Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Last spring, I began studying Baguazhang. I had spent the year before acclimating to a new job that required me to be in an office forty hours a week. About eight months into my tenure as an office dwelling pencil pusher I started feeling sick. My body ached. My stomach was constantly in shambles. I started shaking all the time. This wasn’t surprising considering the lack of physical activity I was getting between my day job and producing music at home. Both of these things required me to be sedentary for upwards of eighteen hours a day. I would go to bed and repeat the cycle the next day, which, in retrospect is a horrifying experience to re-live in my mind. The process of breaking out of this self-destructive cycle began with my investigation into traditional Japanese fan dancing, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the fan dancing classes because they happened while I had work. The local Wing Chun school was quite promising, but it was about forty minutes away from where I lived. I did actually start doing Tai Chi for about two months with a rather nice group of people at the local Chinese Cultural center in Tucson, but I quickly bailed on them after realizing that it was a glorified swingers club for people above the age of 55.

I began searching for solutions closer to my apartment and discovered a school that taught internal Chinese martial arts literally a mile down the road. I wrote their association and was informed about their meeting times and attended my first class. The school was hidden in plain sight. The only indicator that the school was different than the houses around it were the two ivory “foo dogs” that stood watch at the entrance. When I entered, I was greeted by paintings and photos of smiling Bagua and Xingyiquan practitioners Dong Hai Chuan, Liang Zhenpu, Gao Yisheng, Zhang Junfeng, Li Guichang and a group of five people slapping the shit out of their bodies. At first I wanted to laugh, but I was quickly beckoned into the circle to join in on the “light” body slapping.

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I later discovered that light body slapping is done at the start of every class to essentially wake the body up by getting the blood flowing. In the context of my initiation this fit in well as a way to physically explore what it meant to literally go from white to red and back again. With every slap, my circulation improved, my blood rose to the surface of my skin, and for a few hours several times a week I began to realize the importance of using exercise as a way to quiet the brain.

Notice, I did not say my practice of Baguazhang shuts down the brain. Baguazhang is an internal martial art. It works by activating different structures in the brain that I don’t normally use while simultaneously quieting the prefrontal cortex. This allows me to stimulate a state of Flow by being able to focus wholly on what I’m doing without being interrupted by my self-consciousness. Bruce Lee referred to this as the “emptying of the cup.”

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Bagua has given me an outlet to stimulate my ability to achieve a state of Flow with greater frequency and ease. My initial experience with using martial arts in this way didn’t come until I was able to have a grasp the basics of my chosen fighting art. Which is why I’ve only really begun to write about it now–this is a new, unexpected development in my personal quest to constantly improve.

Flow requires us to bring several automatized skills together in order to kick up our focus to a level that allows us to experience it. It takes awhile when we begin to learn a new skill or artform before we can actually experience a brain quieting flow-state. Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” would describe this experience as “Transient Hypofrontality:”

“In flow, parts of the brain aren’t becoming more hyperactive, they’re actually slowing down, shutting down. The technical term for this is transient, meaning temporary, hypo frontality. Hypo[…]the opposite of hyper means to slow down, to shut down, to deactivate. And frontality is the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of will, your sense of self.”

I get a sense of deep embodiment when I practice Baguazhang. There’s nothing quite like being locked eye to eye with another person while focusing on multiple outlets of your own physicality. The ancient Greeks called this deep embodiment, ἔκστασις (Ekstasis). Ekstasis can be best described as an altered state beyond the normal “sense of self.” Ekstasis is NOT Flow, but it is a byproduct of being able to achieve Flow on a regular basis. In a Setian context, being able to experience Ekstasis means tapping into my “divine pattern.”

Now just imagine how amazing I feel by being able to achieve Ekstasis a several times a week! Baguazhang has all but become not only a powerful tool, but a conduit in which I can interface with my higher self so long as I continue to practice it or something like it.

