Demons of Habit: An Approach to Self-Initiation
by Ray Sherwin
Practitioners of magick, whether or not they admit the activity to themselves, can be roughly divided into two groups - the devotional and the power-seeking - although the boundary between then may not be distinct; indeed both can be seen to fulfil the same need. There is a human drive to validate the existence of the individual and where there is difficulty in fulfilling this need existential neurosis is the result. The devotionalist fills this vacuum in a number of ways - through faith in god or gods, through nature or the past and to this extent he may see himself as a religionist, a scientist, a historian, a pagan, a magician or a combination of these.
The power-seeker, although he may allow for the possibility of a macrocosmic force, seeks to discover and make use of the god-like powers within himself, not usually to acquire mundane riches or power but to satisfy himself that he is more than he appears to be and to improve his condition.
Both groups are aiming to bring their lives into completion, the completeness which confers a tranquillity not possible in the vacuum of mundane self. The High Magician, the ley hunter, the church goer and the naked pagan all seek in different ways to add something to their lives, something which can only be described poetically. The devotionalist (this category includes scientists) does it by considering himself to be part of something greater than himself. The power-seeker does it by attempting to prove to himself that he is more than the shell which other people, and some times he himself, see.
I have no inclination towards the devotional except when the spirit moves me. At times I can, like the poet, admire the sea or the skies and wonder at the oneness of it all. In this mode I am a child who feels this or that for the first time and gasps in astonishment. If I could maintain the sense of wonder no doubt I would be a devotionalist for there is nothing to surpass that sense of awe.
Instead I am a sceptic, a seeker who believes in nothing, preferring to rely on the power of self and on the observations made by self to fill the space which the devotionalist fills with god or some cognate notion.
This course, taken out of proclivity rather than choice, places a great strain on the psyche. During times of stress the devotionalist can turn to something outside of himself which he genuinely believes to be real but the celebrant in the cult of self is unable to do this. He must either turn in or turn off. To turn in he must be strong and, above all, he must love himself, a singularly difficult task in times of stress, yet it is usually stress in some form which urges him along his path. A content individual is a dead individual and change is the nursery of every advance in every field including that of personal evolution. A content individual seeks to change nothing. Realising this the magician intentionally puts himself into stress situations in an effort to find new aspects of himself and solutions to the problems which those newly discovered aspects pose. The discovery and synthesis of these vital signs is the purpose of the system outlined below.
There are no new methods in magick - merely refinements and rearrangements of old ones. The self-integration process of driving out neuroses through meditation and abreaction is the same method in essence as would be used to drive the self on to greater things. The word 'evolution’ has been worked to death in this context but it is as near a word as we can have. Traditional and modern magical methods have failed to initiate it because by and large it is their nature to confuse the mind except for the part which is presumed to be the seat of intention or will. Gnosis is the word that we have given to this technique of confusion and undoubtedly it has its effects but no one yet seems to have tried the way of clarity except in the most desultory fashion.
Man is a lazy creature of habit. Laziness may indeed have been one of the reasons for his evolution so far, encouraging him, as it must have done, to find easier ways to survive than the conditions in which he found himself permitted. Habit, even in complex activities, reduces the amount of concentration required for the execution of a task. The simple expedient of the grasping thumb would have necessitated a great deal of concentration at the time when the faculty began to develop as would the development of three-dimensional vision and the beginnings of coherent thought and language. In ancient times it would have been the individuals capable of using these newly developed faculties who would be looked upon as magicians -the ones who could run quickly, produce tools with greater precision or bring together their observation and skill to produce ideographs - yet they would be quickly emulated by those whose faculties were only slightly less developed. The ones who were not physically or mentally capable did not survive.
On the grand scale activities like grasping with the thumb and seeing three-dimensionally became habitual. We do not need to think about them and in the latter case it is supremely difficult to reverse the process and see everything on a flat plane.
Habit reduces the degree of concentration necessary for the performance of any task and, in so doing, application in other areas and brain, unused because it is no longer called upon for the maintenance of the organisni, which provides a key to a new system of magick. Here we have a large reservoir of potential concentration which is not being used.
