Greetings True Believers!
It might seem a bit odd – unless you are Dr. Strange or some other magickal denizen of the comic book universe – to associate modern occultism with straight-up super powers. And we’re not talking about something metaphorical like “to become more than human” – which means to become a self-actualized metaprogrammer who is literally awake inside their own skull. Nor are we talking about operative magick by which we invoke the spirits to manifest things that we need, or protect us from harm or even to heal the sick.
No, we’re talking about a belief in Hollywood-style super powers – like the ability to fly, dodge bullets, shatter prison walls, transform substances*, to live without food or water, direct lightning, become (literally) immortal and more.
(* And by “transform substances”, I don’t mean alchemy or anything spiritual like the Eucharist. I mean things like transforming illegal substances – locked in evidence lockers – into harmless legal substances to upset court cases. And, yes, that is an example of a claim I recently heard.)
Yes, it seems quite odd that anyone could approach magick from this kind of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or Hollywood fantasy standpoint – and take themselves seriously, let alone anyone else take them seriously. But it happens – maybe even more than you think it does. There are even would-be gurus out there who promise those kinds of super powers to their followers – for a price – and it appears they are not lacking in signed checks to cash, either.
Just this week, I have been dealing with one of these types on the Abramelin Yahoo Group. He swooped in from nowhere, his long cape fluttering in the winds of the Hoary Hosts of Haggoth, to inform the entire group (and especially me) that we don’t have a gnat’s ass clue what we are talking about. Where we discuss a “faux-HGA” that slowly guides and teaches an aspirant in the mysteries of magick, the real HGA is supposed to appear and (like Aladdan’s Genie) grant one instant super powers and unlock all the “secret keys” to make use of the Abramelin word-squares and even the Seals of Solomon.
The mere fact that we are sitting around discussing the HGA on a Yahoo Group, says the Great Master, illustrates that we don’t have a clue. He is here to (and I quote) “keep it real.” He “knows people” who can wave a pinkie finger and deadlock juries, dodge bullets, transform illegal substances and more. Not only this, but according to him real magicians don’t read books, nor should any who do read or write books be taken seriously. So not only does your Holy Guardian Angel make you a thunderbolt-wielding super hero, but you have to be illiterate to even get there. lol
Ok, yes, it’s funny and we can easily laugh at someone who is so obviously entrapped in his childhood fantasies. But there is also a more serious side of the coin: sometimes these types of people get their followers hurt or killed.
Peregrin Wildoak recently wrote his own blog article on this subject. In it, he brings up the practice known as “Breatharianism.” This is a practice whereby one gazes into the Sun each morning – a little at first, but increasing the time each day until one is staring into it for nearly an hour or more. The goal is to eventually take all of your necessary nutrients directly from the Sun, and leave behind your need for food or water. Why, I even read one article that suggested it would also give you psychic powers, telepathy, the ability to bi-locate and much much more!
And before you scoff at the very idea anyone could fall for that kind of nonsense, you should know that people have bought into it and even died in the attempt. One Breatharian leader was even challenged to prove she could go for a mere seven days without food or water - and the experiment was called off a few days in, as her body began to break down and lawyers told them they could be legally culpable for her death. She, meanwhile, spent the entire time insisting she was just fine and wanted to continue!
It is people like this that drag the entire subject of occultism down into the mud. Sometimes they get people hurt or killed. But most often they just swindle people out of a lot of money. You don’t know how many times I’ve been contacted by people who went to a self-proclaimed “healer” for a cleansing, only to be shown some kind of stage-magic trick and told they were cursed – a curse which could be removed for several hundred dollars. (And then several hundred more, and then…) Just read through the comments made on my Egg Cleansing post for a few examples. And they are just a few I’ve been able to warn away from being taken – I shudder to think of how many aren’t so lucky.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I know we’re dealing with a gray area here. As one who practices “operative magick” – that is magick done to make things happen in the real world – I know there is something of a fine line to walk. I deal with angels and spirits as if they were as real as you and I. I speak about jumping between realities as easily as an episode of Sliders. I speak of doing magick to bring money or physical objects when they are needed. I believe in curses and possession and hauntings, as well as in my own knowledge of how to break them.
Besides, miracles do happen. Maybe some of those old Saints or Eastern Gurus really did manage to levitate. Maybe Jesus really did raise Lazarus from the dead. Hell, for that matter, maybe Dee really did brew up a storm and sink the Spanish Armada. Anything is technically possible, so far be it from me to call every claim ever made hogwash. I’ve certainly seen my share of physics-defying events – blessed salt turned into pure light, disembodied sounds, ghosts. Why, once I even time traveled (though it only lasted a second and I was not apparently physically present in the time/place I traveled to).
But I find the charlatans are usually the ones insisting on the super powers. They’re trying desperately to sell you something, or to sell you on something. They, like our “Dr. Strange” from the Abramelin Group, loudly proclaim everyone else to be false pretenders while only they have access to the True Secrets of the Universe(tm). (And, most often, they follow that with a promise to teach them to you, and where you can send your check or money order…)
Real spiritual leaders will likely tell you the miracles and magickal powers are mere side-effects of the Great Work. They can happen, but they are something you earn by long years of practice and a hell of a lot of trial and error. And some of the more spiritual traditions (like some Buddhist sects) tell you to avoid them altogether.
Me, I’m striving for miracles on demand! But, seriously, the minute I start claiming that I can “eat sunlight” or fly up to the local 7-11 for a soda – just toss me in a padded room. ;)