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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What if you are wrong?

In the 1984 the Wizard of Christchurch taught me a very important esoteric lesson.
People from outside New Zealand might not have heard of the Wizard of Christchurch.  He is a triple doctorate who made it his lifes work to become a living work of art.”   Practically this meant dressing up as a Wizard and coming out with very funny speeches in Christchurch’s square.
Wizard of Christchurch 
He was never an occultist.  He once told me that he hated occultism because “occult meant secret” and if something was secret there must be something wrong with it.”
But because he called himself a Wizard, that made him the target for born again Christians who did not quite get the joke and thought he was practising black magic.
In 1984 the Wizard turned up at Wellington’s long since demolished Urinal Park (Lambton Quay) and was holding forth in his normal manner when the local born again Christian decided he would make the fatal step of trying to take the Wizard’s audience from him.
The born-again in question was a former heroin addict whose normal patch was Manners Mall, which was some distance away.  It is fairly clear that the drugs had finished what was left of his intelligence and he had turned to Jesus to save what was left.  Needless to say he was no match for the Wizard.
Within minutes the poor born again was reduced to a quivering wreck.  On his knees, he was muttering to himself “the Blood of Jesus protects me from all sin” like a mantra.  Meanwhile the Wizard was standing over him saying “You are a Looney aren't you?”
The Wizard was about to ignore the quivering wreck, when some large American in a white cuddly jumper decided to act as born-again back-up.
“Look,” he drawled at the crowd and pointing to the still muttering born-again drug addict. “This man is offering you eternal life, while this one,” pointing to the Wizard, “is offering you eternal death.”
The Wizard looked at him and said: “But what if you are wrong?”
The chunky jumpered American looked confused. It was as if that question had never been asked before.
The Wizard continued.  “I am quite happy to admit that everything I say is bullshit, but have you ever thought what might happen if you turn out to be completely wrong?”
The audience had moved against chunky jumpered Americans and drug addled loonies and the Wizard continued his lecture.
But the point is extremely valid and it is the question that every magician has to face constantly.  WHAT IF  YOU ARE WRONG?
Sorry Dali Lama you might be a nice chap
but the Christians were right.
In the field of religion it is easy to see.  There are simply too many religions holding conflicting views for them all to be right.  Humanity is also too diverse for many of the religious imperatives in each religion to be right.  How is it fair for any God to send someone to hell when for thousands of years that God could not be bothered making an appearance in that country.  The Golden Dawn said that all of them hold a spark of the divine and so we should hold all religions in reverence.  This is because at heart religion is a fudge for a truly unknowable truth.
But while that is fair enough, you still find people creating system after system of occult wisdom and claiming that it is truth.
Despite what many people will tell you, while magical techniques are incredibly old, the modern version of magic, is recent.  It is a mongrel child made out of many different bits.   Yet you will find an insistence amongst teachers, and students, that these systems must be completely right.
Like me, my first significant teacher was a Leo ascendant.  He tended to give out magical information as if it were completely true.  Unlike me, he believed it and rarely changed his views.  The answer to the question “what if you are wrong?” would be met with “I can’t be wrong”. This is absolutely re-assuring, but fails to understand what magic really is.
It results in doctrine being thrown up as truth, when it is really just the cloak truth wears.  In the case of Magic, technique too often becomes doctrine and is seen in absolutes.  The more magic is forced into religious codes the more absolute it becomes and the magician is forced to act in certain ways, and accept ideas which are unnecessary.  For example, if I use Solomonic ritual I am forced to adopt a world view where I am very small and sinful and God will help me out if I ask him nicely and say enough psalms.  Kabbalistic angels are similar, you can reach a point in studying Cabbalah where you end up starting to think the Torah is a good idea.
Contacts and re-incarnation bring up other strait-jackets for truth that require you to think in particular ways.  Even the Golden Dawn itself has those who believe that the system must be followed exactly and in a particular way.
Yet if you prick this attitude with a question like “But, what if you are wrong,” the result is usually an ego eruption.  I created a stir on Facebook by daring to suggest that the doctrine of re-incarnation did not work and after many years of accepting at a working theory, I could not see the point.  Nor could I see that the need for revenge, which is all the idea of karma is based on, was necessary either.  I put forward this case study.  A completely innocent child is raped by their step father. Since they are young, they cannot have accrued any karma which could justify that act of evil being committed to them.  The answer must be that they committed a crime in a past life which had to be atoned in this one.  One person suggested that the victim should get some past-life counselling to see what they did.
In otherwords do nice things and one day you will have
something nice happen to you
However what if they were wrong?  What if there were no karma and no re-incarnation.  Wouldn’t the rapist have to come to terms with their acts in this life?  Wouldn’t the victim be allowed to be a victim, rather than have an atrocity forced on them because of a past crime?
And let’s extend this to esoteric teaching.  Over the years I have not found a complete magical system which is right.  In some cases I have experimented and mixed and matched bits from one system to cover the holes.  The Golden Dawn does a lot better than some others, but there are points where it is shot to hell. 
If you are placing unquestioning loyalty to a person, or a system, or a religion, or a perception of a teaching, then the universe will eventually kick that to death.   
What if I am wrong? Has to be the question that you ask daily.  Certainty is a demon which will hold you back from understanding what is really going on.