Because he is a lazy creature of habit man prefers comfort to adventure and stasis to motion in both the physical and mental sense. Only the greatest minds break out of this stasis to produce something n vital and essential. For the vast majority who can only see their capabilities during rare periods of unusual lucidity life goes on as normal, the supreme being rejected in favour of the habitual/comfortable.
Traditionally the magician forced himself to do those things which his personality decreed would wait until tomorrow. This method failed because it relied on the imposition of new habits, albeit self-imposed rather than arbitrary ones, without stating its aims.
That man is incapable of performing those tasks which at certain times he sees as being essential is bad enough, but that to a large extent he is incapable of thinking the thoughts he knows to be essential is insufferable. Various concentration exercises have been devised and used in the past and of those some have, in part, been successful , but never yet to the extent that a single man has been able to tap his own hidden resources in the fields of E.S.P. or magick. Whenever he has the inclination to do anything new laziness or gross appetite intervene. In the case of thought concentration his body, current problems or more appealing thoughts interfere, tantalising hini away from his purpose.
This is perhaps an over statement for, to be sure, the average man can concentrate sufficiently to solve chess problems or fill in his income tax returns but not enough to move objects by the power of his mind alone or to communicate without the use of speech. Nor can he sustain the control of his mind functions long enough to explore the unmapped territory of his mind, which process is the magician's priority.
It is as though there is a censorship mechanism in the brain or in the mind which prevents us from doing these things and whether it is seen as a function of the Holy Guardian Angel, as a natural and necessary barrier or, as some have seen it, as the work of demons or aliens resident in the mind, it is clearly an objective of the magician to bypass or destroy it. 'Man know thyself' is inadequate instruction. The magician must map his consciousness from within, wearing down the censorship niechanism until it no longer interferes with his overall strategy.
The first tactic to this end is a catalogue of daily activities. There are many reasons why we do things - indeed we sometimes find it amusing to do something for no apparent reason. The magician must analyse every action he makes and satisfactorily explain the reason for each until his mind begins to clear through the increase in 'licit' actions and the dropping out of ‘illicit’ actions. At this point he would be performing willed and necessary actions and not bending to habit or appetite. The possible reasons for the performance (or omission) of any action are manifold.
Necessity: health, welfare, income, evolution/development. The last sub-category can be misleading. Activities such as reading or making whatever could be classified under the heading of development. The magician must be ruthless in analysing their function.
Habit: smoking is an obvious example. Leaving aside the question of health which does not apply to all habitual actions it is only necessary to identify habitual activities. These might further be subdivided into habits which interfere with Category 1 functions and those which do not. In either case the magician should aim to desist from their performance.
Appetite: this includes eating, drinking, sex, drug-abuse and any activity whose only result is to stimulate the organism in some way spurious to the needs of necessity or nature.
Fear: that is, fear of the consequences should certain actions not be performed.
Laziness: Any of the activities listed above could also belong to this category, even income. The man who uses his mundane work as an excuse not to do those things he really needs to do is a clerk who will never become Einstein.
Unselfassuredness: "I will not prepare a meal because I am not a good cook". Forced into the situation any man can become Robinson Crusoe. "I am not a good telepath" is insufficient reason not to try - and perhaps succeed.
Time-measuring: activities which serve only to amuse until a time when more important activities can be performed - a walk in the woods or an hour watching the video.
Further reasons might be listed as
c) anxiety to please
d) ambition - usually a conditioned or self-conditioned reflex which serves no other purpose than the fulfilment of b or c.
e) the herd complex - doing as others do
f) stimulus response
The observation and critical analysis of one’s actions is of paramount importance but this cannot be done in a vacuum. To begin with, at least, the process should be performed as part of a routine of supplementary disciplines in order to achieve maximum effect.
The first important question in setting up such a routine is that of time.
Magicians, whatever their aims and methods, have always acknowledged that certain times are better than others for their workings. In traditional magick the correct time for an operation was calculated by painfully complicated and arbitrary methods involving irrational planetary significances. The modern school did not specify particular times as being desirable for its workings but since its method was to confuse ratiocinity in order to liberate the will it was only natural that its works be conducted during the hours of darkness. For works of initiation and other such theatrical occasions this was, and still is, the most sensible approach. This assertion comes not only as a result of the inherent fear of that which cannot be seen or that which lurks in the shadows but also the feeling of solitude experienced during the hours of silence when most people are asleep.
