Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How To Spiritually Evolve

Magicians often boast about their magical prowess, citing their accomplishments like some kind of credible list of awards or laudatory plaudits. Only other magicians can recognize those accomplishments as something to be held in awe or snickered at on the sly. Whether those accomplishments represent degrees achieved or won in some esoteric or magical order or that they represent some kind of personal achievement, like successfully invoking one’s Holy Guardian Angel, all of these accomplishments are subjective at best and potentially worthless regarding one’s actual spiritual level of being. There is something more to the effort of spiritual evolution than magical achievements or initiatory grades, but it is often overlooked in the hustle for apparent greatness.

As I have said previously, I have met individuals who have claimed lofty titles and presented burnished lists of achievements, only for them to be shown as being completely and utterly incompetent in all other areas of life. This is the difference between what Jason Miller has called stage or state and it represents the fact that all of us live at the lowest common denominator of our day-to-day spiritual foundation.

If we have achieved great things from a magical perspective, yet our material and/or social lives are needy and impoverished, then we have a long way to go before we will achieve any kind of enlightenment. Just because we spent six months living in our parent’s basement and in that hallowed domain performed the Abramelin working doesn’t mean that we are to be treated as some kind of walking Ipsissimus. Whatever we achieve in our magical workings certainly does have some impact on who we are and what our spiritual foundation is like. It is also possible that someone could undergo many powerful initiatory ordeals and still be quite inadequate as a fully developed human being; where the most needed and pressing issues kicking around in that one’s personality are ignored or just given lip-service.

Therefore, it should be obvious that there are two kinds of ordeals; one that is the greater ordeal (that everyone likes to talk about) and the lesser ordeal, which often gets ignored. The lesser ordeals represent the continuous process of self-examination, objective judgement, and putting into practice methods and techniques to bring the self to a higher level of being. The lesser ordeal represents the real work, set into motion by the visionary experiences of the greater ordeals. Without the lesser ordeals, the greater ordeals become, over time, meaningless and ineffective.

So, the real question is how to assemble and execute the various practices that make up the lesser ordeal. Maintaining a spiritual and magical discipline can certainly help, but it doesn’t really change an individual in a progressive manner. If anything, maintenance does nothing more than just maintain the status quo, and that is not progress. As far as I am aware there is little in the various lore of occult traditions that really focus on the elements of a lesser ordeal, but in the area of modern psychological self-improvement, there is quite an enormous amount of material. It would take many years to pore through it all and determine what methods and technique are effective, and which are just poorly contrived or even worthless.

Luckily for me, I belong to a large corporation that is effectively trying to change its culture to one that is progressive, optimistic, buoyant and humane. Usually, large corporations have rather cold and ruthless cultures that are good for performance and maybe innovation, but who are very substandard in the areas of compassion and relationships. Corporate leaders tend to cast very long and sometimes dark shadows of themselves to the various levels below them, and often the negative qualities so cast can become amplified and even stratified. A harsh and demanding boss will often get sycophantic underlings who will be adverse to taking any kind of chance on being wrong or found wanting. To keep their positions, they will blame those below them, and the contagion of unease and fear will cascade down from them to the lowest levels of the organization. In time, such a corporate organization will implode because it will be unable to either progress or move forward with even the most minor objectives.

However, there is a way to completely change the corporate culture, and a number of individuals who are involved in organizational development and culture change have become instrumental in changing the whole mind-set of a corporation, beginning with the top of the hierarchy and proceeding down to the middle management level and below. My company has not only brought in such a consulting firm, but it has assembled a corporate wide program to change the corporate culture, and it has infused the ideas promoted by this firm into the core of its beliefs and practices.

That consulting firm is the Senn Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, and you can find their books and other materials in Amazon dot com. Beginning this year I attended a two day session called the unfreezing and opening workshop session, and then attended a refresher course a couple of months later. Additionally, the company is having monthly Webex and phone conferences to go over each of the salient details of this push for culture change. My company is deadly serious about making this culture change a fully realized internal force, and they are even using it in how they grade individuals for the annual evaluation. While I might be dubious about any company that attempts to social engineer its employees, I have found that the Senn Delaney methodology is simple, positive, progressive, and it appears to work.

Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, how does any of this relate to the lesser ordeals that a ritual magician might assemble to ensure a continuity in regards to progressive change and continual personal evolution? It’s obvious that the Senn Delaney methodologies are tailored for corporate leaders and corporate culture. How does that rather practical application for establishing progressive social institutions relate to the individual struggling to evolve out of his or her various pathos? One thing that this regimen does focus on is the individual, whether that person is an executive leader or just a member of a team. Basically, this approach focuses on the attitudes, habits and expectations of the individual, and I couldn’t define an approach to personal change and evolution any sharper than that.

For a moment, think about all the activities that fill your life. As a ritual magician, you will doubtlessly engage in performing ritual workings and the greater ordeals. You will also periodically meditate, study, write papers, maybe teach students, and perform liturgical rites at various intervals. However, what about the rest of your life’s activities. If you are a working stiff like I am, then you also have a job and a career and its various responsibilities. You will also have a family, loved ones, friends and a whole social network that will engage you probably for much of your remaining free time. Additionally, you might watch TV, listen to music, play video games, and multitude of other activities. 

All of these activities involve either yourself, or you and other people. The ones that involve other people are the most informative in regards to who you are and how you are perceived by others. This is especially true in regards to working a job. There, you are evaluated by your peers and your superiors on a regular basis, often with little mitigating graces that might soften such social exchanges as with your friends and family. In all of these personal social interactions, how you act and react to others will also represent how you are perceived and interpreted, and it will directly effect the results of your efforts. This sphere of influence is definitely one that you can alter and change by changing yourself. In fact, sometimes such a change (in a positive direction) can have a remarkably good effect.

The whole basis of the Senn Delaney methodology is that your thoughts, feelings and especially, your mood affects your behavior, and this has a powerful impact on results. Becoming aware of your moods and how they can either help or hinder your efforts is the first and most important step in self improvement. The next step after self-awareness is, of course, deliberately changing your moods. Senn Delaney has put out an easy to read poster that they call the Mood Elevator. The bottom half has levels (representing the floors of a building) showing a regressive decline in emotional qualities, beginning with frustration and bottoming out with depression. The middle point in the Mood Elevator is the emotion of curiosity, and above it are the much more positive emotions, such as understanding, appreciation, compassion, and at the top, gratefulness. The key concept here is that if you become aware of the fact that you are in one of the regressive levels of the Mood Elevator, all you have to do is to disengage from your feelings and bring yourself to being just merely curious. Being curious is the gateway to the higher and more progressive moods. 

For instance, let’s say that you are dealing with someone who just doesn’t seem to understand your point of view and what you trying to say to them. Maybe this is a relationship squabble between you and your significant other about some emotionally charged issue. You are feeling quite frustrated by this exchange, maybe even irritated and anxious. If you can, just for a moment, disengage from the situation and examine yourself and your feelings, maybe take a break from arguing and do some simple breath-control techniques.

Then, when you are calmed somewhat, forget for a moment about your point of view and ask yourself, why is there this disagreement. Become curious - seek to really know the other side completely. If you do this, all of a sudden, the overall mood shifts, including the negative emotions of the other person in the heated discussion. By asking them questions with a true and open desire to just know the other person’s perspective (without any emotional intensity), suddenly the impasse is broken and emotions rise to a more progressive level. Could this happen? Is human nature such that we can be self-monitoring and correct our attitudes and moods midstream? I have done this myself, so I suspect that anyone, with a bit a practice, could do it.

