by Ian Elliott 2-5-13
We all contain magical energy, and this energy is unique to each of us. But due to conditions of modern life, all of our magical energy is deployed in habits, habits of perception, of feeling, of thinking and doing. Very little is left over every day for exploring our magical heritage. This is why most spell books on the market are not much help in casting spells. They take a cookbook approach which assumes that people as they are have sufficient magical energy available to make them work. They don’t.
In order to access our own magical energy, we must begin by saving little amounts of energy which we otherwise fritter away each day in wasteful habits. This is the starting-point of the Inner Craft. It is a very small door, like the door Alice went through into Wonderland – she had to take a magic cordial first to make herself little. It begins, in other words, with small efforts.
Conserving magical energy requires patience. It takes a while to save up sufficient energy to make a difference. However, we are so used to our typical energy states, which run in cycles, that we recognize a difference in them almost immediately after starting efforts at conservation. We may suddenly worry that we don’t seem to be worrying so much anymore. This sounds silly, but we are so used to our own ups and downs that it takes all of a witch’s Power to Dare to venture into this unknown territory.
Here is a general map of our familiar territory, which we will be leaving behind:
1 – Cycles of worry and anxiety.
2 – Cycles of small nervous movements.
3 – Cycles of inner talk.
4 – Cycles of negativity.
5 – Mental and material clutter.
6 – Patterns of perception.
These are the main areas of our life which commandeer and squander our available magical energy. The simplest one to start with is the second, small nervous movements. When the witch sits, he or she is still. This is the power of the North, the Power to Keep Silent, as expressed by the body. Regular exercise is necessary in order to remain still in a vibrant, poised manner. The witch notes the situations under which he or she tends to begin scratching, or tapping the foot, or whichever motion is involved. If this occurs while sitting in a chair, the witch gets up immediately at the first sign of it, and does something else. It is no good waiting until the train of habit runs you over; as soon as you see it approaching, you must get off the track. This requires the cultivation of vigilance.
The first item on the list above may seem necessary to running our practical lives and avoiding financial or some other form of ruin. If I don’t worry, how will I pay my bills on time? The answer is to sit down daily, preferably in the morning, and make a list of daily obligations. Plan on paper, or on the computer, and spend some time every day reviewing your plans. If you have a long-standing problem, such as finding adequate employment, do something every day towards solving it. Then, when you feel you have done enough for that day, close your planning book. If there are tasks to perform, do them. But by evening you should feel free to relax your practical self and see to other dimensions of your existence.
Eliminating clutter in your life, item number five, supports practical planning. Go through your closets and shelves and dresser drawers, and examine all your papers and other stored items. You may find something useful to your current needs. Use what you find, or give or throw it away, or sell it. The mind keeps track of everything buried deep in closets, even if you have forgotten some of those things consciously. Dealing with them, finding a use for them, not only opens up new opportunities in your life, it unties little energy knots that you may have carried around for years.
Clutter also occupies time. We typically over-commit ourselves to meetings, projects, visits, and other entanglements which fill up our already busy schedules. It isn’t necessary to be busy all the time in order to live a full life. On the contrary, the more we do or promise to do, the less freedom we possess to explore new paths. The multi-millionaire J.P. Morgan complained that he always felt hemmed in by his busy commitments. Practice saying things like “I’ll have to think about it” instead of immediately saying yes.
Inner talk, item number three, generally takes either of two forms. I call these the rehash and the rehearsal. The rehash involves repeating mentally conversations held recently, perhaps modifying the responses one made in order to appear cleverer or more compassionate to oneself. We wish we had said something more, so we say it in our minds afterwards. A certain amount of review of our behavior after the fact is a healthy habit, but a little goes a long way. Obsessively revolving past conversations, or imaginary extensions of them, consumes an enormous amount of energy and increases our feeling of dependence on how others see us.
In the other direction we have the rehearsal. We think about an upcoming event, an encounter with someone perhaps, and we begin talking to that person in our minds. This can be more or less hypothetical, as of course all thoughts about the future are hypothetical to some degree. Here again, there is a fruitful use of this habit, as when we are planning what we will say in a job interview. But too much last minute ‘cramming’ is usually counter-productive. Plan what you will do and say, then lay it aside and direct your attention to other things.
When a witch feels caught up in the rehash or rehearsal, he or she identifies it first, thinking “that is the rehash” or “that is the rehearsal,” and then turns the attention to the surroundings, or some other present reality, such as a book. Here as elsewhere, it is a matter of knowing when to stop.
The fourth item, cycles of negativity, must be approached in a two-step process. If we have habits of making sarcastic jokes, we may justify this by seeing ourselves as witty persons. Encouraged by the laughter of others (which may have only been polite), we may feel that we have a reputation to uphold as comedians or critics. Or perhaps we dislike political correctness and see ourselves as rebels when we make remarks some find offensive. Or we may see ourselves as heroic figures motivated by righteous outrage to tilt at windmills.
The first stage of saving magical energy by not squandering it in expressions of negative emotion is to discover what self-image, or images, we are using to justify such expression. If your expression takes place in a social setting, you should consider the possibility that less grumbling or joking from you will be a relief to your usual audience. If you express negativity in private, perhaps cursing other drivers or your computer, see yourself doing it and how absurd it would look to someone else.
