My Initiation into the Occult

Part 2: A Fool’s Steps

It may seem strange to start a blog with part two of a post that hasn’t been made yet, however we can often only understand the beginning of a journey in the context of the whole thing. This is the story of my initiation into the occult and of learning magick. It only is finished when we reach the present, because initiation is an ongoing process, not just a start.

The first of the Major Arcana tarot cards is the Fool, depicting a man unaware that he is about to step off a cliff. My journey into occultism began the same way, when out of the blue I purchased a deck of tarot cards. I was never terribly interested in tarot, or any forms of divination. In fact, I had a rather harsh opinion of it, thinking at best it was some sort of psychological trick to manipulate people. Like a newspaper horoscope, it was full of generic messages that anyone could apply to any situation. But one thought crept into the back of my mind: “I should reserve judging this until I at least understand it”. Give it the benefit of the doubt. This itself is the Fool. Allowing something which may seem ridiculous to the rational mind just to see where it would take you. It had found me. And so, never even having had a reading, I bought a Rider-Waite deck and walked off the cliff.

I found immense enjoyment in pulling cards. I pored over books and websites until I had every single one memorized. I took my deck to parties, giving readings to friends, then to people I had just met. I found the readings to be uncomfortably accurate at times, but I explained away the strange questions that raised by saying “oh, I’ve been running Dungeons and Dragons games for years and years, I’m just a good story teller” or “it’s like a coin flip. No matter the card that comes up you learn something”. One deck turned into two turned into five.

Attending a local theater performance, the cast was running a small carnival event in the lobby. One of them was giving “rune” readings and, still never having had someone else give me a tarot reading, I jumped at the chance to have my fortune told. The results were… odd. Knowing what I knew about tarot, something just felt off about what she told me. But, I knew nothing about runes, so it was time to learn for myself. Two books and two sets of runes later, I found out she was just putting on a show, and the reading was gibberish. But, I had a new fun toy to carry around at parties. Ogham came next. Not finding any affordable sets to buy online, I instead bought some cut wood and a wood burning kit, and soon I had a third method of divination.

Those strange questions though, despite my hand waving, remained. If it wasn’t just me being good at telling tales, what was actually going on here? Who or what was answering questions? Could you purposely pull any card and get the same results? Do different forms of divination work differently, or is it all the same thing? Are these cards / runes / staves important, or could you divine using anything?

Part 3: Leaving the Body
I’d always been curious about how the universe worked. I delved greedily and deeply into science, looking for answers. Gazing through a telescope at night, reading Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene by day. More recently, PBS Spacetime provided insights into the unknown. But one day a document rose from the depths of the internet to bring more questions than answers. Analysis and Assessment of Gateway Process, hosted directly on the CIA’s website, somehow linked consciousness with the physics of the universe. It clashed with my understanding of reality, but I was curious. What if I read this as if the author wasn’t crazy, but was simply providing an honest accounting of what they had learned. What is consciousness? What is patterning? What is remote viewing? Hypnosis and meditation? Kundalini and binaural audio? Astral projection?

So I stalked wild pendulums and found consciousness where I didn’t expect it. It had suddenly become the foundation of reality. Holofractal theory illuminated Indra’s net and collapsed the universe to a singularity. I learned that papers had been published explaining how the mind can gain non-local information, and they had been laughed out of peer review not for their methodology but for their topics. That’s not how science was supposed to work! So I sat down and tried it and found I could draw things I could not see.

I found an explorer of the vast realms of consciousness who had taken many trips to far off places. I needed to know if this also had merit, so I got a copy of the Gateway Experience and laid down with headphones to start my journey. Visions and impressions of bizarre worlds flooded my mind, but they didn’t seem any more real than a dream. I wanted to know what all of this was doing to my brain, so I got a headband to measure my electrical responses, which had the side effect of introducing me to meditation. Now confirming to myself with hard evidence that something was actually happening, my brain was moving into different states, I continued listening to the tapes. Odd experiences followed, including a few times where I would swear I could see what was in front of me despite having my eyes closed, as if looking through a hazy grey mirror.

