Monday, 27 June 2011

Life is a Risk Machine - or the trouble with Coaching

For almost as long as I have been doing magic have I been working in a context that relies heavily on personal coaching. Therefore my thoughts on magic and coaching often heavily intertwine... Unfortunately that doesn't help to keep my approach to magick 'pure' in a traditional sense. The good thing, however, is that I don't care too much wether my magic comes pure, on ice, shaken or stirred - as long as it works.

So here are some thoughts on the middle ground between magic and coaching.

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For anyone having drunken the coaching-cool-aid of the late 90s the following snippet will probably sound familiar:  So you want to praise an employee and you are concerend it might cause envy with others? Why do you think that might be? If your boss praised your peer instead of yourself, for what reasons might you become envious? Or think of yourself as that envious employee - what thoughts would you have? What would you think about yourself and about your boss? Great. Now that we know what caused the envy, how can you address these causes in an appropriate way? On a scale from 0-10 (10 being best) how trusted is your relationship with the potentially envious employee today? Good, what makes it a four? In the future, what observations would tell you that your relationship improved to a seven? And what is the first small step you can take toward this future today?

Let me point out that I love coaching. It’s a wonderful and incredibly powerful tool. It was that one thing since the dawn of industrialization that accomplished to create space again for people and their real people’s problems within corporate organisation. But - all praise aside - sometimes coaching just isn’t the way to get things done. Sometimes it’s just a way to look more at yourself rather than the world; sometimes it makes life hugely complex and not plain simple. I guess you can say this happens if it is done badly? Yet, reality is that in the world I am living in coaching often is done badly - including by myself.

From a magical point of view trying to solve problems with a coaching attitude is like walking your magical path with a dagger in your hand only. Having forgotten about the power of the cup, the wand and the pentacle. In order to balance and create true magic we need all four weapons with us: the wand being the fire pillar in the middle of ourselves, the cup being the deep waters of our hearts, the pentacle being the earth we are walking on and the dagger being the blinding forces of our mind.
  
If we achieve to merge the intent of our heart, mind and hands in a single act, this is what I call authenticity. The world around us strives on authenticity. Authenticity is the one seed that you bring out on the fields to harvest true relationships a season later. It is what brings the power of our pentacles to life.

But here is the challenge with authenticity: It springs to life easily, like a stream that finds its way through the rocks of a mountain, it cannot be held back, if we are truly present in any given moment. Coaching on the other hand requires time and reflection - it requires a time out of engagement - before we chose to re-engage. Once we are ready to re-engage, however, the moment might be gone? Coaching by its very nature disconnects from experience in the present moment. Coaching by its very nature is a safety zone that strives to reduce ambiguity and the requirement to take unprepared risks.

An alchemist's way of
creating a risk machine...
Unfortunately - and I hate to say this - life is all about taking risks (and magic even more so)! Life is a risk machine: You put in risk at the top and it spills out more risk at the bottom. In-between, however, while one risk is transformed into another, that’s where life takes place. That’s were love and fear and anger and pleasure and lust are all coiled together in one wonderful body of a machine. Alchemists call this machine an Athanor

Remember the recent posts on Salutogenesis? The same principle applies here: Life simply isn't about what you put in at the top and get out at the bottom. Life is not a P&L. Life is what happens in-between. Salutogenesis tells us that we are always sick and healthy at the same time, our actions are always right and wrong at the same time - but to different degrees.

I have spent quite a lot of years trying to put ‘the right actions’ into the top of the life-machine and waiting for it to spill out 'the right results' at the bottom. You got it - I wasted an awful lot of time. Because while I was standing next to the machine, waiting for it to tell me if my actions where ‘okay’, life was taking place right inside the machine. This is what happens if we don't engage! Real things happen without us being involved... All this time while I was standing next to the machine real emotions were felt inside, people aged, people died, people were born, the world was turning, stars sending their influences down, the sun blowing it’s wind into darkness, new life emerging from the density of the Abyss, old life passing through the gates of death - all happening in this huge risk-machine.

Here is my take away from all the years I spent waiting: Life is not about the outcome, it is about the experience. You got to jump into the risk machine - turn into a risk yourself - in order to be part of the world.

