Concerning Control

In “When We Get Exactly What We Ask For,” I made a comment about “control freaks,” not realizing how provocative this would be.

Anyone who has worked with magick for very long at all knows that there is a difference between our ordinary lives and our magickal lives. And this difference runs much deeper than simple semantics. The comment I intended to make was directed at the banal kind of control exacted in ordinary life, in a “pop-psych slang” sort of way. It had nothing whatsoever to do with control in one’s magickal life.

But it does bring up an interesting point. What’s the difference?

In American pop-psych, we call folks “control freaks” when they have a hard-wired defense mechanism which they use to shield themselves against their own inner vulnerabilities. These people are doomed to re-experience their own internal angst over and again (until they discover what shortcomings frighten them and then begin to work on said shortcomings). Comedian and author, John Cleese, refers to these kinds of people as “puppet-master[s], tying strings on other people … because [they] can’t bear to be changed [themselves].” According to Robert Bly, author of Iron John,  and Marion Woodman’s parabolic exemplar[1] is a woman who, “is not grounded either in her own imagery or her own musculature … finds her identity in power over (sometimes called love of) her body, her family, her friends, her garden … Without that control, she is nobody” (The Maiden King: The Reunion of Masculine and Feminine.Dorset: Holt, 1999. Print. 141). Commonplace psychology holds that control issues are related to a deep-rooted fear of abandonment based on perceived inadequacies; when the pattern of control is finally broken, interpersonal growth can occur.

But this has nothing to do with magick, right? Can one have a controlling personality and still be an affective – noncontrolling – magician? Sure. But only if that person is able to “let go” and work (magickally) in accordance with True Will. It doesn’t seem likely that the two of these can take place in the same personality, but I contend that it’s not impossible.

Primarily because the two are different. And again, this difference is more than semantic.

I’m not a psychologist, so we’ll just stick with the pop culture definition of “controlling” – flawed as it is. I am, however a magician. So, I will make an attempt to articulate the way control affects our magical processes.

This is prompted by a conversation I had with somebody. She asked me to tool around with an idea, so here goes.[2]

There seem to be two battling ideas: “the path of lest resistance” and magick.

Of course, Magick is what Alistair Crowley defines as: “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with the Will” (Magick in Theory and Practice).

Our magickal intent is typically expressed in the form of a “spell.” To be clear, a spell is any psychic operation in effort to produce a particular result. We use spells when we are unable to directly affect a situation or condition. So, chants, litanies, sonics, simulacra magic, and thoughform creation are all spells. For that matter, prayers are spells. Spells are simply energy matrices designed to gather enough energy to manifest a goal. Unless we include directors and limiters, spells will always take the path of least resistance to the goal. And like the couple in “The Monkey’s Paw,” we may find that that path often leads to the goal while simultaneously providing our absolute destruction.

Imagine it this way. In a small creek in my backyard the water runs downhill in rivulets. Occasionally, the path will become dammed up by leaves. With my will (i.e. a stick), I can remove the obstacle to allow the water to flow more freely in the places where I want it to go. But in changing the immediate path of the water, I change the destination of the creek and may end up flooding my recently planted hydrangeas. *Not* my real intention. I willed the leaves to move but destroyed my flowers in the doing. Had I thought it through, looked at the big picture, and determined more carefully where dams were necessary and where they were hindrances, I would have avoided the calamity.

But here’s the conundrum. If energy automatically moves according to the path of least resistance and magic is the direction of energy, it seems that all of our magickal acts would be futile. Energy is going to go where energy is going to go, no matter what we do. Eventually, the leaves will be unblocked, if it was “meant to be.” And no matter what, the water will find it’s own level and run downstream. Always. Every time. So, sometimes we will “seem” to magickally hit and sometimes we will “seem” to magickally miss. But in fact, we are always simply experiencing the results of a coincidence. We are reaping the benefit of what would have happened without our interference.[3]

But, we KNOW that this isn’t true. We KNOW that we can affect the world around us, otherwise we wouldn’t do what we do.

At this point I want to point out another difference that is more than simply semantic. The difference between will (or free will) and True Will.[4]

One challenge that magicians face is determining whether our magickal intent is aligned with our internal values. If our magickal work is not in tune with our True Will, our *real, real* internal values, then nothing will happen because True Will is a necessary component of magick. So, in a sense, True Will is always and every time “the path of least resistance.”

