Magick and Meditation
In the West meditation is best known in a Christian context expressed in contemplating passages from one of the many Bibles with a practice called “Lecto Divino”, which literally means “Divine Reading”. This system was developed further in the 12th Century when it was given the structure of “Read, ponder, pray, contemplate” by the monk Guigo II as a symbolic ladder to unite with the Divine. Early Eastern Christianity developed Hesychasm, a system very similar to the mantra (spoken word) mediation we know today, but it never became popular in mainland Europe.
The types of meditation practised today by Pagans are usually influenced by different systems from the Orient, with some Western derivations via Jungian psychology. More important than the sources are how meditation is practised. From my experience most Pagans I have met who regularly meditate have been influenced to some degree by Yoga, the Indian physical and psychospiritual system. One of the core principles of Yoga are the “Sutras of Patanjali” aphorisms allegedly written by the Indian sage of that name and distilling the essence of India’s psychological and spiritual systems into short ‘soundbites’ It was he who first coined the term “Yoga” from the saying “yoga chitta vritti nirodha" which can be translated as “Yoga is the silencing of the modifications (movements) of the mind”.
The Sutras were the basis for Raja Yoga, one of the five branches of Yoga and the one most concerned with what we would term “Magick” due to its being involved with working directly with the mind. The other Yogic branches are Hatha yoga (postures), Mantra yoga (chanting), Laya yoga (working with the subtle energies of the body) and Shiva yoga (devotional practices). They each cross over into each other’s specialities a bit, but Raja Yoga is considered the “King” of the different systems because of its concentration on working on perception and energy projection. Interestingly my friend commented that the history of the physical side of Yoga did not go back as far as many practitioners believed, having been strongly influenced by the rise of Western Physical Culture in India at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Many of the systems of Indian magick are based on concentration which can be easily confused with meditation. The best way to explain the difference between the two states of mind is that concentration uses a lot of mental energy, while meditation is relaxation of the mind allowing the conscious and subconscious minds to harmonise. Using this explanation you can see that meditation can help with self-realisation and allow the mind to attain equilibrium through stilling of the mental “chatter”.
However, structured mental exercises such as pathworking, ritual, and concentrating on a candle flame take mental energy to do. In this regard concentration and meditation are for the mind like the antagonistic muscles in the body that are responsible for balanced movement and strength. A good example is the biceps muscle in the front of the arm and the triceps at the back, the biceps bends the arm, and the triceps straightens it. Mixing meditation and concentration, as I have seen Pagans do both in personal practice and in ritual, leads to a mental form of the type of musclebinding seen on over-enthusiastic bodybuilders. In the case of the bodybuilder it’s because they lift weights by contracting both sets of muscles at once and as the muscles strengthen and toughen each acts as a brake on the function of the other. This constricts the person’s movements in everyday life leading to difficulties in carrying out ordinary tasks.
Mixing concentration and meditation has the same effect on a psychic level. Meditation with concentration tires the mind rather than relaxing it, and trying to concentrate in a meditative manner has a similar effect, weakening the focus of the mind. So “Guided Meditation” or “Pathworking” are more concentration exercises than they are meditation and use mental energy rather than allow the person using them to recharge and become aware of their inner worlds. Lacking this insight they also miss the connections between the mind and the Universe, focusing instead on the effects of magick rather than its source. In some cases people with natural talent, or with a teacher in a specialised area of magick, might be able to attain impressive skill in producing a particular phenomenon or effect.
In Oriental philosophy it is called “the finger pointing at the moon” the magick skill is the finger, and by only being aware of the magick you miss the glory of the moon in the sky. In Raja Yoga the ultimate goal of the stilling of the mind allows you to become aware of the source of magick rather than fixating on the things you can do with it. When all areas of the mind unite then you can become aware of your connection with the cosmos and conscious of things you have previously overlooked. This is the self-development part of spirituality that many systems miss, or outright ignore these days in favour of power or influence. In the next article we will look at systems of meditation that will help your spiritual growth and aid in finding your own path to effective magick.
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