Dear Neophyte Mystic,
Welcome to the path, and congratulations on choosing experiential religion. I’m happy to have you along on the journey.
I have been walking this path actively for about twenty years. I started using the astral as a child, began formal training as I entered legal adulthood, and I have a lifetime of injuries, battle scars, and mistakes to show for it. I have also experienced moments of profound joy, learned an incredible amount from my wanderings, and made many friends.
I’d like to impart to you some advice which will hopefully save you some headache and heartache. It is the advice I wish someone had given me when I first got started. It’s going to, in some places, contradict what people will try to teach you, but I will get into that soon enough.
Don’t believe everything you read.
Reading books written by modern people, with some notable exceptions, is not the best way to learn about mysticism. Talk to fellow mystics — a lot of them. Listen to the plurality of opinions and experiences, and keep an open mind. Use your reason, not someone else’s reputation, as a guide.
There Are Monsters
The astral is full of monsters, most of them made by humanity. The first monsters you encounter will be your inner demons.
Everything on the astral, with no exception, is made of thought, idea, and emotion. When you first open up your mind, your fears, traumas, social programming, low self esteem, anxieties, phobias, and insecurities will approach you, looking very much like independent beings.
You need to tame these monsters. They are parts of yourself. You can only tame them by mastering your own mind and processing your own damage. Think about what they are doing to push your buttons. Dig through your memories. Find peace with your narrative through forgiveness, or by resolving to make the world better in a way that addresses the source of the injury, or in any other way that makes sense to you.
Sometimes, other people will make their inner demons your problem. If you have a fairly good grasp of your own inner landscape, you’ll start to get an intuitive sense of where other people have damage. If their monsters become your problem, you have two basic choices: disengage, or become their therapist. Pro-tip: don’t become their therapist.
Psycho-Therapy and mysticism are deeply related. Israel Regardie recommended getting a therapist if you want to practice mysticism, and it’s really not a bad call.
Sometimes, the person making their inner demons your problem is a dead person, in which case you can scare them off or help them to cross over. Once you begin that work, exhausted deities and desperate spirits will find an infinite and bottomless amount of this work for you to do. These dead people are pretty fucked up, too. Vets get bitten, peed on, puked on, and scratched in their line of work. Being a psychopomp can be that way, too. The dead hate you for being alive, hate themselves for getting stuck, hate whatever deity or deities they believe in for not being exactly who they thought they were. Being bombarded by constant fear and hatred will take a toll on your health. Decide carefully.
Wards are basic bullshit
Remember the dead people I mentioned who failed to cross over, in part because whichever deity they worshipped in life failed to conform to their narrow expectations?
Don’t be that person.
If I send you a text message to come over, then put my phone down, draw the shutters, lock the doors, and then start having a conversation, who am I talking to?
My damned self, that’s who I’m talking to.
When you make wards that only allow a deity in, what it allows is whatever your pre-conceived notions of the deity are.
How do I know? I’ve seen improperly tuned wards keep human beings out of a space, because the person setting the parameters didn’t know enough about a potential house guest. Wards are just constructs. They can only do what they’re told. Even if you hire a bunch of spirits to protect your space, they don’t necessarily know your deity any better than you do.
Deities are never quite who you think they are. Uncovering their full selves takes time and dedication. If you always work with a ward, you will always experience them exactly as you expect to. See what I’m getting at, here?
Instead, try purification and banishing. Then pray to the deity with whom you wish to work for protection.
Everyone wants to sell you something.
Let me explain what I’m selling. What I really want to be when I grow up, is Gandalf. I want less of a separation between the worlds, and for magic to easily manifest physically.
To sum up a complex belief system succinctly: the easiest way to protect yourself from bad magical shit is to opt out. That is why most people don’t believe in magic and automatically discard any evidence they see to the contrary: they are trying to keep themselves safe. And it works.
Here’s the rub: in order for magic to be robust and healthy, people need to opt in. Mostly, magic is less than healthy because of people profiteering off of your fear. Eternal damnation, insane and violent deities and various other “concerns” are a way of controlling people.
What I’m trying to sell you is fearlessness and independence, so that you can safely opt in, a sense of proficiency so that others watching you get the sense that the magical world is more fun than scary, and generally, improved participation in the magical world, so that magic will be stronger. Then, I believe, it will be easier for me to physically teleport, or whatever.