The nightside is the time for inspiration. During the restless period before sleep or between bouts of sleep it seems that there is no limit to one’s capabilities or powers. Belief in the whole gamut of extra-sensorial abilities is at its height at these times but this belief pales with the cold light of dawn when the mentative processes become more lucid. When a person has been awake long after his normal sleep threshold has been passed his clarity of thought must be called into question but convictions of belief, although they originate liminally, must be more fantasy since, in the case of sigils and so on, they have been seen to have an effect on both the waking perspective and the willed organisation of coincidence.
There is no question of duality here. Only of the practicalities of different qualities of thought process. During the hours of daylight the bustle of daily business is the only barrier to lucid thinking. Magick performed on the dayside may not be romantic, dramatic or mysterious but if clarity of thought is the object it is obviously preferable since it is only during periods of clarity that an analysis of one’s actions can be made and appropriate remedial actions be devised.
The magical activities of day and night are not opposites, merely different techniques which may be used to achieve different objectives. It is when the nightside consciousness creeps into the day, when there is an inability to distinguish between the two, that problems arise, the sufferer believing himself capable of anything and yet unable to demonstrate his belief. This disparity between belief and ability ultimately leads to madness. This is why, when the magician finds it necessary to use gnostic, nightside techniques he should make the usual safeguards in addition to emphasizing in his record that he is to perform such a working.
For the magician, skilled as he is in the methods of conjuration and sigilisation, the easiest way to become acquainted with (and to eliminate) the tricks of the mind which prevent him working to capacity is to personify them as demons each with its own name and sigil.
To be charitable to the practitioner of traditional magick it may be that when he invoked Behemoth, demon of the delights of the belly and then banished him he was attempting to understand his own gross appetites and ultimately to rid himself of them. But even if this were the case an operation of such an isolated nature would have had little or no permanent effect on him. Anyway, there is little benefit in identifying with a demon of someone else's creation since the notion exemplified by it will manifest in many different ways for different individuals or in some cases it might not manifest at all.
A number of morning meditations produces a list of categories of action as shown before. Licit activities, those listed under 1. need not be personified but all the others should be named and provided with a sigil or even a portrait. The names and pictographs may be totally arbitrary or could be arrived at through word association or similar methods. The names and sigils given below which came about through various means are not intended for other people's use. They are personal and should be looked upon only as examples.
Having identified hts demons the magician must then settle down to observing their action which, in itself, may negate the effects of some of them. In order to destroy the more irrepressible of them, however, he needs adopt a daily regime, a cycle of action which not only aids his analysis of them but also provides supplementary activities to reinforce his original strategy. That strategy should never be far from his mind.
At this stage the benefits of observing one's actions so closely may not be apparent. That doing so will inevitably encourage the magician to do something he has been intending to do for years is merely a by-product except inasmuch as that something may be a category 1. function. That, in theory, observing one's actions and recording them causes the magician to devote a much larger proportion of his time to them is more important. The vital part of the system is that illicit actions be realised for what they are and not be allowed to interfere with category 1: functions present or proposed
A typical category 1. function is eating. if, because I am too lazy to buy food, I die of starvation it is as a result of the intervention of Zalin. In fact my instinct would always prove much stronger than him in such cases because the survival mechanism, an integral category I. function, is such as to be unaffected by demonic onslaughts of this kind. Should I become fat and unhealthy as the result of a combined attack by Zalin and Aheb, however, the case is not so clear. Category 1. functions badly affected can only defend themselves through the observation of potential disaster and the application of will . These are types of problem that everyone occasionally has to deal with but confronted by the problem 'Why can't I perform telekinesis?' another category I. function (leaving aside for the moment the question of concentration) the solution must be one, or a combination of, the following:
a) I do not believe it possible.
b) I have not spent enough time in attempting it.
c) I do not believe it to be necessary.
d) I have better things to do.
e) I don't know where to begin.
f) I don't want to fail so I haven’t attempted it.
g) I know I can do it but I have better things to do.