Another little device in the Senn Delaney methodology is called the Accountability Ladder. We have all been in work situations where something bad happened and management wants to know why it happened, who did it, and how will it get fixed and then be made to never happen again. When a group is faced with such a situation, the very first thing that people will instinctively do is to deny responsibility and find someone else to blame. This is a ploy to protect oneself and maintain a certain amount of job security, and depending how the corporate culture is established, it can be merely a scalp hunting exercise. Someone is going to be punished (maybe fired), and everyone will do whatever they can to distance themselves. In such an environment, what probably won’t happen quickly is finding a solution to the problem, or even the establishment of a policy to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

A more progressive corporate culture doesn’t look for someone to blame and then punish, but to take responsibility and to find solutions and implement preventive policies. Denial (or excuses), blame and avoiding responsibility represent a state of powerlessness. When we react in this manner, whether in a work situation or in our home or social life, we are denying ourselves the ability to resolve our problems or make any kind of change. It is only when we acknowledge reality and own the problem that a solution will be possible. So long as we deny the existence of a problem, we will be powerless to do anything about it. Accountability is a very important way to ensure that are we always empowered, so as long as we at least acknowledge reality. It is the first step towards a finding a permanent solution.

One of the things that I had to learn early in my career was how to deal with situations where something bad happened through the negligence or mistakes made by a team member. Accidents do happen and mistakes are made, and that is the reality of all human endeavors. However, when confronting such an event, the worst manner of dealing with it is to assign blame to one individual, even if that individual did indeed cause the problem. The best approach is to deal with it as a team responsibility. If a member of the team makes a mistake, then it’s the responsibility of the whole team. Instead of saying “you did so and so” I was taught to say “we did so and so.” This was usually followed up with “we need to find a solution” instead of “you need to fix this problem.” What happened was an immediate change in the team’s emotional mood. Instead of blame and denial, everyone pitched in to find a solution. There wasn’t any need to rake the responsible person over the coals, since they had likely already done that to themselves. This bit of business wisdom can be applied to any social situation. Don’t assign blame, just take responsibility for resolving the issue. That is truly empowering, and isn’t that an important part of being a magician, too?

Perhaps one of the most important sayings that are part of the Senn Delaney teachings is that when dealing with individuals in a business scenario, we should always assume positive intent from the other person. That might sound like an invitation to be deceived or even swindled, but if someone is behaving in a dishonest manner, it will very soon come to light. This is actually more of an issue of one’s own integrity than trying to sniff out someone else’s motivation. If we assume positive intent from those that we are dealing with, then we will be acting in a high minded manner that will likely build trust and establish a greater degree of openness between all parties. It also assumes a certain level of respect and mutual trust with others, lending to the social/business exchange a kind of overall positive influence. This can also be used in our relationships, helping us to give a positive dimension to important social exchanges in our personal lives. It changes the way that we treat people and also, how we judge them, and will assuredly change the way people treat us.

Ironically, if we treat everyone as if they were a crook who is out to deceive or steal from us, then we will likely attract that very kind person that we are trying to detect and avoid. I have often found that those who have a distinct natural distrust of others are themselves untrustworthy. An overly jealous husband belies one who also cheats on his wife, and someone who is compulsively looking out of the corner of their eyes for any kind of betrayal is usually the one who does the betraying. As long as you are not having to deal with pirates, gangsters, conn artists or members of the criminal class, then you can safely assume positive intent without worrying about somehow being victimized.   

Another important element in the Senn Delaney repertoire is encapsulated by the slogan “Be Here Now!” I am sure everyone has heard this before, and it is probably used all too often. However, what it means is that we should pay attention to important exchanges, especially the communication between human beings. We live in world that is saturated by media, and this has caused us all to become virtuosos at multitasking. We talk, text, look at our computer video screen and think about our plans for the day all at the same time. Still, no matter how gifted we are, something gets less of our attention when we multitask. This is particularly true in regards to human interaction.