Finally, becoming part of the risk machine allowed me shaking off this little fellow: the demon of objectivity. The best way to put yourself next to the risk machine, is to adopt the scientific principle of objectivity for your own life. To confine yourself into a square little cage, to think of yourself as a laboratory rat looking for that one red switch that will deliver happiness in form of more food (i.e. 'right actions'). At any moment we can chose to understand: Life begins when we accept that our encounters will always remain subjective. They will be wrong in the eyes of some and right in the eyes of others, they will be painful for some and joyful to others, they will be meaningless for some and significant to others, they will be forgotten by many and remembered by a few.

My manager last week paused in our conversation. She paused and said: ‘You know, just too many of our conversations end up with you criticizing yourself about something that you did. You call this learning, but I call it criticizing. When you and I interact it is not about whether something was right or wrong. It is not about praise or correcting. It simply is about reflecting together on what happened and what we want to happen next. It is about learning from what we observed without judging.’ And then she said the magic words: ‘Work needs to be terribly joyful. Life is too short for it to be different.’

In a world where there is no right and wrong, where the life machine swallows some and spills out more risk, where the serpent bites its tail, what can we use as a guiding principle for our choices?
  
To lead a terribly joyful life sounds like a great start... Once I am halfway there I'll try to help others do the same.



Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Fourth Key to Magic - or the Order of Unlearning

In a recent series of posts I shared 3 Keys to Magic which I consider both help- and powerful in creating a living magic approach: Intention, Technique and Awareness.

You won't believe what happened since then! Some strange events made me the owner of the collected manuscripts of a secret occult order. It seems so arcane that not even Wikipedia knows it. I studied their documents and came to the conclusion that I had forgotten an essential point in my recent posts, a fourth Key to Magic. So for the first time in history let me openly share the secrets of this unknown order with you - and unveil a fourth Key to Magic...

Let me start by saying that the Order seems to have ceased to exist by now. I could not find any more recent documents since 1970. Before then, however, its members seem to have worked as a community of magicians living siltently among us, unrecognized, unspoken of, truly bringing the fundamental principles of magic to life: to know, to want, to dare, to be silent. The name of the Order changed multiple times over the decades, yet 'The Order of Unlearning' appears most often written by hand on top of the manuscripts. From all the pages I revisited here are the few key facts I could extract: Access to the Order was granted on personal recommendation of several members only and its structure followed the Scottish rite of 33 masonic degrees. What seems strange, though, is that every new member joined as 33° Inspector General straight away?

Even more astonishing was the discovery that the Order of Unlearning didn't had any teachings... Rather than requiring members to learn new things, it required them to forget. I know this sounds rather suspicious. So let me quote directly from their manifesto:

"(...) All the disinformation we were exposed to during childhood, teenage years, college and work life make each one of us a 33° Inspector General of bullshit. What we need is not more knowledge, but less. The map we need is not the treasure map to secret libraries, but the road sign to the next waste dump. All our ideas about science, objectivity, economy, growth and consumption - we take the oath to forget it all. We will leave it to the crows of the trash dump and leave the places of knowledge light as a feather.

Sister, Brother, your mind is a Palimpsest, a vellum that has been used over and over again. Layers of text over layers of text, all on one skin... That is what your mind is. You will never be truly free of all the things that were written upon you. But you can make each letter fade, one by one, until the ink becomes to light to be read. This is the process of Unlearning, the goal of Unknowing. (...)" 

So, on joining the Order members started all the way at the top - and the entire work within the Order was about climbing down the stairs of the huge pyramid they found
themselves thrown on top. The first grades (33° - 29°) seem to have been the most sensitive ones. Many new joiners - once they realized the true height of the pyramid they were on top - immediately retreated again into a deep state of bullshitting. Others just threw themselves down from the tip of the pyramid and died. These difficulties seemed to have helped to keep the number of members small over the decades - and the Order itself arcane... 

