October? I Hardly Know Them

Now that I’ve not only made an awful joke, but messed it up on purpose because it’s so awful, welcome to October! October is a hell of a month for me. Probably like most of you, I like Halloween season. I also like autumn. I got married on Halloween, so that means my anniversary is coming up.

Also, though, my dad died in October. And it’s usually midterms. And while I like the weather, it’s bad for this circulation problem I have in my feet, so I begin the long journey of wearing lined slippers until May basically.

But I’ve got a window open and I can hear wind in the bushes and trees, and also traffic which is less good but ok. This post is, like my recent work, more in the way of personal reflection. I like to use October as a chance to think through the year, in some ways. I’ll try to make sure there’s something useful in here as well though.

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Ineffable Experiences and Effable Gender

After what let’s call a "heated debate" on the HHoL, I find I have something to say about the perennial problem of gender, and especially the gender binary, in occultism and mysticism. I’m not going to bury the lede here: they’re just not things. Genders, I mean. They can be important to people’s experiences, but they cannot be ascribed to things outside of our social context.

That’s basically the thesis. Oh joy.

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What I Learned From a Year of Magical Silence

I guess it’s what it sounds like on the tin: a year ago, on May 24th or 25th (my journal is inexact), I vowed, very quietly, to avoid talking about my magical practice for one year.

This did not seem, at the time, to be particularly onerous. I had exactly three people I could really talk to about it. One listens politely, one, at the time, was less interested than now, and one is my partner, who is sort of contractually obligated to listen to me run at the mouth, at least a little. But then, three months into this year of magical silence, I joined the predecessor of the HHoL. It is much worse to keep silence when you’re in a big community of people who share the interest and the practice. Shit.

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Secondary World part 2: Visiting Other Worlds of Magic

Last week, I talked about how Coleridge’s "suspension of disbelief" can be used to understand how more than one magical system can make sense, even if they’re mutually exclusive. In short, a work of art that is not convincingly "realistic" tugs on your heart by reminding you of "inward truths," and I compared that to how one might sympathize with Yggdrasil not because one believes the world hangs from the boughs of a tree, but because one believes trees are central to the survival of our ecosystem on Earth.

This week we’ll go even further. Tolkien’s famous essay "On Fairy-stories" developed an idea called the "secondary world" and we can conceive of magical systems as secondary worlds that we visit. If they’re coherent, we may keep coming back!

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The Secondary World of Magical Texts and Traditions

Recently, on the Hermetic House of Life server, we were engaged in a conversation about how exactly a magical text “makes sense.” A friend, Nicholas Chapel, said something I will quote below, but which sort of comes down to the idea that a text should have what he called a “holistic integrity” which can be present even if the text is fragmentary, but which is about whether it “holds up” so to speak.

This gave me Thoughts, as you might imagine. Magical worldviews are a little like maps of the world: they are, to some degree, arbitrary, and therefore they all differ from one another. But they are all representing the same thing: the world itself. And when you’re approaching a magical worldview for the first time, or approaching one outside your own tradition, you have to do so with certain techniques if you want to avoid everything from colonialism to just being kind of shitty to people. Now, normally we’d just call that “being polite” and move on, but I think it will be helpful to dig down into the way that “everything is true” even if two people can have diametrically opposed views of how something like magic works. I’m going to use Samuel Taylor Coleridge and J. R. R. Tolkien to discuss how that works.

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On the Touch in Imaginal Work

I was listening to Reverend Erik’s latest episode about Agrippa, as one does, and I found myself having a series of thoughts – which, of course, is what one wants out of an informative podcast. You should listen to the episode. It’s not going to be necessary for understanding this post; it’s just a good episode. But because of Erik’s thoughts on Agrippa and how he modeled sight as an active sense, I got to thinking about touch and the imaginal, which I feel I see very little about. So this post is on a few ways one can incorporate the “least pure” sense into imaginal work like magic.

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Genre Theory for Magicians: Genre and Magic

Theory for Magicians: Genre and Magical Practices 2

So last time, I discussed the general theory of genre from a literary perspective, with some additions from video game theory. The idea here, in the follow-up, is to explore how we can use genre theory to think about magical traditions.

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The Hermetic Garden Plot: Hermeticism and Ecosystem Companionability

I wasn’t planning on writing what’s effectively a third post inspired by my reading of Seven Spheres, but here we are. In this post, I want to develop the idea of “companion planting” further. But here we go anyway! Celebrating the formal beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, let’s imagine the world as a Hermetic Garden Plot!

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Think Out as Well as Up: Ecosystems in Hermeticism

This is a continuation of last week’s essay on Seven Spheres and the Great Chain of Being. I do advise you to read that one first, and this simply picks up where it left off.

Before I go headfirst into my proposed model of magical activity, I want to be clear that all the stuff I am arguing in favor of can be found in Hermeticism. I am in no way arguing that Hermeticism itself is somehow lacking, in this pair of posts. Instead, I am arguing against the way that contemporary religious modeling and magical practice emphasizes one thing more than another. The GCB is not in itself bad, and Hermeticism is not inherently reliant on the GCB either.

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Seven Spheres and the Great Chain of Being

I recently finished reading the book Seven Spheres, by Rufus Opus, and it gave me Thoughts about ceremonial magic that I wanted to thrash out here. The thought, or idea, generally speaking, is that it feels like there’s something missing in the typical approach to magic in the western “ceremonial” tradition. Specifically, I think that the cultural ubiquity of the Great Chain of Being, coming as it does from Renaissance thinking, has caused people to omit other useful models, and that it can be powerfully supplemented by the addition of ecosystem thinking, a pairing I’m calling “companion planting” for now.

Fair warning: this is part one of two.

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