One lazy afternoon I threw myself on the couch for a nap. Sleep hadn’t found me after a few minutes so I decided to get up. I opened my eyes and after a moment realized something weird was going on. I didn’t remember standing, but I also seemed to be standing in the same place where my coffee table is located. Looking down I saw no legs or feet. Looking back at the couch I saw myself still laying down. I raised my left arm and the me-on-the-couch raised his left arm. I wasn’t asleep, I could think clearly, I could touch things and feel the couch beneath me. I could even talk and hear myself. It felt as real as everyday waking life. I found I could move around as normally as walking, but I could also move up and down. I walked through my kitchen and into my front hall. I saw everything in its place as it should look. I saw my dogs and tried to pet one, but my hand (at some point I had gained an astral hand) passed straight through it. The dogs ran to the front door, as though someone was coming up to the house. A piercing bark rang out and I opened my eyes to find myself still on the couch. I jumped up and ran to the front door to find a friend had dropped off a box of donuts. The whole experience lasted less than five minutes.

Part 4: The Big Dream
After a long and exhausting day of work, I was excited for bed. Maybe I’d sleep in and get a late start to the next day. I rarely had dreams that I remembered, and the ones I did were always mild and usually pleasant. Something had different plans for me that night.

I found myself standing on a rocky mountain top overlooking a long green valley. A river ran through it, passing many small towns along its way. It was flanked on either side by other mountains, dark and capped with snow. The sun was setting far across it, giving the water a golden shine. The ground where I stood had a dip in the middle, essentially giving it two peaks. The right one had an enormous and beautiful temple erected atop it. The left one, higher than the right, had a much older structure, now fallen into ruins. As I watched, many people in robes walked back and forth between them, seemingly not even noticing I was there.

Trumpets blared one after another from in the valley, signaling the approach of a storm. A harsh wind picked up as black clouds rolled in over the mountains. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. Rain began to fall and everyone rushed for shelter. I went to the left peak, to the ruins, and found a gigantic square hole in the ground. Perhaps at one time this had been a well, or maybe a support pillar had stood here, but for now it was an escape from the weather. I, and others, climbed down the loose bricks and into the darkness below.

We found ourselves in a long stone hallway. The rain and thunder echoed from far above. Someone had a small light source, and we crept through the tunnel until it opened up into a wider room. The right wall had an immense pair of stone doors intricately decorated with designs I couldn’t recognize. As if they had been waiting for our approach, the doors creaked open towards us. We walked into the next chamber, a dead end, and the doors shut.

I sat on the cold ground for a moment, unsure of what was happening or what to do next. Far above, near the ceiling, the wall was missing a brick, and occasional flashes from the lightning lit up the room. From this hole a grey-blue fog emanated, swirling around the chamber. It looped around every person there before gathering itself near the doors where it took the form of a gigantic glowing blue figure. Human in shape, but outwardly featureless. Inside, however, it was full of brilliant gold lines, like its nervous system was illuminated. It’s heart was a shining golden sphere.

Somehow, without speaking, it explained to us that we were allowed to ask questions. One person asked if it was God, to which it did not give a clear answer. No, but in some way also yes. Another asked if all of the different universes were its creation. It answered that there was only one universe. More questions continued, most of which did not stay with me. Eventually the questions stopped and it sat down. Sitting, it was as tall I was when standing. I sat next to it and leaned against it. I told it I was tired, and asked if it was ok if we all went to sleep. It answered yes, and the gold light from its heart spread out into the room. The moment that light touched me I awoke in my bed to find the sun shining on me through the window.

It was the most realistic dream I had ever had in my life. So vivid and real, I swore that it happened to me while I was awake.

Part 5: The Golden Thread of Synchronicities
What the hell just happened? I needed answers. Something deep, deep within me knew that whatever that dream was, it was important. Ask, and the internet will provide.

Big dreams. Blue people. Strange symbols. A whirlwind of discovery followed. GodsDMT EntitiesAngels. I was leaving the safety of the peripherals of science, where I had been spending most of my explorations, and into the bizarre realm of religion and psychedelic drugs. I had spent twelve years of my life attending Catholic school and had never even considered using any illegal substances. And I wasn’t about to start now. I needed answers, but there was a line I was unwilling to cross. Astral and etheric worlds. This was something my mind let me consider, given previous experiences. But I was guarded, still looking for a rational explanation. Then one word leapt off the screen and into my heart. MagickMagicMagick.

Chaos magick, specifically. It didn’t immediately seem to have the answer I was looking for, but something about it wouldn’t let me go. Magick was real? Why do they spell it with a “k”? Where do I even begin to find out about this. I had a basic awareness that there were people who considered themselves witches, but at the time they didn’t seem different from Harry Potter cosplayers.

