For Alban Eiler

For Alban Eiler:

Do you not hear the approaching storm?
Do you not feel the hot, arid wind burning your cheek?
Do you not hear the cries of those who are suffering?
Do you not know what you have done?

Will you not stop the choking pollution?
Will you not end the pointless wars?
Will you not fight for justice and freedom?
Will you not learn to live as one with the Earth?

Not my happiest poem but it came to me complete during my meditation this morning and given that it is Alban Eiler and this blog is about green activism and magic it seems appropriate to share!

 

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Awen and Nwyfre, Will and Mind, Intention and Tao

Change is life. The great unfolding says Ken Wilber and for me the Great Spirit is driving and possibly is that unfolding, that change. both the entropy and the negentropy, the yin and the yang.

As I recounted a few weeks ago, I see the ‘mind’ that Bobcat describes in Animist terms and the ‘will’  (and representation which seems to be the mind element) that Schopenhauer describes, as fundamentally the same even if the semantics of both are unhelpful and the manifestations are different. For me they are two sides of the same thing. The will to exist as an atom, the mind of a mountain, the will of the superego, the reptilian mind and the will of the weather to rain on our parades all are expressions of the mind-will, just on various levels and therefore with different manifestations.

For me the mind as life force, as memory, as yin, as the force that provides stability and pattern is in Druid terms, the nwyfre. Awen is will, it is yang, inspiration and intention, it grows things and changes them, it is magic. They are different but the same, they are both flow but manifest in different ways. Together they are the Tao.

Science regards matter as energy but I see mind-will as the other key constituent of matter (and all levels of life). What is it that organises energy into matter? How does a fertilised egg know which cells become a pancreas when all the cells start the same? Rupert Sheldrake describes them as morphic fields, perhaps this memory, mind and will leads the growth of life. There is mind and will at every level of existence but I suspect the mind-will can exist outside of matter too. Just as energy can exist outside of what we perceive as matter as well as being a constituent of it, there is no reason to expect mind-will to be confined to material things.

The universe / nature is organised on planes: physical matter, plants life, animal life etc. and the mind-will exists at all levels but with increasing complexity – in line with the complexity of the object. The mind-will can override mind-will at other levels to some extent, e.g. magic, changes in consciousness at will.

But these changes to the mind-will, how do they happen and what impact do they have?

In my 20’s I studied Therapeutic Touch (TT), a form of Reiki. There are a range of randomised controlled trials that show how pain and anxiety are lessened by TT (over and above the placebo response). The basis of TT is intentionality, the therapist has to intend to have an impact on the patient and the patient must be willing to receive the therapy to benefit from it. The key is intention, i.e. will.

Just as JMG has been discussing will in recent weeks, A Druid Way posted this great piece a few days ago on intention where he describes: “intention does invite a flow, form a mold, shape a potential, and let us exercise our sacred gift as transformers of Spirit”. He describes his intention of travel being disrupted by a snowstorm. For me the intention of the weather was more powerful than the intention to travel, a battle of magic that had a predictable outcome.

So we have intentionality causing changes in consciousness and we have magic battles of wills that we may lose. The pragmatist in me asks how we can tip the odds of winning those battles even more, how do we use our gift of magic in a more effective way.

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Individual ethical consumerism will do diddly squat

The ability to walk the talk in sustainable consumerism is primarily one of privilege and while it certainly makes me feel better and prevents accusations of hypocrisy, I am very aware that it makes diddly squat difference to the Earth. With 7 billion other people my individual action of buying ethical clothing, organic local produce, refusing to fly, having a low carbon footprint etc. etc. mean that there are only 6,999,999,999 others to worry about. If they all did the same there wouldn’t be a problem!

And the only reason I can buy these ‘ethical’ products is because I am in a position of privilege – some of what I buy is more expensive, organic food for example. I was directed to a recent post by Alden Wicker who blogs on sustainable lifestyles. She recently upset a conference by claiming that ‘Conscious consumerism is a lie’ after being asked to talk on the subject – a rather brave admission!

I particularly like this quote in her article: “A 2012 study compared footprints of “green” consumers who try to make eco-friendly choices to the footprints of regular consumers. And they found no meaningful difference between the two.”

