Several years ago, Scott Cunningham and I shared a two-bedroom apartment not far from the horseshoe-shaped sports stadium in San Diego. One day, I came back from working as a courier with some business cards I had made for myself at a local printer. I gave one to Scott and he asked what it was. "Something new," I replied. For some reason he found my tone of voice combined with the two words to be hilarious, and he would often quote me and mimic my tone of voice, laughing about it.
Now, at the beginning of 2007, I'd like to suggest that you discover "something new" to go along with the New Year. For example, I've been studying hypnosis and recently took training to become a trainer of other hypnotists. People who take hypnosis training with me can now become certified as hypnotherapists by one of the major certification organizations in the US. Why did I do this? It's something new.
Doing new things, going in new directions and exploring new concepts refreshes, revitalizes and energizes us. Years ago, even before I had first met Scott, I was a teacher of Kabalah, magick and other topics in San Diego. A friend talked me into attending a class on Witchcraft. She had to talk me into it because, quite frankly, I had no desire to go. At the time, the "common knowledge" was that Witchcraft was just Satanism, and at the time, I believed that hype.
So she dragged me to the comfortable home where the class was being taught. I had expected to see some bozo wearing a cape and a huge inverted pentagram. Instead, the teacher was a congenial young man who quietly shared a tiny bit of what he knew. Surprisingly, what he shared had nothing to do with Satanism as I had expected, and even more surprisingly, much of what he shared was in total harmony with Kabalistic concepts! To me, it was like coming home.
That was my first meeting with Raven Grimassi. I went on to study with him and began a life-long friendship with him. Although I've studied with others, he was my first teacher of Paganism and was the first to initiate me into the Craft. As a result, I consider myself both a Kabalist and Pagan to this day. That first meeting changed my life because I was willing to try something new. Will you do the same?
A Valuable Addition
As you may have guessed, one of the new things I can recommend for you to learn is hypnosis. It can be an important adjunct to any spiritual system and any magickal practice. A new way to look at hypnosis can be found in New Age Hypnosis by Dr. Bruce Goldberg. In it you'll discover that hypnosis is a natural and efficient waking state of the mind—that's right, it may look like sleep, but it's not sleep at all—in which you communicate with your higher self. In the book you'll learn what hypnosis really is, the principles of hypnosis, how to induce hypnosis and ways to deepen the trance state. In 1958, the American Medical Association recognized hypnosis as a legitimate adjunct to other medical care. And in this book, you'll learn how to use hypnosis to eliminate tension, improve concentration and memory, and eliminate pains including migraines.
The benefits to learning and using hypnosis can improve these and many other areas of your life. But for the purpose of this column it's important to point out that all of these things are important in magickal work. How can you perform rituals if you're in constant tension or pain and can't focus? Improved memory means you can remember lists of correspondences more easily, and will be able to design rituals more quickly. Hypnosis may help you improve your work with Tarot cards, palmistry, astrology, etc. by helping you remember meanings and complex interpretations. The book also gives you the skills to receive guidance from your higher self, remove attached entities and heighten psychic awareness. You'll learn how to protect yourself from the negativity of others as well as methods for improving personal relationships.
Although the process has had the name for less than 200 years, hypnosis has been with us for thousands of years. The thing is, the methods and techniques have evolved. Some of the books available today are based on obsolete methods that modern hypnotists really don't use any more. New Age Hypnosis will provide you with techniques and practices that are modern, effective and useful to any magickal practice.
