I am chilling with my father is Siesta Key. That means I have been having a lot of discussions about Buddhism.
My Dad has changed spiritual paths many times in his life, but he’s always been very witchy. Whatever he is, he’s the witchy version of that thing. So now, he’s a witchy Buddhist, and it’s really interesting to listen to him talk about how his magic impacts and is impacted by his Buddhist practice.
When his heart is really in something, he’s playful about it. Hence, the Rave-Buddha pictured left, which sits in his office at work.
The themes over the last few days in our discussions have been fear and anger, equanimity, and the purpose of magic.
I really found all this very interesting, so I thought I would share a few of the ideas that have been kicking around my head as a result.
Quote blocks are stuff my Dad said this week. Following each, I have my own thoughts and commentary.
Once there was a priest who was about to sacrifice a goat. As he was sharpening the knife, the goat started to laugh.
“Why are you laughing?” the priest asked irritably, “Don’t you know that I’m about to kill you?”
“I’m laughing because I have been born as a goat 400 times, and once I die, I will finally be reborn as a human again.”
Then the goat started to cry.
The priest was satisfied. “Ah, now you understand what’s coming. Your tears won’t save you, goat.”
“No, you don’t understand,” said the goat, “I’m not crying for me, I’m crying for you.”
“Crying for me? Why?” The priest demanded. “You’re the one who is about to die.”
“Before I was a goat,” said the goat, “I was a priest. I sacrificed 400 goats.”
Buddhism understands cruelty not as right or wrong, but instead, as a manifestation of a lack of wisdom, and a source of misery for all parties concerned. There is no sin, there is no redemption, but you always pay for the harm you do to others. Sometimes you pay for it in this life, sometimes you pay for it in the next life. Everything you do to others, you will experience.
The foolishness of ruthlessness and cruelty is something I came to on my own. I suppose I managed to arrive at this conclusion from some combination of nihilism and hedonism. That sounds strange, I suppose, so I’ll unpack that.
In my view, there is no such thing as meaningful accomplishment, from a spiritual perspective.
People strive for recognition and validation, but other people are mostly concerned for themselves. The rush you get from these experiences is short-lived and cannot sustain happiness. It leads to constantly and endlessly seeking attention and always feeling like it isn’t enough. Kinda why social media is a shit-show.
People strive for wealth, but beyond having your basic physical needs met, this is pointless. The wealthiest people tend also to be the pettiest. This is evidence of unhappiness.
People strive for a legacy, but that’s an illusion. The planet’s going to be smashed to powder, and we’re all destined to be forgotten eventually.
People strive for knowledge, but you’ll forget most of your book learning when you die. Even the aggregate knowledge of the world, published on the net, in books and elsewhere, only has as much longevity as the human race, if that.
Unlike my father, I don’t believe that reality is an illusion, perse. I do, however, believe that most of reality is meaningless.
Yet, from the perspective of the soul, kindness and cruelty endure. Whether the memories are conscious or not, we remember love, and we remember kindness that was done to us. We also remember cruelty. Our souls endure forever, and so kindness and cruelty endure forever.
Cruelty leads to unhappiness. Kindness leads to happiness. No striving is worthy that is not in the name of kindness. Civil rights are important because they not only prevent cruelty to the marginalized, but done correctly, the pursuit of them raises the consciousness of those people who would otherwise be cruel, and help them to understand that being cruel never actually improved their lives to begin with. This equity and justice is kindness to both the oppressor and the oppressed.
I seek pleasure in all of its form. Kindness to others is a deep and abiding sort of pleasure, and especially when combined with hospitality, it leads to the best and most pleasant sort of life. That doesn’t mean that I always manage to live up to this ideal. Kindness requires a sort of power over the self which can be hard to hold on to, and sometimes, being kind in certain situations requires wisdom and insight that I lack.
Particularly, all the people who frustrate me because they think that cruelty is clever will learn, eventually, the hard way, that they’re wrong. Trying to remember that when they are hurting people I care about is extremely difficult. But while feeling anger and frustration is understandable under those circumstances, it does not actually empower me to make the situation any better.
Fear and Anger
If you suddenly found an insect, like Khan’s ear-borer, crawling into your ear, how would you react? You’d be in a panic to stop it from crawling right into your brain.
Anger and fear are not different. They take over your head and they make you easy to control.
Neither anger nor fear has ever improved anyone’s ability to make good choices.
Speaking specifically about power over the self…
When discussing anger, my father likes to talk about “being in conflict with the machinery.” In his words: we know that anger is unpleasant and tends to cause us to be ineffective. We might try to keep our cool so that we can bring our will into being, but we get angry anyway.
In a CM context, control over one’s thoughts is the very first thing that we must master before we can trust ourselves with any heavy-duty magic. The last thing you want to do is turn the amp on your magical power up to 11, and then accidentally start thinking about an Arbecue sandwich. A saying among CM people is, “You can control nothing outside of yourself until you attain mastery over what is inside.”
Hekate recently expressed a differing take on spirituality saying that passion and selfishness are the best path to magical power. So many of you agreed that some even commented, “well, that seems sort of obvious.”