While that is not true for everyone, it is certainly true of many and it reminds me of my favourite Seize the Day song, Flying: I will recycle, ride my bicycle but don’t take my wings away. I.e. I’ll do some good stuff so that I can pollute with a clear conscience.

So not only will my individual actions do nothing tangible to save the planet, but others who buy ethically may do so to assuage their guilt for polluting in other ways.

But let us not forget though that the drive to consume is rooted in the corporate and political worlds; these are not always actions that are under our direct control. The corporate consciousness is one that uses the magic called advertising to great effect. This corporate consciousness is fundamentally flawed, insane in fact according to Joel Baken in his book The Corporation. The only goal is to make money, everything else is secondary. Of course, corporations are a political and social construct that will only change through politics.

This is why I try to use my spare time campaigning politically, both with party politics and non-party political lobbying – nothing else will have a meaningful impact.

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Tao, mind, magic and will

Dion Fortune famously described magic as the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will. Will is a concept that Schopenhauer was discussing almost 200 years ago and its importance must be clearly understood in the context of magic.

Will operates at various levels. The ‘will’ to exist is fundamental to matter – yes, will exists in the rocks that form mountains and the hair that grows on our heads. Emma Restal Orr describes this will as ‘mind’ in her exploration of Animism (The Wakeful World). For me matter appears to be a combination of energy and will.

Schopenhauer talks of increasingly complex manifestations of will, from physical to biological, social and up to human.  Compare this with Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego or with Plato’s charioteer. John Michael Greer sets this out superbly in his series on will where he talks of the rational mind and its attempts (often unsuccessfully) to control the biological and social minds (or will).

It is this ability of one layer of will to override another that is the essence of magic: the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.

When this happens by an operative mage gaining internal control through intent and will, their rational mind controlling the barrage of information and drives from biological and social levels that tries to make us behave in certain ways, this is a form of theurgy. Personal spiritual development, internal magic: there are lots of terms for this!

When this happens by a corporation advertising sweets to children or by political campaigners convincing large swathes of the public to vote for something, it is thaumaturgy. The direct and intentional manipulation of the drives of others, i.e. the will, to act in a certain way.

Will (or mind) is the thread that runs through this. It is the concept that unifies the spirit of the river with 19th & 20th occult practices, the Tao with advertising, Plato with Freud. Intention (or will) is everything.

How can we apply this to our work? How do we respond? We need to be able to defend ourselves and we need to be able to have a plan for counter attack.

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Doris the air dragon

Storm Doris has hammered the UK for the past 12 hours. It has ripped up trees, taken a human life, closed ports and bridges, cancelled trains and flights and dumped heavy snow in Scotland.

Doris is an air dragon. An angry one. While global temperatures continue to rise the amount of energy in our atmosphere increases making angry dragons like Doris more likely. Global temperature rises have been particularly stark in the Arctic where low amounts of sea ice continue to set records.

The impact that us humans have had on the atmosphere and the air in it is huge.  Whether it is the appalling air pollution that causes 50,000 deaths in England each year or on onward march of CO2 and climate change, our actions are coming home to roost.

While Doris may not be quite as strong as the 1987 hurricane, storms like Doris are getting more frequent as a result of climate change.

For me these add to the drive to make the world more green and sustainable. They drive my campaigning and fire my spirit to challenge the status quo.

I hope that you haven’t been hurt by Doris and I hope you will join us in the continued campaigns to stop climate change, air pollution and so on. There is a long way to go but a journey starts with a single step.

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Animism: are we are all one?

buddhistAnimism seems to be one of the hot topics on the occult blogs and podcasts at the moment. Having just worked through Graham Harvey’s Handbook of Contemporary Animism and Emma Restall Orr’s The Wakeful World to enhance my own understanding of the subject, i.e. to see what others are saying about it, I thought I would share some of my thoughts here.

The two books are quite different. While both are written is very scholarly fashion, the latter is far easier to read than the former. Bobcat really gets under the skin of Animism, inclusing a description of Animism as a “a monist metaphysical stance based upon ubiquitous and integrated mindedness” (p132) – all nature is rooted in a underpinning thing and it all has “mind”.

I suppose that I’ve come late to the term. Like many, I have intrinsically rejected the dualism of modernity stemming from Descartes. Drawn instead to the Taoist notion of the One that contains parts within parts, almost holographically, a concept that seems increasingly born out by physics.

