What is magic but the destruction of what is and has been? The execution of present tendencies and patterns – performed by manipulating and turning those very same forces.
If I can convince myself of one belief one moment – then its inverse the next, what have I achieved? Twisting in the wind, belly slit, guts dangling around our ankles – this is the essence of performing magic.
I’ve seen myself shorn of flesh, or stripped of bones. I’ve seen myself torn limb from limb, thrown into a boiling cauldron, and utterly annihilated. I’ve seen myself rise anew, steaming and pink, from the seething broth. I’ve seen myself re-clad with flesh, my white bones gleaming from heat exposure. I’ve had Woden as a skeleton crawl into my dissolving muscle and fat and give it a new, familiar form.
I’ve faced the shadows of my own hypocrisy – without resolution or result. I’ve faced the shadows of my own fear – without resolution or result. I’ve faced the nightfall of my hope – without resolution or result. I’ve fought the armour of my limitations – without resolution or result.
I’ve faced the ragged end of all action: that every victory passes immediately into the past. What once was idolised as a distant future – as soon as I’ve won it I can no longer imagine how I survived with out it… and onward to the next impossible peak and precipice.
Screaming, crying, raging, rotting, I’ve hauled my blood-soaked ego through endless hells; through valleys where even shadows fear to tread; into the heart of dragon dens and the halls of slavering beasts. We’ve walked through fire, flood, war and the hell of boredom, crutches for one another, dizzy, concussed, lost, confused, dying – making life worth living.
I’ve stared into a mirror for hours without recognising the man in the reflection. Confounded by his gaze, the question mark of that face, that flesh, that spark of consciousness. Who? And Who? And Who? Dances endlessly through my being, this strange presence before me.
“Step by step, past all paths, slowly he approached the surface – the mirrors mocked him on the way” (Emperor).
Meaning is woven from story, from the fragments of our relationship to wyrd and the fabric of orlog. We struggle, play, dance, choke, and die in the arms of the question, the end question – this enigmatic horizon of the unknown, this mystery that crouches on the shoulder like a hook-nosed gargoyle, a sly serpent.
And I have sat with joy and misery, I have sat with ecstasy and hate; I have sat with loneliness and flamboyance; I have howled the wind into submission and crushed even the stars with my feverish rage. I have crawled through the mud of my silence and my weakness like a broken child, and found myself at the end of the struggle laughing with all the rich delights of mockery.
All these voyages beyond the limits of my own finite being, these struggles with my own boundaries, these transgressions of my habitual nature, to what end? Am I not still rough-formed, bewildered, lost, amnesiac? Certainly there is no end to the secrets that confound me, the dreams which my waking consciousness cannot fathom.
Even the faith I have in my own unconscious, the conscious faith I have in my own unconscious, my ego’s faith in my own unconscious – is a trap. Don’t relax and let the Deep Mind do its work; don’t listen to your intuition; don’t embrace the invisible and entrust yourself to the will of the divine. These too are easily subverted, these too can easily become vessels for the ego to expand the arcing shelter of its illusory control and its illusory terror.
“The struggle to free myself of restraints becomes my very shackles” (Meshuggah).
So easily we spring from precarious equilibrium to plunging collapse. So easily we find ecstatic release in the death of our own impeccable dance. So easily we murder what we think we know, what we know we know, and, to paraphrase a famous chimpanzee, even the unknown unknowns that we don’t know. Crows are smarter than chimps any day.
I saw two dead crows today, lying on the sand of the beach, their necks wringed by, I suppose, a cat. Their once glossy feathers now stark like wire brush. Their once noble gimlet eyes now dissolved into the air. Their breasts torn open and empty, where once hearts sung with the pleasure of flight.
And consciously? Consciously I thought “there is no meaning in such a sight”. Were it a pleasant image that had confronted me you can bet I would have thought “look, the gods love me! The world loves me!” – such is the nature of hypocrisy.
The tide came in and claimed my dishevelled friends, their clever crow heads never again to marvel at the stupidity of humans. Out to sea, dissolved in the vast reaches of the unknown, abandoned to the hand of mystery. I watched them go, engulfed and lost, as though they had never been, the sand beneath them swept clean.
How can any of us embrace this inevitable fate? How many deaths do each of us die in this life? How many times do we step up to Yggr’s gallows – knowing what we do or not – and embrace the caress of the noose? And yet we forget, and life blooms, and again and again death is necessary if we are to survive.
“I must crucify the ego before it’s far too late; I pray the light lifts me out before I pine away” (Tool).
And therein lies the beating heart of it. When ego flowers, ego begins to kill itself, like some beast whose tusks, if unused, grow backwards into its own skull. Even to express these sentiments is another dance of the ego, to force shape, to seduce meaning, from the chaos of experience, the tides, the songs to which all of being vibrates.
The serpent seeks its tail; the harbinger of chaos comes to us like a stranger at the gates.