On Rulership and Life’s Bullshit

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.

Swords and Scepters

As some of you may know, I’m a federal employee of the United States government, and as many of you know, the United States government is temporarily unfunded due to congressional incompetence.  Many federal employees, including me, are in a state of unpaid furlough, which is a fancy way of saying “you’re not allowed to work until we have a budget again”.  In the meantime, I’ve been relaxing, enjoying my recent birthday, and doing a heavy amount of Work and conjuration; after all, I need something to occupy myself.  (And if you’re interested in what exactly I’m working on, stay tuned on Sunday for a fancy thing you’ll all see.)  In the course of this week, I’ve conjured the angels Tzadqiel of Jupiter and Raphael of Air for general empowerment (which, as Fr. RO mentioned, is always a good thing), as well as to continue doing a semi-regular checkup of my own work, progress, and sphere.  In the process, I also got some interesting advice regarding two of the most visible and important tools many magi and magicians use: the wand and the dagger.

In the conjuration with Tzadqiel, he mentioned that the wand is not just a tool of power and will, but it’s indicative of another similar idea, that of the scepter.  While the wand (at least in my tradition) is the elemental weapon of Fire and is associated with the Will of the Magus, it’s used for not the magus’ will but the Magus’ Will, or the True Will.  The difference here is important, just as any distinction is regarding temporary will and True Will.  Tzadqiel motioned to my caduceus tattoo on my arm, indicating that the use of the caduceus and the magician’s wand are similar.  Hermes is always seen bearing the caduceus in his left hand, the submissive or receptive hand, and this coupled with his role as Zeus’ messenger indicates that Hermes receives his power and direction from Zeus.  In other words, although the caduceus is a symbol of power, it’s of power from a higher source than oneself.  Likewise, many monarchies across time are seen as being empowered and validated by divine right (cf. divine-right theory or Mandate of Heaven), and so the scepter is an indication that its bearer is carrying out the will of God.  This is seen to this day in the United Kingdom’s monarchy, which was established by God, but since God doesn’t like to micromanage things down here, he divests power to the Crown to manage things for him.

So too is the wand of the magician not used as a blasting rod or an offensive weapon, but it’s used as a mark of divine right and being rightly divine.  The wand should be used to remind the magician and guide them to their True Will, not used to enforce their temporary will onto others.  After all, if one is following their True Will, then pretty much all else will fall into place accordingly (except in dire or unusual circumstances when other work must be applied).  The image of control that the wand bestows is just that, an illusory image; it’s the obedience of entities to their proper stations in the cosmos that the wand reminds them of, and helps them fall into place when in the presence of one who is effectively sent from on high.  To use  the wand to simply force or bind something to the whimsy of the magician is to abuse the authority given to the magician, and when abused enough, the magician incurs punishment just as Chinese emperors might lose the Mandate of Heaven.

In the conjuration with Raphael, on the other hand, the angel indicated other uses of the wand that agreed with Tzadqiel, but expanded more on its relationship to the dagger or sword, the elemental weapon of Air.  Both are masculine, phallic, elementally hot weapons (and some traditions swap the elemental associations of the two), and are like semi-codependent brothers.  Wood must burn to produce fire to melt and shape metal into a blade, and blades must be used on wood to produce a wand.  However, wood is a living thing that grows, while metal is inorganic which can only be shaped.  These lead into the point Raphael was trying to make, and was chiding me since I don’t use the dagger enough in my work.  While the Pentacle is used to embody and materialize things, and the Chalice is used to receive and partake in grace and charismata, the Wand is used to “set things in motion” while the Dagger is used to “cut off and remove”.  Magically, the dagger is used to “cut through bullshit”, dividing problems, severing connections, removing influences, deciding on paths and choices, and offensive and defensive work.  Compared to this, the wand is used to progress, enforce decisions, and authorizes one to make choices as one can and ought.

Admittedly, the part about the fighting work that can be done with the dagger surprised me, since the dagger is associated with Air, and Air with Raphael, the healer of God; the comparatively benevolent wand is associated with Fire, and Fire with Michael, the commander of the heavenly host.  Raphael replied that not only are all angels soldiers in their own way, but that even in healing, some destruction is always needed, such as that of diseased limbs or infectious microorganisms.  In order to heal one of any assailing disease, the infectious organism must itself be destroyed or drastically cut back in order to allow the natural healing of the body to continue.  In this case, the dagger represents the ability to cut out the temporary misaligned will of those down below and the wand to encourage and direct those to follow the True Will of those above.  The whole notion of having to correct misaligned wills that are not in accordance with the True Will indicates other problems that may be cosmically systemic, and is often necessary to ensure the proper execution of one’s True Will.  In more magical terms, if I want to accomplish something through ritual, there may be other factors involved that I can’t easily deal with simply by praying really hard.  Battles are fought before declaring rulership, always because the ability to rule is predicated on the inability of others to contest it or stymie it.

Thus the Sword, to fight against the influences contrary to one’s Work, and the Scepter, to encourage devotion and progress in one’s Work.