Once you have deflated the justification for your negativity, it will be easier to work on deflecting the expression itself. Here again, think of the approaching train: you must see it chuffing along towards you from a distance and jump off the tracks well in time before it sweeps you up. In other words, you must become familiar with your cycles of energy wastage so you will know when to break them. Habit cycles are like chains, and every chain has a weakest link. Finding the weak link is the key to breaking the chain.
In doing all these things, the witch should avoid the feeling that the Inner Craft is a goody-goody ethical pursuit. It is nothing of the kind. We want access to free energy, and in order to get it, we must become misers of energy. We must bear in mind that all our energy is already deployed, and our only hope of breaking free from our energy strait-jackets is by saving little bits of it, one bit at a time.
Once we have become vigilant with these five items it will be time to turn our attention to the subtlest and, potentially, the most powerful form of conservation, changing patterns of perception. We perceive all the time, and our way of looking at and listening to the world is a habit of such long standing that changing it is a most subtle affair. It is necessary to have the other five areas well in hand before attempting this last, sixth one. If we go for the sixth item prematurely, we shall achieve some novel effects, but before long we will drop it as an interesting exercise which goes nowhere.
The Inner Craft distinguishes between directing the attention to where the eyes are pointing, which it calls looking, and spreading the attention from that, extending it to perceptions lying to the side of where our eyes are pointing, or above or below where they are pointing. The eyes do not move to these things, just the attention.
In the same way, changing perceptual patterns involves extending the attention to background sounds as well as to sounds we are currently focused on. We generally listen to background sounds sporadically and then shut them out if they are annoying or fail to interest us, as with muzack in a store or elevator. The witch takes in all available sounds continuously, for this saves the energy habitually employed in blocking them out. It takes much more energy to ignore peripheral sights and sounds than to include them in attention. This is the secret of this form of magical energy conservation.
Attending to things to the side is called gazing in the Inner Craft. We can gaze to the side of an object, such as a television screen, or we can switch our eyes to the side of the screen and gaze back at it. If you practice switching back and forth from one form of gazing to the other, you will feel a sensation starting in the back of your head at some point. Something will open up back there. Don’t try to make this happen, or you will become involved in imagination. Just be aware when it does happen on its own.
When you close your eyes to go to sleep at night, you will see little lights and patterns produced by the gentle pressure of your eyelids on the retinas. These are called phosphenes. Generally we ignore them and just go to sleep. This is probably for the best, for if you follow them with the attention, you may or may not drop off. But it isn’t necessary to keep your eyes open all day until it is time to go to sleep. If you observe animals, they spend a good deal of time with their eyes closed. This is especially true of cats, at least as far as my observation goes (I am a cat person). You should rest your eyes two or three times during the day, and as you are not doing so to take a nap (though you may fall asleep anyway), you can observe your phosphenes. This is called “reading the book of the eyelids” in the Inner Craft.
You may find, while your eyes are closed, that your hearing becomes more acute. You can play with this sensation by opening and shutting your eyes at intervals. Do this while sitting or lying at home, or while a passenger in a car or train, looking out the window. Don’t try it while walking or driving!
Exercises of these sorts increase our use of the ears and relax somewhat our over-reliance on the eyes. In particular, extending one’s visual attention to the side (or above or below) of where the eyes are pointing tends to relax the muscles at the outer sides of the eyes. These are typically tensed because we are using our eyes to track on objects, as though they were searchlights. Pueblo Indian chief Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake) once remarked to the psychologist C.G. Jung that “The white man’s eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something…they are always uneasy and restless …We think they are mad.” i From being searchlights, the eyes can become passive windows, taking in the whole visual field as it is presented.
When the muscles at the outer sides of the eyes relax, the witch will feel a peculiar energy entering there, an energy carrying feelings and what might be called ‘wordless knowledge.’
Another way of taking in the whole visual field at once is to keep our headlessness in view. ii Did you know you were headless? You knew this when you were a small child, before you were told that ‘the baby in the mirror’ was you, yourself. At that point, we began to ignore the little we could see of our heads without using a mirror or other reflecting surface: perhaps a blob for the nose, eyelashes in bright sunlight, or a cowlick hanging down in front. If we keep those sensations in view, we will stay in contact with the whole visual field. Losing those sensations, we tend to alternate between thinking and looking. We feel that we are shut up in our heads, looking from moment to moment out of two portholes at the world around us. If we keep our headlessness in view, we shall think and see at the same time, as Janus the threshold guardian does at the Pagan’s front door, looking out and in at once with his two faces. We shall live on the outside of our bodies.
There is much more to this part of the Inner Craft dealing with perceptual patterns, such as noticing shadows. Cars at midday roll along over their shadow carpets without casting them back from the wheels. When we walk home in moonlight, the moon keeps pace with us. When we cross our eyes looking at two candles placed side by side at eye level, a third candle appears between them, combining their colors and features. These are only a few out of many perceptual patterns which help to release our magical energy; but it is unnecessary to mention all of them, since practicing a few of the basic ones already mentioned will inevitably lead to all the rest.
If you take the six items above in the recommended sequence, you will be able to integrate the Inner Craft in your daily lives, and in the Circle you will hum with magical energy.
HARDING, D. E., On Having No Head; Zen and the Re-discovery of the Obvious. London and New York, Arkana, 1986.
JUNG, Carl, Memories. Dreams, Reflections, New York, Vintage Books, 1965.
i Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 248.
ii See On Having No Head, by D.E. Harding.