Alchemical Garden Forum

Please visit Entering the Garden and discover what are our sustaining roots. You may only apply with us if you agree and consent to our Community Vision and Purpose and Ethos and Ethical Guidelines.

The registration includes writing a letter of application in which you sincerely tell us why you wish to join.

essay Using Magical Methods and Understanding Wishful Thinking

Essay typically is a creative, free flowing, and self-contained complete article, but also a manner of unusually lively written interaction where formality is not a stifler.

Energetic conflict(s):      None. Only usual carefulness is asked.

Precaution(s):     
  1. Magic & Esoteric Arts (sacred initiations and occult knowledge should be treated with healthy respect)
  2. Teacher Needed (learning is too difficult without teacher's detailed assistance or supervision)
  3. The Great Work (internal arts are difficult and life's challenges range from temptations to harmless diversions, but it's important to persist in everything correct)

Discussion premise:      Hermetic — Please try to uphold this point of view so that the discussion always returns to it.

Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
Moderator
Let us begin with these two videos to set the tone and expectations:

This is what people think they are capable of doing and what it should look like:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_9kx2vAOOU


This is what people are actually doing and how it looks like:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22Tj_l4PcPs


I was inspired by the following Vice articles:




These passages are relevant to look at (bold emphasis mine):

In the days after Trump's inauguration, after the outspoken white supremacist Richard Spencer was punched on camera, the media became entangled in a passionate ethical debate: Is it ever OK to punch a Nazi? several news outlets pondered.

Around the same time, I was sent a Google Doc containing a poetic manifesto written by a mysterious group of anti-fascist witches called the Yerbamala Collective (YMC) that seemed to raise a similar question: Is it ever OK to curse a Nazi? The manifesto was titled, succinctly, "Our Vendetta: Witches vs. Fascists." On the first page, it read, "FUCK [DONALD TRUMP], FASCISTS, RICHARD SPENCER, MILO." On the third page, in giant font, the collective proclaimed with unpunctuated urgency, "YOU WILL NOT WIN EVEN IF YOU KILL US WE WILL HAUNT YOU OUR GHOSTS WILL KILL YOUR DOG."

An antifascist spell book created by the group (also in the form of a Google Doc) offered a more extreme alternative to the Wiccan Rede, a moral code central to Wicca and several other Neopagan and witchcraft-based belief systems. "An it harm none, do what thou wilt" is the most common form of the Rede; it simply means that those who abide by the rule are free to do whatever they wish as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. "& IT HARM FASCISTS," the Yerbamala spell book states, "DO WHAT THOU WILT."

...


About a month after the Yerbamala Collective released its manifesto, I attended a ritual to bind Trump and his supporters from doing harm, which took place in the back room of Catland, an occult store in Bushwick. Some witches who abide strictly by the Wiccan Rede find binding spells distasteful, as they can be interpreted as harmful; when I mentioned this fact to F. Jennings, who led the ritual, he was firm in his response, noting that the magical community "includes countless immigrants, people of color, indigenous groups, and many from the LGBTQ* community," all of whom are directly endangered by Trump, his administration, and their supporters. "I am all for love and light, but the gloves come off when members of our community are the target of hatred and darkness," he said.

"This [isn't] about enlightening others—binding is restrictive work. Most practitioners would much rather lead a group ritual that helps enlighten or heal others," he added. "But that's not the time we're living in right now. This is no time to idly preach enlightenment."


The Yerbamala Collective, too, has little faith that Trump and those who support him can be reasoned with through either magical or mundane means; they see the festering beliefs that ushered Trump to power as a form of dark magic, or at least an obvious symptom of spiritual decay. "The Trump administration operates within an existing colonial-capitalist ideation of 'freedom,' as in 'Make America Great Again,'" one witch wrote. "These were dark spells that continue to be fed by white supremacy and fermented ignorances. We are pointing to this old curse. Our spells run on these circuits so that they can break these spells."


