The Living Temple

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Photo by Michael D. Beckwith

The Temple of Set hosts a number of annual gatherings of its members, from smaller regional groups, usually hosting 10 or fewer, all the way up to the International Conclave, which sees Setians attending from all over the world. It’s often said that an initiate of the Temple cannot truly understand and experience the Temple of Set until they’ve attended one of these gatherings.

While it’s certainly possible to engage in a perfectly acceptable and meaningful Initiatory process over a great distance, while never occupying the same physical space as another Setian, the incredible power of spending time in the presence of a group of Setians can’t be overstated.

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Over the space of three to four days, we might participate in workshops, present our current work to each other, and of course DO magic…some well-planned, some spontaneous. (I recently attended a Black Mass that was executed beautifully, with less than 24 hours’ planning).

No less important, though, are the in-between times. A Setian might find herself having lunch with a Magus, and finally get the opportunity to ask for some clarification on that Word. A candid conversation between two initiates who never knew they were facing the same challenges, leads to new breakthroughs. And of course, the unspeakable power of laughing together.

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Photo by Jorge Láscar

All of these things, and many more like them, compose what is known as The Living Temple. Those of us who regularly find ourselves in the company of other Setians understand well that the Temple of Set is more than the sum of its teaching and its members. It doesn’t exist in our documents, our website, or our archives.

The true fullness of the Temple of Set is experienced in the living, breathing, evolving presence of other people. Our gatherings are where our real magic is born.

Xeper Starts at Home

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Photo by midlman

Austin is a beautiful city, with a thriving outdoor culture. It’s no surprise, then, that the Capital City has ranked as the #1 fittest city in Texas for years. Visitors to Austin often comment on how healthy and happy everyone looks, and it’s true. Living in a town with pleasing outdoor spaces makes you want to get out and experience them, move through them. Being surrounded by a populace who take care of themselves has an effect on you, and it often doesn’t take long for new residents to take up a healthy lifestyle of their own.

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Photo by Todd Dwyer

So what does this have to do with magic? Plenty, as it turns out. Historically, of course, occultists and magicians have been *ahem* not the most athletic bunch. We were often mired so deeply in philosophy and meditation that even thinking about working with our bodies never entered the picture.

This kind of neglect not only creates an imbalance between the parts of the Self, it leads to more significant difficulties in all areas as we age. More and more scientific studies are proving the importance of the body/brain connection, showing how vital it is that we care for, maintain, and challenge our bodies in order to keep our brains at optimal function throughout our lives.

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Photo by Jason Dean

We’re now beginning to see more black magicians who understand the importance of Working with their bodies, the value of physical challenges, and the real need to maintain bodily health. After all, your body is your home from birth until death, and can never be replaced. It makes perfect sense that, in order to create a more perfected Self, we should start with caring for and ordering that home.

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Photo by Kid Clutch

Establishing a solid foundation of physical health is an investment of time and energy, which will pay significant dividends towards your overall well-being. It teaches discipline, focus, and will. It transforms your inner world, while making your outer world more beautiful. It creates new avenues and possibilities.

Xeper is not only concerned with altering one’s inner landscape, or with creating change in a person’s outer life (such as that new job/car/girlfriend). Xeper can happen anywhere. It might be in a gym (or your living room), alone at 5 AM, testing your own limits. Creating change in your body by force of will.

Like magic.

Walpurgisnacht 2017

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Walpurgisnacht is here again, and it’s a great time to think about desire.  Take some time to examine your desires, what you want to bring into your life, or the changes you want to see.

 

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The veils between worlds are thin tonight, at state which can be used to manifest one’s wishes. This means the barriers between worlds are weakened, and intent may be more easily transmitted from one’s inner world into the objective universe.

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Photo by Helena.

May all your bonfires burn bright tonight!

 

 

Isolate, Not Isolated

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I recently came across an article about an incredible document – Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do list. Written in 1490, the list enumerates a variety of tasks Da Vinci set out to complete (i.e. “Draw Milan”).

What struck me the most about this list, though, was how many times Da Vinci writes “Ask X to show you Y.”

Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders.

Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.

Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.

Over and over, Da Vinci states that he’s looking for people to teach him things. Keep in mind this list was written in 1490, when he was about 38 years old and well into his professional life.

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

Here we have a man who, by most anyone’s estimation, was a genius and a master of a truly amazing number of trades, crafts, and disciplines. One would think that he would be the source, the person everyone else came to for answers. Yet he never stopped looking to learn from people who knew more than he did.

There’s a common pitfall among black magicians, wherein we convince ourselves that other people are unnecessary or can’t matter to our Initiation. Because, if I am a god, why would I need someone else? There are two outcomes to this scenario, and neither one is pretty. First you have someone who lives a completely isolated existence, a legend in his own mind, convinced of his divine power, but with no real world mastery to show for it. Second, the guru who surrounds herself with an echo chamber of yes-men, who never question, challenge or teach her anything.

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Photo by Jay Cross

For me, the purpose of the Temple of Set is to provide its students with an honest and effective feedback loop. We seek each other out to ask for advice and share references. But it’s also immeasurably valuable to have a group of people who will help you understand when you’ve failed, or call you out on your own bullshit. It takes courage to ask for that kind of feedback, to put yourself out there knowing that you might very well get an unpleasant answer. The ability to overcome failure and withstand scrutiny are a vital part of how we prove ourselves, how we come out of the other side a stronger person, and a better magician.