Even though the Order of Unlearning didn't had any teachings, it seems they did conduct initiations. Each initiation was planned to make life a little more simple, carve away another layer of thought and theory and ideas. From all the documents I deciphered this rite of an early initiation seems best to illustrate this principle:

During a normal work day a woman enters your open plan office. She steps out of the elevator and looks completely normal, average dress, average hair, a little plain-Jane yet with a nice teint. She walks through the office and seems to be looking for something. Then she comes over to your cube, coffee cup in her hands. As you get up she approaches you, puts down her coffee on your desk, takes your head in her hands and starts to kiss you. As her lips touch yours, as her tongue touches yours, you realize this is the moment you have been waiting for all your lifetime - being caught in the present moment unintentionally, not holding on to anything, not requesting anything, but finding a space that opens once you forget... The woman tastes like coffee, her fingers touch your neck, your hair, her lips stroke yours. For a moment things around you vanish into void and disappear. For a short moment you cease to exist and give way to something new that takes your place instead: It's the intense feeling on your lips, it's is the strange taste in your mouth... For a moment you have lost your mind and come to your senses.

Then the woman lets go abruptly. She puts down an envelope on your desk and picks up her coffee cup. As you grab the envelope the woman already disappears into the elevator at the other side of the room... Inside you find an invoice over 666$ on your name. On the back of it you see a scribbled note:  "You could have had this cheaper, stupid. Any day of your life."

Essentially the Order of Unlearning teaches one thing only, the fourth Key to Magic. This is what it says: "All wise men forget." 

Here is the complete diagram of the Four Keys to Magic:


In case you want to practice your magic in the spirit of the Order today you got to dig deep. There is a lot of bullshit out there. But maybe you'll find the currents and follow the stream that already fed the teachings of Rah Omir Quintscher and Franz Bardon:

"If you set out to learn how to learn, then first and foremost learn how to forget. Of the twelve tasks of Hercules the first was to clean the stables of king Augias which he achieved by redirecting a river and allowing it to wash through the stable. Your consciousness, disciplie, is very similar to Augias' stable - full of falsities, prejudices and illusions - into which you need to direct a river or stream - Lethe, the stream of forgetfulness - to sweep away all of them. But do believe me: achieving this will be a true Herculean task as much more difficult than learning is forgetting."
Dr.Mussallam, Der Adept, p.85




Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Salutogenesis - one more thought

Here is a brief addition to my experience with the concept of Salutogenesis. It accompanied me like a friend in the back of my mind over recent weeks. What I found is that this friend makes great company in most situations: Salutogenesis seems to be a concept that shouldn't only be applied to health and magic, but amply in life in general! 

Just as we are never only healthy or sick but always both at the same time to different degrees, in the same way our actions, thoughts or ideas are equally wrong and right at the same time to different degrees... Once I brought this simple principle down to the actual decisions I was required to take each day, I discovered an amazing impact.

Let me share a few examples:
  • Every stupid idea and action can be considered 'right' in so far as they are an authentic expression of emotions at that point in time. Brad Blanton explains this in his wonderful book that I continue to praise - suppressing emotions that are unjust or unfair doesn't make them go away. It just increases their power over us.
  • We all know the saying 'a hammer can be a tool or a weapon'. I guess in a similar way most actions and ideas are just 'hammers'. It's our reactions to them as well as our intentions when we express them that make them weapons or tools.
  • Antibiotics are life savers. At the same time they disrupt and weaken our immune system in no insignificant way. It's our choice to use them or not - to leverage their positive effect against bacteria and accept that they will kill the healthy ones as well.
I observed myself at work these days. What I found is that the principle of Salutogenesis applied to every single of my action - they are all right and wrong at the same time: Do I give this employee praise for what they did - or will it create envy of others? Do I send this email to my boss - or do I wait for the topic to come up organically? Do I bring an agenda for this meeting or do I allow open space and the important points to come forward in their own time?  

And then something strange happened: Since I stopped trying to do 'the right thing' I gained back a lot time to think about what I actually wanted to achieve? Once I stopped the daily quest for silver bullets of decision making, I regained so much time to engage with people around me... 

Martin Buber once said in his introduction to the wisdom of the Chassids: 'Don't look at yourself, look at the world.' Maybe this is what he meant? If we stop measuring, evaluating, assessing and judging the actions and ideas of ourselves or others - our whole field of vision can change.

The only thing it takes to get there, is trust. And this is where magic can help.



Monday, 20 June 2011

How to kill the Book of Nature - or why Psychological Projection is a trap

Sitting on the stone terrace of the old house in Liguria, the morning sun is up. A hornet is eating old cherries in the tree above me and I am listening to her buzz that mingles with the sounds of birds in the valley before me. My mind wanders back to what I learned about Psychological Projection this week: This psychological effect that treats reality as the mirror of our minds, reflecting brightest what we fear and despise. For some reason I am struggling to come to terms with this concept, this particular view of the world... And as I am pondering on it in the morning sun I realize that Psychological Projection illustrates perfectly why Magic and Psychology collide.

