Tonight we have responses from Brother Virgil to our second round of interview questions.
1. How did you know your magic was working?
There were times when it didn’t, or at least seemed not to. Maybe my Balance Factor was off, or Lust of Result sabotaged my unseen hands behind the scenes. But I persevered, keeping in mind that magic is not an Easy Button. Magic is a skill, and like any true skill, you have to suck at it before you can become OK at it. When a basketball player misses a free throw, he doesn’t say “Welp, I shot a brick, so shooting a basketball doesn’t work.” He practices, corrects, and practices some more.
While in the routines of daily life I tend toward a secular and skeptical way of looking at things, but I find that when my magic really crackles, the results hit me like a Hurricane Kick across the face and remind me why I keep doing this. It often takes the form of unexpected plot twists, uncanny timing, and/or being in the right place at the right time in such a way that it’s almost like someone scripted the moment with my Desire in mind.
Interpreting the efficacy of one’s magic is largely a matter of recognizing patterns and connections over time. It is necessarily a subjective art – not a science – that takes one’s internal landscape, passions, and Desires into account. This makes it a hard sell in our superficially “secularized” and “rational” age (I can hear my fellow Americans laughing…). Subjective interpretation is not admissible to empirical study, for good reason. But magic is not empirical, nor reliably reproducible by different people doing or saying exactly the same things the same way. Every would-be magician must look within and find one’s own combination, one’s own style or method that works. To put it another way: if magic were science, then it would just be science.
2. What difficulties or sticking points did you experience during your First Degree period?
There were times I had to catch myself when I was going through the motions of what I “thought” a Black Magician should say, think, do, or believe. Having prided myself on outgrowing the conformity-centered culture of sameness and obedience to authority that I’d come from, it irked me to realize I was still susceptible to the all too human urge to mirror the crowd, even in small, subtle ways. It’s one thing to get the basic idea of the Left-Hand Path. It’s something else to gain the working Understanding that, no, it’s really not about black clothing, subcultural posturing, or compliance with any particular political checklist of pet issues. It’s about cutting away the parts of you that aren’t really you, until only the essential Self is left.
3. What was the strangest thing that happened to you as a First Degree? The most unexpected thing?
For whatever reason, I found that I had this bizarre talent for recognizing Setians in person as Setians, sight unseen, without even knowing who they really were. On my journey to my first International Conclave, there were at least three or four examples I can think of who I spotted in passing – at airports, in the streets, in the hotel lobby, even in nearby restaurants – and “noticed,” thinking maybe they might be going to the same place I was. All turned out to be Setian Initiates of varying degrees.