A comment from Blogos on a recent post leads in useful directions. If we take seriously that one of the most basic and profound magical achievements is the realization of your individuality in the full context of your life and lineage, how ought we to approach the challenge of a magical education?
So, first, there is this post that seems to be making the rounds, especially the specifics of “David’s” experience. The there is having David Gordon White’s bits about sinister yogis going through my head (he makes the point in miniature in his book on Patanjali). There is the recent post over at enfolding.org about therapy and mindfulness. The story of David, the experiences with mindfulness as part of disruptive reform program, and the history of revolutionary yogis, opens onto a broader discussion of adopting practices from other cultures. There is a common narrative about these that I think we ought to undercut.
That narrative kicks up around the occult scenes in the face of stories like that of David. There is more than a little ethnic Romanticism at the foundations of self-identified ‘Western’ occultism (both among ‘magical’ and ‘religious’ strands). When confronted by these stories about the dangers of spiritual work, it manifests as otherwise sensible people muttering gnomic warnings or patting themselves on the back about how careful they are engaging with ‘foreign’ or ‘exotic’ cultural practices to which ‘Westerners’ aren’t well-suited.
So it may just be that I read about August Kekule’s benzene dream at an impressionable age, or spent too much time scouring the late Merleau-Ponty about the ‘flesh of the world,’ or just watched too much Hemlock Grove (I know, hardly the high culture), but the longer I look at the Tree of Life, the less convinced I am that the tree is the best model for what it describes. And the super-fancy Western Esoteric versions of it that stack trees upon trees? It just feels a little too neat and medieval. Instead, the more I consider it, the more it seems like the best way to think about it is as a coil through which the spiritual ‘juice’ of the world is circulated.