Doing magic well is more than just speaking the right names, facing the right direction, and mixing the right herbs. Doing a spell here and there is easy enough, but implementing a full-scale magical strategy requires a certain level of skill. Most serious practitioners have a daily practice that keeps their skill set sharp. The more you work on it, the better you will get, just as with any other practice.
In my book The Sorcerer’s Secrets, I presented a host of breath exercises, gazes, and regular practices for the general practitioner. In this chapter I will be focusing only on those exercises that I feel give the most bang for the buck in terms of results vs. time. For those involved in very traditional paths, it may seem strange to think about spiritual practices in terms of efficiency, but if we are to fully live in the world and have a meaningful magical practice, that is exactly what we need to do. Starting with meditation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” Everything you do in magic follows the mind. Mind drives the chariot of body and spirit, and meditation, a mental exercise, is the cornerstone of all the magic that I teach. If I had to give up all magical and spiritual disciplines except one, I would happily ditch everything else in favor of simple meditation.
Now, let me clarify what I mean by meditation, because it can mean a lot of things. It is defined simply as “to engage in mental exercise for spiritual purposes,” which covers a lot of ground. Whereas, technically, kneeling in prayer, doing Tai Chi, or lying on the bed and listening to Enya could be considered meditation, they are not what I mean by meditation.
Meditation for me is a process for alleviating the grasping at thoughts and cutting through mental distractions to reveal a deeper and truer layer of awareness. There are many methods for this, but most of them boil down to focusing on a single thing and allowing all other thoughts to rise and set without engaging them. In short, it means sitting down and shutting up.
The problem is that sitting down and shutting up can be quite difficult. We are not wired for it. Magicians and witches in particular have a real problem with meditation. It goes against a lot of what we like about magic:
Magicians like to do stuff. We like to chant, dance, make gestures, and so on. Meditation distinctly lacks the doing of stuff.
Magicians like to see visions and be visited by spirits. Meditation instructs you to ignore those visions and politely tell the spirits and gods that show up to please leave you alone because you are meditating.
Magicians like to experience and explore altered states of consciousness. Though meditation can cause these states, at its root it is actually all about your Normal State consciousness.
Note particularly that last point: Meditation has nothing to do with reaching altered states of consciousness. It only has to do with getting to know your own mind in its most normal and fundamental state. Getting to know your mind can help you reach altered states simply because you know your mind so well. It can also help you reach relaxed states, empathic states, or just about any other state of mind that you choose because it is not a type of trance or altered state in and of itself.
In the beginning stages of meditation, you are focusing on one thing. This lasts for seconds before you get distracted. You then gently return to the meditation. That’s it, at first. If you are doing anything else, then you are distracted. If you are having visions of Gabriel or the Goddess or anything else, you are distracted. Meditation is the practice of cutting through distraction.
Some people who try to meditate decide they are bad at it and give up. Some claim outright that they cannot do it; they tell me that they tried in the past and couldn’t “get there” or “clear their minds.” They would like to meditate, but they stink at it. Perhaps you are one of these people. If so, I have some good news for you.
You cannot be bad at meditation.
Barring serious mental illness,1 everyone can meditate. The problem many people have can be summed up as one of expectation and tenacity: The expectation of what is “supposed to” occur in meditation is often a lot grander than what actually happens. People expect that they will sit down and the mind will quickly quiet and stay perfectly still for the length of the session. They expect to feel a calming peace that they have never felt before and will be one with everything. These expectations are unrealistic, especially when the subject is willing to give all of three sessions of effort toward the goal before declaring that they cannot meditate. This lack of tenacity is even worse than the unrealistic expectation.
Part of the reason people throw in the towel so quickly is that during their first few sessions, they are surprised at how little control they have over their mind. Most people feel as though they have a good handle on themselves; they are successful, smart, and healthy, and generally feel in control of their lives. It can be a pretty big shock to find out that they cannot focus on one thing exclusively even for one minute. Something seemingly so easy and so basic as directing your own thoughts should not be this hard, they think. They judge themselves and feel embarrassed at their lack of control and quickly abandon the practice.
The first thing to do when undertaking meditation is to abandon any desire for results. You should expect to be distracted almost constantly. In fact, if you are keeping a regular practice of meditating every day, you should expect nothing but distraction for at least six months! You sit and focus on breath, or on mantra or yantra, and a thought of food arises in the mind stream. You start thinking about dinner. This gets you thinking about the time, and wondering how much time has passed so far. You realize that you have lost focus.
