Again again again I come back to this question.
What is the work?
Simple question, on the face of it. So many dangerous non-answers.
I ran into an old friend over the weekend. She said some things to me that made me want to scream.
“It sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be,” she said. Then ahw proceded to tell me what I needed to do instead of what I’m doing now: find a new home festival, if Heartland has become all work; go to other festivals to see how they do things (how are those two not murually exclusive?). I asked her how her life was going, and she changed the subject.
Running into D struck me as an omen of sorts. There’s a conversation we get stuck in every time we talk about life: “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing,” she’ll say to me; I’ll respond, “What do you want?” We didn’t actually have that conversation this time — or perhaps we did, obliquely and by inversion — but I couldn’t not think on it.
Since the end of the Ceremonial Experiment and the decomissioning of the Sunrise Temple, I have been spiritually adrift. My magical practice has ammounted to repeating the Experiment in miniature — powering through RO’s Seven Spheres when it came out last year; attempting to code-switch planetary conjuration into the language of Witchcraft at the beginning of this year. My spiritual practice has consisted solely of orchestrating the rituals for Heartland Pagan Festival — playing priest to the community, a role to which I have long aspired, but somehow to the exclusion of my personal spiritual pursuits.
I keep coming back to the same to questions. Where do I go from here? What is the next phase of the work? The blog has suffered for it even more than my life. Existential angst is not the writing mode that I do best.
I have been seeking teachers again. But there are a number of reasons that so many of the books on magic are exclusively 100-level beyond the obvious American (and, perhaps, to a lesser degree Anglophone) prefference for shallow knowleged. At a certain point you must cross the line from the techniques of magic into the experience of the Mysteries.
I have found some inspiration in the recent works of Gordon White and Peter Grey. But Peter Grey, however brilliant his writing, is too much the cishet fuckboy: for every brilliant illumination he provides, there is an overlong passage of literary masturbation wherein he gets so caught up in his own language that he forgets his point, on the one hand, and some casually awful straight man bullshit on the other. And Gordon White, for all his Chaote brilliance and animist awakening, is too comfortable with the lingering structures of empire and his emphasis on ancestors is a place that I have not yet been able to follow.
And there, of course, obvious directions that I could go from here.
Going back to basics (again) would probably serve me well. Struggling to meditate means you need to meditate more, right?
Leaving my body was my greatest aspiration when I fist began practicing magic. I never quite got the hand of “astral projection” techniques, but I am unconvinced that the shamanic visionary techniques I did, once, excell at were taking me to a fundamentally different place. And yet… I have let htat practice slip.
I have a small cadre of familiar spirits accumulated throughout my visionary and ceremonial practices, all of whom probably have something to teach me if only I were talking to them.
I have a collection of masks, maked in frantic, mantic fever, each of which has some purupose that I have not yet unlocked, and which is probably more subtle and potent that the production of occult art.
I have drawn Powers and spirits into the bodies of others, almost too casually, but I have only experienced trance-possession, myself, and handfull of times: once Death, once my Natal Demon, twice a Sun God, all by the aid of masks, and, most recently, the Nine Muses followed by Typhoeus as a part of the Air and Water rituals this year’s festival. And yet, it was long considered the defining feature of moder neo-Pagan witchcraft.
There are gods and powers I have encountered in my practice whose interest in me I never managed ot understand. The Intelligences of the Moon. The Witchmother and Witchfather — the latter possibly Lucifer, the latter whom I never idenitified. The Queen of the Deap Water. Certain Solar powers. Rhea Cybele.
And Dionysus, who has shown me small favors yet always remained aloof.
A clever reader, of course, sees not an overabundance of options, among which one cannot chose, but rather an escalating programme that I should be pursuing.
And yet … the dillema remains. How do you meditate when panic rises every time you try to still your mind?
This is the work.