I mentioned in my last post that I am thinking about starting up a private and presumably even lower profile blog. I feel like I am ready to talk a little more about the details of my practice and that feels like it needs just a little more privacy and intimacy. A little while back Cole mentioned he appreciated seeing the materiality of the practice, presumably because so much of what I talk about here seems a little (or a lot) immaterial. In more ways than one, the blog is the countermovement to the materiality in my practice.
Talking about the other side of my practice means having a way to talk about it, so I am considering what that way should be. When it comes down to it, most of my practice is just working with what stands out to me. If I had to boil it down to a thin gruel, it would be simply:
(1) Step out into the world with a sense or a taste of a spiritual presence.
(2) See what lights up as you move through the world.
(3) Figure out if you need to interact with it and, if so, if it needs to come home with you.
(4) Interact with it and/or bring it home.
Once it is in the house, it is the same basic pattern, except home now is asking after whether it needs to go to a shrine or if it is to be used and released. That cycle moves into tighter and tighter spirals, with the ultimate circuit being whether it needs to form part of a new shrine, a new home.
Obviously, it isn’t ever that mechanical or clear-cut. Things move in and out of shrine spaces, break apart, spill out, come into close orbit only to shoot off in a different direction. And ‘what stands out’ and ‘interaction’ are wide open and vague terms. And I have made mistakes regarding what needs to be interacted with and how it needs to be interacted with.
But the mechanism is pretty basic and the vagueness of ‘what stands out’ and the how of ‘interact with’ is both productive and necessary. The more I have learned to accept that the what and the how take many shapes, the more satisfying and open my practice has become. In the end, it comes down to gathering and releasing, ideally at the right time and place.
It is easy to worry about ending up interacting with the wrong thing, but that’s life. You make mistakes and when you do, you have to figure out how to make your way back out of them. That is why it is important to start with the first point, to step out into the world with a sense of spiritual foretaste. Initiatory work, done right, helps us here. It should implant something of a structure of who you are or need to be within you, a structure to which you can return and build. I’m not saying it is absolutely necessary, but it is very helpful.
I am not talking about the deep and heavy initiations, the entrances into priesthoods and all that, but about all the many initiations that help settle a person in their life. Those initiations can be humble, as simple as insightful divinations accompanied by some basic ritual orientation and purification. They can be a the earth initiation in some Golden Dawn lineages; the reception of the elekes and/or guerreros in Lukumi; getting scratched in Palo; your first serious session with a shaman, sans or plus entheogen; the eucharist in the Catholic Church. If we fetishize the more intense initiations overmuch, we risk losing touch with their efficacy as we race toward some imagined more ‘real’ initiation beyond them.
(Well, and then the work of staying in tune, which is where post-initiatory protocols come in.)
Take the spark and develop it, by working through what it aids you in gathering together within your life, be it humble or grand. I say that with the understanding that you are one of the vehicles for the redemption of both yourself and the piece of the world in which your self has developed. You get the sense of yourself so that you can get a sense for how to begin the work of purification of that self, so that you can act form that self to transform and be transformed. That means discovering your self to be a far stranger and less well-defined thing than you probably thought, to have your boundaries alternately stretched, shrunk, and expanded in dialogue with all the other souls of the world.
Most of my journeys are out into the world. I know there is a rich tradition of visionary work that engages in astral and trance travel, but that is always been a minor chord, mostly of dreamwork, but occasionally as a rupture into the work I am undertaking in the world, outside or in my home. What accompanies and guides most of my work are intensively felt qualities and tones which the work orchestrates and structures. Those aren’t easy to describe and so a lot of what I do when I write about them is either just report what I did or try to find words that are in sympathy with the intensities rather than descriptions of them. Will that work for a blog? I don’t t know, I guess I will have to find out.