Saturday, 27 December 2014

Celebrating the New Year

How do you celebrate New Year?  Do you have any particular rituals you follow, and do they have any real meaning for you?

There are many different rituals around the world, but there are some common themes underlying most of them.  Here are just a few examples:

In Panama, people burn effigies of well-known personalities.  The effigy represents the old year, and burning it drives away the evil of the old year, making way for the good of the New Year.

The concept of throwing away the old to make way for the new is taken one step further in Johannesburg, South Africa, where people throw old furniture and appliances out of their windows on New Year’s Eve.  If you are planning to spend New Year in Johannesburg, watch your head!

In Japan, workers have what they call a “bonenkai” party some time near the end of the year.  Literally, this means “forget the year party”.  The idea is to draw a line under what has happened during the year so you can start the New Year afresh.

In Denmark, people stand on a chair during the countdown to the New Year and leap from the chair as the clock strikes 12.

A rather different custom is the communal New Year kiss in St Mark’s Square, Venice.  What could be better than starting the New Year with love and friendship?

Finally, while most of the above is about forgetting and letting go of the old in order to start the new, “Auld Lang Syne” is all about remembering people with fondness.  “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Ayrshire folksong.  It was transcribed, but not originally written as many believe, by Rabbie Burns.  The custom of singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve was instituted by the Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo.

Here are the words of the first verse and chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” (literal meaning “Old Long Since”):

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

The theme throughout most those rituals and customs is that we should clear away the clutter of the old year, all the things holding us back, and start the New Year afresh.  At the same time, we should remember those who have helped us on our way.

We don’t need a ritual to do this though.  Nor do we have to do it only on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.  I think it should be a daily practice.  At the end of each day, reflect on what has happened.  Forgive anyone who has wronged you, and forgive yourself of all the wrong you have done, releasing all the bad which will otherwise hold you back.  Think of all the good that has happened and be thankful for it, and especially for all the people who have been good to you.  Now you can sleep easy and be ready to start the new day afresh.  Make this a daily habit, remembering and being thankful for the good and washing away the bad, and you will find it so much easier to make a fresh start and achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.

If you would like help with setting your Resolutions and goals for the New Year, or for any time, take a look at my “ResolutionRevolution” -

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Lessons from A Christmas Carol

If you are reading this the day it is published, then it is Christmas Eve, but whenever you are reading it the lessons are the same.  It was on Christmas Eve that Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the Christmas Ghosts - the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge key moments in his past where, had he taken the opportunity by the hand, he could have become a very different person.  Instead, he rejected all those opportunities to live a happy life and became a miserable miser instead.

The Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Scrooge in the form of Father Christmas.  Not the red, "Coca Cola" version, but the more traditional green robed Father Christmas.  A version beloved of all children who hang their stockings by the fireplace and expect him to come down a very narrow chimney, as Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Present has the essential ability to change his size to fit into any space, small or large.  This Ghost appears both as a jolly, partying Father Christmas carrying a symbol of peace on earth and goodwill toward men (and women!), and a stern, sarcastic chastiser who throws back at Scrooge his own selfish and unthinking comments about the poor and needy.  As he accompanies the Ghost of Christmas Present and sees the probable fate of his employee's disabled son, Tiny Tim, Scrooge seems to feel some remorse, asking whether Tim will really die.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never speaks, but just points, leaving Scrooge to draw his own conclusions.  The future he shows is grim.  Nobody mourns the death of Scrooge, in great contrast with the feelings of Bob Cratchitt and his family over the death of Bob's son, Tiny Tim.

We all know the outcome of these three visitations, of course.  Ebenezer Scrooge realizes that although he cannot change the past, if he changes what he does in the present he can certainly change the future.  And that is what he does, becoming a changed man spreading joy instead of misery, and receiving joy instead of misery back into his life.

There are very clear messages here we should all learn.

Regret the past, but don't dwell on it.  What has happened has happened, and we cannot change it.  But we must learn from it.  We must see what went wrong and not make the same mistakes over and over again.  Having taken the lesson we need from it, we must give ourselves closure.  Forgive ourselves for anything we may have done which we shouldn't have done.  Forgive others who may have done wrong to us.  This forgiveness both ways is vital.  We cannot allow Christmas Past forever to mar Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come!

Recognize that the future is Yet to Come.  Fear about the future is pointless.  It is not here yet and it can be changed.  Scrooge saw his own death unmourned and Tiny Tim dying prematurely, but neither actually happened, because Scrooge changed his actions in the present.

Remember that the present is all we have.  Don't let anyone take your present from you - it is God's gift to you, giving the word "present" a double meaning.  Nobody has the right to take that gift from you, or the ability to do so unless you yourself give that to them.  Live in the present, and live a full life now - not a live centered in regret about the past or worry about the future.  Do what you should do now, live the live you want to live now, be the person you want to be now, make the changes you want to make in yourself and all that is around you now.  Realize it is not too late to do this, but also that there is no time to lose.  You cannot sit there frozen, thinking you should have done this in the past, and you must not sit there thinking you can do it some time in the future.  Do it now!

