Author: John Ruf
Dedication: This essay is dedicated to the gas station guru who started me on my journey and whose name I can no longer recall. Thank you for teaching me, having me read “Three Magic Words” by Uell S. Andersen and allowing my actions to get you fired not once, but twice. I can never repay you for the impact your teaching has had on my life. What I learned from you, while working in gas stations, was arguably as valuable as what I would eventually learn in college. In fact, it may very well be what made college, and my later career, possible. From the depths of my heart I thank you.
What is secular Magic?
In order to define secular magic, we need to first define what magic is, what it does and why it is effective. In order to define magic in a way that is meaningful, actionable and reasonable, the terminology that surrounds each historic discipline needs to be abstracted and relayed in a generic manner that is free of religious and cultural references. Magic is the discipline of the intellect to create a more pleasing environment to the practitioner, both internally and externally. Magic is practiced within the confines of the individual. No special items, tokens, clothes or environment is required for the practitioner to find success. Magic changes the consciousness of the individual practitioner in various ways, depending upon the application of tools at the individual’s disposal. It is effective when a change in consciousness, however small or large, is achieved, which causes a cascading reframing of how the individual perceives and interacts with their internal and external environments.
Secular magic was not created out of thin air. In order to create a valid secular system, we must draw upon a variety of historical and modern ideas with which to create our practice. Starting with the historic practices in the eastern sphere like Raja Yoga and various other meditative disciplines that can be effective in creating an environment with an individual where magic is more successful and disciplined. Raja Yoga teaches us how to discipline our will and our intellect for long periods of concentration and intensity of focus. Meditation teaches us how to disassociate from our thoughts and create spaces of silence. In the western sphere, we find classical philosophy and the western esoteric traditions. Classical philosophy lays the groundwork for the extended worldview that is required to work with non-traditional and mind bending ideas. The western esoteric tradition has delved deeply into symbols, colors and actions which have a deep effect on the active and passive mind.
The problem that arises when studying these disciplines is the lack of objective work. One is confronted on every page with cultural and religious references that may or may not be applicable or reasonable to the individual. Typically, these books are steeped in tradition and much of what is presented can appear to be nonsense, especially when dealing with various planes and their inhabitants. Most of what is presented is not empirically provable nor can it be externally validated. Observing the effects of presented ideas is difficult since the perspective shifts may not be consciously understood or noticed. Writers rely on metaphors and various other appeals to convince the reader to believe in not just the actionable items but the religious and cultural traditions that surround them. This problem extends itself when studying secular doctrine to add to a magical practice.
Consider the following: Color theory provides insight into how to build and understand our visual lexicon as well as how color and shape affect the passive mind. Science, one of mankind’s greatest achievements, presents us with mind-bending theories that reflect western esoteric traditions without the burden of ritual. These separate and disparate disciplines can be integrated into a magical practice, should the individual understand magic for what it truly is. It is a programming language for the consciousness. As each individual’s consciousness is different, so each practice will be as well.
Like a computer, there are some core concepts which form the basis of the actions that can be performed. Advanced users can use programming languages to create new functionality or to correct programs that malfunction. To extend this analogy even further, advanced users can create their own programming languages. In this way, the consciousness of individuals can be changed by using easy and historically proven methods.
The word magic is arbitrary in the name of this system. Historically, the methods described herein have been described as esoteric or magical. Magic is used in the name of this system as a nod to the historical system on which these methods are based. The use of the word magic is fitting, as these methods are different than most normal modes of consciousness. They require active effort to see and use results. Each method requires discipline in order to form a habit.
These methods are not unusual, complex or strange. They can be integrated into a normal life without deviation from the standard norm. Part of practicing secular magic is to make each method your own. This requires understanding the core concepts presented as well as some creative thinking as to how to integrate the method into your existing life. It is important to establish a common vocabulary that secular magic depends upon. It is also important to understand these terms as each are loaded phrases. Some of the phrases may have a meaning that is different or unfamiliar.
