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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gandalf, Dumbledore, and True Will

First, I am not a fan of people who can't delineate between fiction, fantasy and the real world. Naming magical orders, and schools and temples and stuff after fictional characters and groups and places does not tend to help me take a group seriously, and in general it won't help most people take you seriously.

That said, fiction and mythology can be amazing for illustrating ideas and for providing inspiration. That's a large part of why we develop and tell stories, to convey ideas and knowledge, and to provide icons to help teach us things and demonstrate stuff to us. Stories can be a great jumping off point for discussing concepts which may be useful, and sometimes they can elucidate them more clearly than we could on our own. I'm totally on board with using our modern cultural stories as teaching tools and I intend to use them as a jumping off point here.

Merlin. Merlin is like the archetypal magician of western culture. But in a lot of versions of the Arthur legend we don't see Merlin do a ton of magic, at least not recognizable big flashy magic. When the legend is redone for TV or for children's books we see him do a lot more, but a lot of the time he's wise. He sets up situations. He has a plan. One of the most powerful things he does is to sit back and watch, he observes so he can play the long game.

While I am familiar with Gandalf and Dumbledore from their film adaptations I think I still have some idea about how their characters work. They both seem to be cut from the same cloth as Merlin.

Gandalf does a lot less magic than I would expect. He seems to be connected to just about everyone and everything in Middle Earth. He has a ton of influence and has set up people everywhere who are assets able to help him affect the steps and pieces needed towards achieving his goal. He, like Odin after whom he is modeled, understands the coming destruction and he travels throughout the world gathering all the knowledge he can for centuries so that he can understand how things flow together, interconnect, and unfold, so that he can position the smallest, most insignificant seeming people exactly where he needs them to achieve the one goal which over all else directs his life.

Dumbledore is again similar. He does a little more flashy magic, and his character is not completely a manifestation of a particular goal, but he's also written for a modern book series for children. Despite that, Dumbledore sets a plan into motion, well before Harry Potter's birth, before the details of Tom Riddle's plans are revealed, for him to ultimately stop Riddle using people who aren't even around yet. He sets up intricate scenarios allowing characters to think they are doing things on their own, allowing enemies to think they are making in roads, all to put people together to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to solve the problems he knows they will encounter, or to gain information on, or to weaken, or give false security to the enemy. He goes so far as to plan his own death, and to create a scenario of infiltration of his strong hold to create the situations and environment needed to accomplish his goal. While we know a little bit about his life before the war with the Dark Lord, the bulk of what we see is his life devoted to accomplishing a singular purpose, and him observing and coordinating the world around him towards that purpose.

In a sense, each of these magicians embodies the True Will. Not in that they have a single moment they must achieve, but in that they have a singular purpose which guides them and everything they do is in support of this. For real people, this isn't so much that we need to destroy a ring, or crown a king, or defeat an enemy, we have to live in a certain way which allows us to actualize who we are, find the work which is suited to us, and be successful in accomplishing that work. Like these iconic wizards we have a single pointed duty. Our duty is to understand and accomplish whatever our True Will is. Everything we do ultimately sweeps into the current of that work. The more we align our actions, our understandings, our environments, our influence over the world to whatever that Will is, the more successful and powerful we become in accomplishing this duty.

The magicians in our story don't accomplish their Wills through flashy shows of power. They use them when necessary, when they support what they are doing. In fact, every action they engage in, every word they say, seems to carry some inexplicable power with it because it is drawing the world around them into the gravity of their current of action and force. They are stars aligning the cosmos around them in support of their own trajectories, but in a way which benefits the overall cosmos.

A big part of the power that defines these wizards beyond their ability to orchestrate the world, is their ability to observe and comprehend it. They wait, for years, or in some cases centuries, taking the world into themselves by knowing each piece of it until they comprehend every force, whether that force is manifest as a person, a place, an object, or an idea. As they comprehend the whole of the world they understand its patterns, they understand what people will do, when things will happen, and how every small movement will affect the things around them. While I'm often of the position that magic involves manipulating the underlying forces of nature to bring about changes, that it isn't just any action we do that serves our Will, there is definitely a magical element to understanding all the small factors involved in a situation and positioning the pieces so they fall together like a beautiful pattern of dominoes. There is a magic to understanding and navigating interconnectivity.

This is a big part of magical initiation.

We don't always look at this piece of it but it's there as a huge piece of what we should be doing as we develop ourselves.

In the A.'.A.'. system, and the Golden Dawn system, people move through grades accorded to the elements and the sefirot. These grades can be accorded to the four kabbalistic worlds and to the kabbalistic parts of the soul. In these grades we learn various skills, and we develop tools, we pick up pieces of occult knowledge. The real beauty of it though is that these skills, and practices, the process of developing tools, learning correspondences, and then understanding how these all fit together, why they all fall within they same grade, these begin to paint a picture of a particular worldview, or perspective, a way of viewing how everything fits within the light of that particular elemental world. We begin to deconstruct and reconstruct the world in new ways with each grade, expanding our field of vision, our apprehension of the interactions and natures of things. We change the eyes with which we see the world and complete our capacity for knowing and understanding the further and further we go.

A lot of people don't get this piece of the work. It's part of it that you can really only get by fully engaging it. But it's incredibly important. You expand the way in which you understand yourself, and the way in which you understand the world, and how you and the world interconnect. This allows you to know yourself and what your Will is and how to begin to unfold it in the world. The more you practice techniques of deepening your awareness, your ability to be attentive and analyze, and the more you understand the elemental components of the people, places, and things within your life, the more power you will have to both understand and influence the world around you. The more ability you'll have to do magic.

A magician who understands the world understands the forces he needs to apply to change the world, whether it is positioning a person, or speaking a word, or conjuring a spirit. Part of our work is to seek out knowledge from the spirits, and from the powers of the natural world, but the more expansive our awareness and understanding is the more we can ground this knowledge, the more we can understand this knowledge, and the more we can use this knowledge. If we better understand the way in which things interact, we can understand the cause of a problem, we can understand the solution, and we can point the right thing at it to get stuff done.

One of the cool things about what we do is running around gathering knowledge. The Ars Notoria is cool because the prayers present a ton of interesting effects, powers, and knowledge that seem like they would be useful for the magician wandering around doing his work. The Veritable Key of Solomon presents so many more methods and effects than one thinks of when we think Solomonic, in doing so it presents a pretty full picture of skills and powers a magician might gather. Going through books of spirits presents spirits that can teach us a ton of things and do a ton of things for us. We have a lot of sources to gather knowledge and powers. Part of being a capable magician, part of embodying the presence of a bad ass wizard, is going around and increasing our understanding in tandem with increasing our grasp of knowledge and power.

So go out and engage your world, know yourself, and make shit happen.