Friday, March 18, 2016

Stoicism, Magic and Meditation

The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil, and the devil hath power
T'assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare 
Can you do magic without meditation?  Can you do magic without being more or less in control of your own mind?  Yes, the same way you can operate heavy machinery while drunk.

The Western Mysteries are not bereft of ''meditation'' at all, these practices were not imported from the East 150 years ago. Practical Stoicism - the study of personal tranquility, poise, diet, meditation and training through voluntary discomfort - combined with Neoplatonism and Judaism in forming one of the main components of the Western Mystery Tradition. Renaissance men like Dee and Bruno were not unfamiliar with stoicism.  The idea that a magician can summon the spirits without being in control of their own mind is ludicrous and when they do do it anyway... downright dangerous

The discussion of the Kabbalistic tradition of Hitbodedut in Meditation and Kabbalah by Aryeh Kaplan begins with the role of Stoicism in equalising the self, Hishtavut.  According to the Baal Shem Tov, Shivi-ti, a term for I have placed could be read as I have become stoic.  Isaac of Acco speaks of mitbodedim, or meditators.  This meditative work is not just for mystics, many practical Kabbalists are included in this book which also demonstrates the obvious similarity between Jewish mystical practice and Indian mystical practice, yantras, mantras, etc - there is clear evidence that writers of key texts like Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer Raziel ''meditated''.  A division between prayer and meditation seems futile.


Stoicism has informed my practice from youth.  How can you claim independent will if you are constantly too and fro between praise and criticism?  How can you unify dimensions without steeling the will?

Having seen many ''widely respected magicians'' completely flip out and others be demonstrably manipulated by spirits maybe a bit of a refresher course on stoicism et al is long overdue.  I find it startling that this is even being discussed.  I agree with Miller but I am not sure he has phrased it strongly enough. I am not saying that you are always being manipulated by spirits as you set about your daily routines of sorcerous desire fulfilment in the woods, or whatever you think magic is all about these days, but without some kind of meditative practice I fear that the magic may well be doing you.

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