May 30, 2012

On the Magistry of the East

One of the two interesting features of my natal chart is that Mercury is exalted exactly by degree (that is, in the 15th degree of Virgo). As such, intellectualism, science, communication, etc have had a huge impact on my life; for example, it was calculus that really started my occult studies proper (story at a later date).

What this means practically is that I'm incredibly good at creating "systems" of information, or learning those already in place, and understanding them well enough to implement them correctly in real-world scenarios with little to no practice. As an example, I was that asshole in organic chemistry (one of my favorite subjects) whose reactions went perfectly every time on the first try, because I understood exactly what I was doing and what was supposed to happen. When I build things (like magical tools, or cabinets for my parents' kitchen), my products tend to come out perfectly, with few to no mistakes to correct, on the first try. When I try a new magical ritual, I usually get some tangible result on the first try, and rarely have the experience of simply running into a wall, or talking into dead space (although, obviously, results improve dramatically with time and practice).

While this may look like magic, privilege, or inordinate amounts of luck to onlookers (especially anal-retentive lab-mates whose reactions have quite literally melted, burned, or exploded), the "secret" is really nothing more than careful and thorough study of the subject at hand before I ever start on a project, and an attitude of perfectionism throughout it. If you want your organic reactions to go perfectly, you study the shit out of the reaction you're supposed to be running, making sure you understand each step, and executing said steps as exactly as possible during your own work. If you want perfect cabinetry, you have to know exactly where every piece goes beforehand (no bag of mystery parts left over afterward), and make sure you measure twice and cut once. If you want a magical ritual actually work, you have to know exactly what each part of the ritual does, what is supposed to happen when, and more importantly, why each thing is supposed to happen. And most important of all you need to be sure that you can execute all of these things in your mind before you ever begin. When I pick up my glassware, I'm running an experiment for the first time physically, but for the fourth or fifth time including my "mental dry-runs".

Now an interesting thing happens when a person with a trait like this starts to use astrology in their magical practice. You study the motions of the planets. You study the interactions of the planets, houses, signs, and fixed stars. You study how these things affect different people (or things!) with different natal charts. You start to notice brilliantly subtle interactions and harmonics. You constantly have an awesome astrological clock like this one running in the background so you can get a "feel" for the speeds of the planets and stars, and know intuitively where they are in the sky without casting a chart. You incorporate all of these things into your other magical work as far as you feel comfortable. But there's something you've neglected entirely.

You never actually go outside and look at the stars.

In all of your intellectualizing, you've forgotten that the construct of "astrology" is one system of understanding the motions and effects of a very physical reality, and you've failed to engage with the experience of that reality in any meaningful way at all. Which brings us (finally!) to the point of this post.

One of the awesome benefits of the house I've been living in for the past year is that my deck has an unoccluded view of the eastern sky, in an area wonderfully devoid of light and noise pollution. It wasn't until I started spending a lot of time out on the deck (50% study breaks, 50% avoiding my landlord/roommate) that I started looking, and I mean really looking at the stars. Experiencing them in a way that allowed me to get out of my head, out of the constant noise of the monkey mind and its categorizing and defining, and yet still remain in the world in a way meditation does not offer me. And then one evening, staring into the East as the sun was setting behind me, just as the stars were beginning to appear on the horizon, I saw it.

The dome over my head was moving. I was no longer looking at the stars, reasonably far away; I was infinitesimally small, the point without dimension at the center of a sphere, looking outward at a reality that was impossibly immense and impossibly far away. I was no longer a man looking at a still snapshot of a moving system; I was within the system, watching it grind along at an impossibly slow, but equally and impossibly powerful pace. I was watching forces that defy imagination being born right in front of me. The sheer immensity of the universe threatened to sweep me away as it arced over my head. Entire worlds were dying behind me as they sank into the abyss. For one instant, I felt the forces that we as magicians try to harness the tiniest slivers of in our lives. And for the first time, I really understood what it was that I had been studying, and it's changed me in ways I'm still struggling to articulate.

I saw why all magicians should meditate on the cosmos itself. I saw the Magistry of the East.

May 15, 2012

On Radio Silence: Current Projects

So I, uh, kinda dropped off the map for a bit. In the middle of a super-awesome blog project. Oops.

The truth is, the New Year, New You project was a huge success in a lot of ways. Huge enough, at least, that on top of my PhD program, my blogging/twittering/IMing time has pretty consistently given way to more menial tasks. Like eating.

Since I *really* don't want to spend hours writing a gigantic post that nobody will bother reading, here's a quick recap of my successes since Valentines Day:

  • Passed all of my first-year pharmacy courses with flying colors.
  • Secured a position as a tutor of incoming first-year students for two classes (Drug Mechanics and Biological Sciences Integrated).
  • Joined a crazy group of wizards to found an online Mastermind group. Great advice and kinship all around.
  • Heavily beefed up my home apothecary in preparation for some of the super-awesome projects listed below.
  • Landed a summer internship that will allow me to fund said projects.
  • Fucked up a lot of craft-work and learned a lot of good crafting techniques that will make said projects spectacular instead of mediocre.
  • Found a crazy sleep schedule that actually allows me to both dream and function normally.
  • Lost a significant amount of weight in preparation for my summer exercise routine.
  • Somehow actually got a bit of "fun" reading done.
In retrospect, that doesn't seem like a very "magical" list, but I assure you, there was plenty of tweaking of life circumstances to get there. And now that I've had a few days to recover from the rigor of school, I finally have the time and motivation to start of some of my back-burner, "heavy magic" projects:

  • Creating a sprayable liquid wax solution that will evaporate to leave a hard, solid wax product behind, to be used to apply consecrated waxes to delicate surfaces.
    • This project is actually already done, but the simple technique is so useful that it needs to be blogged so others can use it. I will not disappoint.
  • Creating Bardon's "compound fluid condenser" true to the original text, complete with real gold solution and ingredients from the ass-end of the earth.
    • I have 90% of the components I need ready to go, barring one or two seasonal items. Creation will be complex, and have my own pseudo-alchemical flair to it, but the entire process will be blogged with lots of pretty pictures. Small amounts of product may be for sale if and only if I manage to create a superior magical product.
  • Creating a magic mirror by direct and careful flame-on-glass lampblacking.
    • Both of the above projects are entirely devoted to making sure this one comes out spectacular. I've got the technique down pat, and am currently on the hunt for the perfect piece of glass to use. Again, pretty pictures.

This is only a small fraction of what I'm working on, but they're the biggest and most overdue projects. Now that I finally have time to blog again, I'm sure you'll be hearing all about these minor things as ADD inspires.

It's good to be back in the Lab again. Ora et labora.