I had to learn about this, so where to start? Liber Null is what the internet told me. But what the heck is going on here, I can draw some squiggles on a piece of paper and something will happen? What is this author even trying to say? The Psychonaut Field Manual provided some clearer instructions. And it mentioned astral projection and contacting strange entities. Things were starting to connect, but I wanted to hear more people talking about this. Grant Morrison provided more connection between the dream and magick. Evidently most of the modern comics industry is into magick in some fashion. Tommie Kelly provided much needed perspective. Alan Chapman showed me the advanced ways to do it.

So I tried a sigil. More specifically, I tried to create a servitor. A magickal unseen servant to do my bidding. Go big or go home, right? A few orders on Amazon and a trip to a local witchy shop later, I lit a candle, burned some incense, put on calming music, and went into a deep meditation. I drew a sigil to represent this entity, and I focused my will into his being. My dogs bark at every sound within a three mile radius and I wanted to take a nap. They stay calm and quiet if you pet them though. A small person with big hands to pet my dogs. Keep them quiet for the day and then you can return to non-existence. I’d never seen them so calm as they were that afternoon and evening. Not a single boof, let alone a bark, from them. They were loud again the following morning.

More sigils, more magick, more strange and unexplained experiences followed, but these brought more questions than answers. Is this really working? If it’s working, why does it work? Is it just confirmation bias? Why does it work sometimes, but not every time? You can get lost in the internet sea of theories on what is happening with magick, why it works, can it be scientifically tested. Are we flinging ourselves through a quantum multiverse or are gods answering our prayers?

I hadn’t realized it yet, but my entire course on magick had already been laid out for me. A new book with answers to previous questions, but which would raise entirely new ones, would appear nearly the very instant I finished the one I was currently reading. A library of the occult was being built in my office, and an altar was slowly forming without me even trying. Synchronicity, arguably the best explanation for the action upon which magick works, was taking over my life and I was letting it guide me wherever it wanted to go. Magick itself had become my teacher.

Part 6: A Higher Path
Remote viewing and the Gateway Experience had brought their own questions to the table. Why can someone see things they cannot see? Why can you call “guides” and “protectors” when meditating for astral projection and they just show up and do whatever you want? What if they are busy at the time? Is it all just in my head? Chaos magick provided methods, but not many answers, and so my attention eventually turned to other traditions.

Synchronicity led me to High Magick, a somewhat modern take on Golden Dawn style HermeticsThelema seemed to have some bizarre sex stuff going on that I didn’t quite understand, (not necessarily true, but it was my perception at the time), and so I stayed away from it. (Insert joke about Chaos Magick and “charging your sigils” here. It has its own strangeness that did not appeal to me). But now, ritual was introduced to my practice for the first time. Specifically, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. You are supposed to do it daily, along with it’s invoking version, because it does… something. Other than clearing a space, and yourself, for other rituals, it’s not explicitly said why it should be done daily. Ah, but here are other rituals as well. The Middle Pillar, the Hexagram rituals. These should also be done often because they do something to you. I didn’t understand what, but I wanted to know, and so I did them anyway. It would be over a year until I learned their purposes.

Further reading, and more synchronicity, provided a clearer path. There is a fantastic horror film, A Dark Song, which is one of the best depictions of magick put to the screen. Within it, two people perform what is called the Abramelin ritual to contact one of their Holy Guardian Angels. What is done in the movie is fake, but I found out the actual ritual is real. So, back to Amazon to order the book. The result of the operation supposedly contacts your “higher self”, which then opens the door to many more experiences. Again, I didn’t understand what that even meant yet, and I didn’t understand why I wanted to do it, but I knew it was something that I had to do.

Reading the book, my heart dropped. Six months (or 18 months, depending on the version) of near isolation to complete this ritual. Well, that was never going to happen. But synchronicity wasn’t going to let me give up. The day I finished the book I found a video by Alan Chapman which provided a much more stripped down method. Simply repeat an easy phrase every day. Now this I could do, but it was time to find out what was actually going on here.

Part 7: A Lighter Perspective
The Golden Dawn system, I found out, has a number of “grades” which an aspiring magician passes through as they develop skill in magick. Each of them corresponds to a specific location on the Tree of Life, or Sefirot, from the Kabbalah (or Qabalah, or however you’d like to spell it). Near the top of this tree, the magician meets their Holy Guardian Angel, undergoes a process known as Crossing the Abyss, and experiences some form of ego death. This is The Great Work. Wait, the Kabbalah, like from Jewish mysticism? Ego death like what happens when people take too many psychedelics? I think I’ve also heard of ego death having something to do with Buddhist enlightenment? I’d somehow looped back around to religion and drugs.