This gives me some blind spots that I’m aware of: I tend to see everyone as magically and mystically capable, which I admit may not be true 100% of the time. I’m eager to get them off the ground, and disappointed when they don’t become independent as quickly as I hoped.
Different people may have other needs and desires and may have different motives or blind spots.
Some people love their tradition and they need warm bodies to keep it going. Your body. It is warm.
Others are just trying to fill the bottomless pit of their own insecurity with neverending validation. They need you to need them. You not needing them anymore feels bad, and they will sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, create problems for you so that they can solve them, or describe the astral world as far more complicated and dangerous than it really is so that they can keep the gravy train running. Always remember: exactly zero people have died in astral accidents. Don’t freak out. The fear is more dangerous to you than any astral baddie.
Some have pain, need you to hear and see it, and use their position in a community as an outlet for that.
Still others literally make actual money from other people’s mystical problems. If you are skeptical of big pharma profiting off of illnesses, and maybe being less interested in easy cures as a result, you’re not totally wrong. Doctors really do want to help people. But they’re likely to prescribe the drugs they get kickbacks from, and maybe not always the best drug. Practitioners who make money off of your demonic infestations are more likely to see a problem, and more likely to give you a quick fix rather than investigating the underlying cause. Incentives can change the way you think. Be careful. Be skeptical. And be aware that I’ve literally never had one of these paid cures work as well as the DIY version. No practitioner is closer to you than you are.
Motives and desires are as diverse as humanity is. Having a good grasp of your own damage will help you suss out what others are after. Having motives doesn’t make people bad, but knowing their motives will help you to understand their perspective and why they might be saying what they are saying, or doing what they are doing.
There is an off switch.
Oh my gods, there is an off switch. I wish someone had taught me where it was on day 1.
Your physical body has a sort of dark, inky envelope. Depending on your spiritual background, yours may start out a little too small for you, but you can build it.
Close your eyes, and just focus on the darkness that is inherent in having your eyes closed. Imagine pushing forward through that darkness, and into light. Welcome to the astral!
Now, allow yourself to sink back into that darkness, and draw all of your senses into it. Draw your hearing into the gentle thrum of your heart and breath. Welcome back to your body and it’s native, personal imaginative space that belongs to only you.
If this doesn’t work for you, your astral body may need a little waking up. Take your projective hand (usually the same hand you write with) and project energy at your receptive hand to form an energy circuit, and try again.
Only you can decide if deities are worth your time
It’s weird that some people still believe that we don’t have a choice about relationships with divinities. I mean, I’m not sure how they explain the ever-growing number of atheists. But trust me, you have a choice.
If a deity, to your perception, is being pushy and “won’t take no for an answer,” just swear an oath never to work with that deity. You won’t have to do that with more than one or two deities before you stop having deities push your buttons in that way. Experience speaking, here.
Spirituality does not require deities. You can be an animist. You can be a monotheist or monolator. No, rejecting a deity won’t destroy your soul, or whatever other fear-mongering bullshit the piety police are peddling today. You’re fine. Relax.
Ignore the piety police
Some people are going to try to bully you about your practice. Ignore them. They’ll talk down to you, tell you that you are doing your spirituality wrong, that there are going to be horrible consequences for not doing what they say.
These people are generally miserable because their own spirituality isn’t serving them. They want to hurt other people because the very existence of competing viewpoints threatens them. They are insecure and need to work on their inner shit. They are not role models to be looked up to.
If your practice makes you happy, serves you well, meets your personal spiritual goals, and doesn’t hurt innocent people, you are not doing it wrong. There is no wrong way to have a body. There is no wrong way to have a soul.
You’ll know if you are doing it wrong because you will feel helpless and miserable. If you feel happy and empowered, you are probably on the right track.
On that note, the people who attempt to muster community resources to attack people they don’t agree with are wasting everyone’s time and effort. It might be better spent on, oh, I dunno, building temples and creating community resources, rather than struggling to keep the pond small so that they can feel more important.
Someday, dear Neophyte, I hope you will turn around and write your own letter, to your students, or maybe your children, so that they can bennefit from your wisdom. If every generation of mystics makes new mistakes, rather than retreading the old ones, we will all be the richer for it.
Thenea (of 2017)