Occult Historian Richard Cavendish wrote: “High Magic is an attempt to gain so consummate a mastery of oneself and the environment as to transcend all human limitation and become superhuman or divine.” Sounds excellent, but such mastery eludes most of us. We tend to be riddled with problems and anxiously off-balance—walking sacks of neuroses and complicated heartbreak.
Philosophy and science both explore the space between body and mind. Even if there is no separation, most of us lack any meaningful experience of body/mind integration or mastery. We tend to exist heavily in the mind direction, developing our intellects and stewing in thought, yet totter off balance in the body direction like drunken scarecrows on stilts.
When we strip away the Sephiroths and Master Therions, the serpentine puzzles and dark astral romances of occult philosophy, we can unearth basic routines to kickstart our development of body/mind mastery as we journey towards becoming self-actualized, sensitively-aware, fully-integrated, darkling beasts.
Many of us go through life feeling like a head on wheels. Those who have suffered severe depression or anxiety are particularly familiar with living inside a painful wilderness of mind. Developing body awareness is an excellent place to start as we train physical presence and ween ourselves from mental dominance.
“Body Awareness” is the first step in Dr. Israel Regardie’s One Year Manual. This slim volume details a series of practical exercises meant to increase consciousness and sensitivity in the practitioner over the course of one year. Regardie claims his program provides the proper foundation for the occult probationer readying themselves for the grade of Neophyte within the Golden Dawn system.
Dr. Regardie’s Routine for Developing Body Awareness:
Find a comfortable position and resist voluntary muscular movement for ten minutes. (Gradually increase the length of the exercise to extend to half an hour over the course of one month.) Become aware of your body as you lay. Observe every sensation, from the crown of your skull to the arches of your feet. These sensations might include tension in your shoulders, or the relative warmth at your core. Do not resist or react to the sensations. Simply observe. Do this one to two times a day for 30 days.
I can personally attest to Dr. Regardie’s claims about the benefits of this exercise. The results are deeply enhanced concentration and, in Dr. Regardie’s own words, “a profound relaxation of nervous tension” which develops merely on the basis of watching.
Relaxation is the second step in Dr. Regardie’s One Year Manual, and an integral element of any discipline which trains somatic intelligence. Relaxation takes body awareness one step further, allowing deeper control of the nervous system. Relaxation allows the body to be free to move, open to change, effortless in action, and quick in reflex.
Dr. Regardie’s Relaxation Regimen:
Lay down and get comfortable. Heave several deep sighs to relax the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, as relaxation of this area will cause the body’s musculature and tissue to follow suit. Starting at the crown of the head, imagine the internal vasculature of your body opening up and expanding, allowing greater blood flow. Let go of tension as you become aware of it. Do this for all areas of the body, working down to the arches of your feet. Complete this exercise every day for one month.
Dr. Regardie claims that once you become versed in the sensations of full-body relaxation, you can call up such a relaxed feeling-state at will.
Relaxed power is of course a foundational principle of many martial arts disciplines, both esoteric and mainstream. Perhaps it’s not too much of a surprise that modern chapters of the Ordo Templi Orientis (including the Lapus Lazuli OTO based in my home city of Phoenix, AZ.) incorporate weekly martial arts training into their development systems.
For an extremely deep dive into the philosophy and practice of developing body awareness and relaxation, check out the underground classic, Principles of Effortless Power by martial arts legend Peter Ralston. It will blow your friggin mind while helping to develop your inner indomitable beast.
If all life is one complex ecosystem, interconnected through the invisible medium of the air that we breathe, it follows that each breath we take is indeed highly charged with vitality. Sacred, really.
My favorite impetuously brilliant magus, Aleister Crowley, regarded conscious breathing as an invaluable defense against the dangers of the symbolic mind, including the mind’s tendency to confuse concepts for reality, which Crowley pointed out was fundamentally false and potentially delusional.
As the slightest mental irritation will disrupt natural and rhythmic breathing, maintaining a rhythmic breath insures a still mind like no other practice.
A breathwork regimen can increase focus and concentration, and in addition charge your body like a friggin Tesla battery and four shots of espresso. I’ve been experimenting with breathwork for the past several years. Crowley and Regardie got me started on this path, but my favorite breathing routine is taught by Dutch Iceman Wim Hof.
