I was 12 years old and had been studying the paranormal since 2nd grade, when a friend of mine ran up to me in the school library with the book Real Ghosts by Daniel Cohen, which contained alleged photographs of—well, real ghosts. From there, I eagerly devoured everything I could find in the school and local municipal libraries about ghosts, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot, Fortean Phenomena, vampires/werewolves/demons, etc. These subjects comprise a large part of the body of literature I would consider to be ultimately metaphysical in nature. Even before I knew what the word meant, I knew that’s what I was after: metaphysical truth, or as close as I could get without melting my wings and falling to my death (What? Greek mythology? Ummm, that was a Nintendo reference…).
I suppose, then, that I was well-enough prepared for what transpired one scorching summer afternoon in Northern California—what I consider to be the “porch” or “entrance” to my magical Initiation.
I was walking through “the greenbelt” (a nicely-manicured and landscaped blacktop pathway linking adjacent subdivisions via foot and bicycle traffic) with a friend of mine who was about a year older than I. Let’s call him M., for two reasons:
- That was the first letter of his name.
- For the fun of mimicking Theosophy’s Master Morya—why the hell not? Like the Masters, you can decide whether you think M. was real or I am just making this up.
We approached a playground with a shaded drinking fountain and stopped at the oasis for water. As usual, the water that initially came out was hot. The weird thing was, it seemed to be staying hot for far longer than it usually did (I stopped there frequently on bike rides—I’m telling you, I knew this fountain.) I stood there with my finger under the hot stream, feeling for it to cool off, and I watched as M. plucked a leaf from a nearby tree, held it up, closed his eyes, mouthed an inaudible chant, opened his eyes, and touched the leaf to the stream of water. As my fingers had remained in the stream the whole time, I tell you now the water went ice-cold the second the leaf touched the stream.
I looked over at M. and asked him, “How did you do that?”
His matter-of-fact response was, “magic.” He said it deadpan, like he meant it.
Given my background, of course, I was willing to at least hear him out.
That afternoon, we would sit in the grass by the greenbelt and have a frank discussion about energy work. By that time, I’d known maybe the first thing about auras and such, but what M. was talking about was essentially using the Will to move different types of energy, and how that energy could be used in conjunction with certain materials like crystals and even glass. He taught me that it could be stored in such materials for later use, like a battery, or that it could be focused directly through the medium (particularly if properly-shaped, like a quartz point) and projected for immediate application. He taught that this could be used to harm or to heal. He taught that we have internal access to certain types of energy, but that it could also be gathered through various means (including vampiric/parasitic modes, as well as less-predatory modes like absorbing it from plants and trees). It was very dualistic, but it formed the basis of a technology that had the golden quality of being applicable within or without other symbol systems. It was synthetic in that it could be applied under many different interpretations. It just worked if you paid attention and gave it a chance. By the end of the afternoon, I had already done my first exercises with him. I took to it like a fish to water.
I’d try experiments with “muggle” friends to see if this was legit. I remember asking a friend to just close his eyes and tell me what he felt, and I placed my hands to either side of his head, but a foot or so away, and focused on making him dizzy—and that was what happened. Had I suggested some similar effect just by asking him to entertain my curiosity? Maybe—but maybe not, right?
The energy work formed one facet of the basic skills M. taught me; the other half of praxis was spirit communication. You see, when I asked M. where he himself had learned these things, he told me that he’d been directly taught by a goddess. It wasn’t a goddess I have ever recognized in my subsequent years of study, and to this day, I’m not sure I believe him. Nonetheless, M. helped me get in touch with my “spirit guides,” and we had lots of discussions about what spirits actually are (or might be)—discussions of a metaphysical-verging-on-ontological nature. He never gave me neat answers, but instead challenged me to always question what really matters. He taught me that one could initiate contact with an entity without regard for its metaphysical status (i.e., how “real” it is) and get fruitful results independent of such considerations altogether. He taught me that just the right balance of faith and skepticism (a dynamic balance, to be sure, which must be constantly adjusted) could work wonders.
