For some reason, Fr. Rufus Opus (who, I might add, is still not me) claims that I’m his best student. I don’t really agree with him, since I think I just write more than the rest of his students, but he claims that I’m one of the minority of his students who took his courses and ran with it, not only developing my own style of magic but also implementing them in the way he envisioned his students to do so: to rule your life like a King. No, I’m not going to wax poetically and jovially about how awesome it is to do conjurations of the planetary angels, rise through the seven spheres, or scarlet women. He does that enough on his own.
I’m going to make explicit something he doesn’t always say: rulership sucks ass.
It’s not that being king (or queen, or gender-unspecific ruler) of your life is a bad thing. Far from it, really! It’s one of the best things you can do, and I’d argue something that every capable human being should attempt at all points in their lives. He makes it clear, especially in his most recent book, that it really is up to you to make your life how you best can make it. He’s not rehashing The Secret or new age tripe like that, either. He’s not saying that if you put out positive vibes you’ll get positive returns; he’s not saying that you should be pious and chaste and virtuous like a meek and mild lamb. He tells you to get off your ass, find your problems, and deal with them as a ruler does their kingdom. In the process, you understand more about yourself; you understand more about what makes you, your environment, your enemies, your allies, and your world tick; you understand more about God and the gods and the heavens and the hells; you understand how to work with spirits and powers and forces beyond imagination. With this knowledge, you get power; with this power, you get results. That’s it in a nutshell, but it encapsulates everything.
The problem is, however, that not everything is going to agree with you or accept you. Not everything is easy. Not everything is kind. Kingdoms have problems. The world has problems. Human life has problems. You have problems, dear reader, and trying to lie about that fact is shameful. The first step to overcoming your problems is to admit you have them.
That’s one of the most painful parts about this whole magic and theurgy business. You have to not only confront your problems, but work with them in a way that resolves them. You are forced to shove your nose into your own shit time and time again, perhaps realizing that, yes, this is indeed some shit, and that you really should try better or fix things so that there’s less shit next time around (and yes, there will be a next time). You have to conjure up your own demons, not just the elemental demonic princes or the kings of Hell, but the ones lodged inside your own psyche, and debate with them, wrestle with them, sometimes get pinned down by them in the hopes of kicking them out of the conjuration circle once and for all. You have to contend with the fact that, sometimes, life is not going to give you what you think you need in order to succeed, and you have to make do with your own lack of preparedness and readiness in order to progress. You have to deal with your problems any way you can, and often enough, your problems aren’t easy to deal with.
Rulership is about choices. Every (and I do mean every) choice you make, even avoidance of making choices, changes everything. Sometimes you make a choice without thinking, either due to instinctive habit or conditioning from birth. Sometimes you make a choice with incomplete knowledge. Sometimes you make a choice with all the best knowledge and hopes in the world and everything still turns to shit. Every choice you make results in a benefit you obtain, a cost you pay for, and accountability that you must be responsible for. While all of us like the benefits, and a few of us are okay with paying the costs, it’s rare for people to willingly take responsibility for their actions, reactions, emotions, thoughts, and words.
That, however, is the crux of rulership: taking responsibility for yourself, both in the choices you’ve made and those you are going to make. It truly is the cross that the ruler bears, because when you’re a ruler of your kingdom, everything that happens is going to be traced back to you in some way, shape, or form.
A king (or queen, ruler, tigron, whatever) manages their kingdom. They manage the defenses and the boundaries, the laws and the public welfare, the discipline and strength, the identity and the pride, the harvest and the wealth, the communication and the transport, the security and the love of the whole kingdom. Yes, they often don’t do it alone, and have guards, patrols, magistrates, legislature, generals, captains, overseers, messengers, and community leaders help take that burden off their shoulders somewhat, but all authority is derived from the king, and so all decisions made in the name of the king are made, effectively, by the king. Thus, all choices are traced back to the king, and if there’s a problem anywhere in this chain of manifestation from king to pleb, it’s the king’s fault for not managing things properly. If there’s a problem with the land, water, air, travelers, traders, or invaders, then it’s not necessarily the king’s fault for those, but however the king reacts to them and manages them as they pop up in his kingdom will be.
In the system of Hermetic magic that Fr. RO teaches, he gives you all the tools, education, and experiences you need to know what the chains of manifestation are, who to contact for help, who manages what, where things come from, and how to put your own plans into action. He prepares you, effectively, for becoming king of your own life. He does not take responsibility for you, however, and he can only help so much if you have problems of your own. His real help lies in teaching you how to solve your own problems, as well as solving those that crop up in your life without your agreement, because this shit happens and it’s up to us to learn how to deal with them the best way we can with the best means we have available to us. It is this education that surpasses any ritual, any tool construction, any talisman consecration; it is this that is the real meat and bones of Hermeticism. Everything else is garnish or flatware.
Fr. RO may call it kingship. I call it true humanity. Same diff, really, I just don’t like to sugarcoat (whiskeysoak?) things as much as he does.
Life has shitty problems of many kinds. We may be born into shitty circumstances. We may have shitty bodies. We may have shitty emotional imbalances. We may have shitty job opportunities. We may live during a time of shitty politics and shittier warfare. We may have shitty plagues infesting and killing off our already shitty cities. We make shitty choices. We make (not have) shitty reactions. We make shitty comments. We make shitty alliances. We make shitty food and drink selections. Some of this shit that happens to us is not our fault. Some of it is. Regardless, we are not the first generation to have to deal with all this shit. We’re the most recent, which means that every generation before us has had to deal with this same shit over and over and over again. And you know what’s awesome? Humanity has lived through it all, and now it’s our turn. What makes us magicians and kings and true humans different, however, is that we can make the best of it instead of just enduring it all. That’s the big thing that few people recognize: a magician’s job isn’t just to live through all this shit, but to adjust to it, fix it, and make this shit less shitty for ourselves and, if you’re up to it, those who come after us
One of the upshots to all this is that you don’t have to go it alone. You know that one new age greeting, “the light in me recognizes the light in you”? That’s actually a thing, people. Kings recognize each other. We see other rulers, and other potential rulers, in the people around us. We understand what they’re going through, because we’ve already done the work that they’re doing or are about to do. We know what they go through. They know what we go through. We help each other out. Just as any smart-minded kings, we make alliances, coalitions, treaties, and agreements with other kings. We build networks of support, even just as friends who do their own things individually but who come together in a time of need. When problems get too big for any one king, other kings step in to shoulder the burden. It’s part of that whole chain of manifestation thing, but on a broader level. It’s okay to ask for help. If you need it, ask. It’s better to be humble and ask for help than proud and dead when it comes to rulership, because people can’t depend on a dead king. Your life can’t be excellent when you’re dead, because you by definition have no life.
Every tool, every ritual, every seal, every tincture, every spirit you make use of should always be used to help you rule your own kingdom. Every magical implementation and technique should be geared for your own use to solve your own problems. It’s rarely easy, of course, but that’s why we do this. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be talking about this, RO wouldn’t have put a book out on it, and we’d all be already in Heaven.
Life sucks. Rulership sucks. But rulership, done rightly, can make life suck a lot less, and that’s what makes rulership worth it. It’s what makes theurgy worth it. It’s what makes magic worth it. It’s what makes life worth it. Nobody promised you an easy life; nobody promised Obama an easy nation; nobody promised Octavian an easy empire. It may be hard to be a ruler over your own life, but it sure beats the hell out of being subject to your own life.