It Either Works or it Doesn’t.

Finished The last Alan Chapman and Duncan Barford book, A Desert of Roses,  a good while back. Really enjoyed all three of the books and even recently re-read Advanced Magick for Beginners. As much as I enjoyed them, I am not sure I agree that the ultimate goal of magic should only be enlightenment and if that isn’t your goal then you are in Black Brother territory BUT overall they make some really good points and have some really interesting experiences. I was mostly interested by my own reaction to people claiming that they had become Enlightened. At first, I just thought – “Well, C’mon, that’s not true.” Almost immediately came the rebuttal – why wouldn’t it be true? Do I think Enlightenment is impossible? No. Then why do I think it is massively highly unlikely that people who are claiming to be enlightened are actually enlightened? It either exists or it doesn’t, and if it exists we should be seeing evidence of it.

Duncan Barford

Duncan Barford

Interesting I am back reading (or more correctly listening to audiobooks by) Brad Warner, a Zen guy, who would cover some of the same territory (minus any magic element) but would very much be the polar opposite in many respects to Chapman and Duncan. He would call most of the experiences outlined in the books “Enlightenment Porn” and would suggest that you really shouldn’t think too much about them.

Again, I am not sure about that either. Like I mentioned above, this stuff is either possible or it isn’t. If it is possible, which all three writers seem to agree on, then people should be having demonstrable results. If enlightenment is possible, then people should be getting enlightened. If we, as true believers, are so certain that Magic, for instance, actually works then why is the first reaction to a claim of magic usually disbelief? I can understand the lack of belief from skeptics but from people who actually champion this stuff? Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely guilty of this too, so I’m not pointing any fingers from any Ivory towers.

Brad Warner

Brad Warner

Brad Warner is really great, you should read his books, but for me, Zen and Buddhism comes from a place of “just give up and accept where you are, things will never get better and if they do they will get worse pretty quick afterwards.”. Just give up… Which from my Catholic upbringing feels too familiar for my liking. Don’t try, don’t try to better yourself, don’t try to be happy as it will ultimately lead to pain, just give up… accept your place in life, you are no one, you are not a special and unique snowflake and frankly, you are taking up space.

I sometimes feel that my adventures in Buddhist thoughts have really encouraged my more depressive traits and feelings. Couple that with Catholic guilt and you have a really decent cocktail for feeling that life is shit and best avoided.

But what I have recently found is that “just give up…” doesn’t lead to happiness or fulfilment or anything different from not giving up. I still feel the same way. If anything I feel worse about myself and life in general. All “letting go” it leads to is giving up… on everything.  It’s similarly annoying and untrue as that other saying that really grinds my gears: “Say Yes to everything, you never know where it will lead!” which from my experience only leads to more stuff you don’t want to do. I say No a lot more and it has worked out much better for me. We really should test these sayings before we believe them.

Buddhist thought, Catholic guilt, Media, Politics, a lot of science, and whatever other flavour of modernity you want to choose,  very actively bombards us with the notion that you/me/us are totally worthless and insignificant. They all remind you to stay in your place, stop reaching out, stop thinking you have any power or are any worth and more than that if you do get something nice it will end up being a nightmare. We are told “Careful what you wish for…” because obviously getting what you want will make things worse. Is there an actual study on this? Is there evidence that we really should be careful what we wish for? I have gotten stuff I wanted that improved my life and didn’t in any way bite me in the tail. “Money doesn’t buy you happiness”, so just stay where you are and accept the meagre circumstances of your live. EXCEPT – money does buy you happiness, to a point anyway. People who earn (depending on source) $65,000 to $75,000 a year are happier than those who don’t. Above that figure money doesn’t add any further to your happiness level.
Life may indeed be dukkha but dukkha with money and health is way better.

So, good on Chapman and Barford for talking about their enlightenment. I accept that Enlightenment exists as something that can happen, so I must believe that it has happened to some people. Otherwise it’s just a useless theory.  Like a good Chaos Magician I am going to spend some time believing everyone’s tales of magic accomplishment, sudden satori and whatever else, let’s see what happens. I’m done with “Letting go”. 😀




7 Replies to “It Either Works or it Doesn’t.”

  1. Great article, I agree…. I always had the sneaking suspicion that buddhism became progressively less magickal and more about giving up because people weren’t following the teachings “correctly” and couldn’t reproduce the results.

    As we move further from the buddha, the magick gets more diluted and thus has to be rationalized into just let go and accept life

      1. Absolutely. I really haven’t spent enough time looking into Tantra, which I should remedy. In fact, nearly all I know of Tantra comes from Phil Hine. Any books or whatever you could suggest for me?

        Also, thanks for having a read.

        1. I’ve got to add I’m also a huge Alan Chapman fan. Advanced magick was one of the most important books on chaos I read.

          Reading through a lot of your blog loving it. Hypersigil articles are great and I really dig that you show your process.

          Phil Hines tantra blog is great and he recommends some books. Modern tantra the book is great. I’m no expert either. But tantra seems to exist in a very different realm to what one usually reads from the east.

          I see your Irish!!?! Me too… For all the good it does us.

          1. Yea, I was guessing you were Irish by the name. 😀

            Have you read the other Chapman/Barford books mentioned above. They are really great and I would massively recommend them if you haven’t already got them. They are out of print now, but there are PDFs.

  2. I like what you say here, though I take a somewhat different view of it. What I got from Buddhism, in particular an encounter with a nitchren master, wasn’t “Give up because the suck is coming” it was more “Be the best You you can be, and do what you can. Don’t stress, it’ll be ok. one way or another.”
    In that moment, I was Enlightened- in that a particular Sartori lightbulb came on. That was a life changing realization: when life sucks- and it will, here and there- either change it, or if you cannot, accept it and move on- stressing over it does not serve you.
    I’ve had other moments of Enlightenment, where I learned something big and important and life changing. I view it as a process, rather than an exhaulted and permanent state of being, as people Tend to view it- especially when you’re Engaging the world rather than attempting to withdraw from it as so many eastern philosophies suggest.
    I guess I just don’t think its a singular event, where someone suddenly gets It ALL, but rather a series of moments of thought and wisdom, where you have the person you were Before that moment, and the Other person you are After that moment, and there are many, many lessons to be learned in this old world.
    Claiming “Enlightenment ” as an End or a Totality, I don’t quite hold with, for all that I’ve met some people who have a serious “Buddha Field” and were obviously a hell of a lot closer to that Totality than I am.
    But the smaller moments that Matter, I think those are the important ones.
    Did any of this make sense? no clue man, but it was my thought on these hard-to-discuss matters.

    1. Thanks Ryan, that’s great. I can get on board with that advice more than the “Give up” stuff. Your Nitchen Master seems to know what’s going on. It seems very pragmatic and practical 🙂

      I also tend to agree that it is the smaller moments that are the more important ones.

      Thanks Man.

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