  1. As a corollary to this, increasingly I am having to admit: "I don't know."

  2. I like this a lot. I went to seminary, and there was a lot of emphasis on the truth of the gospel — truth that was relative in the modern world, to be sure, but still truth. Yet if magic has taught me anything, it's that I should be deeply skeptical of whatever truth is presented to me through spirits, divine revelation, or claim from authority. Yet, in a world of propaganda and advertising, it's very difficult to remember this on a regular basis.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Are we not, as Hermetic magicians, supposed to treat magick itself as a science, rather than a faith? meaning test your hypotheses by doing the (ritual) experiment and see how your consciousness changes, how you feel, how your external life has changed for the better because of your magical practice. You may not like Crowley but I think there was great wisdom in his idea that magick should have the AIM of Religion, but use the METHOD of Science. That said, I have seen the Power of faith when correctly applied - not blind faith, but faith based on understanding. This is where mainstream religion differs so much from hermetic Magick - one is asking for faith alone, the other makes room for, but faith balanced against strict scientific enquiry.
    As for reincarnation, many people say "you only live once". My question to them is:"how can you be so sure? Do you really know that for sure?" My main reason for believing that reincarnation is highly likely is mainly based on what I feel is simple logic - if there is infinite time, aeons and aeons of endless time, how likely is it that we will only ever have a physical existence once and once only?
    From a philosophical point of view it makes sense to me also - I mean what happens if someone fails to complete the Great Work in one lifetime and is not yet ready for planes of higher consciousness but not "bad" enough to be damned in a hell? Do they just float forever on some astral plane somewhere (like a Catholic limbo) not ever get another bite at the (physical) apple? seems kind of unfair if that is the case. Perhaps the Universe is just so unfair, but as Hermetic Magicians are we not supposed to take the hypothesis that there is something in the Universe called the Law of Maat, cosmic Justice, and test that through our Work? In my experience, this Law is real and exacting. I take my lead from Nature - in the Universe everything obeys law - planets do not suddenly go off their orbit and stars do not suddenly shoot off in the opposite direction. Everything is governed by Law. Quantum physicists who thought they were looking at chaos and randomness discovered when they looked closer there was an underlying Implicate Order behind apparent chaos. For me karma is nothing other than Cosmic Law.


  5. Fascinating post and great blog.

    On 'feeling small and sinful' it really is true though is it not - we are so small that we ascend into the astral and have miniscule dogs try to frighten us.

    More importantly -- it's not that we are small, it's more so about reaching an equilibrium between humility and strength, as a magician, as a religionist, as a doctor, lawyer, police officer, etc.

    But true humility only comes with true strength. Solomon failed in this. Hence, " That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these not even Solomon is as decked out as one of these liliies."

    Isn't this one of the prime teachings of both the Qabalah and Kabbalah. Keter humbled itslef, Adam Kadmon humbled itself, in turn the small partuf humbled himself symbolically or literally on the cross of creation.