Sunday, August 4, 2013

Castaneda, Crowley and The Trick of Turning Luck

Most of the posts I have shared thus far have been rather heavy or heady, but I would also like this blog to be about more concrete considerations and applications. As a first stab in that direction, here are some thoughts on how to turn your luck around or get over writer's block from the view point of Carlos Castaneda and Aleister Crowley.

The magician Aleister Crowley had a trick for turning his luck around whenever he felt it was necessary. He often used this same trick when he was suffering from writer’s block and felt he needed a new influx of inspiration. The trick is surprisingly simple: do something you would never normally do.
The occultist and philosopher Carlos Castaneda presents a similar idea in the books that chronicle his study of Toltec mystical practices. There we find presented the idea of Stalking which, ultimately, is short hand for Stalking Oneself. The way one stalks oneself is by becoming aware of those habitual behaviors which keep most of our personal energy bound up in repetition. By breaking these habits we free the energy they had monopolized. We also force a change in our own awareness of reality, as our habitual behaviors constitute the most resilient, and generally unconscious, framework that maintains our constant perspective on reality. This may be the explanation why Crowley’s trick works. What the Toltec practice of Stalking adds to Crowley’s trick is the realization that there can be as much power in little actions as large ones. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions for how to turn one’s luck:

1.     Change your Daily Routines for a day: If you are an early riser wake up late, if you tend to be late to appointments force yourself to be early. Change when you shower. Eat your lunch in a different location. Go for a walk when you usually watch television. Be less polite, or more polite and friendly, than normal.
2.     Change your Bodily Behavior for a day: Walk faster or slower than you usually do. Stand closer to people when talking to them than is comfortable for you. Make a point of standing straighter, or slouching, all day. Look people in the eye or refuse to look people in the eye. Hold your feet perfectly parallel to each other as you walk.
3.     Modify your Appearance: Wear clothing you would never normally wear, change your hair, wear glasses rather than contacts. These can also be semi-permanent modifications. I once got a piercing as a way of turning my luck (I had never before modified my body in such a way). This also would count as an example of #4.
4.     Perform Uncharacteristic Actions: This is primarily what Crowley had in mind. These tend to be more dramatic singular actions rather than extended behaviors. Potential actions include taking risks you normally avoid or vise-versa, doing something you find morally reprehensible or something you find virtuous but have always lacked the time or courage for, performing a sexual act you would never normally imagine partaking in. The key to these actions has to be their incongruity with who you take yourself, and others take you, to be. My going out and getting a piercing was, at the time, utterly unthinkable to most people who knew me and similarly unthinkable to me. These actions can sometimes appear as a form of self-indulgence, but it is important that they have the right element of surprise. You are, in effect, attempting to surprise yourself through your own actions. It is also worth noting that moral considerations can be a trap here, despite my including them in the list above. The point of this exercise is not to make a positive change in your life, it is to free yourself from the chains of habit and self-conception. This often means doing something that is not, on the surface, good or good for you. However, in a deeper sense, escaping from old habits and self-conceptions can be understood as good in and of itself. 

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