by Simon Court
No matter by which door you enter the Mysteries exemplified by the Western Tradition, you will sooner or later come to the rather devastating realisation that you are required to actually do something with all your studies and training. You find a build-up of pressure as the stimulated inner life tries to find expression in the world.
In the early stages this tends to appear as a cross between quiet confidence in a Messianic Mission and an incessant urge to get everyone to adopt one’s own particular brand of occultism. It is normal to find this imbalance as barriers are released. The gush that ensues, whether displayed or hidden, is proportional to the size of the barrier which is removed.
Barriers, of course, are never completely removed and there is no end to the surmounting of obstacles on the Way. We do learn, however, to moderate this sudden release and see things in a more sober perspective after each revelation. In fact, it becomes less matter of something revealed to us and more a matter of something we realise – which is to say, make real.
The true magicians are not such by virtue of what they do but of what they are. It is, of course, truly said that “by their works shall ye know them” – but those works are never “done”. The magician, like the Taoist, achieves without acting, and like Eastern counterparts, acts without lust of result.
The way that followers of the Western Tradition must express themselves is in their everyday life and every single occult principle can be used as a model for some quite ordinary behaviour. By far the simplest example is known as working out Karma.
Now everything we do generates consequences. This may sound trite but a little indulgence here might bring some new way of looking at things. Most early training in the Western Tradition is designed to bring practitioners face to face with the links between what they do and what happens in consequence. Qabalistically this is the link between Yesod and Malkuth. It is only when we realise the consequences of our actions that we can begin to see things as they are. And only then does it make sense to talk about changing ourselves.
Because we are responsbile for all the rippling outcomes and by products of the things we do, then sooner or later we will have to deal with them. Not everything we do produces a “pure” effect well, not unless we are already Adepts. By various distortions, ‘in-adequacies’, ‘mistakes’ and ‘imbalances’ the result is not entirely what we expected. Sometimes, too, there are natural by-products that we just failed to take into account. Whatever the reasons, we find things occurring in the world for which we are unexpectedly accountable.
As we become more aware of ‘how things are’, so we notice these things more often and more accurately. The longer unwanted consequences, inapproprate by-products, are left the harder it is to deal with them. They can mount up, form groupings, ‘complexes’, of inter-reactions until they becomes further causes in their own right. We are absolutely responsible at this level for every effect and subsequent effect.
What then can we do? Certainly not sit back and attempt to take no action whatsoever. This is just as much ‘meddling’ as constantly manipulating the life force that flows in and around you. To fail to act when action is required will itself bring consequences. Such is our errant nature that we usually find ourselves at one or other of the extremes of involvement and attached non-involvement.
To be a Master or Mistress of the Art of Life we need to act exactly as required by the life within us, forceful and assertive here, passive and responsive there. A tall order and a difficult task to even begin to work on without that initial consciousness of consequences.
So here is a little exercise that is deceptively simple in the telliing but most effective in the doing. Expressed simply it goes “Whatever you do, tidy up as you go along”. There, easy, isn’t it?
Well, at the first level we have those who reject it as a bit of nonsense and will not even try it out.
For anyone still reading, we have the second level where it seems to say that you should “tidy up after you”. We have most of us been told that at some time or other and, naturally, rebelled against it. But remember, after doing a certain task, after finishing it, the debris and tools we used are left lying around and these represent the karmic “side effects” of our action. So when we finish the job we have this great task of clearing up to do. This is not what is meant by “tidy up as you go along”.
At the next level of understanding we see that until the job is complete we are surrounded by its side effects. This can be a problem when the job is a long one or when other more important (or more pleasant!) tasks come,up. And here we can get those “second order” effects. For example, a spade left out in the weather will begin to rust and its wooden handle will begin to crack. So there is now more work to do, more tasks to deal with, than there was. And these occur purely through side effects rather than direct action. Stop and think for a moment how this might apply to your own life situation.
Now if you think that this means you should keep putting things away after each time you use them, then think again. For it might just be that you store things too far away from where they are used. Otherwise, it is just as easy to put something down in place as out of place. Now apply these ideas to the way you live. Do not think that I am trying here to put forward some sort of moralistic view about “being tidy” in any sort-of sterile clinical or “fussy” sense, I merely invite you to see how you yourself do tnings and then realise that your life and its karma runs the same way. Change these things and you change your karmic consequences. It is up to you to see these connections and act on them if you wish.
So you may reach this stage where no matter how many things you have “in progressU at a time, there is very little evidence of the unwanted consequences. You can stop at any stage and have everything where it should be.
Good grief, you might say, we’d be for ever tidying up and not get anything done. Fine. But try it and then prove it for yourself. Let’s not be extreme though. When making a chair, you might leave it half-finished and glueing on the work bench. You might leave the dinner cooking on the stove. Certainly the very thing that is happening would not be “tidied away!”. But the side effects, the unwanted consequences, the hammer and drill, the olive oil and pepper, these would all have been taken care of immediately as an on-going and integral part of the process.
Not only can you see what your karmic effects are like by watching your “tidying” habits, but you can also change the one by changing the other. A discipline like this spreads to your every act. You will learn to distinguish between essential act and side effect, and error. Or, in everyday terms these are cooking dinner (essential act), using a chopping board (side effect), spilling flour (error). You will also learn that sometimes the very way in which you approach something ties you up in consequences, when it need not do so if tackled in a different way. Again, this applies to life and karma too as when you become apparently “trapped” in the day-to-day patterns and feel that your creativity is stifled. You will also learn which things are worth taking on and which not, and with this knowledge comes the ability to take things on in full knowledge and acceptance of all that they entail.
Finally, you learn to live with a minimum of consequence, smoothly, effortlessly, taking up each thing that comes along in quiet confidence. You will be as a boat that though it cuts the water ahead, leaves it smooth and whole behind. No longer will you approach life like an axe splintering a wooden door. Like the Tao, you will achieve without acting.
Then, of course, you can start to achieve in harmony with the rest of the universe. But that is something else again…