Secular magic defines a magical action as the act of using the intellect to program a desired affect into the active and passive parts of the mind. Magical actions are not always successful or impactful. A magical action is typically more successful when performed by an individual whose mind that corralled under the influence of the individual’s will. It can be difficult to determine if the magical action is a success because if successful, the individual’s perspective and worldview will be shifted, however slight this can be. The fundamental problem is that the tool used to measure the success or failure of an action is, in effect, changed because of the magical action.
In effect, magical action requires no special changes to an individual’s thought process. All actions are magical actions. Most people find that life leads in most cases. They find themselves reacting instead of making purposeful actions. Secular magic explains how to take the reins of life and your destiny. Magical action requires no special tools, tokens or imagery since they all can be considered magical. Magic is the means of manifesting a desired effect into the world. If your desired effect is to build a building, then the tools, tokens and imagery will be considerably different than someone whose desire is to increase wealth or have a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Since all action is magical, we can assert that certain types of actions are more successful in creating a desired effect than others. For example, we can say that positive thoughts generate more success than negative ones. Thoughts that are driven by strong willpower have more success than others. Thoughts that remain focused on a problem are more likely to produce a solution than those that are distracted. A mind at peace is more effective than a frazzled one. A person’s positive traits are not simply doled out by some invisible force, but with discipline and training can increase in quantity.
Determining the success of a magical action is difficult because the goal is to change an individual’s consciousness. Therefore, it can be helpful to write about what you are attempting to create, how you went about it and how you feel about it later. This allows for impartial observation of perspective changes by reviewing your thoughts about the subject. Analysis of your journal will provide insight into how your perspective shifts.
An important component of any successful magical action is will. Secular magic defines will as the ability to follow through with a desired practice or action. An individual’s strength of will is a good measure of their ability to create successful magical action. A good way of measuring your own strength of will is to choose an arbitrary practice to commit to. It could be as simple as drinking a glass of water a day. You could try quitting a negative habit or adding a positive one. Try to see how long you can force yourself to maintain the routine. This is also a good way to increase your will. Will is important to magical action because only through constancy of action can a desired result find success.
Focus can be thought of as the lens of the consciousness observed over time. The mind can either be diffused or brought to a laser point of concentration. Sustaining focus on arbitrary items over time is a fundamental aspect of practicing magic. Learning to sustain focus has practical applications beyond the exercise of magic. Increasing your ability to sustain focus can help you find success in many matters - education, sports and videos games, just to name a few. Bringing all of your awareness to sustained focus will increase the intensity of focus.
Concentration is the direction of focus to a narrow band for an arbitrary period of time. It can be used to break down barrier of what the self feels like. Concentration can be used to identify with the subject or to attune the subject to you own vibrations. It can be a two-way street and can be a dangerous practice to engage in, though most individual do not have the concentration skills necessary to lose the sense of self.
Intent is a more abstract concept. It can be thought of as the currents on one’s life. It can also be thought of as one’s true will. For instance, if you were sent to war and followed orders, your actions may or may not correspond to your actual intent. There are times that we order ourselves to do things we truly do not feel we should do. This type of mentality is to be avoided. Cultivate your intent and direct it with no remorse. If you feel like you shouldn’t do something, it is highly likely that you shouldn’t. Conversely, if you feel strongly that you should do something, it is highly likely you should. Be aware of context and that you are not being played by your desires instead of your intent. Contemplation will lead to uncovering the true intent behind your actions.
Gradients of Knowledge
The usefulness of the methods discussed within increase with practice on a sliding scale that extends to infinity. There are two experiences that noted from historical traditions. These two experiences have many names. They occur in sequence, one always before the other. The first experience is “awakening” and the second is “enlightenment”. These subjective events are two major milestones in understanding and controlling the consciousness.
It is important to remember that they are subjective experiences because the shifts they cause in an individual’s worldview can be life-changing. It is easy to lose perspective because of the intensity of these experiences. They may produce a sense of euphoria and oneness with others. It can be tough not to try and share these new-found perspectives with others. It helps to maintain perspective by remembering that these events hold meaning only to the individual.
The first event, “awakening”, is marked by feelings of wholeness and well-being. This feeling can be sudden and last only for moments but the affect is life-changing. The mind begins to shift naturally towards silence. The natural chatter of the mind begins to fade. Intuiting knowledge and assimilating information becomes easier. Awakening is also marked by a persistent feeling of peace and well-being that envelopes other emotional states.
