One of the reasons magick is unsuccessful for many people is because they fail to understand something I’ve described many times: “Magick isn’t something you do. Magick is something you are.”
Part of thisâ€”the important part for this discussionâ€”is understanding that magick is going on 24/7. We’re all doing magick all the time. It is because our thoughts and practices are not focused on our goals that we send contradictory signals onto the astral plane, the level of reality where things manifest spiritually in ways that must inevitably result in their physical manifestation.
The example I like to give is that of a person who spends five minutes a day doing a ritual for increased wealth. Then, for two or three hours a day, all he can think about is being broke, his bills, his lousy job, etc. After a month, he’s still in bad financial shape. His conclusion: magick doesn’t work.
I’d say it’s just the contrary. His magick worked perfectly. Although the magick may have been more effective during that five-minute daily ritual, the hours and hours he spend focusing on failure gave him exactly that.
This means that merely doing a ritual isn’t enough. If you do a ritual to lose 10 pounds and then go on an eating binge of pizza and fried chicken, your actions are not in harmony with your ritual. I believe that for successful magick we need to harmonize our thoughts, words, and deeds. Crowley briefly describes a process for doing this in Liber III vel Jugorum which appears in his Magick in Theory and Practice. Written in Crowley’s brief, instructional style, it’s only about 800 words long.
I also talk about this concept in Modern Magick. I had actually been trained in the process many years ago within a Thelemic group before I discovered Crowley’s specific book (it wasn’t on our reading list). The idea presented both in Crowley liber and in my book breaks down into three things: control of deed, word, and thought.
To learn control of deeds, you simply vow not to do something (or to do something) regularly, such as only opening doors with your left hand. If you have a “break” and open a door with your right hand, you punish yourself. Crowley recommended slashing your forearm with a razor blade. Personally, I think that’s more than a bit harsh and over the top. I recommended carrying a small notepad and for every “break” you make a mark in it with a pen. Another suggestion is to keep a rubber band around your wrist and in response to a “break” you should snap it, hard, against your skin. The goal or any of these methods is commonly know today as “negative conditioning.” You change your behavior so you don’t experience something negative.
Following this procedure, you do the same sort of thing to harness your words (for example, don’t use the pronoun “I”) and finally, your thoughts. Spend a week with each, then repeat the cycle until you have very few “breaks.” These things sound fairly easy but are actually progressively more difficult. Be that as it may, this type of training, I believe, is good for anyone on a magickal path.
I don’t know the source of this practice, although I’m going to guess it’s something that Crowley learned from Alan Bennet, one of his teachers, who became one of the first modern Western Buddhists. Kabalists may be interested to know that there is an ancient mystical Jewish tradition about this practice which is in complete alignment with the Buddhist concept. In Hebrew it’s called l’shon hara, and it means, “The Tongue of Evil.”
Although most commonly a prohibition against gossip, l’shon hara is actually a prohibition against thinking, talking, and acting in an “evil” manner. Specifically, it prohibits such things as:
Speaking words that are mean
Speaking or writing criticism of another that is unneeded
Giving overly severe criticism
Losing your temper
Speaking negatively of people “behind their backs”
Sharing something confided in you without permission
Listening to someone who is saying any of these things
According to the Talmud, lâ€™shon hara harms three people: The person who does them, the person who hears them, and the person victimized by them. Perhaps curiously, it’s not considered evil if you speak such things openly in front of three or more people. I’m going to guess that this “rule” may be based on the concept that if you spread enough garbage around, you’re going to be found out, and on a physical level your negativity will end up having no value.
On a magickal level, the result of not being in control of your words,Â l’shon hara, is that you won’t achieve your magickal purpose.
In sum, I would have to disagree with Crowley’s statement that “every intentional act is a magickal act.” I think that’s limiting. Instead, I would say that everything we think and do has magickal impact. By becoming aware of our thoughts, words, and actsâ€”by making them all intentionalâ€”we can lead a more successful and fully magickal life.
What do you think?