My father, who is really kick ass at scroll magic, has, now and in the past, repeatedly said that the first step in any magical procedure is “to clear your head.” For him, passion is grit in a delicate instrument, and an obstacle to manifestation. In my own experience, passion kicks up loads of energy, but I cannot correlate it with magical success. In fact, I cannot correlate kicking up lots of energy with magical success, though I certainly know how, if the mood strikes me. All of the things I have brought into being have been in quiet moments of certainty, when I was fully in control of myself. In my head, the analogy of martial combat is tempting. The surest way to lose a sparring match is to lose your cool and start punching and kicking wildly.
In such cases, when two opposing truths present themselves, I feel inclined to reconcile them. Courage is not a lack of fear. It is the ability to act despite fear. To keep the mind clear and controlled while the body is in the throes of passion and ecstasy would seem to be the ideal state, if we reconcile these two opinions. In a few words, to cultivate non-reactive awareness.
Equanimity vs. Self-Grasping
Sometimes I see myself getting angry. I can’t help it. I notice this the most when I’m driving. Some person cuts me off, and I’m angry. Why did they do that to me?
Behind that is a little voice that I’m not always aware of which is basically saying don’t they understand that I have places to go? Don’t they know who I am?
What did they cost me? Five minutes? If it rained and I was delayed five minutes, I wouldn’t be angry. I realize that this is because I, on some level, acknowledge that rain is being caused by someone bigger than me, and I’m not about to go upstairs and start an argument with that person.
But in either case, the rain, or the person cutting me off — it’s not about me.
Part of controlling anger is realizing that not everything is about you. It’s understanding that there are more important things in the universe than you.
Wow, that one cut deep.
Particularly, I immediately thought about witch wars and the phenomenon of magical attack.
I’m not denying that some people do get attacked. I know of certain cases where that’s probably the most plausible explanation. But the number of times when there was no magical attack, just a person wildly self-grasping, and then lashing out in ritualized anger, is sort of breath-taking.
One person I knew accidentally backed their car into a bicycle and got a scratch on their bumper, and asked me to do a reading on what god, spirit, or mortal magician had cursed them. Or maybe you weren’t paying attention, and you just made a mistake.
Another had a very, very old animal companion get sick, and asked me who had done it. Or maybe the animal is old, and all living creatures have their time.
Still other people have demanded to know why the gods have not chosen them for leadership. Or maybe you’re just better at other things. Leadership is a very particular skill set. Maybe just focus on your yoga, Karen.
Then there was the lady who told me that she had to keep her hair braided because her enemies were looking to take strands of her hair, and an oracle told her so. When I asked her why she thought she was under attack, she referenced about four things that were really common occurrences for middle class people in Silicon Valley. Yes, Miss Selenite Wolfstar, living here sucks. It’s not about you, and braiding your hair won’t fix the fucked up economy here.
To be the focus of divine wrath, magical attack, the attentions of the Fae, or the intentional slights of four hundred drivers on the road, you need to be very damn important. Even Evil Eye presumes that loads of people are looking at you with envy.
In fact, MOST of our horrible drama stems from self-grasping. And why shouldn’t it?
Witchy people tend to have very little in the way of practices which build equanimity (fancy word for keeping your cool in stressful situations). No job? Spell. No lover? Spell. Need better house? Spell. Not enough respect? Spell.
Where are the widespread conversations about self-improvement? The closest we ever get to acceptance is saying that the gods did this to us. Instead of praying to the gods for patience, courage, or solace, we roll around like rolling pins, saying that the gods don’t have to be kind.
Equanimity-building practices don’t have to be Buddhist. Praying to Ares is a good way to conquer fear and anger. Praying to Hermes is a good way to build empathy and patience. We have all the tools we need, we just tend not to use them.
And while I am all in favor of having a strong sense of self, the delusion that everything is about your own plight, your own story, your own faith, your own importance is toxic.
Any path to happiness that relies on having your own way all the time is going to end in tears. Because you can’t.
The Purpose of Magic
I look back on my years of journaling and the things I’ve brought into manifestation, and I wonder if I haven’t wasted my gifts.
I look back on my life, and on my journals, and with the exception of getting divorced from your mother, it all went exactly as I said it should. And I just wonder if I asked for the wrong things.
I’m not sure what I should have done instead, but I’m thinking about it.
All I know is that at the end of it, the thing that matters most is other people. Family and friends. Everything else is an illusion.
A perennial interest of mine is vulgar manifestation. Right now, I’m a little obsessed with teleportation because I have a lover back in Cali that I would really rather have by my side every weekend, even if they need to be at work Monday through Friday.
And I want to help deities to physically manifest more strongly and more easily because… well… godspouse. And I get a little frustrated on my god-husband’s behalf when I hear him say things like, “BRT, gotta distract the entire universe.” Or worse, “Can’t. Too many psychic eyeballs. Any interest in doing sex with a random street person?” (BTW: No. I have no interest in doing sex with a random street person)
So, though my aims seem pretty damned frivolous on paper, I feel relatively gratified that most of them are motivated by love. Way to Light-Side, Thenea.
But when I shared some of these thoughts with my father, he shook his head. “You’re 40,” he said, “You don’t have the perspective I have. A lot of this is going to seem trite in thirty years.”