This is the crucial moment. When you recognize that you are distracted, the natural reaction is to berate yourself because you stoppedand you st meditating. The secret is this: You didn’t stop meditating. You recognized your distraction: That is meditation. If you can then return to focusing without judgment, you will continue to meditate properly. If you willingly continue to be distracted, knowing that you are distracted, now you have stopped meditating.
If you spend your whole life experiencing nothing in your meditation sessions other than being distracted and returning to the focus of the meditation, you will have accomplished quite a lot. You will have mastered your own thought process. I cannot stress enough what a wonderful feat this is. Almost everything that people do, say, and think is just a mechanical reaction. How you were raised, what you ate for breakfast, what traffic was like, what genes you inherited, how you are dressed—all these things impact every moment of our lives and push us one way or another. If you can recognize the mind being distracted by a habitual pattern in meditation, you will learn to recognize these patterns in everyday life. The next time someone pushes your buttons and you start to react, you will probably catch yourself and react from a place of real thought rather than of habit. Good job!
So what does this have to do with financial sorcery specifically? Why is this the most important skill to master? Because everything that is really important in transforming yourself financially boils down to being able to do things that go against your immediate desires and instincts. Examples:
Debt happens because people want the immediate reward that a purchase gives and are willing to pay the price later. People kill their debt by forcing themselves to do what they know to be right in the face of those immediate desires.
People reach retirement age without any savings because they prefer to have as much money as possible from their current paycheck available now. People save for retirement by overcoming that instinct and saving and investing that money, doing without the immediate rewards.
Warren Buffett has noted that people who win in the stock market are those who can buy when everyone is selling. Those who lose are those who bought what everyone thinks is a great deal (and is therefore high-priced), and sell when recessions hit, rather than sticking it out or taking advantage of low prices and investing more.
In all three cases, it is control of your mind that is key. Recognize distraction, release yourself from it, and return to what it is that you will yourself to accomplish. This is the first gift of meditation. Eventually, with practice, you will probably experience some genuine subtle states such as Rigpa or Samadhi, as described in classical texts, but these come with time and must not be sought after directly. Even if you do not experience these states, you will have accomplished much just by taking a little bit of control over your own mind.
Just remember that you cannot be bad at it. If the point is to recognize distraction, what is there to be bad at? Eventually you stop being distracted as easily. You win the battle against wandering trains of thought, you win the battle against agitation, and you win the battle against dullness. Now you drop even the focus of the meditation and are able to just be clear, naturally and effortlessly.
There is a reason that in many cultures, the word for spirit or energy is also the word for breath. In Hebrew the word is ruach, in Tibetan it’s lung, in Sanskrit it’s prana, in Greek it’s pneuma, and in Arabic it’s ruh. Even the word spiritspiem> or spiritus itself means “breath” in Latin. The breath is life and is so important that it is treated in some Eastern traditions as a mantra in and of itself. Yet we pay surprisingly little attention to it.
From the beginning, breath is neglected. Right at the moment of birth the doctor usually cuts the umbilical cord before the lungs have had a chance to clear the fluid that has built up in the lungs in utero. Our first breaths in this life are breaths of panic and fear, a trauma that some say we never quite recover from, and thus remain afraid of taking a full and complete breath.
Under normal circumstances people only use about one-seventh of their lung capacity, taking in only one pint of air approximately 15 times per minute. When we are excited or frightened we breathe even faster and shorter, which heightens our state of fear. This response does have an evolutionary role in keeping us safe from danger, but in our modern world this reflex kicks in under all kinds of stress that does not involve actual danger, and in which a cooler head would be of more benefit.
The breath is an autonomic function; it happens automatically, similar to your heartbeat and digestive function. Of all the autonomic systems, the breath is the easiest to take voluntary control of and is thus an excellent vehicle to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind. The breath usually follows whatever state your mind happens to be in, but it’s easy to reverse the process and make the mind follow the breath instead.
A number of different breath techniques can be employed in magic. I wrote at great length about some of them in The Sorcerer’s Secrets, but there is one basic technique that is important to master for the work at hand: the vase breath.
The Vase Breath
The vase breath is so named because with this method you are filling your lungs the way you would fill a vase with water: from the bottom up. As I mentioned, the lungs will hold about seven pints of air, yet we generally only draw in one pint at a time. We also tend to favor the upper chambers of the lungs, puffing out our chests and holding in our stomachs. Although this may be a more physically attractive way of breathing, it’s not very efficient.