Enlightenment is marked by non-dualistic consciousness. The sense of self dissolves and the sense of separation between the self, others and observer are gone.
No necessity for faith or belief
The methods described within do not require faith or belief in order to work. They exploit static principles of the consciousness in order to create the desired effect. Whether or not these static principles exist or produce actionable results is simply a matter of mental experimentation. Whatever results are produced, remember that it is important to remain skeptical of the evidence presented. Being a secular magician isn’t about faith or belief, it is about being a scientist, exploring the innards of the mind and manipulating it to match your will. Without applying the approach of a scientist, you would simply be a child playing in an unsecured chemistry lab prepped to explode.
Why use secular magic?
If you want to change your experience and you don’t want that change to be wholly-dependent on external factors, then secular magic is for you. It provides that initial seed or force that turns dreams into actionable goals and nets resulting action.
It is useful to begin with a practice of mindfulness. It is a study of your intent, how focused it is, how you apply it, and how successful it is at bringing the desired results. Secular magic relies heavily on cultivating and focusing intent. Mindfulness is a relatively easy practice to begin but a difficult one to continue to keep up. Mindfulness will increase your general awareness and help cultivate a sense of general intent. These will serve you when trying secular magic as well as in life in general.
To begin this practice, follow the following steps. Move from step to step as you have gained some mastery of the previous step. It is intended to try all steps in one sitting.
If you use these skills, you will find that there are many things about you that you were previously unaware of. If you use this skill long enough, you will find that you know yourself very deeply and that there isn’t much left to learn. It is in the end an exercise in being more authentic internally as well as externally.
Thought control is the ability to focus on an object of concentration for an arbitrary amount of time. It is to continually bring your thought back to the task at hand. It is a disciple of concentration, intent and focus. This is the primary skill of secular magic. To understand it in its simple form, is known as contemplation. A simple practice to begin and a useful skill to hone. To contemplate, chose a subject to focus on. When your focus strays, use your concentration to bring your intent back to the subject of focus.
You could use this skill to write a computer program, to solve a complex external problem or to deconstruct a complex internal knot of emotional energy. The applications of this skill are endless. Understanding it on the basic level of what is it is key to applying it in life.
Thought mastery is the ability to hold silence for arbitrary amounts of time. It is a discipline of concentration. While this ability sounds easy initially the longer the period of time is the harder it is to maintain silence of any kind. Practicing this skill will increase your general ability to concentrate as well as control your aperture of focus.
You could use this skill when attending a lecture or watching a video presentation of dense information. By not letting your mind interject its own thoughts is the key to absorbing and retaining information. It is even applicable while reading. It is to restrict the response of the time in order to understand or experience something previously unknown.
If you practice this skill long enough you will find that the mind begins to trend toward silence when not in use. This is what I believe is the proper state of a trained mind.
Defining a successful action
A successful action is defined as having an impact on your consciousness and therefore spiraling out into life. It is useful to define the goal of your action upfront on paper before doing the work. Set a follow up date a few weeks out to return to the journal to write about if you feel the action was successful. When doing the work remember to visualize, visualize, visualize! Imbue your visualizations with emotion and intent. That is all that is required. Make it your own. Make it speak to your soul. Don’t forget to journal and return to write about the results. Overtime you will build a lexicon and become convenience of the ease and practicality of the idea.
Below is a few example exercise to get you started in defining your own successful actions. Please modify them to your heart’s content.
Stepping forward helps bring awareness and the whole being into the present moment. It is useful, if you have tasks at hand that need to be done or feel the need to be extra-vigilant.
Zero calm is useful when the task at hand requires zero emotional disturbances, is critical or requires absolute focus. Zero calm is also a useful way to enter a relaxed state to decompress.
Alerting is not always 100% reliant and requires a porous boundary between your conscious mind and the subconscious mind. It can be useful in many scenarios where you wish to become aware on a priority focus of a elements that surround you.
Internalize and Expand
Internalizing and expanding is a useful meta-exercise that increases your ability over time. Like lifting weights for a body builder.