Tapping into Flow takes practice. When it comes to my practice of Bagua I fail at tapping into it several times a session. This is usually caused by me trying to mentally dissect forms or movements. In terms of my physicality this “over-thinking” comes from making use of my prefrontal cortex.

I’ve experienced wonderful success imprinting myself with the overload of information I get from my practice the less “think” about it. And the less I think about it, the more I experience Ekstasis by having meaningful personal breakthroughs on a regular basis.

For instance, I was able to fully retain the positions of the nine palaces and the thirteen elbow form last month after working with them each for half an hour. Everything prior to that took several months for me learn. Part of my ability to retain this information comes from the challenge of seeing if I could actually do it, which I could surprisingly, but part of it also comes from a grasp of the basic movements I’ve spent perfecting since last spring.

Bagua has taught me how to get in touch with my immediate physicality–a.k.a. those things that I can see in the mirror. It has also taught me that I am fully capable of interfacing with of my physicality that I previously regarded as impossible to connect with like blood flow, internal energy, successful breathing, and various parts of my brain.

While it could be argued that certain notions of “emptying” the cup could be misconstrued as more of a right hand path philosophy I would argue that the “loss of self” that is experienced by learning to stimulate Flow through shutting down the prefrontal cortex requires the same control it takes to move our sovereign consciousnesses through the objective universe. “Emptying the cup” is something I do voluntarily for the purpose of stimulating Flow in an effort to connect with my divine pattern through Ekstasis.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Buying the Self

I woke up this morning and realized that I’m not okay. I realized that I am an easy going person. That I don’t let anything bother me. Even if those things should bother me. I blow them off with laughter, put on a facade, or use selective hearing to block them out. I figure that if my brain doesn’t register something as a conflict then I can avoid it.

For as long as I can remember I’ve regarded myself to be an autonomous individual. But honestly, that couldn’t be so far from the truth. I’m evasive. I care what other people think, and what I say always takes a back seat to the agendas of others.

Being an easy going person is wonderful for everyone–except yourself. You make certain concessions to your personality that allow you to “overlook” the shortcomings of others. To concepts that you disagree with. And to the situations that you could’ve avoided all together if you would’ve just put your foot down instead of doing the nice thing.

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The nice thing isn’t always the right thing. And as I’ve come to realize sometimes the right thing isn’t always nice. 

Courage is what makes this especially troubling to deal with. I tend to be naturally scared of the world. Of doing things. Of doing the things I like to do. Of telling people what I think. Typically, if the risk is too high I don’t bother to take it for fear of what might happen if I do.

It’s easy to look at initiation and simply say, “it’s hard.” Yeah–it’s hard. But that’s not enough of a reason to understand why it’s like that. Over the course of my own initiatory work I’ve become bombarded by ideas, personalities, and concepts that beg for you to accept them as valuable and worthy of assimilation into your own sense of self. At the end of the day though, the difference between a successful examination of these three things and a failed one is determined by a fine line how much of it you actually buy into.

The situation: You join the Temple of Set. You become excited at all the possibilities of having a magical school in your back pocket to use as a tool for your own initiation. You shred through all the materials available to you in the Crystal Tablet and at the end of the day you’re nodding your head. You agree with everything that you’ve read. And seeing that you’re in this for the long haul–you can’t afford to fail in understanding the basic ideas brought forth to you during your mutual evaluation period.

You’re sucking up this bombardment of ideas so fast that you’re absorbing none of it. And you’re losing the ideas so quickly that you don’t have any way to clean yourself up long enough to make any sense of it. Yes, the Setian method of initiation is messy. But make no mistake, there are no shotgun weddings in the Temple of Set.

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So you got your blue belt in a year at your local McDojo. What a badass you are. I’m sure you earned it. You earned that blue belt in a year because you bought into it. With money. Just so your Ted Danson lookalike of a sensei could proclaim that you had the skills to pay his bills with your credit card. At least you look smooth in that gi.

I’m rolling my eyes right about now.

Cultivating self-honesty is partially responsible for why initiation is exceedingly difficult to continue paying attention to over time.

Nothing in your world worth doing is ever easy.

And just because you understand something doesn’t mean that you must also agree with it.

Buying into every idea that comes your way makes you less of an individual. Being open to the possibility of philosophical, ethical, and logical divergence, however, does make you become more like yourself. Having the bellyfire to disagree with an idea, a concept, or a person gives you a good indicator that you’re headed in the right (or should I say left?) direction that’s both unique and individual to your initiatory needs.

And that babycakes, is why Xeper is endless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buying the Self

Almost Certain Hurt

I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things lately. Death is among one of the most intriguing things I’ve really been jumping into. I feel that as I’ve grown older it’s around me more and more. I’m more keen to it.

Winners and losers. They will always be there. Last year, I stepped on a few people consciously. For the first time in my life I stood by myself first and let other people in my life take a back seat. When we stand to lose the things important to us we have two options. One, we can choose to be stepped on–because we’re too scared at the possible consequences that might come out of being the one who does the stepping. Two, we break a few eggs.

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Belief. We make up a large majority of the things that cause us almost certain hurt inside of our heads. Selective hearing. We can consciously choose to elect ignorance in the same way that we consciously choose to fuck a few people over in our lives to get ahead. Fucking other people over isn’t exclusive to those subjectively evil individuals in the world.

We are held back because we hold ourselves back. Desire. He who restrains it does so because he is weak enough to be restrained. But why? Because we are taught that weakness is okay. Weakness is not okay. Weakness means you are not fit. Not being fit means you’re off to the gallows. You dig the holes and bury yourselves.

Everything we know, everything that we think we know exists only on the basis of what we experience. What we perceive. There are so many things out there in the so-called universe that we cannot perceive. An infinity of possibilities, an ocean of knowledge you and I will never know or understand. I used to think that uploading my consciousness into a computer would be the most sovereign thing for me to do at the end of my life. But now I’m not so sure. What part of my monkey brain wants to keep living on in the same way that I do now?

Almost Certain Hurt

The Year L Review: Self-Discipline as Heroism

It’s been quite the year. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that I’m still writing on this blog. I’ve started and stopped so many blogs and websites over the years that I find it hard to believe I’ve actually stuck with it for an entire year. We’ll see if I make it through another one! Self-discipline is heroic!

(Below is my victory dance)!

I figured today would be as good as any to write out a list of some of the awesome shit I did this year. To be honest, I would say this was probably the most memorable year of my life, and here I thought 2012 was the pinnacle! It just goes to show you how surprising life can be.

  1. I read more books this year than I’ve read any other year of my life. A few of the highlights include: Harry Browne’s “How I Became Free in an Unfree World,” Anton LaVey’s “The Compleat Witch,” Taylor Ellwood’s “Pop Culture Magick,” and Ouspensky’s “The Psychology of Man’s Evolution.”
  2. I got into listening to podcasts. I fucking love Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. His World War I podcast is a masterpiece. Radiolab’s podcasts are short and sweet, and packed full of interesting conversation starters. Joe Rogan’s podcast is interesting too–but that’s a sometimes food.
  3. I traveled to Spain. Beautiful country. I want to live there! Marbella is basically one of my favorite spots in the universe.
  4. I had a crazy twelve hour surgical procedure on my skull to soften it up in order to become more passable as a woman. So far, so good!
  5. I moved from the east coast to the west coast. West coast best coast!
  6. Traveled all over the U.S. Spent a fuckload of time in Dallas Airport. I would say it became my second home this year.
  7. Went to South Carolina in a hurricane, with floods everywhere. That was fun. And underwhelming. Ain’t nothing but a thing!
  8. Played a lot of different games this year. My favorites include: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fallout 4, Wonder Project J2, Knuckles Chaotix, and Magician Lord.
  9. While we’re on the video game subject we setup the ultimate retro setup in my self-improvement chamber. We have everything! NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, 32X, Sega Saturn, N64, PSX, PS2, Dreamcast etc. It’s pretty awesome having access to every old school game that we grew up with.
  10. I released an album and an EP amidst all the crazy that was 2015: http://gothicelectric.bandcamp.com http://starseatworlds.bandcamp.com
  11. I got a drum set! Fuck yeahhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s about time. Now I can truly be a one woman band!
  12. I started doing karaoke regularly.
  13. I started watching anime, and loving it. Some of my favorites from this year were Shimoneta, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and One Punch Man.
  14. I finally watched Neon Genesis Evangelion. I also started watching Ranma 1/2. Needless to say I’m in love.
  15. I journaled more than I ever have this year. I’m a badass note taker. No, you can’t copy off of my notes!
  16. I finally got my own place that wasn’t shared with roommates. Am I sovereign yet mom?
  17. I finally got around to watching Game of Thrones. The Red Wedding was pretty awesome, the Purple Wedding was even better. Arya Stark is my favorite!
  18. Learned a lot more Japanese than I did last year. I’m doing this very casually. I could probably be a little more heroic about learning it faster.
  19. I cut out Facebook from my life. This wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
  20. I turned thirty. Thirty is a club. For those of you still in your twenties you’ll see what I mean when you get your membership card in the mail.
  21. I got a brand new kitten. She’s wonderful in every single way!

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The Year L Review: Self-Discipline as Heroism

The Intent Funnel: Practical Typhonian Magic for the Practical Typhonian

Back in 2011 I had a really tough choice to make. It was a little after a year since I rebounded from rock bottom. The year before I was so broke that I almost prostituted myself in order to pay for tuition to one of the many expensive New England universities. As my bills closed in all around me, I desperately started applying for jobs everywhere. Somehow, by some immense luck I was hired to work the world’s shittiest retail job. This job wasn’t glamorous or fun by any means, but it paid the bills. By the end of 2011 I decided that I had a choice:

1. Finish my school and be more in debt than I could ever hope to pay back with the English degree I was going for.

or

2. Buckle up and work my ass off in order to work towards paying for facial feminization.

I chose to buckle up.

Fast forward to 2015, it was a solid choice that paid off. I’m always worried that I’m a goddamn quitter, but I suppose that’s not an accurate observation of myself. I’m just not a multi-tasker—because who believes in that bullshit phenomena? I had the foresight to understand the needs of my big SELF and ran with it. If I had decided to go the school route I probably would’ve ended up quitting eventually anyway.

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During this four year period, I read absolutely nothing. Unless you count Kotaku, but let’s get real, Kotaku doesn’t count. Reading Kotaku is more like reading a coloring book. I probably killed more brain cells reading it than if I had read nothing at all. Amidst all of this heavy mental lifting I ultimately decided in late 2014 that I needed something to rekindle my reading spirit. Enter Ipssismus Don Webb’s book “The Seven Faces of Darkness: Practical Typhonian Magic” (#2AG). I was drawn to this book for a few reasons:

1. Its scarcity. At the time there weren’t any reprints available for any of Ipsissmus Webb’s more popular Rûna-Raven books. It made me want to get a hold of it even more.

2. I had just finished marathoning American Horror Story: Coven. This show was rocket fuel for me.  It definitely inspired me to investigate the Left Hand Path moreso than I had done in the past.

3. At the time, I recently played Bayonetta 2 and replayed Bayonetta 1. As someone who once sang about dissecting angels in a Satanic Black Metal band I felt connected with Bayonetta on a visceral level. A witch that kicked angels asses? I could see myself doing that. What was the next best thing? Investigating the writings of Ipsissmus Webb of course! I can’t explain how that works into any kind of rational thought, but that’s how it went!

Initially, I decided against buying (#2AG) in light of the fact that it was going for almost $300 USD on Amazon. I found a really crappy PDF copy of this book online that I had to reformat. I eventually ended up buying physical copies of Ipsissimus Webb’s entire Rûna-Raven backlog from Lodestar after they were re-printed earlier this year (2015).

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As someone who knew absolutely nothing about traditional ceremonial magic “The Seven Faces of Darkness” proved to be an invaluable resource. If I could call (#2AG) anything I would call it a crash course in what it means to be a practical traveler upon the seemingly not-so-practical roads of the Left Hand Path initiate. The Left-Hand Path isn’t exactly the easiest thing to understand from the outside looking in. “Seven Faces” gave me a small taste on some of the more intricate aspects of a traditional magical system–Hermeticism, without overwhelming me with the drier details. Those drier details I found later in other books like Ipsissimus Flowers “Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris” (#3Y), and Franz Bardon’s “Initiation into Hermetics.”

I will admit, upon my first reading of “The Seven Faces of Darkness” I felt very confused about what I needed to take away from it. I found Chapter 6 on “Spells” to incredibly useless—at first. The selection of the PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae) available in this chapter is home to some pretty heinous shit. The first time I read the words for the Coptic spell “Oil Spell for Sealing a Marriage with Hot Sex” I laughed a little bit. I couldn’t ever see myself using most of these spells within the context of how they were written. As I look back at them a year later, I see something different. I see examples–models which I can apply to my own workings.

As a former English major I take an interest in understanding context. Especially with details that might not be entirely apparent at first glance. For example, Dante’s “Inferno” can be interpreted as an allegory for the political conflict going on in Florence during the 14th century between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. Dante even puts people he actually knew in real life, like Filippo Argenti, in the poem.

(Incoming EXTREMELY loaded paragraphs…)

Of course, understanding the historical context of something seven hundred years old isn’t nearly as difficult as trying to ascertain the “assumed” to be second and third century contextual meanings of Hermeticism. I say assumed, because there are so many details we don’t know about Marsilio Ficino’s translation of the “Corpus Hermetica.” The “Corpus Hermetica” was “lost” during the middle ages but magically reappeared after the de Medici family acquired it somewhere in Byzantine.

Alchemy was in vogue during the Renaissance and much of the Ficino translation—appears to be biased towards the “lead to gold” obsession of the seventeenth century. Regardless, let’s assume his translation is based off of authentic texts used to compile the Hermetic Corpus. It’s still not first hand information. I would say it’s more like third or fourth hand information. Contextually, much of what we have from Ficino’s translation is through the lens of the seventeenth century alchemical philosophy and not from the entire perspective of the second century author(s) of the Hermetic Corpus.

canto 14 the inferno The Violent tortured in the rain of fire

Much of what the original authors of the PGMs were going for have been all but lost. Unless, of course, we take an educated guess as to what they were going for and applying that knowledge to what we know about Greek, Coptic, and Demotic traditions and languages.

Ipsissimus Webb writes, “Postmodern theories argues that magical language isn’t gibberish, but an appropriate form of discourse with another realm of existence.” (15) I appreciate the fact that he included a detailed analysis of three Hermetic workings in Chapter 2. It breaks down the seemingly confusing  spells as models for further assumed understanding of magical formulae. We can be apply this model to other Initiatory practices/traditions.

The PGM may seem especially dangerous to those unfamiliar with it, in light of the fact that we don’t necessarily understand the context of, or the exact precise meaning or pronunciations of words written down in these works. When we say words like “BOLCHOSÊTH” without any knowledge as to what that word means, what is that doing for us? For all we know when we say this word our subjective interaction with it might send an encoded message to ourselves that may cause some unintended consequence in our “world.” Though, this sort of superstitious Mickey Mouse bullshit sounds closer to a Right Hand Path contextual understanding of the PGM.

Herein lies the most interesting aspect to (#2AG). When does historical context become useless in terms of applying it to the use of magical technology?

Even after we begin to recognize simple formulaic words such as BOLCHOSÊTH as “Ba’al strikes Set” are we even pronouncing it correctly (BOLE-CHO-SEET)? For all we know this could be the wrong pronunciation of the word. We don’t know for sure! We’re two thousand years away from understanding the actual implied context of the words found in the PGM. For all we know pronouncing BOLCHOSÊTH as “BOLE-CHO-SEET” with a hard “T” sound at the end instead of a soft “TH” sound could make the word mean something entirely different.

For a more up to date example let’s look at the Japanese words for cute and scary:

Scary is kowai (怖い,こわい) . ko – why

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Cute is kawaii (可愛い,かわいい) ka – wa – ii

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Notice senpai–that these words sound awfully similar to the Western ear. However, they mean the exact opposite thing in relationship to one another. One lazy delayed pronunciation of 可愛い (kawaii) might make your Japanese friends think your waifu is a scary bitch! Case in point, you used a word with the wrong pronunciation and it produced a different result than you anticipated.

For another example see “Army of Darkness” and Ash trying to say the words “klaatu barada nikto” correctly:

“WAIT A MINUTE. EVERYTHING’S COOL. I SAID THE WORDS. I DID!”

So why is all of this vital to our usage of ancient magical technology?

Well—the fact of the matter is, context isn’t all that important. Unless of course you’re using the PGMs or magical technology like it under the veil of superstition. Only then does context become everything. This why magical technology, in general, can be dangerous to use. If your subjective sense of self perceives a misalignment of context to be dangerous in the usage of magical technology then it will pose an actual danger to your subjective self.

Seeing beyond this, my biggest takeaway from (#3AG)  with regards to magic is that magic comes from you. It doesn’t come from saying ABLANATHANALBA sixteen times or from the trappings of the ritual chamber. Magic comes from you, and the only thing that is vitally important to its use is intent. Everything else is auxiliary to the usage of the PGM or other forms of magical technology. Understanding how to formulate more and more accurate forms of intent in the magical chamber is much like habit forming (think neuroplasticity)–it takes practice. Webb writes “The magician will (after practice) free him-or herself from the text, and as each successful immortalization of the soul occurs, the magician begins to act on a more and more divine level. For the advanced magician every act becomes a magical one. He or she is said to have become magic (heka) itself.” (39)

Acting on a “more and more divine level” screams to me as being able to form clearer and more clearer routes of concise and exact modes of intent in the magical chamber. We practice this “freeing” from the text as Ipsissimus Webb writes in order to get magic to do what we want it to do, which may not be what the authors’ of the original texts had intended for a working . “Each successful immortalization of the soul” or intent is accomplished by practicing this over and over again. Only when we truly “say what we mean and mean what we say” with regards to our intent in the usage of magical technology can we “become heka” itself.

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The Intent Funnel
I created a graph called “The Intent Funnel” to illustrate the various levels of effectiveness in terms of formulating an accurate intent for workings. You can chart intent on this graph based its specificity. The more specific the intent the better—obviously. The more vague, the easier it is to read anything as a possible result from your workings. I tend to think this is bad, especially in operative workings where you’re trying to accomplish a specific thing. A vague example of intent in an operative working would be “I want to be rich!” You didn’t say by what means you wanted to be rich, and you didn’t give yourself a time frame. You also didn’t even say what you wanted to be rich in. For all you know you could become rich in sorrow! Which is why this sounds like a vague mode of intent to me. That would be charted right at the very top of the graph.

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Examples of Intent and where they chart on the funnel.
On the other hand, an example of a more specific mode of intent would sound something like this: “I want to go to Harvard to study astrophysics with Dr. Von Loki and graduate in 2019.” This would be charted closer to the bottom of the graph as it is much more specific than the first example.

To conclude, Intent is not wishing for something to happen. Intent is like a GPS, and magical technology is like the car. The destination is the result of a working. You may want to go down the road that might result in making you part of the nouveau-riche elite, but unless you program your GPS with precision, you might be taking the long way to get there.

The Intent Funnel: Practical Typhonian Magic for the Practical Typhonian