Setians often refer to Isolate Intelligence – that spark of consciousness which is uniquely and singularly our own. Yet there is a galaxy of difference between “isolate” and “isolated.” Isolate intelligence may, at will, interact with and enhance itself from interacting with others, whereas an isolated individual would not.

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Photo by ideacreamanuelaPps

Ultimately, we’ve chosen the left hand path because we want to be challenged, and made stronger for it. What am I learning from my interactions? What can I gain from my shortcomings? What can someone else’s perspective show me?

If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.

Death and the Left Hand Path

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Photo by Esteban Chiner

Death is one of the very few common threads that runs through the entirety of humanity’s experience. Every person who has ever lived has been touched by death, and eventually succumbed themselves. Most religions and belief systems seek to provide a sense of security around death, allowing their adherents to peacefully pass through life with some kind of assurance of what will happen to them after they leave their body behind.

Right hand path religions tend to provide answers that will keep their believers in line – heaven/hell, reincarnation, and the like. Behave yourself in this life, they say, and your great reward awaits you on the other side, ultimately becoming one with the universe.

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Photo by BlankBlankBlank

The Left Hand Path provides no such promise, leaving it up to the individual to determine what they believe they will experience after death. Some of us staunchly believe in the immortality of the psyche, some take an agnostic stance, and others feel strongly that our time is over when our bodies die. Ultimately, of course, one has to admit that no one truly knows what will happen to their psyche after death, until they experience that transformation first hand – and those who have made that transition aren’t talking (at least, not in any objectively quantifiable way).

More important than positing and debating the possibility of an immortal soul, though, is the question of what each of us can do with Death while we’re alive, during the time that we know we have. How can we let Death into our lives, and let it teach us? How can it make us better magicians, and stronger people?

Each of us must confront their own mortality at some point. Really confront it. Stand before the vastness of the universe, attempt to comprehend its random, chaotic nature, and understand that you are infinitely small and insignificant within its scale. There is no greater force “out there” that loves you, nor values your existence. And, at any time, your life can be snuffed out, in any number of ways, for no reason.

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Photo by Altug Karakoc

Many people would wallow in despair when confronted with this thought (before running into the welcoming arms of the nearest RHP prophet). A good Black Magician will transform it into something powerful, and use it to their advantage.

How that is done will be unique to each of us, as we are each ultimately responsible for finding and creating meaning in our own lives. It begins with meeting Death not as a destroyer, but as a teacher.

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Photo by photographymontreal

Magic of Place

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Photo by Jayel Aheram

Black Magicians tend to be a resourceful lot, and most of us learn early into our Initiatory journey that there is great value in being adaptable. Learning to Work with the tools that are available to us at any given moment is a good skill to develop.

I’ve also found that tapping into the magical essence of my location is an useful ability that has benefited my magical operations. All places have a magical current that runs through them, and through learning to recognize its nature, a skilled Black Magician can harness the power of a location and use it to help fulfill their goals.

Everyone has traveled to a new place and experienced its “vibe” – a kind of subjective state created by certain cues, its apparent character, and the kinds of people one most encounters there. As I traveled to different parts of the world, I became aware that, beyond the surface traits that various cities and regions seemed to have, I could often feel something else running through them – a sort of energy that seemed to be reflective of that place’s essence. The obvious vibe of a place, and its magical current are often closely aligned, but not always. Sometimes the magical character of a specific location is mostly hidden unless one seeks it out.

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Photo by Ed Schipul

I live and Work in Austin, Texas, and this city has a definite magical personality of its own, as does Houston, my hometown, and the entire Lone Star State. I have encountered Magicians who didn’t respond well to their time here, not finding the heat or culture to their liking (Newsflash: Texas is hot, it’s probably not a good place to move to if you can’t handle that). That’s completely valid. There are plenty of places in the U.S. and world where I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time if I could help it.

But the Magic of Place is a reciprocal thing. One gets out of it what they put in, and even a skilled Magician can miss opportunities to tap into a location’s current and its benefit, if they don’t engage with it.

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Photo by Adam Baker

Houston’s magic is strong – a strange mixture of urban energy, electric and vibrant, swirling and intermingling with the wilderness that snakes through the city along dark bayous. It is a perfectly evocative environment to perform Magic of all types, and when I learned to appreciate and embrace Houston’s unique energy instead of working against it, my magical success blossomed.

Austin is known for being quirky and cool, packed with hipsters, live music, and youthful innovators. It’s a haven for hippies and free-thinkers of all kinds, perceived to be an oasis of liberal ideas within an otherwise conservative state. It’s not at all surprising that there has been a long tradition of alternative religion in Austin.  But of course all magic has a dark side, and there is a decidedly sinister, vampiric current running through Texas’ Capital City – drawing in the unwary and feeding on their energy. It is, after all, also known as Bat City.

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Photo by Caomal

I’m fortunate to know many great Black Magicians, Working all over the world, and it’s clear that their Initiatory journey and their day to day magic is shaped by their environments. It made me realize that it’s worthwhile to develop my ability to Work wherever I might find myself. I might not be overjoyed to land in rural Mississippi for several months, but I would do my best to discover its magic while I was there. And it does have magic unique to it. All places do. It’s our responsibility to ourselves as Black Magicians to explore the currents local to us at any given time, and to learn to adapt our Work to them. Or we can miss out, and just complain about how no one sells good sushi in rural Mississippi. The choice, as always, is ours to make.