Today I had the rare opportunity to sit for an hour and read some of the blogs I follow. A year ago this would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but with all of the changes in my life and the number of projects I've undertaken, an hour to sit and read is a precious thing these days.
Turns out today was a perfect day for my blog reading escape, as RO had just posted this piece with which I wholeheartedly agree. A friend shot me a message on skype asking for my take on the issue of, as RO puts it, the sun burning away a lot of shit in your life. Before reading on, I'd encourage you to shoot on over to RO's and read the post in question, because I'm not going to restate his whole point, just add my own to it, and therefore if you havent read it you aren't going to know quite what the hell I'm going on about.
The question put to me was if I think its a given that one who reaches this level Magickally, that is to say ascends beyond the level of newbie, is going to go through a period of hardship wherein they lose everything, i.e. relationships, material wealth and fortune, position, and all of the other luxuries we've come to rely so heavily on. By way of extension, it became, if this IS so, and anyone who reaches that point IS going to suffer in this way, why then would anyone WANT to?
This topic of conversation has arisen more than once in the last few weeks, with the first such occasion being a brief conversation had on Fbook wherein AIT, Sef, myself and several others were discussing the rather ignominious (in my opinion) death of Aleister Crowley. The original question, I believe, was something akin to "Should we consider Crowley a failure as a magician because of his state of being at the time of his death". My contention was that his death, hopelessly addicted to heroin, nearly penniless, alone and without anything near the hero-worship he has attained to posthumously did not indicate that he had failed as a magician, but that he had never achieved his full potential or succeeded to the extent of which he was capable, had he never fallen to his addiction. Sef pointed out that in Crowley's own writings he makes it clear that anyone progressing beyond the level of exempt adept was pretty well guaranteed to lose everything as did Crowley, and die as he did.
My own experience has been different. Indeed I have been in such a condition as RO speaks of, having lost everything, and far more severely than most anyone. I had absolutely everything taken from me, including all but the most undesirable human contact, for several years, as a prisoner. This took place when I was at a point in my life where I had ascended to a level I assumed was the peak of my success, magickally and mundanely. My love life was beyond belief, I was making more money in a month than many make in a year, I was (or THOUGHT I was) achieving great success in my magickal work, and for lack of a better term, I had the world by the balls. Then, quite suddenly and without warning, the floor dropped out. Within a week I went from King of all I surveyed to inmate 90869. My assets seized, money gone to pay lawyers and later on fines, relationships with all but my father severed by a classification report which restricted my contact with the outside world severely and everything I had known taken from me in one fell swoop.
My initial interpretation of all of this was that someone had been out to get me. That mys success and ascent engendered jealousy in someone who had obviously struck out at me by some diabolical pact, and that I needed to identify my malefactor at once. To that end I began to plot. I began to reach into the depths of my magickal and mundane arsenals, seeking the most heinous of weapons with which to rend my enemy. As was my custom, I kept up with my daily practices which included semi-monthly conversations with HGA. Much to my surprise, on one particular day when preparing to do just that, my angel arrived in advance of my call. Over the past months, such evocations had been fairly one sided, with my protesting the injustice of my captivity and asking for guidance on just how I could bring about its end, and the angel giving me the celestial equivalent of a smirk and a "you'll see". On this day, however, having apparently exhausted his patience for this game, he said, quite simply and poignantly, "Fire melts the weak, but tempers and perfects the strong. It was necessary that you got off the boat so you could learn to walk on the water" Took his bow and exited, stage left.
Well fuck me. This was all part of some celestial game? This shit wasnt funny, this was my life, goddammit. Embittered, and cursing one and all, I spent a couple of weeks in a rather foul mood.
Slowly, ever so slowly since I am a hard headed man if ever there was one, I started to see. Still determined to end this abject state of affairs early, I decided that while waiting for inspiration to take hold and show me just how I could reverse this immediately rather than waiting the several years to which I'd been sentenced, I'd go ahead and keep studying and practicing. After all, I might as well get something out of this raw deal, right? So I did. I had the chaplain begin ordering me all the books I could find through mail order.
And something happened. Although I'd read many of these before, and although none of what I was reading was particularly new to me, I was not just reading, but absorbing. When I'd been in my castle, reposing with my harem and enjoying the life I'd taken for granted, I'd just been reading. My mind, and more importantly my higher self, had been distracted, whether or not I knew it, by what RO calls "Kingdom Maintenance" All of the shit I'd accumulated required considerable effort to keep. Heavy is the head that wears the Crown, and all that. So, for the first time ever, having absolutely nothing and knowing that everything I had was gone, that I had nothing to secure or maintain and my life was exactly as it was going to be for the foreseeable future, I was able for the first time to not only read, but understand. Answers to questions I'd had years before would come to me out of no where. Problems I'd been unable to solve and deemed irreconcilable became simple. Difficult took a day, impossible took a week. And as quickly as my predicament had come about, 5 years had passed and it was over, with me far, far, better in every way than I was when it started.
It was necessary for me to lose everything I wanted to gain everything of which I could conceive. You can expand a simply constructed house only so far, adding rooms, decks, marble floors and additions to satisfy immediate desires, but all of this is still built on a crude frame. When you reach that point beyond which nothing more can be built, all that remains is to tear it down to the very foundation and build a stronger, more permanent castle. And so it is with the Magus. When he has reached the point after which he can ascend no higher, where his very constitution and make-up do not permit him to grow any further, he must choose whether to be satisfied with himself as he is, or to enter the fire in hopes that he is tempered thereby and made stronger. I believe this to be the source of the legend of the phoenix, who must die to be reborn, taking on new life from the ashes of his former self.
The task of the Magus, then, is not to lose everything, but to lose everything and regain much more than he lost. It is not his duty to, upon reaching a certain level, be pushed to his knees by the universe, but to be pushed to his knees and rise again. His goal is not to fall into the abyss, but to fall into the abyss and crawl, claw and fight his way out, emerging victorious and far stronger, wiser and better for the experience.