What it is is this: From a psychological perspective any intuitive statement about reality is a potential Projection. The only describtion of reality that escapes the far sweeping arms of this mirroring-effect are objective facts. Such as: the morning wind is warm on my skin, the ants collect the breadcrumbs of my breakfast, the motorcycle roars up the serpentine road of the hills. Describing the simple things that are present right now, without any involvement of myself. Psychologically this is the way to break through the mirror of Projection. A lot of beauty and poetry sleeps in this way of perception. Yet hidden in this view of the world is a deadly poison to all magical acts... Here is the riddle that wants to be solved: If the world wants to talk back to you, how do you differentiate its voice from your own? As the world talks to you in the same tone, the same words, the same language as your own, how do you tell it from your own? 

Agrippa explains that the language or tongue of spirits is very similar to our own. Yet just like someone who is far away from you needs to shout and somoene who is a little closer can talk in a softer tone, spirits have direct access to your heart. So when they speak to you you will hear them as your own voice directly in your mind. 

Engaging with the world in such a mystical way opens the gates to a world of dialogue: You look at the world, your actions, your emotions and the world answers right back to you. The only thing you need to get rid of in order for this dialogue to work is the veil (or brick wall?) of objectivity. The world talks back to you in your own voice, in your own experiences and subjective encounters. Every single encounter is a word spoken to us. If we can make sense of the words in their relation to our personal state of being, we discover meaning and move from words to stories.

The Book of Nature
Projection, however, disrupts this living connection and forces us to retreat into a world of monologue: our minds projecting their fears and disbeliefs on a blank canvas, a silent world. This is why the concept of Projection bears the risk of separating us from the world around us - locking ourselves up in the dark cages of our minds. In the end awareness of my mind's tendency to project itself leads to a constant struggle to see things as they truly are. Free from subjective Projections in their very own colors, shapes and textures. And while this might be possible to achieve in rare states of enlightment it's a great way to get really little out of life. 

If you don't allow to express yourself, to influence, to change, to interact with the things around you, life becomes a museum with each beautiful object covered behind a spotless surface of glass. If you are here to get something out of life, however, accept the simple truth that engaging with any object will change both of you, the object and yourself. It's objectivity that kills the Book of Nature.

Here is an example: I was running up the hills of Liguria this morning. The sun was dawning and the olive groves were waking up (watch out - Projections coming in!). As I was running up the battered tarmac road invisible silks hung in the air spun by the spiders over night. Ever so often did I catch one of them on my face and felt the tingling web on my eyes and cheeks. I tried to brush them away but the feeling remained until I caught the next one. As I passed through a small village and left it again I suddenly thought of the silks on my eyes as blindfolds which were torn apart, one by one. I continued my run and allowed the feeling of the spiderwebs on my face to change and to become the feeling of torn blindfolds... The tingling on my eyes and cheeks changed from being distracting to being exciting and actually quite joyful: I wondered what I would be able to see with my newly discovered sight... If the colors on the hills would change, if my relationships would shine in a new light or if I would lose some illusions and self-deceiptions? It wasn't about answering the questions, but it was about being caught in this wonderful moment of experiencing how something new came to life - full of surprises, not knowing and things to come. 

Once I had climbed the hill top, turned around and reached the small village again from where I had started, my heart and my mind were full of joy and power. Joy was flowing from the reminder I had received that nature is deeply playful. And power was growing from the simple fact that each run in the morning, each coffee in the midday sun, each jump from a stone cliff into the sea allows for myself to change. Whether I remain who I am today or whether I change myself completely is determined by the stories only, that are shared between the world and I.

Well, I guess a psychologist would snap their fingers at this point, smile and tell me that Projection doesn't need to be a bad thing after all - as long as we attribute it back to ourselves and not to others. And I would smile back and answer that the spiders at night were weaving their webs on the height of my eyes because they knew that I was on my way. This is the secret that science will never solve: that world and man are waiting for each like two lovers, perfectly ready for their touch.