In the event that I do not believe it possible I succumb to my present level of performance denying myself the option of greater capacity by not recognising that the belief is arbitrary or prejudiced. In all other cases I am being assailed by the demons who are expelled through observation and confrontation. The more victorious I am over them in the mundane areas of category 1 the better I am fitted to repel those of their seductions which deny my magick success.
As a result of his training the magician is superbly capable of disengaging his disbelief; he does this every time he enters his temple and every time he makes an invocation.
The traditional magician used an arbitrary tool - the grimoire of demons. The present proposal is that in observing and identifying his demons the magician writes his own grimoire, a text which explores the every trick of each demon in an effort to thwart it. He can contemplate his actions as much as he likes but he will find it much easier to rid himself of personality accretions of this nature when he has suspended his disbelief sufficiently to see illicit actions as being the machinations of something outside himself with its own will and personality. It is easier by far to destroy a demon than to nullify the effects of a function which the ego is anxious to maintain.
The record is the magician's mirror. In it he sees himself not as others see him but as he is. In it his qualities and faults are exposed and available for scrutiny; in it his successes and his failures are meticulously recorded. It is his glory and his shame but that glory is not in success, that shame not in his failure. The glory is in his works attempted, the shame in th~ unrecorded day. It is a permanent book written carefully and clearly, illustrated where necessary in order that others may learn from his successes and failures.
The basis of the record is the oath which is no more and no less than a statement. It is not a promise to or a pact with any exterior power or energy no matter how real such a force may be to the magician. It is a statement of the magician's needs and motives tempered by the strategy on which he has decided but it is not static and may be changed or amended in accordance with his development. Delineating his position thus clearly is great value when he faces difficulty in deciding a particular course of action even when he decides that the oath itself must be changed. In such event his explanation of the change results in a clear restatement.
This matter is not a task which can be completed quickly. For an oath to be useful it must be uncompromising and encouraging, confining the magician to licit activity in whichever way he has defined it yet permitting the broadening of his self awareness, pointing him constantly in the direction he has chosen.
Having written his oath and meditated upon it to confirm its suitability the magician copies it into his grimoire. He may choose to supplement it with a pantacle, a design which incorporates the function and intention of the oath.
Given that the magician must order his life in terms of income and, to a certain extent, sociability, the inaugural phase of his writing of the grimoire must necessarily be a full magical retirement to ease in the establishment of the new order. The identification of demons and the formulation of the oath are proemial to this so that the magician has a workable basis from within which to begin. The retirement must be of at least twenty-eight days this being the minimum period necessary for the integration of a system within which each of the daily activities has an effect on all other activities. Although the regime should be flexible the retirement should begin with a fixed programme so that not even one day is wasted and so that the magician can begin immediately with the reintegration of himself as exemplified by his oath.
I have no intention of offering up for public scrutiny the actual programme I used for my retirement prior to the Odin Working. Instead I offer here the regime I used when formulating plans for the system in general.
9.00am. Perform acts of nature, hygiene and necessity. Drink water or fruit juice.
9.30am. Pranayama. (Particularly because of its effects on self-discipline and clarity of thought.)
l0.30am. Contemplation and writing up record. Look at activities of previous day and analyse them. Examine activities which should have been but which were not done. This may affect the. programme for the present day. The performance of this exercise will not end with the completion of the retirement. It will assume even greater importance when I resume my day to day affairs. Record dreams. This may provide useful information for analysis.
11. 30am. Physical exercise. Pranayama cannot adequately be performed by an unhealthy person. Exercise is a category 1. function, maintaining the organism and contributing to an overall feeling of well-being.
12.30pm. Breakfast. The oath has something to say about the quality and quantity of food required
1.30pm. Concentration on the chosen power. This time is spent in practising telekinesis and in devising appropriate measures to enhance the ability.
4.30pm. Contemplation and writing up record.
5.30pm. Physical exercise.
7.30pm. Personal hygiene and necessity.
l0.30pm. Pranayama and concentration on the chosen power.
Thereafter: Sleep preceded by mantra devised to exemplify the oath.
At the end of the retirement the magician reassesses his situation and decides which of these activities he needs to continue. Of necessity he must continue his daily analyses and power concentration exercises and this will inevitably be more difficult as he re-enters the world of mundane activity.