Like their definition of "witch," the collective's definition of "spell" resists neat interpretation, and intentionally so: When asked what type of magical practice they engage in, one witch wrote that "breathing, surviving, writing, and loving on this earth despite capitalism's constant assassination attempts is our practice." Another, seeming to take the question more literally, said, "Personally, I take the negative and destructive powers of the dead and try to use them for good, i.e., to destroy bad. It takes a lot of practice to do this. It's not something you wake up knowing how to do one day. I would say I have an army of demonic powers on my side to do what I want at all times."

In essence, the YMC argues, witchcraft is about individual empowerment, and it's accessible to all—even those on the fringes of society—which makes it antithetical to fascism. Jennings has a similar view. "Many magical paths, especially chaos magic, emphasize the work of spiritual growth through liberation, self-direction, and self-actualization," he said. "In short, magic has always been in a spiritual war against tyranny."

Waging spiritual war on metastasized autocracy is slow and constant work, a generations-long project without an easy end point, which the Yerbamala Collective acknowledges. "I wouldn't say YMC is moving toward a goal, but more of an alchemy of turning shit (fascism) into gold (queer futurity)," one member said. "We are invested in a participatory, collaborative craft in which the spells work best when they simultaneously disrupt fascist energies while creating an open channel for healing to take place in marginalized communities."


....

In the spirit of imagining a utopian, queer future, I asked the collective what spell, in the traditional sense, they'd ideally want to cast on Trump. Most of the witches who responded said they'd want to magically force him to understand the gravity of his actions, to actually feel the pain and suffering he's caused. "If any of [Trump's administration] actually felt real empathy for a moment—real feeling for anyone who is in any way different from them—they would shatter. Empathy spells are good because they fuck with hateful people while boosting the rest of us," read one particularly vivid response. "But, yeah, I would bake the Trump administration into a gigantic casserole and feed it to the poor people in coastal areas who will be the first to starve when the state apparatus inevitably fails them (again). Will send leftovers up to the polar bears."

From the above passage, two things I will note are very important: 1) the focus on healing and empathy as a spell bypasses the usual defenses against direct attacks, and is why healing is the most important skill one must have in both understanding and application, 2) the hubris of claiming "an army of demonic powers to do what I want" is not only delusional, but dangerous, because the intent alone with the incorrect methods are harmful to the individual and those around them.

Let's look at two premises and assumptions for this point: 1) that magic does work, and 2) that the method is correct. With these two assumptions, my point that the focus on healing is the most important practice because direct attacks, assuming the other side also practices some form of magic, will have their defenses up as well. Assuming the methodology and the practitioner are not correct (which is actually frequently the case with chaos magick and self-initiates), then not only is this an exercise in futility, but about as effective as a forty year-old child throwing a temper tantrum in his mother's basement in Colorado and expecting people in the White House to be affected by his outburst.

Now, another passage where I shall emphasize in bold some key points:

Shortly after midnight one night in late February, outside of the grimly palatial Trump Tower in Manhattan, a Trump supporter was screaming at a small group of anti-Trump protesters clustered on the sidewalk. In some ways, the confrontation was fairly typical: "You only like democracy when it works in your favor!" the Trump supporter, an ardent, bespectacled woman with her hair in a ponytail, bellowed at one point.

By most measures, however, the scene was unusual. The protesters were sitting beside a makeshift altar, brandishing candles and a tarot card, and had just finished casting a spell on the US president. Their lone detractor, who later described herself as a "Christian mystic," was aggressively wielding a small, round mirror, shrieking repeatedly that she was reflecting their magical intentions back on them.

"I hope to protect Donald Trump," she said.


...

But this isn't the first time witches have meddled in Trump's affairs, and the magical Trump resistance is far more fractured than most media coverage would suggest. Liberal witches, like much of the left, vehemently disagree on how to handle the embattled former reality star and his administration; some find the rhetoric of the binding spell too divisive, while others worry that the populism of the mass ritual could dangerously dilute any desirable magical effects.

...