Do this and your life and the lives of those around you will change radically and very much for the better, just as was the case for the hero of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ceremonial Magic

If you came to this article looking for a magical ritual you can take away and use as is, I am afraid you will be sorely disappointed.  My purpose here is to give any non practising magicians just a little idea of what is involved.

Firstly, for my Christian and Muslim friends I want to dispel the notion that ceremonial magic is a form of idolatory, or even of black magic.  In its purest form it is neither, although the beliefs of some magicians may come close to what may be described as a form of idolatory, and a black magician may well use a distorted form of ceremonial magic.

Another word for ceremonial magic is "theurgy".  A ceremonial magician may also therefore be called a "theurgist".  I will use these terms for brevity.

A theurgist recognizes that there are many different powers "out there".  Some theurgists will view them as personal gods, and therefore would attract the ire of Christians and Muslims alike.  Others will view them much more as Jungian archetypes.  My own view is that the distinction is rather academic, although I would perhaps veer closer to the archetype than personal god view.

Those who have not studied theurgy in any depth may view these "powers" as nonsense, yet at the same time fear any invocation or evocation of them.  Ignorance usually results in fear, so I guess this should not really surprise me.  I am not going to attempt to "convert" those who refuse to believe.  I believe, and am happy to share my belief with those who wish to understand.  Is there any need for fear?  Well, if someone is going to try playing with forces they do not understand, yes there is.  Not because we are talking about devils or evil spirits, but for the same reason you should fear electricity if you are thinking of playing with some powerful electric black box when you know nothing about what is in it or how it works.  Electricity is not evil, but it can still kill you if you use it in the wrong way.

Another great misunderstanding about theurgy is the idea that a god, spirit, or other power is being harnessed purely for the purpose of achieving some material gain.  That should not be the aim of the ceremony at all, although it may nevertheless result in such a gain.

Returning to the Jungian concept, you could view the purpose of theurgy as an individuation process.  Creating a proper balance of all the powers that are there whether we like it or not, by working one by one with each power, integrating each of the archetypes properly into our true self.  The theurgist does this by focusing on one power so completely that this power materializes.  In a very real sense, the theurgist now "owns" this power.  Yet the power itself is something far greater than anyone who has not studied this subject could ever imagine.  Once one power has been properly invoked in this way, the theurgist moves onto the next, until eventually he or she has incorporated all the powers, or archetypes, and (using a term from another discipline) achieves samadhi.  Purists will probably criticize me for mixing terms from very different disciplines in this way, but to me it sums it up perfectly.

If you wanted to achieve individuation in the traditional psychotherapeutic manner this is not something you could achieve by yourself.  You would have to surrender yourself totally to another person.  It would also probably cost you a lot of money!  A theurgist does not surrender himself or herself to any other person.  Also, no money should change hands for the ceremonies themselves - although if you are going to do this properly (and it would be very dangerous to try doing it any other way!) you will need to invest a lot of time, energy, and probably money too assembing all the right magical implements.  When I undertook my first magical ceremony as a teenager I invested many long evenings searching for exactly the right branch to create my magic wand - and then had to time the cutting of the branch to the right astrological alignments.

If this brief introduction has ignited a spark of interest, I encourage you to study some of the masters (and mistresses) of the ancient theurgical art.  I suggest you go back to before the current fad of "new age" beliefs, as these have often corrupted the original pure teachings.  Search for works by Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie or Mouni Sadhu.

As a start, try "The Tree of Life" by Israel Regardie, "Theurgy" by Mouni Sadhu, and "The Training & Work of an Initiate" by Dion Fortune.  And when you have soaked up the wisdom in those three books, you will be ready to acquire the full training and rituals of the Golden Dawn.  Only then will you be ready to start on the great task of theurgy yourself.

PS, the above links are all US sources.  If you prefer UK sources, here are more links:

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Telling Stories

If I really want to get a point across to someone, usually I will try to find a way to do so without "attacking" them head on.  Why?  Because it is human nature to argue!  So if, for example, I hold up a pen and say to you "this is the best pen in the world!" your conscious mind will probably start from the premise that it is not the best pen in the world and will then look for all the negative reasons that prove this.  It would be an unusual person who accepted the statement at face value and then looked for the positive reasons to justify this stand.

One of the best ways of doing this is by telling a story.  2,000 years ago in Palestine there was a story teller who really understood this principle and used it to best advantage.  Most Christians will recognize, for example, the story of the Good Samaritan.  This story encapsulates some powerful moral principles.  It is much easier for the listener to absorb those principles by listening to the story than it is by hearing someone lecture them on the need to help those around us no matter how different they may be from us.  In fact, you could argue that a large percentage of the Bible consists of stories that convey moral, ethical and spiritual messages.  Those messages usually pass under the radar of our conscious mind, which might otherwise try to argue, and instead lodge directly in our subconscious, instilling in us the uplifting traits they illustrate.

This is true not just of Christianity, but of most religions.  The concept goes back far more than 2,000 years.  From the time humans gathered together for mutual benefit there have always been story tellers, and they are usually held in high regard.  In the best examples the stories they tell, again, pass on spiritual truths to their listeners, but in a non-confrontational and unpatronizing way.