When we are talking to someone who is not getting our complete attention because we are trying to do multiple things at the same time, then we might completely miss what has been said, or misinterpret it, or only hear fragments of it. When dealing with individuals in a work environment or even in our homes, we should stop doing anything else and pay attention to what the other person is saying. This is true even if it’s one our children who just wants some attention. “Be Here Now” is a command to pay full attention when engaging in human interaction, because otherwise, we will not get the full message, including body posture, facial expressions, eye contact, and the whole process of communication. It’s really good advice, and I am sure that all of us are guilty of paying only half a mind or less to someone who is talking to us, whether directly or by cell phone. Multitasking is a good skill to master, but it has its place and shouldn’t become an obsessive personal habit.

Some other good topics in the Senn Delaney regimen include being able to inventory and understand yourself and then by projection, you might be able to understand the perspectives of those who you interact with. This is done by identifying and understanding the basic four behavioral (business) styles, such as controlling, supporting, promoting and analyzing. Each has its own manner of interacting with others, and knowing your own style and the style of the person you are trying to communicate with can help make that communication more optimal. We should also be aware of the shadow that we unwittingly display to our peers and subordinates, knowing that how we act and behave can be interpreted in ways that would probably be surprising if not even a bit disturbing.

Another important concept is to be able to really prioritize those things that are truly important (the ubiquitous blue chip) and distinguishing them from those things that are not as important, regardless of what other people might think is important to them. Everything has to be balanced and prioritized because there is only so much time in a day to get things accomplished. Of course, this leads us to the goal of being able to determine what can be changed and what can’t be changed. Those things that are truly beyond our control are considered analogous to “gravity” - facts of nature that can’t be changed no matter what we do. Things that are under the “gravity” category should never take up much of our time or be the focus of our concerns. What we should be focusing on (and concerning ourselves with) are the things that we can change, most notably, ourselves.

What has startled me most about the Senn Delaney methodologies is that I have discovered that a number of them have been an innate part of being since childhood. I have always refrained from judging people and I have automatically assumed positive intent from others. My moods are never usually too far below the level of curious and I am usually buoyant and optimistic, perhaps to a fault. I can detach myself from emotional situations, and that should allow me to be able to change course in a volatile situation. Even so, by becoming fully aware of the methodologies of self knowledge and self transformation, I should be able to move myself even further along the overall process of spiritual and magical evolution, and this will be my basic plan of attack. 

So, these are just a few of the many really excellent techniques that Senn Delaney uses to transform individuals and whole corporate cultures. What they consist of are methods of self-examination and self-correction on a day by day basis. By incorporating this kind of progressive methodology into the personal life of a ritual magician, it should be obvious that all of the greater ordeals and transformations will have a foundation that is also progressive and evolving. Eventually the differences between stage and state will be eliminated, since what will be achieved during high level magical transformations will be able to be immediately translated into the basic psychological stage of the magician who performs them. This should be the goal of any ritual magician who seeking to ultimately achieve the greater awakening of enlightenment. I can say that I am quite grateful that I discovered this system of lesser ordeals, and ironically, it was brought to my attention by the company that I happen to work for.

I can recommend three books from the Senn Delaney assortment of materials. If you are interested, you can purchase the “Human Operating System Owners Manual” or “Winning Teams and Winning Cultures” or “Up the Mood Elevator” - all of these books are pertinent and relevant to self-mastery and self-transformation, and these are very important tools for anyone who wishes to embark on the dual path of the greater and lesser ordeals. They are also quite inexpensive and easy to acquire. (Curiously, the Senn Delaney method doesn’t have any tools like meditation, nor does it have anything that would push what I would call the big transformative ordeals. However, we magicians now have both worlds pretty well established, much to our mutual benefit.)

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. Well written and insightful. I wish my HR department at the medical practices i worked at had those graphs and system your corporation is trying to put into place. In Zen i have read how one can attain a state of Satori, but it takes the rest of one's life for it to filter down into all aspects of one's daily life and personality. So you are saying just because i did the Abramelin working in my parent's basement with my circle next to the toilet i may have not attained the degree of Piss-Ipsissimus and now have to flush that gold leafed certificate i have on the wall?