East vs. West

I’ve observed over the years one thus far unresolvable tension between two of my most fundamental life principles. On one hand, I have a deep appreciation for the Eastern/Buddhist notion of non-attachment, of staying in the moment to savor a deep appreciation for the full flowering of every moment. This is an essential component of happiness; staying in the moment cultivates a sense of appreciation for what one actually has, not a sense of loss or lack for what one does not have.

On the other hand, I am also a believer in the Western/Neopagan notion of magick; of creation of one’s reality. Any sort of responsible, grounded magickal work of this sort requires a deep sense not only of where one is, but also of where one wants to go. So by looking forward in order to make an informed choice about which possible reality one wants to cultivate, one must by definition not focus one’s attention on the present moment.

So how do you resolve them? How do you look forward and make responsible choices, while at the same time cultivating awareness of the present? Once possible answer is that looking ahead requires a firm sense of where one is, a sense that is served by Buddhist present awareness. So we’re back to the classic sense of moderation; one shouldn’t spend too much time in either place, but must, in the words of Nietzsche, “lie in ambush, observing oneself from behind”; while one is in one state, one must be prepared to leap into the other. Opportunities will present themselves; one must have courage to make the most of these opportunities.

And there are signs that one is spending too much time in either place. If one is unhappy, and spends energy lamenting what one does not have, then it is a sure sign that too much focus is on the future. On the other hand, if one remains passive and fails to move anywhere, fails to create realities, then one may need to spend more time cultivating one’s reality.

Lastly, one must keep these two modes in perspective in terms of time. The present is the here and now, it is what we have; all of our past experience culminates in the facticity of the present moment. The past and the future are both shadowy; they don’t exist in terms of consciousness except in memory or imagination. There are futures that are more probable than others, but this just indicates the amount of work necessary to alter one’s present trajectory. So in that sense it is impossible to do good magick without a deep awareness of what one actually has; indeed this awareness is necessary because we must have something solid, something definite against which to imagine alternatives. You have to know where you are in order to know where you are going.

But overall, I think the lesson here is that while it can be healthy to imagine “what ifs,” in order for them to be healthy they must be grounded in the here and now. Part if this means that if your “what ifs” involve other people (as they nearly always do), one must take into account the choices of these other people. Hopefully, we are in a position when we do our magickal work, that we can do them together with those around us. But then, such alignment of one will amongst many is itself a tremendous amount of work.

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