I’m still mulling over my own lack of activity, but I assure you, I am getting off my ass and getting back to the Work. I’m making to-do lists of multiple types and marking my calendar down with tasks and planning things out, and getting back into the fray so I can patch up the frayed tapestry of my threads. I’m already daunted by what I need to do, but I’ve put this shit off for long enough. Enough is enough. I’m wasting my time if I’m not doing work, and I’m of no use to anyone like this.
It’s interesting, because based on the feedback I’ve been getting and from the mumbles and grumbles across my blogroll, it seems like I’m not the only one who’s been in the doldrums of inactivity. It’s no excuse for my own laziness and emptiness of agenda, but it is curious to note that many others have been suffering from a lack of spiritual perception, things to do, or otherwise just…not doing the Work. My colleague and bromancer Pallas Renatus and I were discussing it recently; I assumed everyone who’s tapped into the general Hermetic current is suffering from the same sort of blah-ness, like there was something in the aetherial Water, so to speak. But then, he brought up that maybe it’s the opposite case; perhaps there was something out there that caused a surge of activity across multiple people and places, which would certainly explain a massive mini-renaissance in Hermetic studies and paths, but it was only a temporary and ephemeral surge. If such a surge indeed happened, then it could be that the power that’s been luring so many has petered out, causing everyone to come crashing down from the magical high we were all riding. It’s an interesting idea, definitely, but one beyond my ken to understand.
Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a surge that’s dying out or something in the aether that’s keeping us all down. I’ve tasted blood, and I want more. I refuse to let the whimsy of aetheric currents determine my well-being in such a bullshit way.
So, one of the first things I decided to do was to get the benefit and guidance of one of the most respected teachers I have, Saint Cyprian of Antioch. You know, the patron saint of magicians, sorcerers, necromancers, and occultists? I’m in the middle of a novena in his honor, and I’m spending time with him in contemplation just going over what he did, what lessons his life has to teach me and others, and how I relate to them. After all, dude isn’t the patron saint of magoi for nothing; he was raised from birth to be a master magos in every respect, and converted to Christ only after seeing the immense power of God there. After all, you’d be a fool of a magician to not recognize and go after power, even if that power is just a side-effect of something greater. Regardless, I thought a bit about what it meant for Cyprian to be a mage, and then what it means for me to be a mage.
In essence, we can say that a common division of magic is two-fold: theurgy and thaumaturgy. It’s not the best way to divide magic up, but for the purposes of this post, it works. The former comes from the Greek for “god-working”, θευργεια, and can generally be thought of as “high magic” or divine magic, stuff you do to become closer to God or the gods, whether it be henosis or apotheosis or nirvana or whatever. The latter, thaumaturgy or θαυματυργεια, literally means “wonder-working”, and can mean the manifestation of miracles or obtaining worldly results, often with a fair bit of flair, through spirits, the elements, the planets, or other occult forces. The thing is, however, that both words share a common element, “-urgy”, ultimately from Greek εργο, meaning “work”.
Magic, no matter the type or purpose, is work. Magic is work. It’s not just The Work, but it’s work, which is why we call the things we do “workings” and that we are sometimes called “workers”. Magic can be laborious, slow, painful, costly work; it is hardly ever done with a graceful swish-and-flick. You will pay for magic in tears, sweat, blood, and more in order to obtain the treasures that magic provides. Magic is work. As the Greek alphabet oracle has for the letter Mu, “it is necessary to work, but the change will be admirable”.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how the aetherial currents ebb or flow, nor how the planets course in their heavens, nor the archons dictate from their thrones. As is often said in astrological circles, “the stars only impel, they do not compel”; no matter what influences are pressed down upon us and no matter how strong those influences are, we are not doomed to be subject to them unless we choose to remain subject to them. Yes, the system can be hard to fight, both down here as it is up there, but as human beings made in the likeness of the One with the blessing of Nous and Logos, we have the power to overcome any and all obstacles before us. We can bridge the aetherial currents better than Xerxes could the Hellespont, and we can overcome the planets brighter than any supernova. That is one of the many powers of magic: to make the world ours to live in and experience for our own ends and according to our true Will. It’s nothing to scoff at, and no amount of poetic waxing or alchemical metaphorization can do this task justice.
It’s just that…well, while the Great Work is the overall goal, it is not taken in one single step. It is built up from smaller steps, ranging from the theoretical studies of ritual and theology to the utterly mundane practices of keeping your house in order. There is nothing that does not contribute to the Work, this is true; there are so many things, however, that it’s easy to get lost in the myriad things to do and get done. That’s one of my big issues: there are so many things to do, and so many things I can think of to do, that I end up nearly immediately overwhelmed and unclear of where even to focus on my to-do list, much less start doing any particular ritual.
Then again, I had this problem back in college, too, when I was swamped with work from all sides. That’s the glory of a to-do list: crossing things off one item at a time, one day at a time. One thing at a time. It builds up, slowly, sometimes in immeasurably small amounts, but it builds up all the same.
One of the problems I have is that, well, I have a pretty good life going for me. I’m in a stable, fantastic relationship with the love of my life; we live in a stable, comfortable, safe household where it’s quiet and private and away from the hustle and bustle of the city; I have an excellent job that’s interesting, rigorous, and well-paying; I have good health of mind and body; I’m paying off my debts. I have an incredibly privileged life, all told. It’s difficult for me to figure out where to begin with keeping up my own life because it’s already mostly taken care of, whether though my own efforts or the blessings of the gods or some mixture of the two. Still, that’s no excuse, since my life is not perfect, or as perfect as it could be. There are tiny things, small adjustments, tweaks here and there that belie deeper issues, and I know I have my own internal issues that definitely need to be resolved sooner or later that have no apparent effect on the external issues of my life. Plus, there’s always the cruel twists of fate and fortune that could easily smash everything I have into dust and scatter it into the wind; having some protection against that would be good. Just because I’m comfortable doesn’t mean I should be complacent; it means that, being so comfortable, I’m afforded more opportunities than most for introspection and close, critical evaluation of myself and my surroundings that should afford me more things to Work on.
And after that? Say I truly run out of things to work and maintain on myself, or that I end up becoming so blind (gods forbid) that I can no longer inspect myself critically and have nobody to do the task for me. What then? I know that I’m doing well, but I also know that many, many others aren’t. As I’ve said before on my blog, and as Kalagni also said recently, the world is a shitty, awful place. It’s beautiful, but it’s also fundamentally broken in some pretty severe ways, and it’s really up to us to do the change. Just because I’m doing well and can afford the time to do some introspection doesn’t mean that my Work stops there, far from it! If I can afford the time and energy, after I’ve made myself well enough to work, I am then capable and responsible to work for the benefit of the world and those around me. Between everything that is me and everything that is not-me, I truly have a neverending list of things to do, and that becomes even more apparent once the realization is made that there isn’t really a boundary at all between me and not-me. I may not be ultimately from this world, but I’m sure as hell living in it, and if I don’t like living in a shithole for a house, then I logically shouldn’t like living in a shithole for a world.
Even picking up an empty soda can off the ground, whether from the floor of the kitchen or the sidewalk by the train, is an improvement in my surroundings. Even a kind word or a small boon, whether to the love of my life or to a complete stranger I may never meet, is enough to help things get better for everyone, including myself. It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but it’s still part of the Work.
Now to get back to gathering those threads.
Pingback: On the Nine Offices of Saint Cyprian | The Digital Ambler