To perform the vase breath, you must make sure that your back is reasonably straight and vertical. Sitting or standing are both fine, but do not do it lying down. Then simply breathe in through the nostrils, keeping the mouth closed and filling the lower chambers of the lungs first. Allow the belly to distend as you do this. Then allow the upper chambers of the lungs to fill almost all the way. You should aim to take in about six pints of air. If you do this correctly your breath rate should slow from about 15 times per minute to about 8 times per minute.
When the vase breath is used, the flow of oxygen to the blood and brain is improved, which has many benefits. One of the primary benefits is that the pituitary gland begins to function optimally. This gland controls all the other glands in the body, and is also the physical manifestation of the third eye and the seat of mystical vision. If you are sensitive to the energies of the body, you will also note an increased flow of vital force in the body as well as an improved ability to direct these energies using only the breath and the will.
Even more important, just as meditation trains the mind to release distraction and recall your true will, the vase breath can act as the key to actually doing this in the moment: By forcing the breath into a slow and full inhalation, we are signaling the mind to calm down and return to the state that it is usually in when we are breathing that way—calm and clear.
This exercise can be done sitting e gone sitor standing, but both positions should be mastered. In both cases the back should be held as straight as possible. Begin to perform the vase breath. Then pull in a deep inhalation and imagine that above you, emanating from the highest heavens, descends a column of pure white light. This light enters the crown of your head and passes through you, down into the ground. This white light is ennobling and purifying.
Pull in another deep inhalation and imagine that a reddish-colored light rises from beneath you, continues up through the column, and passes through you out of the crown of your head. Whereas the white light was purifying, this light is vivifying. As the descending light was ennobling, this energy is atavistic. Inhale and feel the two energies entering into you from above and below. Exhale and feel the two energies flow throughout your body, impregnating every fiber of your being with their power. Feel your connection between earth and sky, underworld and heavens.
One sign that you have mastered this practice is that when you are walking and performing the pillar exercise you will feel as though you are staying in one spot and the world is moving around you, like a figure in a video game.
Do the pillar exercise just described, and then turn your attention to the crown of your head. Imagine an empty sphere that extends inside and above your skull. Breathe in and see a clear energy fill this sphere. It corresponds to the element Azoth, which is spirit and space and brings increased clarity and spacious awareness. Move the mind downward and see a sphere at the throat. Breathe in an airy, bright yellow energy that feels warm and wet like humid air and moves about rapidly within the sphere. Move the mind downward again to a sphere at the heart. Breathe in a deep blue energy that feels cool and fluid. Move the mind downward to a sphere just below and behind the navel near the base of the spine. Breathe a red, hot, dry, and expansive energy into this sphere. Move the mind downward again to the perineum between the legs, behind the genitals. See a dark, earth-tone energy that is dense, cool, and dry fill this sphere. Rest the mind a few minutes and contemplate the elements within the body.
The purpose of this exercise is to balance the five elements along the central channel, which is the most important psychic structure in the subtle body. This not only mends energetic imbalances that can cause various physical and emotional ills, but also sets them up in a specific alchemical order. You could imagine the classical view of a witch’s cauldron or an alchemical vial within the body. The earth is the ground that the fire is built upon. The fire boils the water in the cauldron or vial above it; the boiled water releases steam into the air; the steam ascends to the heavens and dissipates into space.
Many internal energy exercises are built upon this pattern, but for our purposes here, you simply need to be able to balance the energies of the body, which are also connected intimately to the mind and the emotions.
Divination is the most commonly performed type of magic on the planet, and any of us who have ever read our horoscope in the newspaper, shaken a Magic 8-Ball, or predicted bad luck when a black cat crossed our path has engaged in it on one level or another. Thousands of psychics and readers are consulted every day, all over the world, by people from all walks of life, on topics ranging from lost loves to matters of state. It has been so since the beginning of human history. The Chinese have been using the I-Ching since 1000 BC, making it one of the oldest types of divination on the planet. Babylonian kings, Roman generals, and ealserals, ven one pope have relied upon haruspices, or diviners, to read the entrails and livers of sacrificed animals before battle. Divination is widely practiced for sure…but there is a problem.