This is why it is important to consider the following: true magick is internal, not external. Yes, there are external manifestations of magic, but the processes are internal. And if any magickal act is in conflict with True Will, the magician needs to determine if that act is causing the magician to deviate from the path of True Will.

Unfortunately, often we are given the things we ask for – even when they are not in our immediate best interests. But, like the hypersymmetry of a fractal (which looks like chaos up-close, but looks gracefully organized from afar) we have to take a step back to see the “big picture” and see why we are given our naughty, naughty desires.

Let me break it down.

  • The Bad Witch wants to own a farm.
  • But only on the outside; deeply in her being, The Bad Witch knows better.
  • The Bad Witch performs a magickal act to cause the change that will (hopefully) provide her with a farm.
  • Either The Bad Witch will not get a farm – most likely scenario – or . . . The Bad Witch will get a farm and in the doing realize that a farm was not at all what she wanted; she will go through one helluva bullshitting shitstorm of shittyness. However, through all that shit, she will learn a thing or three.
  • In looking back, she will realize that without having ended up with the shitfarm, she would not have learned those lessons.
  • Shit.

The trick is to learn from these experiences and become more in tune with our True Will.

But the trick of that trick is that we are social beings as well as magickal beings. Our social self confuses the hell out of our spiritual, magickal selves. Consequently, the social self can cause us to sabotage ourselves because it places our True Will and internal values at odds with our external actions.

When we are first learning, we see magic as a quick way to deal with a situation – just cast on it and get it. But, as we grow, we realize that we need to engage in a process of internal changes. This way, we can maneuver our own lives towards the path of least resistance.

In the end, we have to ask ourselves if we are really listening to our internal values or True Will. This is where being in knowledge and conversation with our Holy Guardian Angel (or whatever term one uses for one’s True Will) becomes so imperative. Any system which brings one to Gnosis is valid. The study of Hermetics and Alchemy, far from hedonistic, are part of a rigorous path that are both specifically geared toward this kind of growth.

So, what do we do?

If we want to follow the path of least resistance and thereby obtain our magickal goals, we must align our intent with our True Will.

And then we must “Let Go.”

In Witchcraft: Theory and Practice, Ly De Angeles writes that the final part of magickal application is “Letting Go.” She states,

Now you’ve got to let it all go; all of it. Everything within you that is tame. . . . Wild places and songs you can’t quite catch hold of; things that whisper to you in the night that wake you suddenly . . . and the only reason you don’t follow them? Let it go! Other’s needn’t see. Others can continue to know you the way they know you. This is a secret world, the Way of the witch who weaves songs into actuality; a secret way that you may have been taught, sometime, by someone. . . . (137)

 This is the control I’m talking about.

Wrestling with your Self, your True Self, in the night is fruitless. The path of least resistance is, paradoxically, the way of control by letting go. Control your banal, ordinary self and align your mundane will with your True Will and magick will happen.[5] Energy will flow through you like a well-balanced ecosystem.

Equipoise is the key. Being in balance within your self. Being authentic to your True Will (aka having Knowledge and Conversation with your HGA), and loosening the control exacted by your socialized, human, inferior self will give you the control you need to Let Go.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93!


[1] Bly likes to use mythology to make his points. While I generally find him to be an essentialist asshat, he and Woodard have mainstream influence over the sheepy, and that’s the point I’m making here. The Bad Witch doesn’t believe this wholeheartedly, but understands that this is what pop-psych sees as true.

[2] This is totally her idea. I hope she writes about it soon so you can have duel perspectives – the kind of thing which leads to *real* learning.

[3] This begs the question of predestination. But let’s not go down that path since it is just a red herring in the end.

[4] Because a number of pagans tend to be either solitary or belong to restrictive societies, we do not always share terminologies. There are very few “neat” labels and lexicons outside of exclusive organizations.

[5] Ooh, Time for a plug: Open Path Training on Hermetics begins September 20th, 2011 and is free to all. If this is a weak area for you, come join us. Hopefully we can learn together.

One comment on “Concerning Control

  1. Reblogged this on The Bad Witch Files and commented:

    Holy cow this is reaching way back in the Bad Closet to find an outfit. But I was re-reading some old files and thought you might want to too.

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