Parents of young children will probably agree that they tell stories on a daily basis to their children, and it is very likely they choose at least some of those stories to illustrate some important lessons.  Perhaps, for example, the fables of Aesop.

You can use this method to change the negative aspects of someone's behaviour if you do it carefully.  This is especially the case when they are doing something wrong without having thought through the consequences or without really meaning to do so.  A very wise work colleague taught me this technique.  He said when that happens, tell a story to that person about someone having done whatever that wrong thing might be and the consequences that resulted.  Add into it how different things would have been if only they had behaved in a different way.  Tell it as if it were a tale of something that actually happened to you or to someone you know.  When this is done carefully, the person you are talking with will not realize what is happening.  They will not consciously know they are the "hero" of the story.  Their defences will therefore not be up and they will listen properly and often agree with you about how bad this was and how the person concerned should have acted differently.  But although consciously they do not know what is happening, and therefore do not resist, subconsciously they get the message.  Very often you will find that just this one little story will do a lot of good in changing the person's behaviour.

Just as you can use the story telling method to change someone else, so you can use it to change yourself.  It is an extremely powerful technique.  Gather together some of the world's best literature and see if you can find some stories which have underlying strong moral, ethical and spiritual messages.  Obviously a good place to start is with the religious writings of your own religion - or perhaps of a number of religions if, like me, you have an open mind on religion.  You don't have to be a member of a particular religion, or even of any religion, to benefit from its stories in this way.  Concentrate particularly on the writings that contain stories.  A Hindu example is the Ramayana - the Tamil version written in English by R K Narayan which is a wonderful introduction to this epic.  As a Sufi example, try some of the marvellous works of Sayed Idries Shah - for example "Tales of the Dervishes", or "The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin".  The Midrash and the Talmud are full of enlightening stories, as, of course, is the Bible.

Once you get into the habit of looking for inspiring literature in this way you will find it can really change your life.  Not only spiritually, but also in all other aspects of your life, including even financially.  Check out some of the fairy tales and other folk stories that abound - but take care, as not all are intended to convey teachings you may wish to imbibe!

One very good example of this is a rather quirky adult fairy tale by Charlotte Pingriff, called "Mr Happy".  Read this and you will find the message of living a happier life will pass underneath the mental barriers all adults put up, and your life will change in subtle but important ways.  If you want to be happier, I strongly suggest you give this one a try, testing out what I have said here at the same time as creating a happier life for yourself.

PS, the above links are US sources.  If you prefer UK sources, here are some more links for you:

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Be and Do What You Love!

I want you to take a few moments right now to daydream.  If you don't have the time right now, please don't read ahead but instead book some time in your diary when you will do this.  At least 5 or 10 minutes, or maybe a little more, when you know you will be uninterrupted and will not start worrying about something else you need to get ready to do.

Ok, are you ready?  Then let's begin.

What do you love doing the most?  Think carefully about this.  Don't just give a throwaway answer.  Don't give an answer you think someone else might want to hear.  You are safe!  Nobody else is listening.  Not your mother or father, not your spouse, not your priest, not your teacher or coach.  Nobody but you.  So be very honest here.  What do you really love doing?  Focus on it now.  Imagine you are doing it right now.  How does it make you feel?  Hold that feeling.

A different question.  If you could be anyone in the world, who would that be?  What is it about them that you would really love to have as a part of you?  Now expand on this.  Imagine you could create a completely new character by taking the very best from other role models.  Maybe people around you.  Maybe people you have read about or seen on TV or in films.  By "the very best", again I don't mean what you think you should regard as the best.  I mean aspects of that person you would really love if those aspects were a part of you.  Of your personality.  Of your mind.  Of your body.  And of your spirit.  Focus on this newly created being right now.  Imagine YOU are this lovely person.  How do you feel now?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?  Why?  What is it that you really love about the idea of living there?  This doesn't have to be somewhere you have been.  It could be simply the kind of place you have imagined, whether or not it is a real place.  What is around you right now as you slip into this lovely place?  Try to visualize everything that is there, all the things that make it perfect for you, that make you so love being there.  Let the feeling of being there fill you with energy and fill you with love.

How about your perfect relationship?  How does that feel?  It may be your relationship with your current partner, but something about it has changed so that the love between you is magnified many times over.  Or perhaps it is a relationship with someone you have not yet met.  Let the love in that relationship fill your being.

Ok, you have finished your daydream.  For the moment.  But what I am now going to suggest is that this is a serious exercise, and not simply a daydream, which you should repeat often.  Do it when you wake in the morning.  Do it when you slip into bed at night.  Do it at odd moments during the day.  Why?  Because what you are doing is creating your dream reality.  A reality which you really can manifest and turn into a dream life that has come true for you.

What you have just learned how to do is perhaps the most difficult step of all in learning to manifest, in putting into action the Law of Attraction.  Everything you want to achieve, you really can achieve - but first you have to want it so much it becomes a burning desire.  You have to really love everything about what it is you are trying to achieve.  Do this and your dreams really can come true!

If you want to learn how to take this to the next stage, listen to this "Dream Builder" webinar: