April 16th, 2007
|03:59 pm - Physical Training and Magic|
In a recent exchange with a friend of mine who has recently taken up fencing, she mentioned that many of the highly experienced and dedicated fencers she has gotten to know mention in hushed and somewhat embarrassed tone stories about various seemingly impossible actions from one blade passing physically through another to visible and palpable manifestations of energy or presence. This did not surprise me at all since I have heard very similar stories from my dear friend Aaron regarding his work in physical theater, clowning, and puppetry. Both of my friends are magicians who are quite familiar with various magical experiences, but the people relating these experiences generally were not, they were simply dedicated practitioners who had observed various unusual events that were well outside the normal range of their experiences. Obviously, many similar stories can be found in both Eastern martial arts and yoga.
There is clearly a magic and a power in intense and dedicated physical training. However, it is a power that is largely missing from modern neopagan practice. Many dedicated pagans practice some form of martial arts or yoga, but many do not, and I do not know of any of them who incorporate their physical discipline into their magical practice. While physical movement is a part of many magical rituals, from ceremonial magic like the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, to the ubiquitous Wiccan spiral dance, these movements are often quite simple and not particularly demanding. In addition, group activities like the spiral dance are rarely subject to intense practice. Also, in many cases, the focus when doing these movements is on the visualizations and other mental efforts made while doing them, not on the movements themselves. I'm far from certain what a magical ritual in the Western magical tradition would look like if was organized around some highly disciplined physical activity.
I also think that this lack is far from accidental. Many pagans reject the importance of the physical world in an exceedingly Gnostic fashion, and many those that do not still usually regard intense physical discipline as suspect, in part because the vast majority of us were people who were far from athletic in our youth and adolescence and were typically the victims of mockery and taunting by the more athletically inclined. Even more importantly, neopaganism is very much a faith of the educated urban middle class, who by and large are people who have absolutely no contact with physical discipline in their careers or elsewhere in their lives. In any case, I both think the lack of emphasis on the power and magic that can be found of physical training is a significant deficiency in neopagan practice and am intrigued to know if any of you have attempted to incorporate it into your spiritual practice
Current Mood: thoughtful
|Date:||April 16th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)|| |
Some years ago I was working late on Jackson Square. Two guys walked past me. One was very animated and attempting to explain to his friend what Chi was. The explanition was not going well. The guy doing the explaining got frustrated and tried to think of an example. As they approached one of the massive concrete bins which house a trash can, he walked up to the bin, and said. "Now if I were a real martial artist, and not just a student, I could focus my chi to knock this big heavy bin over without even touching it."
He then centered, thust his palms forward, stopping just short of hitting the heavy concrete bin. To his great surprise, the bin flipped over on its side. The guy got all excited & incoherant. His friend was not impressed. They walked off into the night aguing about the significance (or lack thereof) of the event.
Later, a well-meaning muscular looking guy saw the flipped over trash bin and attempted to set it upright. He could not do so. He enlisted the aid of another muscular passer-by and together, they managed to get the bin upright. The first guy asked me if the bin had been hit by a car. I shook my head and said that some guy was demonstrating Chi to his friend. The second guy's eyes popped out. "He used his chi to knock the can over?!? Where is he. I want to study under him!"
I laughed. "He said he is just a student. I guess he just somehow managed to center just right while doing a demonstration for his friend."
The two guys (who had been strangers) walked away together while the one excitedly was explaining Chi to the other guy.
I both think the lack of emphasis on the power and magic that can be found of physical training is a significant deficiency in neopagan practice and am intrigued to know if any of you have attempted to incorporate it into your spiritual practice
I have Practiced much Magickal stuff via Physical Dancing, Gestures, Motions, and general Kinesics. My primary "Elemental Weapons" are not external Objects, but rather Movements that had other layers of Symbolism to further emPower them. I have done literally countless hours of moving my NRG whilst Dancing. Doing Taiji Chuan also qualifies for this.
Interestingly, I find most of the Physical Forms incorporate some form of "Energetic" component, not unlike what we are Teaching currently in NRG.
I agree that a part of the lack of physical exercise among many neopagans has to do with the way we were treated by some of our more athletic counterparts throughout our youth which caused a negative reaction to the physical and probably to a degree a disconnection with the body. One thing that I'm learning in my own personal work is the need for mind, body, spirit balance. Energetically, I feel better after physical exercise and personally have chosen Aikido because it seems to be a good balance of mind, body and spirit for me.
I think part of it is due to sheer laziness, lack of space/time/inclination, and the same reasons people in general don't exercise.
Amazingly enough, my practice states that one's body is one first tool. I was sharing this with an Episcopal friend and she said she felt the same way. We agreed that is one of our biggest motivations to be healthy besides nice long enjoyable life.
Many pagans reject the importance of the physical world in an exceedingly Gnostic fashion, and many those that do not still usually regard intense physical discipline as suspect, in part because the vast majority of us were people who were far from athletic in our youth and adolescence and were typically the victims of mockery and taunting by the more athletically inclined. Even more importantly, neopaganism is very much a faith of the educated urban middle class, who by and large are people who have absolutely no contact with physical discipline in their careers or elsewhere in their lives.
This is a major part of why I advocate bicycles as a primary form of transport. Bicycling will very quickly put people in touch both with their bodies and their immediate environment.