As the spell started to go viral, witches began flocking to the comments section of the Medium article Hughes had published to express their dismay and horror. Some of them were worried the spell's imprecise wording—the ritual chant originally asked that Trump "fail utterly" without specifying at what—could have unintended, cataclysmic consequences for national security; others cautioned that the planets weren't aligned correctly on the specified date. The majority of the ritual's detractors, however, worried that the spell, being too negative, was running afoul of the "Rule of Three," which states that whatever energy a person puts into the world will return to them threefold.

...

Some critics of the ritual suggested that, instead of a binding spell, the mass magical action should focus on enlightening Trump and making him cognizant of the harm he's doing to others, with the hopes that this would encourage him to change his autocratic behaviors. Hughes scoffed at the notion. "The idea that magic has to be all love and light, and we should be trying to enlighten these people who are clearly damaged and crazed individuals who are breaking everything they touch—that seems kind of silly to me," he told Broadly in a phone interview.

Other witches decried the fact that the ritual, by going viral, had involved far too many inexperienced or first-time magic users. "The idea of circulating this far and wide and bringing in thousands of magic users is appealing," wrote John Beckett, a respected Druid, in a post on Patheos. However, he warned, "not all magic users are equal. Some are well-trained, experienced magicians. Some are beginners who are still trying to figure out what they're doing… Just bringing more people into the working isn't going to make it effective."

...


A byzantine series of coincidences toward the end of Trump's campaign led 4chan users to jokingly construct their own occultist belief system, sometimes referred to as the Cult of Kek. The basic idea behind it is that Pepe the Frog—a meme of an amphibian who vacillates between morose and smug, who somehow went from innocuous cartoon to hate symbol in the past year—is actually an avatar through which members of 4chan unknowingly resurrected Kek, the frog-headed Egyptian god of chaos and primordial darkness. The figure of Kek-as-Pepe enjoyed a mild public apotheosis on September 11, 2016, which is when the Clinton campaign posted about Pepe on Hillary Clinton's official website, calling the meme "a symbol associated with white supremacy." On the same day, Clinton herself left a 9/11 memorial service abruptly, appearing unsteady on her feet.

"Kek—Pepe—emerged into plain sight on September 11," explains vlogger Davis Aurini in an instructional animation about the Cult of Kek. "This is when he was denounced by Hillary Clinton, and she shortly thereafter fainted and passed out. On 9/11, which, again… is also the [date of the] Benghazi attack that she was responsible for. So we've got these repeating patterns. She declared [Pepe] an enemy of the state. Here we have this old woman yelling about a cartoon frog, and then she gets brought down on the anniversary of her treachery."

After this series of synchronicities, the narrative around the Cult of Kek coalesced into something resembling a legitimate fringe spiritual belief: "Out of this, 4chan starts to realize that they're 'memeing' Donald Trump into the White House via Pepe the Frog and the ancient Egyptian godform (Kek) that Pepe represents," as the anonymous person behind the "Truth About Pepe" website, who asked to be referred to only as ATL, told Broadly over email.

In his book Occult Memetics, occultist Tarl Warwick draws a comparison between certain memes and the concept of the egregore, an autonomous magical entity often defined as a "thoughtform" or "collective group mind." An egregore is summoned into existence by a group of like-minded people, according to the writings of occult author W. E. Butler; as the number of individuals feeding into it increases, "so the power and range of the egregore increases… Each member of the group pours energy into the collective thought-form but, equally, into each member there also passes the influence of the group as a whole." Pepe, Warwick writes, "is an egregore of unimaginable force."


According to ATL, Pepe can be seen as a form of chaos magic, an ancient belief system that relies on magic symbols, or sigils, to project one's will into the universe. "When a lot of people pool their united willpower towards a single sigil, it's called a hypersigil, and it's exponentially more potent," he explained on his website. "Millions of the 'little people' that browse 4chan have embedded the image of Pepe with their hatred for Hillary's alleged corruption, and their hope for Trump's victory over her in November. Whether they did this consciously or not, it's exactly what has happened."

He is, of course, not entirely serious. "I've read many articles taking this far too seriously and assuming that the guys on 4chan all believe that they have magic power. I'm not in anybody's head, but the short answer is: they don't," Théodore Ferréol, a French journalist who has covered meme magic extensively, told Broadly over email. "Well, maybe, in a way, some do, but if you believe it too much then the joke is on you. If you believe it too much, consider yourself trolled."