What is enlightenment anyway? I didn’t know, and a whole new path of research had opened up before me. Book after book opened new doors, revealing what might actually be happening with magick. It seemed every different road was somehow converging to this one point. But it felt strange. I thought enlightenment was something that only happened to people with shaved heads who lived secluded lives in the mountains. It’s certainly not something that I had even the smallest thought would be something I’d be trying to do.

But here was a goal. An end result of magick. Finally something clear to work towards. I couldn’t explain why I wanted it, but I knew I had to get there. But how could I make that happen? I had a way to look for the Holy Guardian Angel, so that’s what I continued to do. I sought other paths as well. I began scrying aethyrs and invoking angels. I found others undergoing initiations. In the meantime though, synchronicity had once again led me to Alan Chapman, and this time with his friend Duncan Barford. Some hard to find books about a blog/podcast they had called the Baptist Head. Here were two people seeking, and evidently achieving, enlightenment through magickal means.

My rituals continued. Qabalistic Cross, Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram, Middle Pillar, Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram, “I consent to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”, once a day, every day, for months and months. And something happened. A vision, wandering through a castle, climbing the tower, a vast night sky full of stars, the stars spelling a name. A familiar name, one from teenage years that brought back strange memories. The sky cracking open, a figure looking nothing like what I would expect, and a voice. But none of that was important. What was important was the knowledge that this was something which had been present my entire life. This was what was responsible for the trail of synchronicities that led me here. That I never even had a say in all of this, it was simply inevitable to arrive at this place. And that we weren’t done yet.

Part 8: Leaving the Forest
The road was clearer now, but not where it was going. I knew I was along for the ride and that the train was picking up speed. My questions had not been answered, and they continued to become grander in scale. Gone were the days of wondering about a tarot card, now I was confused at the full nature of reality. What could it mean that reality is such that magick is possible? Is it actually possible at all, beyond some sort of synchronistic path? What does this mean for the religion in which I was raised? What is this entity, an angel apparently separate from myself but guiding me? What is an angel, or a demon, or any of these strange beings that people speak of? What is a god?

few books provided insights into what might actually be true about the world. In the meantime I continued exploring other avenues of magick. Assorted traditions about what magick might be, from modern versions of witchcraft and druidism to various flavors of folk magick from around the world. I was grasping for the next hook of synchronicity that would lead me onward. Despite the feeling that everything up to this point was moving faster and faster, I suddenly felt like every stream had dried up, and that I was alone in this. Like being shot out of a cannon into a dark night, hurtling into the unknown.

I noticed a few magickal friends doing a different sort of meditation practice, so I followed that back to the source: a series of recordings by Alan Chapman of talks he gave on a retreat in Greece. Magia. An old word for magick. A new (to me) cosmology was presented, and though I didn’t understand it, something deep within me knew that this was the path I should be following. This was Hermeticism and Gnosticism and chaos magick and much more. A devotional practice to match my longing.

So I laid down to do the unbinding rituals. I listened to the recordings over and over. I still had my questions, but for some reason they weren’t pulling on me to frantically search anymore. They were content to sit with me as this new growth unfolded. They waited, and I waited. There was nothing else to do but say yes to allowing this process, whatever it was, to happen.

Months past. Every day, unbinding. Hoping for an “awakening”. Wanting to know what it would be like. I sat up from one of the rituals feeling a bit odd. There was a strange pressure to the room. Things were incredibly quiet and still, like night after a fresh snow. Then I began growing. Not physically, but there was an experience of “expansion” as though I were becoming bigger. It felt like the whole universe, or at least my awareness of the universe, was growing with me. After a few moments I felt like a giant trying to fit into the bedroom of a doll house. The stillness was still present, and I realized I was just as still as the rest of the room and the rest of the universe. Accompanying it was an overwhelming sense of joy. Joy for no reason, it was just there as a quality of the universe and of myself.

The joy slowly faded over the course of two weeks, but the stillness and the silence, both behind reality and part of it, remained. On deeper examination, I no longer felt there was a “me”. Or rather, the “me” that I thought was “me” was just a loose collection of qualities rather than a singular thing, and the “me” that was actually “me”, if there was one, was somewhere and something else. The stillness was part of it though. And the angel that I found earlier was the same thing as that “me”. And this had always been the case.