The concept of mind being integral to matter is fascinating. A single source of mind but with diversity in its complexity. The mind of a mountain containing the mind of rocks which contain the minds of the compounds and of the atoms. The complexity of the mountain leading to a complexity of mind that is quite distinct from animals yet is still part of the whole mind of the universe. The universe, one mind with one story.

The part that is harder to see in the universal mind is how the spirits, gods and goddesses that are external to a physical identity fit with this world view, i.e. the goddess of a mountain is straightforward but how about how about Cernnunos or the souls of people who have died physically? If matter and mind are part of a whole, can mind exist outside of matter? How can the spirits exist without physical matter to base themselves in? Is there a universal great spirit? Many Animists from native religions believe in a great spirit, an otherworld and an afterlife but these seem not to be possible in Bobcat’s version of Animism.

That leaves me with a problem. Her view of that mind, matter and spirit and soul are all part of the same entity feels right but it leaves no explanation for an afterlife other than in the memory of others or in the decaying body in the ground.

Perhaps there can be a reconciliation between these views. Matter and energy are similarly entwined into a whole. Einstein described it as e=mc2. Matter can appear to exist separately from energy but it is a false perception, we have known for over 100 years that atoms are not solid items but bits of energy. Energy can exist without matter though. The heat radiating from the sun arrives as electromagnetic waves, i.e. a force rather than particles.

Other forces are integral to matter too. The strong nuclear force that binds protons for example. Other forces can be external to matter too, such as gravity, and some theorists suggest that the four forces are really one force expressed in different ways.

Matter / force and energy are not separate, matter is formed of energy and force. If this is replicated with mind/soul/spirit then matter and mind can be one but mind can exist outside of matter too.

It suggests that mind and energy may be synonymous too. Perhaps then the stars are the the largest expressions of gods especially as they are the source of life? Without the energy of the sun the Earth would be a sterile rock, still with matter and mind and energy but not with the vibrant life that we know.

The idea that mind can exist outside of matter but matter cannot exist without mind is appealing. It allows explanations such as Sheldrake’s morphic resonance and his memory theory of how life develops. It allows an understanding of the collective unconscious and for some of our mind / soul to continue after the death of our physical bodies.

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The Tower and the Egg

It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia. – Frank Zappa

According to Archdruid John Michael Greer, societal decline will be gradual rather than a single cataclysmic crash but there will be bumps and jolts on the way down. He bases this on the study of the declines of other civilisations which have all followed the same trajectory as ours is now. John Beckett and Byron Ballard describe our time as Tower Time. The idea from the Tarot is that the collapse will mirror the meaning of The Tower, i.e. collapse and ruin. I suspect both are right, it just depends on your perspective and time frame, but the key point is that our current society is crumbling and will continue to do so.

White’s law stipulates that the complexity of a society is proportional to the amount of energy used by it. As our access to energy declines with peak oil and the failure to replace it with renewable energy, the energy available to society will cause the complexities that we have built in to start to creak and crumble until the point that the equilibrium of energy and complexity is reached.

Add to slow decline in available energy the increasing climate disasters which will destroy infrastructure that we can’t afford to replace and which will displace people through war and famine, and we have a perfect storm brewing (if you’ll excuse the poor taste of a pun).

And if this wasn’t enough… the people who have been promised the world are beginning to realise that they have received it yet. Their anger has driven Brexit and Trump, yet it is anger than the liberal middle classes have fostered through continued ‘aspiration’ and with schools teaching kids that they can be or have anything they want.

For example, the idea that 50% of people should go to university is frankly ridiculous. How about teaching kids the useful stuff while they are at school, how about teaching them to think and analyse. How about teaching them some life skills such as money management and growing food? Rant over!

So what follows the collapse? Is something born from the ashes, rising up like a phoenix? Yes, probably but what is the time frame? Is it in our lives, those of our grandchildren or do we have many generations to wait? Is it linear? Will the phoenix rise up across the Earth or will there be pockets coming and going? I suspect the latter. Will these pockets be in places that have access to energy? Of course – it was no coincidence that civilisations grew from areas closer to the equator than the poles.

And what should we do now to prepare for this?

 

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