Lance Foster (hengruh) wrote,
Lance Foster

The Abilities of Spirits and People

I've been reading the Arbatel, and learning about what people have done with it. One of the blogs I came across, by a ceremonial magician named Frater Acher, had a story and a message worth thinking about:

"Think of a goldsmith living in a small town. Our goldsmith is the only one of his kind in his town; maybe even in the state. He has a unique talent to create art and adornment from metals. This particular goldsmith happens to not only have a huge gift for working with metals, but also a huge passion. Doing his job is a calling for him and that's how he approaches every piece of work he does. To be honest, even though he's been working as a goldsmith for decades, every day he still is humbled by the way the metals behave in each of their states he is putting them through and he is humbled by the beauty they reveal in shapes they take... You get it: we are dealing with a bit of goldsmith nerd here.

Now, unfortunately our goldsmith isn't earning a lot of money with his art. He actually is quite in debt and owes money to quite a few people in the town. Much to his disadvantage, one of these believers is a very rich and ignorant fellow. One day this guy comes into the studio of our goldsmith and asks him to pay back his debts.

The goldsmith offers him the remaining adornments he has left on the shelf. But the creditor doesn't want them simply because he doesn't know what to do with them. Rather he insists the goldsmith should rob a bank for him - as he had heard the goldsmith would be very talented with all sorts of precious thing and he was planning a coup anyway. Hearing this demand the goldsmith is aghast and refuses!

Now the creditor hesitates - looking at the goldsmith he gets doubts if he really could do the job... After reconsidering the situation he offers him to work in his garage and polish his cars. As this would make significantly less money than a bank coup, however, he would need to work there for the rest of his life. The goldsmith breaks out in tears... And as he doesn't stop crying at some point the creditor finds himself feeling sorry for the poor soul.

Thus he asks: 'So what do you want? In some way or another you'll need to follow my will!' The goldsmith cries: 'But I am a goldsmith! I am an artist, I can create beauty from metal ashes and slag! Give me a job that uses my talent, I can work on anything that is related to creating value from precious metals. Just don't ask me to do something I am not.'

Well, I'll spare you the rest of the conversation; but at some point the creditor really loses his nerves. Finally, with a big sigh he gives in and orders the goldsmith to work in his kitchen and polish sterling cutlery for the rest of his life..."

"...What if some part in us is as ignorant, as self-obsessed, as uncaring as the creditor in the story? And what if we aren't even the first generation to treat spirits like this... but we are living off a heritage of abuse, of ignorance and dominance? What if we often fail to acknowledge the true talents and gifts of spirit...?

Technically the creditor wasn't wrong in assuming a goldsmith must be good with 'precious objects'. Generally speaking he could claim to be right... And generally speaking Jupiter can bring you luxury, and Mercury will make you win the lottery and the Sun gets you the next promotion and Venus your spouse and Mars keeps you invincible. And here we are - turning spirits into service staff of our astral Tesco or Walmart or BestBuy or what have you...

Sometimes when I read about Grimoire magic, I feel we are so obsessed with putting these creatures to our use and make them work for our benefits that we - just sometimes - forget to respect them for what they are. Un-human creatures, but creatures like us. Goldsmiths of their own kind, masters in their own disciplines... being forced to first bring us and then clean our sterling silver.

Wouldn't it be great to be at a point in the history of magic where we (re-)learn to acknowledge the beauty and subtleties of the spirits we relate with? ...Because they are living creatures just like us, forces that shape life and plants and stones and animals even more than we do... I guess we should allow them to do what they are best at?"

As an artist, like that goldsmith in the story, I am in the same situation. Probably most of us are.

I am good at certain things, very good, excellent (art, calming, connecting, solving seemingly unsolvable problems, words and languages, loyalty, patience, steadiness, helping open minds in others, physical work, walking, etc.) and am lousy at others (playing basketball, working at a task based on time rather than the completion of the task itself, going fast (at anything), social hierarchies/politics, hustling money, schedules, organization according to others' standards, math). So I know the jobs I am good at, and the times I have been hired for the jobs I am good at, the results have been spectacular. Yet, if bosses force me to do the things I am not good at, even when I tell them so, only disaster for both of us results. They get a crappy result and are unhappy, I am miserable and grouchy, and it is pointless and an utter waste.

So maybe that's very much like people and spirits, like his goldsmith story. And yet we live in a society that squashes us into preconceived boxes, it demands our obedience, like a boneheaded boss who only knows what he wants, and doesn't realize that by working to people's strengths instead of his own preconceptions, he could get all that he wants ...and more.

People are boneheads most of the time, trying to get rich, or conquer lovers, get power, turbocharge careers. Most of these people don't look happy to me. A smile doesn't equate to happiness in my book. I look at Wall Street types, rich folks, celebrities, smiling away. But the eyes give them away. I see hardness, arrogance, smugness, worry, suspicion, loneliness. I don't see much joy shining from many of those eyes, whatever their mouths might be doing.

Read people, know what they are good at and what they aren't. The same with spirits. Whether you are a boss, a magician, a teacher, a parent...find the right ingredients and they will almost cook themselves. Let people and spirits be and act in accordance with their nature. The joy and the competence and the effects will shine forth.
Tags: magic, spirits

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