Later, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a virtual Magia retreat. The book version had just been released, and I was thrilled to be able to explore it with the author and with other students. Midway through, during one of the talks, I began to feel strange. There was a general uneasiness, and a knowledge that something was happening. I expanded again and bliss overtook me. I was presented with a great flow of light, or something like light, which was emanating from a distant place. This light was creating me, and it was creating everyone. It’s Source was beyond description. It was not something, and it was not nothing, it was beyond the concept of both. It was also coming from me. More directly, coming from my heart, and creating myself and everyone. Shortly after, it was not even about the flow anymore, it was simply me as a creation inside my own consciousness. And this had always been the case.

And we’ve caught up to the present. This was my initiation into magick. Unplanned, unasked for, never my choice to have started it. But this is where I find myself now, and it continues. Am I enlightened? What even is enlightenment anyway? I’ve certainly experienced a few Awakenings, but worrying about answering those questions seems to be missing the point. As if it is a thing for an individual to have, or gain, or accomplish, rather than the truth of it. Awakening is a continuous processes of growth, the fruit of which is temporary. But the growth remains.

I won’t say that any have been answered, but I definitely have a new perspective on my questions, which I will explore on this blog. The thing is, gaining answers is no longer the driving force. There is something else important happening here that is about more than just me. And I know its swiftly approaching. I’m not to the end of this road yet, but it no longer looks like a road. It’s an eternal cycle that will loop indefinitely. An endless journey of creation.

Part 1: In the Beginning
I’ve always done magick. I suspect everyone has always done magick, because reality itself is magick. But if you had said that to the child version of me, I wouldn’t have believed you. I certainly imagined I did magick, but I was sure it was just my imagination. However, if we imagine ourselves doing magick, and that magick produces results, at some point we have to consider if there is a difference.

We lived next to a large forested area and I would often be out in the woods by myself. I, like many children, had an imaginary friend. I didn’t tell anyone about it, because it asked me not to. It lived in the woods. It would tell me where I could find salamanders and frogs. It could tell me which bike path to take to get home. It could tell me when the weather was going to get bad. The woods held many other strange happenings. I watched deer walk like men and heard the snarling of the hexenwolf across fog covered fields under a full moon. But I knew it was just my imagination. Eventually, I stopped going into the woods, and I forgot it was there.

I imagined I could control the weather. I would decide I wanted a sunny weekend, and the weekend would be sunny, and I’d be happy at the lucky coincidence. I imagined I could make the wind blow. I’d hold out my arms and tell it to knock around a beach ball in the yard, and the wind would blow and the ball would move. But it was probably already windy. I would draw lines on the windows and tell lightning to strike NOW, and sometimes lightning would crash down from the clouds following the path I drew. But I knew this was just my imagination, and I eventually stopped trying.

I imagined I could talk to ghosts, and knew where they were and what they were doing. A number of family members died while I was young, and I imagined I could see them in our house. I could ask them questions and they would answer. When I got older, I would go out ghost hunting with friends and I thought I knew when ghosts were around and when they were not. But I knew it was just my imagination, and I eventually gave up talking to the dead.

I went to private religious schools. I went to church and I learned the prayers I was supposed to. One prayer was to ask God to tell you the name of your guardian angel. Angels seemed neat, and the idea that everyone had their own personal one was fantastic, so I prayed. And I heard a name, and a voice. It was a strange name, one I’d never heard before, but somehow familiar. I spoke with it during my teenage years. I made the mistake of mentioning it to friends, and then I realized it was just my imagination, and so I stopped talking to it. I forgot that it even happened until years and years later when I heard that same name and same voice again.

The seduction leading to this initiation was always there. I would make “magic potions” using my grandmother’s blender. I remember eyeing the “New Age” section of the local bookstore, wondering what might lay within those forbidden pages. Nothing ever stopped me from looking at them, except my idea that they were a silly thing for people with no grip on reality. There was strange “witchy” music on display that I liked to listen to, but never bought. But I still wanted to.

I grew up forgetting the magick I imagined over a long childhood. I think this happens to most of us. We’re presented with many opportunities to explore something beyond material reality, and the world that is evident to our daily senses asks us to ignore them. We forget who and what we were in the beginning. But sometimes we’re given another chance to take the steps of the fool. To look at something just to see it, reserving judgement until it has been given an opportunity to explain itself. If the moment comes, try saying yes. Let that silent knowing take you where it wants to go. If you end up not liking it, you can say it’s just your imagination. Just remember that all reality is magick, and its all your imagination anyway.