For the psychologist the idea of wonder contradicts with their strive for objectivity. For me as a magician I try not to care about objectivity or objects, but what is in-between. I don't look at the spiderweb as one object and at myself as another. I look at both of us and everything around us being woven into one wonderful web of nature. It is only in our own words only that we can read the book of nature. Life is nothing unless we invest ourselves.



Sunday, 5 June 2011

Book Review - Josephine McCarthy: Magical Knowledge II

Okay, this post certainly had a life of its own. I am not really sure it became what it should be... But that's probably just me falling back again and not having enough trust to go with what is given to me. So here it is... and if you want some nice music for the ride, try this wonderful cover version.
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Consider a house, maybe a temple. In this house there is a secret door that is locked. It is in a room that is watched by guardians. The room is lit by candles on the alter in the middle of the room. The altar light casts shadows over the marquetries on the secret door. The door has been shut for many years. Actually, nobody can remember it ever to have been open. For generations wise men have come to this house, entered it, passed by the guardians, walked across the altar and stood in front of that locked door. Each of them has tried to open the door in a different way: With ancient rituals, with sacred artifacts, with prayers and incantations, with modern technology and lately with clues from the internet. The door remained locked.

Now, consider there is a window in the room. It's hidden by a tapestry, long forgotten and dusty. Once a woman came to that house. She passed by the guardians, walked across the altar, but didn't approach the door. Instead she walked over to the tapestry and reached for the window behind. With a slight lift she opened the window and jumped out. Outside was a garden, overgrown, just as old as the entire house. People had been so obsessed with the secret door that no one had ever thought of the garden... The woman saw a path leading back to the front gate and on the other side following around the house. She tracked the gravel walk and came to the back of the house. There she saw a wonderful locked door, full of occult marquetries, set into the wall. 

The door that had been locked for generations didn't lead anywhere. No secret room, no secret tunnel, no hidden library, but a door out into the garden. What was considered to be the biggest beginning once unlocked turned out to be an exit door. The garden had always been there waiting, accessible from many different points. Yet people had forgotten all easy ways to enter it and only remembered the one that was blocked.

:: 

The garden is the world we are all living in. It's our everyday lives with all their fears and sorrows, all their beauties and desires, all their dreams and illusions. The door is what we think will create meaning, once we found the keys to unlock it. Yet, in reality it only brings us to the place we could have accessed all the time.

More than a decade have I spent standing in front of that door - trying to open it with the magical skills and knowledge acquired year over year. I never doubted my plan as so many great magicians had tried to achieve the same before me. I knew how many of them had failed. Failed to lead a happy life, to lead a life in service, to integrate what was on this side and what they expected to be on the other side in a single loving life. Yet, I also knew that some had achieved this - and remained silent about what they had found behind the door.

Josephine McCarthy's book Magical Knowledge, Book II, The Initiate speaks about the garden, not how to unlock the secret door. The trick with the secret door, though, is that while it is an awful waste of time it's equally a wonderful exercise in building up and maintaining magical intent, concentration and willpower. As you are trying to solve a riddle that knows no solving, you exercise a lot of (physical, mental and spiritual) muscles. At the end you still stand in front of that door but you are actually pretty well trained. At this point many magicians give up their magical career. Because after all it has failed to provide the sense of meaning, fulfillment and inner direction they had hoped for. Or they read Josephine's book - and jump out of the window instead. 

Here is the thing with Josephine's book - it is the second volume of a forthcoming trilogy. Even if all three volumes were available right now, I am pretty sure none of them would give you the training the secret door has given many of us. This book is not about acquiring basic magical skills, experience and practice. This book assumes you have done all your homework already. Homework during elementary, grammar school and college that is. It basically is that black car waiting in front of the gate of your university, engine humming, when you come out, final degree in your hand. It is what you have waited for all these years. And what rarely happens in real life. Well, consider yourself lucky - this time it does. It's right in front of you - 336 pages humming just like that engine, cover open, waiting for you to jump in. But boy, you better know how to ride it!
:: 

At no point does Magical Knowledge try to convince its readers of the reality it is presenting. There is no faffing around, no Neophyte hall, no manual nor "don't try this at home" signs. It starts right off with the most powerful magical techniques I have ever experienced. And from that onwards it is only practice. 

