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ReReadable Books

July 2011

"Where The Magician Stands: Part 2, The Human Soul"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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Chimera by Rob Thurman, RoC SF pb June 2010

Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman, RoC pb Fantasy Sept. 2009

RoadKill by Rob Thurman, RoC Fantasy pb, March 2010

Burn Notice, USA Networks, Season 4, 2010

Brain Box Blues by Cris Ramsay, Ace pb TV Tie-In, Dec 2010

Where does the Magician stand to work? Outside Time, warded round with protections. But what does a Magician work on? And to what ultimate end?

Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, even watching TV, can help the student of magick noodle through all such questions that can’t be avoided but can’t be faced.

Ancient Wisdom’s thumbnail answer for what a White Magician works on is "Him/Herself" – to change the world you change yourself.

But what is "self?" Where do you find it? How do you know what you’re starting with? How do you figure out what to change yourself into? Then of course, there’s "how" – what do you do that causes change? Can you act and know for sure that you will have the intended result?

That opens the issue of "safety." Most of the really good books on Magick will talk a lot about safety and precautions and all kinds of dangers to avoid with tedious procedures most younger people have no patience for and older people don’t see the point to.

After you’ve read all that and even worked with some knowledgeable and serious groups, with a real Teacher and fellow students, do you now have a firm grip on exactly who you are and how you got to be that person? Can you find your Soul? Do you know what it wants and why it’s here?

Does your Soul actually want to change itself? Can you see how changing your Self would change the world around you into what you want it to be? What can you fix?

Oh, what a muddle of obtuse questions! Where do you start? Many have slogged up this Path ahead of you, but if they had found real, solid answers to these questions, would the world be in the mess it’s in now?

And that raises the question of whether "the world" is in a muddle, or whether it’s you that’s in the real muddle? Are you fit to be deciding what to change the world into?

If you could tell others how to live their lives (and make it stick) what would you do? Would you make them become just like you? Are you in a muddle because the world around you made you that way? So you have to fix the world so that you can fix yourself?

What is the relationship between what’s inside you and the world outside? Why are they linked? How are they linked? What equation governs that linkage?

Do you see how quickly the "place" where the Magician stands can evaporate into a miasma of uncertainty? If that happens amidst an Operation, the results will not be pretty. How do you prevent such tangled questions from erupting from your subconscious during a Working?

Ah, finally, a question I know an answer to (not THE answer; an answer).

To stand firm on the astral plane, clean and oil your subconscious as a soldier cleans and oils his gun. Your subconscious is your main tool or "weapon" in any Magick working. It runs on pure "animal spirits" – and like any animal, it can be trained but not taught. The Mind must rule, but not with an iron fist. Think of The Strength Card.

So which one is your Soul? The Mind or Subconscious? And why is that important?

You might find an answer by contemplating the Kabalistic Tree of Life. It has three Pillars. Possibly the Soul, the Mind and the Subconscious?

Our current modern world is at war with itself on a very abstract philosophical plane. There are many issues involved, but one is particularly hotly contested, a contest that’s showing up in science fiction and fantasy sales.

One side holds that humans are controlled by their Animal Spirts. Some hold that the essence of Humanity is inherently bad, yearning to do things we consider dark crimes. These people see the good behavior of humans as a thin veneer over a core of seething hatred and misery.

Another side holds that humans are controlled by the Human Soul, a Divine Spark, inherently good, yearning to love, kindness, charity. These people see the bad behavior of humanity as a thin veneer over a core of glorious divine energy of pure goodness.

To avoid psychological collapse in midst of a Magical Operation on the Astral, a Magician must know which he/she believes and why. Where can you find out what you believe or just think you believe?

Reading fiction! Especially science fiction and fantasy. Your emotional reactions to these novels will safely reveal what your subconscious believes, and where your Mind and subconscious differ in opinion. Any difference can sabotage your every effort. So read, feel, then analyze and contrast/compare these novels.

First I have three novels by Rob Thurman, different series, all addressing problem of whether the real essence of humanity is the goodness hidden at the core, or the vicious violence hidden at the core.

Chimera says on the cover, below the title, "No weakness. No limitations. No mercy." And the back cover asks: What makes us human? What makes us unique? And what makes us kill? It’s an SF Thriller about a man who rescues his younger brother from kidnappers only to find he’s been made into an assassin.

Trick of the Light is a "Trickster Novel" about a tough girl, a bar owner who mixes it up with demons and angels and tackles the issue of "the soul" head-on!

Roadkill, 5th in the Cal Leandros series (all well worth reading) in Thurman’s relaxed, wordy style, brings out the texture of the characters, the layers of good and bad swirling beneath the surface. Condense all the Cal Leandros novels into 1 novel and you’d have a Dresden Files novel. Thurman opens out the character depth at expense of "action." But she "tells" more than she "shows."

Contrast Roadkill with the first show of the 4th season of Burn Notice (5th season starts summer 2011) on USA Network. Burn Notice brings Westin to see the stark similarity between himself, his motives, goals and behaviors and those of a man he considers certifiably crazy if not evil. Both are utterly determined to clean up the world of people they dislike. Cal Leandros, half-human, sees how his own situation is like that of his brother’s who is stuck in wolf form and losing the sense of being human.

Both Westin and Cal Leandros gain deep insight into their own souls via conflict with someone they do not respect.

Granted in "real" life, it’s much harder to see yourself in someone you reject, hate, revile, despise, whatever. We can’t see that negative side of ourselves in others because it would mean confronting our inner self-hatred (however mild it might be). But the magician must be able to do this, to clean and oil the subconscious and get it working smoothly. Reading fiction helps.

Great students of Kabbalah have emphasized repeatedly that the most important principle category of behavior to master is to love your neighbor as yourself. That which is hateful to you, do not to others.

In Kabbalah, that principle is stated in the opposite language of the Golden Rule because it is not possible to know what you really want others to do to you, but you know what you don’t want. It is not possible to know what other people want or really need, so you can’t go around doing TO others what they need.

But you can refrain from doing to others what you do not want done to you. That can start you on a path to being able to love others as you love yourself, and in fact can even break through a tizzy of self-hatred to where you can find a self within you that you can love.

You have to start somewhere and High Magick is not a starting place. The functions of everyday life, school, job, commuting, housekeeping, shopping, volunteering–all of these are in fact magical acts, Operations as powerful, or more powerful than anything that can be done on the astral plane. Your answers to these abstract questions determine how you handle daily life, and thus how you will handle yourself if you venture beyond the mundane.

How much personal responsibility do you take when you fail to refrain from doing something to another which you would not want done to you?

To find out, try watching the Syfy channel TV show, Eureka, and you might want to read the (just for fun) novel based on that show, Brain Box Blues by Cris Ramsay.

Eureka is a town of scientific geniuses where genius (the Mind) is perfectly at home. Cris Ramsay brings us the story of what happens when a scientist creates a device that can suck out and store a human MIND. And then opens up the possibilities about what each of the ongoing, well known, characters in Eureka will do when everything that can go wrong, does. It’s not a must-read, but after all this dark stuff, it’s a fun read.

To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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