Wim Hof Breathing Method:
Find a relaxed and comfortable position. Breathe deeply and fully, allowing air to fill the abdomen and chest. On exhalation, allow your diaphragm to “fall” without any resistance. This ensures a quick, powerful, unobstructed exhalation. Do this cycle of deep-breath-in/exhalation 30-40 times, then hold your breath until you feel the urge to breathe again. Repeat the entire cycle three times.
“Breathe, Motherfucker!” — Iceman Wim Hof
The Wim Hof breathing method hyper-oxygenates, and at the same time blows off carbon dioxide, which puts your body into an extremely alkaline state. You will find it surprisingly easy to hold your breath for 1.5 – 3 minutes as you first take up the practice, which honestly makes you feel cool as hell. To me, it literally feels like I am having an orgasm that is centered in my brain and chest. The state of euphoria experienced during the exercise is unbelievable, and extremely powerful for mood regulation.
Give it a try. But not while you’re driving.
The Magickal Diary
It is sometimes tempting to skip the fundamentals of body awareness if you are looking for dramatic physical results, such as strength and endurance gains or weight loss. We are just as likely to skip the fundamentals of mental development as we dive bravely into the labyrinthine pathways of the occult or non-ordinary. It’s too easy to think, “Yah, yah. I understand that already cause I’m smart. Take me to the void so I can vibrate the name of Harpocrates and recover unity of consciousness.
Maybe we should start with something a little more simple, a discipline in the ballpark of Crowley’s Magickal Diary.
According to Crowley, the very act of writing is magickal. Writing indeed conforms to the postulates of his elegant and pragmatic definition: Magick is the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.
(I.e. It is my Will to share occult routines with Dirge readers, and thereby shape the Internet with dissemination of knowledge which reflects my value system and interests, so writing and publishing this article is in fact, a magical act.)
Keeping a Magickal Record:
Put simply, you keep a magickal diary by setting your intentions down on paper, where they begin to take on power, weight, and material force, no longer vacuous desires volleying in the cavern of your mind. It’s as simple as that.
I currently keep a magickal record detailing my journey towards a career with a number of valley fire departments. Some of the things I record are steps taken that day to move me towards my goal, explorations in regards to my motivations for these goals, and my integrity and authenticity as I pursue them. (In other words, is this path in keeping with what Crowley refers to as my True Will, or is there some aspect of egotistic bullshit and grandstanding involved?)
Though there are hardcore Thelemites who lay down fast rules for keeping a magickal record, including keeping track of moon phases and astrological events, the most important thing, in this writer’s opinion, is just to keep one. Write your intentions down, carve them into stone, and watch things eerily fall into place as if the very universe has your back.
Plant Based Medicine and Consciousness Expansion
Although I tend to stay more in step with the Dude, who consumes White Russians to “keep the mind limber,” shaman Don Juan Mateus and anthropologist Carlos Castaneda went for stronger medicine. During his training to become a brujo, Castanada was fed psychedelics such as peyote, magic mushrooms and Jimson weed by sorcerer Don Juan. Castanada experienced a separate reality, where he transformed into a crow, flew around thy sky, and saw colors as a crow would see them, to list a few examples.
Psychedelics have a long history in the world of occult initiation. Traveling outside our conditioned perceptions and exploding conventional reality tunnels can be a powerful tool for developing consciousness and mental fluidity.
So called “plant based medicine” is having somewhat of a renaissance lately, both in consciousness research and as treatment for mental illness, under scientists and M.D.s such as James Fadiman, Martin Polanko, and Dan Engle. In the world of athletics, elite performers such as Ben Greenfield and Mike Bledsoe utilize vision quests and ayahuasca (pronounced aye-a-was-ka) as a tool, grokking that breakthroughs in consciousness lead to breakthroughs in athletic performance, or performance of any kind.
It is definitely outside my scope of practice as a random chick writing articles to ever suggest psychedelic use to anyone. Everyone responds differently to different drugs, and most psychedelics are classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances which carry heavy legal ramifications.
It is within the occult spirit of scientific illuminism to experiment with body awareness, relaxation, breath work, magickal intent, and non-ordinary states of consciousness. There is no one path to mastery, and the possibilities for exploration are truly endless. The point is to get outside the bubble of the purely theoretical, and take a deep dive into the jungle of practice, experiment, and discipline.