Practice through the eyes of someone, however, who is hugely trained and extremely well experienced in the inner realms. And this someone wants you to either crawl back through that bloody window in front of the locked door right now - or learn the hard way, i.e. by yourself... Often during the read did I get the distinct impression that the book was written by someone who really cannot take all the stupid questions and attitudes any longer, who is deeply bothered by the desertion of this planet from true practicing magicians - and who has set their mind on filling this gap as soon as possible so their own life would be just a bit more social and interesting. This book isn't written to find followers but people who can teach back; it's an open invitation.

Well, I really don't know Josephine McCarthy. I have no idea who she is, no idea what her previous life has been like and where she acquired all the knowledge presented in the book. But I am thinking of her as an Alexandra David Neel of the inner realms. Someone whose entire life is dedicated to exploring the unknown. And to leaving a trail behind that is just small enough, just large enough for the dedicated to follow.    

Personally, I wouldn't have been ready for this book a day earlier. It was hard to let go of that door. But what a wonderful garden it showed me. 

Thank you, Josephine. And thank you Mogg Morgan and Mandrake of Oxford for making it available in times like these. I know it would have been easy not to trust.

Franz Stuck, Lucifer (ca. 1890)



Arbatel Experience #4 - OCH approaching

It's time for the next ritual in my Arbatel Experience. Well, to be precise, it will be time for it in three weeks time from today. This time I am taking a slightly different approach than during the three previous rites: While preparing the required paraphernalia I chose to approach OCH, i.e. the Olympic Spirit of the Sun in vision in advance. After the intense experience of the first three ritual communions - as well as having learned a lot about my mistakes from Josephine's wonderful book - I guess I simply became more sensitive to building up spirit contact step by step... rather than going from 0 to 100 during the relatively short time of the actual rite.  

My first spirit visit in vision happened last Friday - it was very short, yet intense like a powerful blast. I had merged with the angelic body of my HGA at the usual place where we meet. Then my angel suggested to lift me up and pull our merged bodies out of the sublunar realms. For a short moment we were hanging in the quiet darkness, earth shimmering below us like a wonderful pearl... Then suddenly my angel's body started to gain incredible speed and head towards the Sun. It only took a short moment, then my entire vision was filled by the erupting, burning, blasting surface of the Sun. It was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life. The little sphere of light of our joint bodies was hanging in front of this huge globe of fire as meaningless, as powerless as a single particle of dust... The sheer size of the body of the Sun blew away any sense of proportion. This was the centre.

At the same time a flogging, unrelenting, powerful wind emerged from the surface of the Sun and blew in all directions. Never before had I considered that there is a physical place in our universe from where a wind emerges that shoots and storms in all directions at once? Truly, this place was the centre of everything I was part of. This was as close as my fragile self could get to the epicenter of the macrocosm. And never before had I realized so harshly that Hermes Trismegistos' saying "As above so below" was exactly that - a philosophical saying, an idea, a spark of a thought - that had precious little to do with the reality in front of me. The fire in my heart and the fire in front of me were world's apart. They certainly were of the same nature - but one had taken the size of a star, holding a whole solar system in balance by force of its pure presence alone, whereas the other kept the blood pumping in my small body at night when I lay asleep in bed...

We are part of the most amazing wonders of nature, all secrets of live, condensed in our small bodies and minds. But boy, we are small. 

What a humbling experience. OCH is approaching.





Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Salutogenesis - or Magic is Medicine

When I first came across the concept of Salutogenesis (en/de) it immediately hit a spark, yet I didn't figure it's significance for magic right away. Over the recent weeks I continued to ponder about it on airplanes and late night taxi rides... Here is what I learned.

The basic idea of Salutogenesis is that we are never 'ill' or 'healthy' but always both at the same time. Being healthy thus becomes a constant adjustment process to the changing context we are living in - rather than a solid state of being that gets temporarily intruded by diseases. Our mental-physical condition therefore is always somewhere on the dimension of health and disease, continuously shifting and adapting to our inner and outer experiences. The difference to the traditional concept of Pathogenesis - i.e. the concept of recovery from a temporarily state of illness and return to an intact state of healthiness - might sound like a subtlety only. However, with this new approach Anton Atonovsky, the inventor of Salutogenesis turned medicine upside down - instead of asking what caused a certain disease, he inquired what sustained health even under difficult circumstances. In taking such an innovative approach he found a revolutionary new perspective on what leads actually to stress and diseases among humans...