When I give classes on divination I start out by asking whether people have ever had a reading before, and almost everyone has. I then ask how many times they have actually made a life-altering decision based on such a reading. Very few hands have ever been raised. The problem is that one reading, no matter how good, is rarely considered to be actionable information. In intelligence communities this is the combination of intel and data. Intel is information that has been evaluated more for its relevancy to active situations than for its accuracy. Data, on the other hand, are seen as particular units of verifiable information, regardless of their current application. Whenever we receive information from any source, be it rumors at work or a tarot reading, it is vital to evaluate it for both its relevancy and its accuracy. In serious situations, several types of divination from different sources should be consulted in order to get a full picture. If an effort can be made to verify the information by non-magical methods, all the better.
For instance, a tarot reading that you perform about the possibility of your being laid off is relevant, but may not be very accurate. If you get your results confirmed by several other readers, the probability of accuracy goes up. If you get those further backed up by some office rumors, you now have some actionable intelligence on which to base a decision.
I am not going to tell you how to perform readings; chances are you already know how to do that. What I do want to warn about is trusting just one reading when making decisions. The fact is that no matter how good a reader is, he or she can be wrong. And when you are reading for yourself, your own desires can influence your interpretation.
In order to help create intelligence in which you can be confident enough to act upon, I recommend mastering three different modes of divination, such as sortilege with tarot cards or runes, augury in something like candle wax or bones, and the interpretation of omens and dreams. When you couple these skills with keen observation (and also the ability to get people to share inside information with you), you can be much more confident in your intelligence.
Keeping an Altar
The last skill that I want to discuss here is that of creating and keeping an altar. Unlike some other issues that you may tackle occasionally with sorcery, such as finding a lover or dealing with a court case, you will be dealing with financial issues until the day you die. Even if you manage to strike it filthy rich, you will need to manage your money wisely. Because of this, many sorcerers find it useful to erect permanent wealth altars.
It might seem odd to think of tending an altar as a skill, but it is. Whether it’s a large and ornate altar worthy of a temple, or a discreet corner of a bookshelf, a permanent altar acts as a psychic control panel for your life. Symbolic items placed upon the altar will manifest—even those placed there accidentally, which means that dust on the altar will create dust in your life. Using an altar is a great way to keep long-term spells going and coordinate strategies, but if you don’t keep it up, it is best not to do it at all.
To make your own altar, simply decide how much space you can afford to devote to it, and then clean off this area. Place a green, blue, or gold altar cloth on it to demarcate the space as sacred. Place any wealth-related effigies, amulets, talismans, or sorcerous paraphernalia on the altar and arrange them according to your inner guidance. Perform a brief consecration of your own devising.
Among the items on my financi son my fial altar are:
A large print of Dzambhala, the Buddhist deity of wealth
A print of White Mahakala, a Tibetan wish-granting deity that overcomes obstacles
A statue of Mary with a Miraculous Medal I was given by my grandmother
A picture of my grandfather, who was a successful businessman
Several green and gold candles burning for various clients
A Jupiterian cashbox (which I will describe in a later chapter)
A box with a string of sigils2 etched into it containing banking information on various investments
Spirit bottles for Marie Laveau and Dr. John, the most famous and prosperous Voodoo practitioners in New Orleans, for influencing money I receive from doing magical work
My year-long petition (for whatever I hope to gain in the new year) and lodestone
A Rose of Jericho (a dry, desert plant that turns green and unfolds in water), used to absorb negativity, in a bowl of water that gets changed every Friday
No matter how elaborate your altar, everything on it should be clean and meaningful. Nothing can be placed there that doesn’t have a purpose. I don’t care if the rest of your home is a filthy hoarder disaster waiting for an HGTV crew to clean it up—your altar must be clean and nothing on it should be left to rot. If there is liquid in anything (oil lamps, water bowls, and so on) they must be changed regularly. If there is incense, the ash must be taken care of regularly. Treat it like a living thing, because on an esoteric level, that is exactly what it is.
Now that we have talked about the basic skills you will need going forward, it is time to meet and greet the powers that be!
References and Resources
The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick, by Jason Miller (New Page Books, August 2009): My previous book, which goes into more detail about the skills mentioned in this chapter, as well as other subtle keys to magic that you may find useful.
The Strategic Sorcery Course, taught by Jason Miller. This is a 52-lesson course in practical magic. If you like The Sorcerer’s Secrets, this is the next step.
Meditation in a New York Minute: Super Calm for the Super Busy, an audiobook by Mark Thornton (Sounds True, Inc., February 1, 2006). This is probably the best book on meditation for those who are not involved in a particular meditative tradition such as Buddhism. It is straight, to the point, easily adapted to modern life, and focuses on the most important practices.
Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage, by Paul Huson (Destiny Books, May 26, 2004). The best book on tarot, period.