Between the energy work (“Yang” mode), the spirit contact (“Yin” mode), and the multiplicity of viable philosophical theories underpinning their practice and employment, I had everything I would ever need in my toolbox for plumbing the absolute depths of magic and mysticism. In 20 years, I have come nowhere near exhausting all there is to glean from them.
The major thing that stands out to me about the phenomena M. demonstrated from time to time is their utter ambiguity. I can believe that M. did something to that water fountain that somehow caused the water to get cold at just that moment, and I can believe it was dumb luck. I can also believe something even “wider” and synchronistic might have occurred.
M. used to do things like point his finger and change stoplights, too. Trickery or magical powers? Or, again, dumb luck? I could never decide, and M. would never push me one way or another—and for both facts, I remain eternally grateful.
In teaching me lessons about magic, M. would readily draw from whatever symbol systems surrounded him, which included Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan). In all seriousness, he once told me, “The folks at Wizards of the Coast know something.” To him, magic was not simply white or black—though those were genuine paths as well—but also green, red and blue. He was a “Druid,” the rank beyond “Green Mage,” and he shamelessly built an entire magical mythos on this framework ripped directly from a fantasy card game, and showed me how it worked. And I worked it. I never even thought to confront him about what he was teaching me because I already understood that the symbols were not the point—and that he knew I knew that.
To him, Green Magic was the magic of nature, the Fae, earth, and especially the woods. It centered around trees and plants—a Green Mage drew their energy from the same. The drawing is not parasitic or predatory, but symbiotic. Just as the carbon dioxide we exhale nourishes plant life, the oxygen plants exhale nourishes us—and “as above, so below”—so the same holds true on an energetic level. There is an exchange, a balance. The energy taken by the Green Mage is only surplus, or that which is freely-distributed anyhow.
In contrast with this, he taught me to avoid “Red Magic”—the magic of anger, passion, power and destruction—the magic of fire. A Red Mage was a lot like a Sith Lord, drawing their energy from anger, scorn, ambition, pride, and animal passions.
Me being me, I dabbled in Red Magic on my own, never speaking of it with M. (though I know he could tell anyhow, for it does leave a mark on one)—and for a time, it consumed me. This choice has inexorably and radically impacted the course of my entire life thereafter—but then again, such a choice was in my very nature to begin with. As such, I haven’t a single regret. Things happened the way they were meant to.
Once I’d learned enough, M. had a formal initiation ceremony of sorts planned out for officially bestowing upon me the title of “Green Mage.” It was a trippy night, I’ve got to tell you. There was wind and terror, there was a touch of levity, there was irony, and of course, there was ambiguity. I will not publish what took place that night, for it is sacred—I have learned the hard way that sharing some arcana can serve only to diminish their power, as their chief meaning is to oneself. There is nothing more deflating than relating the tale of one of your most transformative experiences and having the listener respond with, “Huh.” Some tales, however, are of such a nature that there is virtually no other viable response—so, word to the wise: Just keep them to yourself.
There is a reason I feel so compelled to share these experiences with anyone who might be reading a blog like this one. In part, there is a desire for Recognition, but more than that, there is the genuine hope that it encourages someone else who treads a similar path. You’re not alone. Someone else has been on similar turf, and yeah, life is pretty fuckin’ strange.
I have ulterior motives, however, aligning closely with those that fed into my writing of Spiritually Inappropriate. There is relevance here to issues like spiritual/cultural appropriation and the viability of paths like chaos magic, which is somehow still controversial.
I also feel it is important to share this story because it lays the groundwork for posts I have planned for future publication. It seems relevant for readers of this blog to understand that the above teachings have inexorably informed my perspective on the occult. Before I ever read a single book about sorcery or divination, this is what what the word “magic” meant to me. I did not find my way into magic by walking into the occult section at Border’s, nor was I directly initiated by some relatively reputable order—my situation, though it has many advantages, has also amounted to a very lonely path to which few people, I’ve found, can truly relate. There is at one and the same time a heightened level of credibility to the fact that I was initiated into magic, rather than stumbling my own way through, but there is also something dubious about being taught magic by a 13 year-old who used tabletop games as some of his core material.
In short, it explains a lot—and if you’ve humored me for this long, I thank you.