"It's a prank, but it's not a joke,"
Ferréol added, somewhat perplexingly.
 
  • Equanimity
Reactions:

Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
Moderator
Okay! Now, having given the above, I want to emphasize something else: wishful thinking.

I will be very brief with this to state that by and large, as stated in the last quoted passage, a collective group working together (and against each other) with divided intention, mixed with correct, experienced magicians and those who are self-initiated beginners who have more hubris than they do actual skill, can cause more damage and misfires.

A small, private cabal with focus can do more than than thousands of amateurs and hacks who learned all they can from reddit, YouTube, and the New Age books written by hilariously unskilled authors and okayed by publishing houses who see the benefit of easy access to power as a great income generator rather than edifying material.

I will add however that this is based on the premises that magic does work, because the technicalities and framework behind it are not what the spirit of this piece reflect, but rather the dangers of wishful thinking and incorrect methodologies with downright impotent skill.

If we view ideas and time as currency, then we are flooding the information space with useless ideas, and in turn, feeding the above-quoted passage's description of an egregore. To serious believers and to bored agnostics alike, and to a lesser extent the casual and curious viewer who stumbles across these things, it still feeds the egregore.

Wherever our minds focus their attention, the energy follows, or as said in Daoist internal alchemy, "Qi follows Yi".

A principle I find applicable here is that regardless of one's understanding or skill level, strong emotions and intentions inadvertently can cause a form of magic, especially thought forms.

Thought forms can act independently and do not follow the intentions or wishes of those who inadvertently and unknowingly birth them.

One of the things I learned from my Akashic meditations is that the state of our world today, and as it always has been, is a reflection of the collective psyche. Our collective psyche is damaged, and so we have manifested this world, including the pandemic.

The trauma of being stuck inside, the populist movements and authoritarian governments, and the lack of unity, discipline, or wisdom, as well as absence of spiritual truths and values that guide and heal us are creating this spiritual winter.

The absence of proper instruction and guidance leads to irresponsible use of various forms of magic by those with some skill, and the inadvertent use through intense emotions and intent from the collective
.

Hubris, especially from those who think that they can kill gods, or how they alone accidentally created the coronavirus, and other such bold self-certainties, seems like an irritating petulant child at worst, but the problem is for want of a nail: a single mosquito bite can bring forth lovely things like dengue and malaria.

Oh, and look here: we have an abundance of hubris with these people who are featured in the above articles and social media groups, alongside small groups who don't publicly advertise what they are doing.

Now what I am advocating is not necessarily elitism, but unfortunately, it may be quite close to it if and only if there aren't enough qualified individuals with wisdom to teach and equally qualified individuals to study and practice with the right characteristics of humility and restraint.

One of the simplest things I can really advocate at this point are for people to drop pretenses of power, avoid attacking others or assaulting their Free Will, and focus on the Buddhist form of liberating all sentient beings, whether it is through those dedicated enough to recite the sutras and embody the wisdom of the Eightfold Path, or even as basic as chanting Om Mani Padme Hum and focusing on both self-liberation and liberation of all, casting aside all aggression and desire for power and control. In the current very anarchic state of practice that has many rejecting the proper channels for guidance and learning, this is probably one of the few things we can hope for that is realistically desirable and attainable, and this assumes humans are willing to give up power and cooperate.

We've all seen how well that has gone historically...but here's hoping!

It is unlikely it will happen, however, given that many self-initiates are already anti-authoritarian and confuse authority with authoritarian.

One way I'd describe it is a plumber has authority over how to handle your clogged toilet rather than what you find on YouTube or any web search, but an authoritarian is someone who is not merely a plumber, but declares his skill and understanding as sufficient enough to make you kiss his feet and do whatever he says so that maybe he might fix your leaky faucet that is tied to your spiritual baggage.

