now so deal with it!) I could because watching the copious factions over the years (and so I can’t be accused of bias I’m speaking from a local, national and international perspective here) as they clammer for their respective fiefdoms and even as some seek more power base (moves that would make even Fianna Fail quiver!) I have to say I was not only flumoxed but actually quite depressed. Most of the issues in modern Paganism and Wicca, or even in the occult community, are difficult to navigate at the best of times. Most of us generally just sail close by and hope for the best.
Truth be told I’m still thinking on this front. I know that the Ardanes in Wicca have some rule around daughter covens hiving off from their mother coven and making sure they are like 13 leagues or miles away (implication being to avoid a turf war), yet many geographical areas are so huge that sometimes 13 streets distance is enough and ne’er a bad word is ever spoken. If one were a skeptic (who me? never!) one could also posit that the rule is brought in more as advice but also to help encourage a greater geographic reach I mean Gerald Gardner was also seeking to revive the “Old Religion” wasn’t he?
In my short time I’ve seen flamewars between OTO/Thelemic factions, various ones on the G.D. circuit and then in Wicca and I’m wondering why religions or magicial systems which hold themselves as an alternative to the mainstream. So where does my true nature lead me to from here?This is a pertinent question because I’ve gone from describing myself as an ascentionist pagan to humanistic pagan and then around to magician and witch to a strange holding pattern of late.
Part of the draw to the ascentionist paradigm is that it promises change as a constant. As a Pagan change lies in the passing of time and the seasons, as a Witch it lies in the spells and work I do on a Priestly level, and as a Magician its the personal alchemical change that isn’t as dependent upon others. With certain forms of Satori, namely Kensho, that moment of awakening is temporary and transcendent in nature and often the catalyst for seeking more. I imagine that it feels like the euphoria of an epiphany to some extent.
I’ve had those moments of Kensho, or at least I like to think so because thinking so explains why I’ve been looking for Wicca, witchcraft and magic so much. Something does indeed happen when I cast a magical circle and I’ve been in group ritual where something happens also. So is it more of a checks and balances thing and just try it as experimentation or are we supposed to be seeking some real spiritual, magicial, personal and social change in the world? Thing is even the training work or the oddles of hours doing meditation and ritual work do change me but they don’t seem to change the crap around me. I’m still struggling with my PhD work and I’m struggling for social and civils rights and I’m struggling for other things. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is not being met. In Motivation and Personality (1954) Maslow wrote, “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy” (p236), and as un-PC as you can get most of us in Wicca or such groups are studying our fellow cripples (I’ve broken brain I get to say things like that, you don’t!).
Initially I’d conditioned myself to apologise for my epilepsy during ritual first because it was distracting to people but then because people kept insisting that magic could heal it. Few have stopped to consider it’s just who I am. A genetic short straw as inconvient as it may be that is the professional opinion. But the social stigmas I encounter from people do lead to a natural empathy for others struggling.
I’m not exactly sure if it’s coincidental or deliberate but my training over last year working from physiological and safety to love/belonging and into esteem seem apt for right about now in my life. Self-actualisation isn’t really the same as Satori but does have certain overatures in common such as a lack of prejudice and acceptance of the situation, not necessarily a tolerance to it.
I’m going to be thinking on this for some time. Hence calling this Part 1 but honestly I can’t garauntee a Part 2 as depends very much on next steps forward on my Path.