Before we move on to explore this new perspective in more depth, let's take a moment to capture the fundamental difference in approach of Salutogenesis and Pathogenesis:


Pathogenesis views diseases as intruders into a natural state of health. Assuming that diseases are always based on an unnatural or at least avoidable root cause, the central question of Pathogenesis is 'What causes diseases?'


Salutogenesis views health and diseases as two ends of one dimension, the dimension of being. Our state of being is continuously shifting and adjusting according to the current environment and subjective experience. The central question of Salutogenesis is "What sustains health?" 

This comparison helps us understand the fundamental difference between the two concepts: Pathogenesis strives to understand the objective root causes of diseases, whereas Salutogenesis focusses on the subjective experiences and resources of the individual. The former places the individual into an interplay of objective forces assuming the role of a concerned and mostly passive spectator. The latter understands the individual as an active co-creator of reality, enabled to influence and guide the interplay of forces he participates in.

So what are the resources that allow us to take an active role and become a co-creator of our state of being?

In his theory, whether a stress factor will be pathogenic, neutral, or salutary depends on what he called generalized resistance resources (GRRs). Antonovsky's formulation was that the GRRs enabled individuals to make sense of and manage events. He argued that over time, in response to positive experiences provided by successful use of different GRRs, an individual would develop an attitude that was "in itself the essential tool for coping". 
(source Wikipedia)

I guess as a medical doctor in the 70s this was quite something - singlehandedly building such a solid bridge between our inner experiences and their direct correlation to our mental and physical health. Moreover, Atonovsky assumed that no factor is predetermined in its effect on us - it can be beneficial, neutral or negative depending on what he called the 'generalized resistance resources' of the perceiver.

The real revolutionary aspect of his approach, however, is the fact Antonovsky identified one's subjective ability to 'make sense of events' as the fundamental precondition and common denominator of all available resistance resources. If we wanted to look at it the other way around: If things don't make sense to us, we don't know how to handle them. Our mind - just like a computer software - runs over the line of faulty code over and over again and tries to read it out, i.e. make sense. Ultimately it gets hung up, wastes huge amount of energy and blocks the rest of the program because of an element that proves to be inconsistent with its implicit rules and assumptions about reality (i.e. how code should be written). Thus - it's our ability to make sense of what happens to us and people around us, that determines the resources we have to deal with it.

Let's start to merge the medical and magical perspective here - and bring in some wisdom from the founder of Adonism, Dr. Musallam aka Franz S├Ąttler (1884-c.1942). In his correspondence course on magic (The Adept), he explains an essential component that determines the effectiveness of any magical approach:

"Human will is a living force. (...) And just like with every other type of force we distinguish three factors that determine its impact: direction, magnitude and contact point. Should it lack on any of these three the impact will either be incomplete, non-existant or even unaligned to the intended impact."
(Dr.Musallam, Der Adept, p.101 - translated by Fr.Acher)

Well, I guess the components of direction and magnitude are quite straight forward and self-explanatory. Yet, the idea of the contact point as a determining factor strikes me as new? The contact point is nothing but the particular point we chose to get a handle on things. Only if we understand the nature of the challenge or obstacle we encounter, can we chose the right handle. To make it even more plain: we can only fix what we understand.

Now, Antonovsky suggested exactly the same thing: it's our ability to make sense of events that determines our ability to cope with stress that might cause diseases otherwise. The more we are able to create a consistent perspective from new experiences, to create coherence from chaos, the higher are our resources to sustain health under adverse circumstances.

And here is what I learned about magic from Salutogenesis: Magic is the strongest medicine. 

Since the times of the ancient Chaldean's and Egyptian's magic has been the major tool to deal with situations of crisis, to initiate and integrate changes, to bring within us and around us in tune and to re-balance the forces of live. From the Shaman's mesa to the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists, magic is a synonym for creating coherence, for finding one's place in the seeming chaos of everyday life.

Magicians are the most powerful creators as they unite the forces of faith and will. Magicians know how to find the secret contact points, where things change by a breeze and a spark. Magicians are sense-makers where the world seems lost in the mazes of life. Magicians are healers, for they know how to heal the broken subjective experience... of being caught in the meaningless riddles of stress and diseases, of power and divulgement.

Magicians know how to lead a life like a story and not like a disconnected word each day.


Reading the story not just the words.