Again: using the authority of some basic tantric mantra and sutra practice mentioned above, it will turn most people off, even if it's one of the safest practices, simply because it's not rewarding for individual self-validation and self-relevance.

If humans can get out of their asses fast enough, who knows? We may one day get off the cycle of conflict, which could have happened centuries ago.
 
  • Equanimity
  • Loving-kindness
Reactions:

Miroku

Practitioner-to-be
Tutor
Yay Buddhism!

I have been following these witchcraft/pagan debates for a year now more or less. Mostly via Tumblr and some random articles. While not the best sources of knowledge in general, they have something in common and that is there is quite a nice spectrum of people, from fashion-witches, who will never progress due to it being mostly outside thing for them, to quite sincere people who made it a part of their lives.

What I have learned is just how inconsistent these circles are. Witches telling people that worshipping deities is dangerous! People saying they "work with" a deity. That sounds insane to me. Worship is the most basic way to engage with a deity, or a higher power. How can it be dangerous, when you just worship, offer things/feelings/moments to a deity? Anyway, mostly what they call a witchcraft is honestly some tarot reading and quite often it is a form of self-care. From "witchcraft moments" where enjoying a cup of tea, a bath or a book is a magic, to people using it to some form of self-empowerment. Which honestly is quite nice and positive.

What it was always full of is virtue signalling, but that is the nature of tumblr, where apparently if you don't tell people you are not a nazi and they can be whoever they want while reading your posts, you are a nazi.

This essay actually reminded me of the time last year when some "TikTok Witches" hexed the Moon.

It seems to me that if you put two witches into a room they will either start fighting or unite in an almost yin-yang way...
162977029_10157551953101262_2130920306228992450_n.jpg

But that sort of behaviour is normal and quite frankly I enjoy yin-yanging with like-minded people. Metaphorically ofc.
 
  • Sympathic joy
Reactions:

Earl Grey

Gonzo Daoist and Dharma Punk
Moderator
Yay Buddhism!

I have been following these witchcraft/pagan debates for a year now more or less. Mostly via Tumblr and some random articles. While not the best sources of knowledge in general, they have something in common and that is there is quite a nice spectrum of people, from fashion-witches, who will never progress due to it being mostly outside thing for them, to quite sincere people who made it a part of their lives.

What I have learned is just how inconsistent these circles are. Witches telling people that worshipping deities is dangerous! People saying they "work with" a deity. That sounds insane to me. Worship is the most basic way to engage with a deity, or a higher power. How can it be dangerous, when you just worship, offer things/feelings/moments to a deity? Anyway, mostly what they call a witchcraft is honestly some tarot reading and quite often it is a form of self-care. From "witchcraft moments" where enjoying a cup of tea, a bath or a book is a magic, to people using it to some form of self-empowerment. Which honestly is quite nice and positive.

What it was always full of is virtue signalling, but that is the nature of tumblr, where apparently if you don't tell people you are not a nazi and they can be whoever they want while reading your posts, you are a nazi.

This essay actually reminded me of the time last year when some "TikTok Witches" hexed the Moon.

It seems to me that if you put two witches into a room they will either start fighting or unite in an almost yin-yang way...
162977029_10157551953101262_2130920306228992450_n.jpg

But that sort of behaviour is normal and quite frankly I enjoy yin-yanging with like-minded people. Metaphorically ofc.

The thing with self-initiates as always is everyone gives themselves the authority to decide if something works or not.

I'm reminded of a guy who opened up a for-profit university and got accreditation--the accrediting organization was a new one that was owned by none other than the founder of the for-profit university, so he accredited himself.

I get people are wary of authoritarians and abuse by authority figures, but at a certain point, we do need qualified individuals to safeguard and oversee what works and what doesn't. The problem is, as I said: so many self-proclaimed "official" authorities don't actually have anything but a fancy stamp and a copyright claim filed.

Some say "the proof is in the pudding" and that the end result should demonstrate something works. Except this is not how it works whether it is neigong or magic. It's the process itself just like knowing the answer from the back of the mathematics textbook doesn't help you understand the quadratic equation.
 
  • Equanimity
Reactions:
Top