I’ve started doing weekly chats on Facebook Live on the OBOD FB page at 8pm GMT Mondays. Here’s a recording of this Monday’s chat and a summary of some of the ideas covered:
Let’s ask ourselves a juicy question! What is the single most important task for a magician – the first and most essential thing she or he should get sorted? I’d like to suggest it is quite simply finding the right perspective, and that this task is in fact essential not just for the magician, but for everyone.
What a disappointing answer! It seems so light-weight, so insubstantial. But spend some time with this, and I think you’ll start to see that it is far from light-weight. This idea is in fact the solid foundation on which all other magical, spiritual or personal development work is built.
Imagine you are training in a martial art. Your teacher is likely to start by spending a good deal of time making sure you adopt the right stance. And simply how you stand is the very beginning of training in Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and in the mind-body training system of Sophrology.
Likewise, how you stand in the psychological sense, your inner stance, is the starting point in much spiritual or magical training. How you stand vis a vis yourself and the world, is determined by your feelings and beliefs. If you believe that ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’, this will create a defensive, pessimistic stance. If you believe ‘Life is a miracle, and then I’m reborn’ this will create an optimistic, joyful stance. We’ve all heard this, but science is now increasingly confirming that this isn’t just some wishy washy idea promoted by proponents of positive affirmation, but that it really can make the difference between life and death. The psychologist Viktor Frankl stumbled on the power of belief when he saw how the beliefs of fellow concentration camp prisoners often determined their survival, and more recently the American Psychological Association has published a study of 61,000 people tracked over 21 years that has produced the remarkable finding that those who believe they don’t exercise sufficiently die younger than those who hold the opposite belief, regardless of how much exercise they actually do. (Read more on this here)
Now you can see why I said establishing the right perspective is in itself the single most important task of a magician. Magic involves using the power of the mind, of the soul, to influence life, and in the two examples I’ve cited we see how real that power is, and how it can make the difference between life and death.
Viktor Frankl found that believing life is meaningful as opposed to meaningless was essential to a good life. The APA study found that your longevity is affected by your beliefs. So what beliefs do you adopt and how do you change how you feel about things? The feeling part is crucial – there’s no point in pretending you believe one thing, when in your heart you feel the opposite. While you might be able to take on board new ideas, it’s much harder to change your feelings. This is where a spiritual discipline, and indeed psychotherapy comes in.
So, for example, these are the sorts of things Druids believe – that life is sacred, that we should cherish and reverence Nature, that Nature teaches us about the cyclicity of life, about the law of the harvest, that some call karma, that what seems to die is often reborn, and so on. And then if you follow a training, such as OBOD’s, it starts to work on transforming your feelings as well as your thoughts – there’s a journey of personal discovery and transformation.
This journey is part personal – about sorting yourself out, freeing you of fears and illusions – but it also not just about you – it’s about us, about everything, about how you can be of use in the world.
I’ve found a great illustrated summary of Frankl’s theory here, and below it I’ll paste in a film of Frankl himself. Notice how he stresses ‘taking a stand’: