"Magick" is the art of rewiring your brain. It is the art of changing yourself—and therefore changing the universe (at least as you perceive it). As above, so below.
If you change your story about your life, you will change your life.
If you change how you perceive the world, you will change your experience of the world.
If you change how you remember the past, you will change your future.
Over the course of our entire lives, we've been building up an intricate model of existence. We've constructed it from all of our experiences, our education, the expectations of the people around us. In fact, we've been doing nothing but building up this model since we were born, trying to understand the universe and our place in it.
We've been doing it for so long, in fact, that we've forgotten that it is indeed just a model. We take our constructed map of what the universe is and mistake it for reality. In effect, we fall asleep. And this is what human beings have been doing for all of history—mistaking their maps of existence for existence itself. Sometimes people even get so sure about their maps that they're willing to fight, die and kill over them. And this is the great tragedy we call history.
But our maps are just maps. And the universe is potentially infinite.
Magick is the art of rewiring your brain. Redrawing your map. As above, so below.
If you purposefully make changes to your map, you will experience life in a completely different way.
What's the key to doing this? Altered states of consciousness. It's within altered states of consciousness that we can reach into our unconscious mind and start reprogramming ourselves. (If you've downloaded our free ebook on sigils, you'll know exactly how to do that.)
But what exactly do we mean by altered states of consciousness? Below, I've broken down a few that can be particularly useful for magick of any type.
By the way, this is for informational purposes only. Don't do anything stupid or illegal.
1. Meditative Focus
The magical trance par excellance is meditative focus. This allows you to hone your nervous system to focus on exactly one thing at a time, and holding that state for hours at a time when you get good. Indeed, most of the other magical trances are just shortcuts to get to the states produced by a serious and heavy meditation practice.
Meditation consists of several stages, known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which culminate in the ability to hold one's entire focus on whatever is chosen for hours (or longer) on end. This takes as long to learn as any athletic discipline, but the results are well worth it. (We offer a course on the eight limbs of yoga here.)
2. Sleeplessness, Fasting, Exhaustion
These extremities of biology are notable for long having been the province of monastics (as well as shamans). Medieval literature is full of accounts of penitents, flagellants and other ascetics who practiced extreme physical hardships like the above as ways of inducing visions or religious states.
These can most definitely aid you in achieving magical consciousness, and entering states that allow significant reprogramming of the mind. However, they're not particularly sustainable, especially in the modern world, where people have day jobs. Unless you have a lifestyle that allows you to, say, fast for a week without affecting your income, then be sparing with these. Likewise, even short periods of sleeplessness can affect your cognitive performance long term (particularly as you get older). On the other hand, fasting for a day or two can be an excellent way to reset the body and mind, and enter some light magical consciousness in a way that won't affect your life significantly.
Shamans throughout history have been notorious for using the full pharmacopoeia of mind-altering substances available to humanity in order to induce magical trance. The psychedelic literature contains vast amounts of information on the use and abuse of such substances, the states of consciousness they engender, and how to effectively navigate them.
There's a lot of problems with this approach, however. First and foremost, most of these substances are illegal. Second, a lot of them are toxic to the body and brain, and will f*ck your sh't up in the long run. Third, they're quite hard to control. Whereas getting good at meditation will allow you to enter magical trance for exactly the amount of time you need—10 minutes, an hour, or whatever—chemicals will leave you incapacitated and in a state that you won't be able to effectively harness for magic for way too long—six hours, twelve hours, twenty-four hours...
That means that while chemognosis may be the easiest way to magical consciousness, it is also the one that carries the most negative consequences, and the one that is hardest to control.
4. Sensory Deprivation or Overload
Sensory deprivation can be accomplished through all kinds of ways—sensory deprivation tanks certainly being a popular one. Meditation can also be of great help, and so can staying in nature or a cloistered room for long periods of time. Sensory overload can be achieved through all kinds of ways—sex, pain, dancing, drumming, chanting, Dervish spinning, bungee jumping, skydiving... I'm sure you'll think of lots more. The aim with each of these is to overload the body and mind to the point that the nervous system just gives up on normal discursive thought because it's either completely stilled or totally blasted.
Putting it All Together
All of these states and more can be used for effective magic—either in a ritual setting or not. Obviously, you should be able to tell that there's a lot more to magic than spooky rituals—imagine holding a sigil in your mind while skydiving, for instance (as mentioned above).
Of course, all of these states can and should be harnessed in traditional rituals, for instance in working with gods and spirits.
To learn more about how to tap into magical states of consciousness and structure them into ritual, you can take our structured courses on magical training, which offer everything you need to know to get into magical states of consciousness and then start working with them—in effect, the entire toolkit a young shaman or magician needs to start doing real, life-changing (and potentially world-changing—if you're good!) magick. Just check out the link below.
See you in class!