CURRENT MOON

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Ability to Change Consciousness at Will??

T. Thorn Coyle has a brilliant post today about the nature of magic and what magic is, and isn't, good for. She opens with an amazing quote I've never seen before:

"Many Buddhist teachers have described compassion as the ability to react freely and accurately in any situation. Being nice or feeling sorry for someone may be called for, but so may being fierce and unyielding. When sweetness is applied indiscriminately, it is seen as 'idiot compassion.'" - Issan Dorsey

She goes on to discuss her reaction to a question she received recently when speaking at a conference: "Someone asked a question along the lines of, "how about social justice? How can our magic affect that?" I believe the first words out of my mouth were: "Go work in a soup kitchen." I went on to talk about how magic changes us from the inside out and we need to patch the ozone layer in ourselves before working magic to patch the ozone layer in the sky. And that we need to do other work for that one in the sky. I don't recall exactly what I said - I was running on too little sleep. Later, a woman chased me down in the hallway to ask about my response. We talked a bit about what magic can do, and I said it could change our consciousness, for one, and then she said "But, can magic clean the air?" I looked at her and said "No. We need to get our shit together."

I was fierce. And it feels better to be affirming, despite the fact that those around me say that being fierce is good.

In retrospect, I wish the first words out of my mouth in both cases had been "What do you mean by magic?" Because the picture I had, from the way both questions were couched, was a group of people holding hands and visualizing global human rights or clean air. And that can be a powerful step in creating an image to work toward, but it also frustrates me because too often that is the only step people take. And it doesn't change carbon dioxide into oxygen, like planting trees and reducing toxic emissions. And when it is the only step taken it becomes not magic, but a salve to make us feel better, and feel like we've done our part. Sometimes we step too quickly to magic to try to affect things outside ourselves when we haven't done enough basic work to affect our insides, nor enough work just doing basic, physical activity. It can, in some cases, become a route of avoidance, like doing ritual by yourself to heal a friendship in lieu of hashing things out with your friend. When I was a baby Witch of 17, I got some great magical advice: "The best spell to do when you need a job is to fill out an application and drop it off.""


I agree completely. But then Ms. Coyle says something I'm not sure that I do agree with: "And unless our insides truly change, change will never come about outside. We'll just keep slapping bandages on gaping wounds." I wonder if that's correct. At first, it sounds completely logical. But change in the outside world can eventually change what's going on inside us, as well. For example, when women first pushed our way into the workforce, scared, unsure of ourselves, feeling a bit guilty for "taking" a job "away" from "a man," men didn't like it. But today, inner attitudes have changed in many ways. Not only do women feel much more entitled to be in the world of work, men today are, more than their fathers and grandfathers, accepting of that. They've changed inside. And other things -- how work gets done, how children get cared for, how involved men are as parents -- have changed too. I don't mean we live in Nirvana, yet, by any stretch. But people's attitudes have changed. Young people, and I include Ms. Coyle in that group, grew up with completely different ideas about race than did my generation. That's largely due to an external change -- they went to school together.

At any rate, something else to think about. Ms. Coyle's brilliant and worth being added to your daily list of places to check in.

14 comments:

OhDeaconess said...

I agree. I think it is a dance--inner and outer together. Though I am Christian, I think I understand what you are (she is) saying. We get that type of thing too--we can pray for homeless people--or get off our asses and work for housing etc. Neither inner work or outer work is ever done. During the "self-help" phase, we went through a "I can't help anyone until I have my life figured out." At that time, we had a pastor who reminded us that our brothers and sisters couldn't wait until we got our shit together.

Anonymous said...

Magic is good for fleecing the rubes. Not good for getting things done in the real world.

Hecate said...

anonymous,

I don't think you're using the word "magic" the same way that Coyle and I use it. Her whole point is that magic is about changing yourself on an internal level. Has nothing to do w/ fleecing the rubes.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is, " said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty. "which is to be master—that's all."

Hecate said...

anon,

That's one of my favorite Alice quotes. But words do have more than one meaning. If I tell you that I'm going to the bank, without context you don't know if I mean the place where they keep my money or the place beside the river where I like to sit and think.

Magic is one of those words that can mean differnt things. Here, it's not being used to mean, for example, magic tricks. It's being used to mean a form of spiritual growth.

I think one of Ms. Coyle's points is that even magic practitioners can get the meanings confused and think that, rather than changing themselves, magic can be used to do "magic tricks."

Anonymous said...

i love your blog, Hecate! good, good stuff!

--her eyes

QuinnLaBelle said...

Chop wood.
Carry water.

Really.

Anonymous said...

I think one of Ms. Coyle's points is that even magic practitioners can get the meanings confused and think that, rather than changing themselves, magic can be used to do "magic tricks."

I would resort to here another quote, this time from Webster's, but I doubt that it would avail me much. Let's try this instead:

When you talk favorably about magic, you're hurting our civilization, which is based on a communal (as opposed to an esoteric) notion of truth. We embrace the empirical.

We're reality based.

Hecate said...

When you talk favorably about magic, you're hurting our civilization, which is based on a communal (as opposed to an esoteric) notion of truth. We embrace the empirical.

Oh, I doubt it. I agree with Milton here: whoever knew truth put to second best when scattered to the four winds? Reality-based? Well, there are more things Horation. . . .But you're being deliberately obtuse about what Coyle and I are saying. Whatever gets you through the night.

catalexis said...

While this has nothing to do with magic per se, I was reminded by the body of your post that the change we wanted to happen in women's rights began happening not with the much ballyhooed "first female this or that" but when you realized you weren't hearing phrases like "lady" doctor or "lady" lawyer anymore as though it were an abberation.

Anonymous said...

I say: We embrace the empirical.

You say: Oh, I doubt it. I agree with Milton here: whoever knew truth put to second best when scattered to the four winds?

Does that mean something?

Reality-based? Well, there are more things Horation. . . .

Oh, I haven't had your depth of experience. Enlighten me. Make me a frog. SHOW ME.

But you're being deliberately obtuse about what Coyle and I are saying.

Really, I'm not being obtuse. I object to any use of "magic" in descriptions of actual events. It's this kind of thing that leaves us open to charges of being moonbats. The fundies think it's blasphemous, the libertarians think it's fantasy, and those of us who have some sort of reality based viewpoint are left to excuse people like you while disagreeing with your fundamental position. Not helpful.

Whatever gets you through the night.

That's sad.

Luna_C said...

Oh, I haven't had your depth of experience. Enlighten me. Make me a frog. SHOW ME.

Um... anonymous, I disagree: You really ARE obtuse. In fact, you seem to revel in it.

Sandy-LA 90034 said...

"feeling a bit guilty for "taking" a job "away" from "a man," men didn't like it."

I remember way back in the 60's when I was trying to decide on whether to go to college and what to major in, my economist father said, "Unless you have a good idea what you want to major in, I hate to see you take the place of some young man who is going to support a family."

Those words came back to haunt me years later, after I went to Secretarial School instead, and I found myself unmarried, supporting myself at age 35 and feeling I had limited options.

That was just part of the path I chose, though, and I've found in recent years that the options are only limited by the scope of my own mind.

olvlzl said...

I hope this thread isn't dead yet. Last week while watching my niece during her Feb. vacation she asked me about my meditation practice. I told her about my "metta" practice. The act of thinking and feeling "May --- be well, may --- be happy, may--- be in a state of peace". She said, you're doing magic. I couldn't deny that it seems that way. While I do other forms of meditation it is this that is at the heart of it, the one which I wouldn't ever give up.