Comments on “Black magic, transformation, and power”


Concrete Examples: Mental vs Physical

As you start out abstract, my mind tries to concretize to grasp your implications. For example:
Say you are taught "Sex is bad, except with your life-long mate."
So you want to experiment and have careless sex and contract disease or cheapen the meaning of relationships.
Well, the wisdom of the "rigid rule" is that it protects from that, albeit by overshooting, whereas the "black magic" may be freeing but devastating. Now you have a little more 'self-knowledge', 'independent thought', a 'creative manifestation', but at what cost -- perhaps a corruption of valuable 'moral clarity' hidden in a rigid code.

This objection is obvious, so I await to see if you address it.

In this section, you only give two examples of black magic: harmlessly waving a sword in the woods and conjuring demons, and visualization meditations in seeing yourself as a wrathful demon.

So maybe you aren't actually thinking of real dark practices -- having multiple playful sex partners, eating feces and sacrificing children as a means of liberation. Or maybe that is coming in the next chapter. I proceed.

An aside

Gensho's picture

I once heard a woman state that people are engaged in "black magic" all the time. She described her occult initiation as partly an effort to recognize how pervasive black magic was, and then to eliminate those habits. The transformation of consciousness through ill will and vile intention appears to be very popular! Especially in the more conservative camps.

However, this is just an aside. The deliberate harnassing of "dark" forces is the issue here and I find the gist of it intriguing.

Black magic

@ Sabio — It appears that these questions were answered by later pages in the series?

@ Gensho — That's an intriguing statement! I can think of several different things she might have meant by it. Perhaps that ill will is common (unfortunately true) and that it is common to semi-consciously use subtle psychological methods to dominate others with bad intentions (also unfortunately true).


Josh's picture

I've never been strongly drawn to black magic, but I can recognise the politically correct moral tyrant in my upbringing and mental habits.

That said, I'm wary of people like myself (e.g. male, 1st world, white, university educated, able-bodied, neuro-typical) decrying the 'tyranny' of political correctness. Perhaps soon we'll be culturally able to move towards a more spacious position, but if PC is currently the price of displacing other kinds of overt and covert tyranny, so be it.

Other Metaphors

J's picture

I've thought about your description of people who practice black magic in the serious pursuit of power, and I agree, it's kind of pathetic. But what I think is more interesting is that black magic as a metaphor encompasses the pursuit of power with effective means, but means which ultimately degrade and compromise the practitioner, or for unconscious forces that go beyond the capacity of the individual to control.
A couple of examples. The best description of the writing process I read recently was "the first draft summons a demon, the last draft binds him." This might just be a happy accidental metaphor in two unrelated areas of human endeavour, but I don't think so.
Yet another example, is I read about the dangerous use of words like "blood" in political discourse. It invokes concepts and emotions which may be too powerful to contain. "Blood of our martyrs." "Blood of the patriots." "Blood and soil."
In "On Killing", Grossman describes how the use of atrocity by the Nazis locked them into its use, long after it had become counterproductive to the war effort. He describes this in the form of a dark, faustian bargain.
In short, the analogy of black magic seems to be too polyvalent to be reduced simply to the form described in this post.

You need to believe!

Of course, this method is only effective if the practitioner BELIEVES that magic can work. Otherwise, it will have the same power as a kindergarten theater play acted by adults.

In a post on the Vividness blog (i believe) I remember you slightly and surreptitiously criticizing Tsultrim Allione attempt to transform Chöd into psychoterapy, but you're doing the same here.

I agree that it's not so effective as believing that you're evoking the main demons for real (taking Dudjom Lingpa's Chöd Black Feast as a pattern). to eat your whole body...

BTW, sometimes it seems that all your work here seems to do something almost like that: trying to naturalize Tantra, you assume you've seen it all because scientific materialism states it has seen it all about the world.
This may work to some point, but people tend to stay at the hedonistic level after a while.

For instance, let us take 2 issues you treat:

(A) Boddhichitta – obviously, to only aspire for ultimate realization (?!) for the benefit of all beings is something passive at some point, but it has the advantage of being the impossible carrot in the front of the donkey, making it proceed further always.

(B) Ethical System – the problem with that is not that the Buddhism seems not to have one in the way you expect, but that all systems are limited mechanics, so fathomed to get rusty and die out at some point. Instead, Dzogchen suggests that you just rely on awareness to develop real ethics. Namkhai Norbu describes this happening at the gar which formed around the house of this root lama, Changchub Dorje (see The Crystal and the Way of Light final pages).

I love your writings, but sometimes it lacks some inspiration, because you seem to talk from an academic and sterile point of view about things you haven't really lived, but just comprehended intellectually.

What you criticize about Consensus Buddhism my happen with Tantra if it gets naturalized from this dialectic materialism you uphold, it seems without even noticing.

Maybe you could clarify this point if you think you're not truly materialistic, because it is not possible that you haven't seen any spooks from so many decades of practice, unless you've been doing the kindergarten theater I mention...