Kabalist and Pagan
One of the things I discuss in Modern Sex Magick is my disappointment that much of Kabalah is strictly cerebral and is often missing the energy and passion that is found in some Pagan rituals and methods. I point out that one of the primary methods of the very Kabalistic Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn involves creating a spinning vortex of energy over the ritual, something very similar to the Pagan "Cone of Power." So if you are a Pagan, I would urge you to look at something new this New Year, such as the ceremonial magick found in Modern Magick. And if you're a ceremonial magician, I'd urge you to try something new, too, such as learning about Pagan methods and techniques. For this I'd look to focus your attention on Raven Grimassi's Wiccan Magick. Many non-Pagans (and some Pagans, too) think that just burning an herb or holding a stone and chanting a few words are the basis of much of Pagan magick. While it is true that this forms the core of some forms of folk magick practiced in Paganism, it is not the extent of it. Wiccan Magick teaches you how to energize your practices. It is the adding of this energy that changes weak or sometimes ineffective magick into something powerful and very effective. The concepts presented here can be used to enhance and invigorate both Pagan and ceremonial magick.
A New Direction If you are looking for a completely new direction that isn't part of Neopaganism or ceremonial magick, I'd like to suggest that your "something new" might actually be something very old: shamanism. A great place to begin studying shamanism so you can put what you learn to practical use is The Book of Shamanic Healing by Kristin Madden. With this book you'll learn shamanic techniques to create sacred space, something that can be applied to Wicca, Witchcraft, and ceremonial magick. An important part of both Pagan techniques and ceremonial magick is the use of the voice. This book explains how to free your voice naturally, beginning with humming, moving to chants and then feeling your body vibrate with the tone. Empowering your voice will empower your magick.
As indicated by the title, this book is about more than magickal enhancement. It's also about using ancient techniques to help heal yourself and others. Have you ever been in ritual with someone who is not at the optimal level of health they can achieve? Their lack of being at their optimum level brings down the energy and effectiveness of the magick. The healing methods presented here, from methods to balance your life with the universe to performing soul retrievals and extractions, share a wide range of healing methods, including what you'll need for your altar, healing postures and working with a drum.
The Bizarre Secret of Success
Have you made any New Year's resolutions? Are you planning on doing so? Take a moment and think back … how many of your past New Year's resolutions have you kept? How many people do you know who have kept their resolutions? If you're like most people, you haven't kept them for more than a few days or weeks.
So what does this do to your mind? It tells your mind that you are a failure. Then, when you try something else, your mind feeds back the same instruction: since you are a failure, you must fail at this, too. In fact, your unconscious mind will work to achieve that goal of failing. It will make you fail. Simply put, failure breeds more failures.
Some people get very upset over this. They want to struggle and fight against that part of them that inspires failure. But consider this: if you fight against a part of yourself, who is going to lose? The unfortunate answer: you.
But just as failure results in more failures, success encourages and directs the mind to create more success. How, then, do you begin to get on a success cycle instead of a failure cycle? The answer is both surprising and bizarre. You can have greater success by lowering your expectations. Huh? Let me give you some examples.
You make a resolution to read one book a week. In the third week, you don't finish a book. You're a failure. You'll never catch up, so you give up. Failure results in more failure. You make a vow to go to the gym for an hour a day, three times a week. A few weeks later you miss a day. You feel bad. The following week you don't go at all and abandon the whole thing. Failure results in more failure.
The solution: lowered expectations. If you want to resolve to read one book a week, instead resolve to read one book a month. So you read a book in the first week. "Hey," you think, "I've accomplished my resolution. I'll read another book and do even better." So maybe you only read one book a month, but more than likely you'll read more. The result is success and that will result in more success in the future.
Instead of resolving to go to the gym three times a week for an hour each time, resolve to go eight times a month for just a half-hour each time. There's nothing stopping you from doing more; you've just resolved to do the minimum. If you miss going twice a week one time, you can make it up next time. You've succeeded. You're a success.
Lower your expectations and achieve more success while doing more than you thought you could do. It sounds bizarre, but it works. So for your resolution, try something new. Hypnosis, ceremonial magick, Paganism, Shamanism, or perhaps something else. Years ago, the president of Llewellyn, Carl Weschcke, introduced me to the "Llewellyn mantra" of "Success! Success! Success!" You can follow that mantra and achieve your goals this year, too.