Tuesday, 11 January 2011

On Ritual Trance - Part2: Science vs. Art

This is the second post on ritual trance in a series of three. 

For the third learning on ritual trance let me come back to my initial thought: Ritual trance induction needs free-styling just like an artist needs creativity. While there are many great techniques out there, not all of them will work for you. Actually, I must admit only very few blended successfully into the choreography of a longer ritual for me.

Earlier on I recommended Donald Michael Kraig's books as a potential starting point. Let's take a look at a related topic where I disagree with him:

" (...) There is no in between. Likewise, either the laws of magick are valid or they are not. There cannot be any type of rule saying that sometimes they are valid and other times, under identical circumstances, they are invalid. Remember, magick is an art and science, and a basic tenet of science is that under the same conditions an experiment will always have the same results."
(Kraig, Modern Magick, Llewellyn 2008, p.317)   

Well, I guess anybody familiar with Schr√∂dinger's cat will find a lot to debate on this quote? From what I can tell, science itself is going through a significant crises since researchers found out that there is no such thing as 'identical circumstances' unfortunately. It is the fact of observing an experiment, the pure presence of the observers themselves that influence any result already - and at least for now in pretty unknown ways. These influences might not be strong enough to impact Newton's laws such as gravity. Yet, when one moves to matters of particle physics they seem to be just as strong as any other 'natural force' in the experiment. 

Let's think about this: Is a magickal evocation on the astral plane closer to the law of gravity or the laws of quantum mechanics? I leave that for you to judge... The point I am trying to make is: in my world there is plenty of space for 'in between', plenty of grey and - to be brutally honest - much more successes with art than science.

Why is that? Because my consciousness is simply so much less powerful than my hands, my heart, my will and - most of all - my subconsciousness. If I tried to rationalize everything that happened to me in rituals, it would have never happened in the first place and certainly I wouldn't have entered into a state of ritual trance. I kept myself confined in the same space we are locked in during most of our days - and keep the door to any successful ritual trance firmly shut. At some point we have to start believing in ourselves, in the success of our rites, in the power of our trance and the beauty of the things we will accomplish... None of this has any space in science; so personally I am much better off without it.

Statue of a fear ritual I performed
in the Indian desert years ago
I guess that's my third learning: learn from many people and cultures, but only trust your own approach. The most underestimated power in magick is your faith in yourself and in the intimate way you are preparing and conducting your ritual actions. Staying true to what feels right for you is a key that unlocks a lot of doors.


(Well, and unfortunately we only know what feels right for us after we have learned it the traditional way first and made all the mistakes necessary...)

My final point on ritual trance induction is simple: For most of us the most accessible form of ritual trance is being afraid. Maybe I should share a personal story on this... More than a decade ago when I started my ritual work I was living in a large city and didn't had the money or luxury of having an 'in-house' temple. I was preparing my first cycle of elementary rituals for weeks and hit a dead end when I couldn't find a space to perform them. Luckily I had a very experienced teacher who had lived in a Bon monastery in Tibet under very raw and harsh conditions. One day he told me: 'What is keeping you from doing these rituals is not the lack of a temple but fear. This week go into the woods at night and just do it.'

And that's what I did. I cleared a space sufficient for the rite in the brushwood of a forest close to the city where I lived. I prepared a circle with flour on the ground and stuck torches in the ground in the four quarters of the sky. Then I came back the following night and performed my first 'open sky' ritual... What sounds relatively straight forward took me huge overcoming back then; I thought of a million things that could have gone wrong in such a public space - me being dressed in robe with all my magickal tools around me, torches lit and vibrating angel names under the night sky... 

What I didn't know back then is, that this type of fear became my best friend in creating a proper magickal trance. Granted not very sophisticated, but very efficient. This dread still accompanies me today, even though I now have a large room set up as an exclusive temple. Yet, every time I take my ritual bath, I prepare for a rite, I count the minutes towards the planetary hour my heart trembles and my mind is electrified. And if I wrote my fear turned into excitement over the years - I would just be lying. Every time before a ritual I really am afraid of the unknown that I am about to explore - until the first banishing ritual is performed and my ritual trance has left my day-consciousness behind...

(click here to read 3rd part :: click here to read 1st part)



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