We seek here to understand the device we term reality. It is a convenience, a model only and with it comes a paradox. Paradox is a frequent visitor to understanding, not to be sent away but to be welcomed and respected as a guest. Accept, become used to paradox and understanding will be its willing companion. Here is the first paradox we must work with: reality is merely a product of perception, perception is our subjective measure of reality and it is not possible to separate the two. Which is greater, which came first, the perception or the perceived? Did anything have reality until it was perceived and did perceiving it change any reality it might have had? For example, When we "look" at something we do not see the object itself, we see light reflected off it, into our eyes and we allow the living cells of retina, neurones and brain to make an interpretation of it. Any of these process may be flawed and are easily done so - we are all aware of how convincing a good sleight of hand conjurer is. Worse still, it is clear that the act of seeing something must change it, so can we really say the object is the same when it has light reflected off it and into our eyes than when it does not? The act of observing something must change it, to analyse a chemical in a chemistry lab it is often necessary to destroy it (or a part of it) in order to say what it is, the same with reality, in order to see an object we must bounce light off it, can we be sure that doesn't change it?
But we must not let paradox dismay us, always we can find questions that we cannot answer and we may devote energy to searching for answers that do not exist, energy that is wasted. We are often far better employed looking not at the questions, but at the answers we already have and from them trying to determine what the questions were! Life and existence is not a question, it is an answer, what we must seek is the question that brought it about.
We therefore need tools to examine reality (which I will use as a short way of saying "our perception of reality" for indeed that is what "reality" is for us). Without the light to reflect off the seen object we cannot perceive it, so how do we perceive reality, life and truth? We must have tools (such as light) and we can, if it is so desired use magical ritual as out tool for observing and perceiving forms of reality beyond the physical. In fact it will be seen that this is as good a tool as there is for our task, physical reality has given us enough problems as shown above, deeper reality puts us on even more tenuous ground. The magical act is a mechanism by which we lift ourselves up and out of the paradox by observing the observer (ourselves) as much as the observed (the reality) from outside the closed system containing both. To do this we need to remove our consciousness from the system, to achieve a state of consciousness that does not interact in any way with either the object or the observation (and therefore perception) of it. magical ritual is not of course the only way but it does encompass a great deal more techniques than might at first be thought. If we define magic (and this is the accepted definition of it) as "The bringing about of a change in our environment by an act of will" then it is easy to see how many magical acts we have already performed in our lives. It is, of course a matter of selecting the act (and the will) that will bring about the appropriate and desired change - to use an extreme example one does not travel to America from England by walking and swimming, one takes an aeroplane because it is the most appropriate action, we must realise with magic that it is not the only way, it may be the most appropriate but the aim may still be achieved by a more obvious (or in fact a less obvious) method, it is possible to reach America from England by walking and swimming but it would be a foolish man who did so . . . . . . assuming his aim was to reach America of course, if his aim was to prove it could be done on foot and in water then it would be a different matter - We must seek out the right question, not just the obvious one! We need to be clear therefore in using a developed ritual act of magic what the act will achieve and what the act itself is in itself. therefore I say, with humour though not without truth, that a higher state of consciousness may achieved by repeatedly jumping up and down or quoting 18th century French poetry at a lamppost - in fact the key to higher consciousness rests there, an act that prevents the everyday consciousness from interfering with the higher (or deeper) sub (or un) conscious by effectively occupying it with monotony, tedium or boredom, in effect, putting it to sleep - very often ritual magic makes use of what seems an absurdity or abstract to keep the conscious mind from blocking the sub conscious. OK, I will have to admit that the above suggestion, though it would probably work is the equivalent to trying to reach America by walking and swimming!
As an aside here, it will be seen that as I worked through my theories and came into my knowledge I maintained my proportionate sense of humour and these writings will inevitably reflect that.
Leaving for the time being the practical techniques for attaining higher consciousness in order to observe the perceived and the perceiver (ourself) we need to know what higher consciousness feels like, it is all too easy to trick the mind into believing it is in a higher state and indeed vast sums of money have been conned from people for time immemorial for exactly this trickery - see the American TV evangelists for details . . .
So how can we know when we have reached higher consciousness? What does it feel like to be there? How do we understand what higher consciousness is without the benefit of higher consciousness? Do you see the next paradox forming here: "We cannot achieve higher consciousness until we have achieved higher consciousness".
The solution is of course to approach the paradox from the answer, not the question. Since we know that we CAN achieve these states of higher consciousness so we must conclude that we have already have done so! I submit that at some point in our lives, albeit that we cannot always bring it instantly to mind, we have all lifted ourselves from our everyday consciousness and reached states far above it. Many of us do so each night as we dream (I do not wish to digress into dream theory here, suffice to qualify myself by saying that by no means all dreams are states of higher consciousness) and if it is still impossible for the reader to imagine a point in life when such a transition occurred it may be useful to remember that at the outset of our quest we did away with space as three dimensional and time as linear and so it may be easier to understand that everything we wish to do we have already done somewhere in (or out of!) space and time. I say that it may help to remember this but it may of course be entirely unhelpful to remind the confused reader of this at this point!!!
Well enough for now, but it needs to be pointed out that the mind is so easily fooled. It is entirely possible (and quite likely at the first attempts - as was the case with me) that the working of the rituals and meditation exercises can be used to fool the mind into thinking it has achieved something it has not. In fact much of the study of magical arts is in determining which events are wishful imaginings of the mind and which are objectively outside of the magician. It can, of course, as I'm sure the more astute reader will point out, be seen that since we have accepted reality as a mere perception then if we perceive ourselves to have transcended to a higher state of consciousness then we must have done so in "reality". Let such a reader be assured that the first time transcendence is achieved he will be left in no doubt whatsoever that such is the case, it is an experience of deep intensity and beautiful lightness of spirit born in the welling spring of wonder, no trickery of the mind, however devious, can emulate the first successful transcendence, when it happens for you you will know exactly what I mean. We must seek out doggedly the significance of each of our acts, the way our actions fill the pattern of reality, of life - without this seeking, regardless of whether it finds answers or not, the act itself has neither purpose nor meaning. The key is to realise and remember that the trickery of the mind deludes only the most superfluous and immediate senses of perception, deep down the human spirit knows the difference between self-delusion and self-perception, trust your own inner being to distinguish for you and you are on the road to enlightenment for in the end that is what we seek to achieve here, to unite the consciousness with the self, to perceive and understand who and what we are and to come to understanding of our role in the pattern of life, our own and that around us, and to know the way in which we fit into the cosmos and the glorious whole of totality and existence, eventually discovering the secrets and the underlying meaning of each subdivision of that glorious whole. Which is where this first chapter ends, as is proper, just where it started:
The path of magic is the quest for discovery of the keys to existence of the individual in the knowledge that these in turn will unlock the secrets of the existence of the cosmic whole, the search for truth in the man to find truth in the world.