Magic and Spell Casting vs Prayer
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Magic and Spell Casting vs Prayer
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Ultimately, there is no difference between spells and prayers. Here’s a way to understand what I mean by this:
Like everything else in a Wisdom Tradition like Traditional Wicca, it’s all about who and what we really are, and learning to act like That. We are the authors of the Universe we experience, constantly and continuously creating our entire experience. Some of that created experience is personal (subjective), and created personally, while some of it is collective (objective), created collectively.
As authors of the universe and of reality, we create everything we experience by directed attention. We are constantly faced with an infinity of possibilities, an infinity of potential experiences (the Goddess). By directing our attention (the God) at a selection from that infinity, picking out what is expected and familiar (the elemental children of the God and Goddess), by force of habit, we create our personal perspective on reality and our personal experience of it. Some of that personal experience matches to some degree the experience of others (but never exactly) because we agree on the meanings of the words we use, and we agree on the construction of some of our environment.
But in an absolute sense, reality (the elemental children of the God and Goddess) is an arbitrary selection (the power of the God) from infinite potential (the Mother Goddess) we are always faced with. Every time you direct your attention, by any kind of deliberate act you are molding your perception, your reality, and creating your experience of the universe out of the infinite potential that is always there. This is partly because directing your attention has two effects: it selects from infinite potential a) what you will be aware of or pay attention to (this is the realm of Life, and Light, and Love, the realm of the ecstasy of the Goddess) and b) what you will ignore or exclude from your experience, which is the vast majority of the infinite potential (this is the realm of the God, of Wisdom and the Knowledge of the Secrets of Death).
This infinite potential, undefined and indescribable, is in its entirety unknowable and indescribable for the exact same reason that Awareness can never know itself, as the eye can never directly look upon itself. It is unknowable and indescribable because it is infinitely greater than the scope of our limited mechanisms of perception. (These mechanisms of perception are not designed to provide awareness of the true here-and-now, or of the true infinite potential with which we are faced. They are instead designed to be mechanisms of focus, and by definition that, means exclusion of all that is outside our directed attention.) This infinite potential is the infinite Presence of Awareness Itself. This Presence can be experienced in any way desired by simply directing attention accordingly (applying the mechanisms of perception accordingly).
So, not only are spells and prayers exactly the same in that they are both ways of deliberately directing your attention (and creating reality), they are also exactly the same as any deliberate act, such as making a phone call, or deliberately triggering the engagement of your capacity for unconscious, self-fulfilling prophecy. All deliberate acts, be they conscious actions, prayers or spells, by directing attention, create reality from infinite potential which is the “thing” aspect of that Ancient, infinitely unknowable Presence (which is also perfectly Aware).
So much for what is the same between prayers and spell-casting. Their difference is very profound. In prayer, you engage your ability to direct attention (create reality) by treating this creative power you have as an external thing that can be prayed to, and thereby engage the unconscious magic of self-fulfilling prophecy, which is ultimately simply directing your attention, just like casting a spell is. In spell casting, you do not treat this creative power as an external thing to be supplicated, but rather take charge as the creator yourself, using reminders or mental triggers to get yourself to direct your attention in a particular way, which is exactly what you are doing when you pray. The difference is only in the way you view yourself, the author of the universe: a) in prayer, as something external that you can supplicate or b) in spell-casting, taking charge and owning the power and responsibility of reality creation. These two approaches: “other-power” and “own-power” are essential perspectives in the training of Traditional Wicca.
The training involved in the traditional Three Degrees of initiation are in turn based in these two perspectives, and finally on their union. The traditional First Degree is all about “other-power” and emphasizes prayer and spell-casting from the perspective of asking the Great Mother Goddess to help you with your life and your magical work. You spend at least a year systematically and step by step exploring all the aspects of this perspective on doing things, both mundane and magical. The Second Degree is all about “own-power” when you, like the Horned God, realize that you are yourself the author of the universe, and your prayers and spell-casting shift in emphasis, to the 1st person perspective, where you are yourself the Goddess or the God, creating and altering reality through your prayers and spell-casting. You spend at least a year systematically and step by step exploring all the aspects of this perspective on doing things, both mundane and magical.
Neither of these two perspectives of “other-power” or “own-power” is completely correct by itself. The error in either of these perspectives alone (the error in emphasizing either the God or the Goddess alone), is the basis for the whole argument about prayer vs spell-casting: both are equally true and can be argued as true, yet neither is true by itself.
In the traditional Third Degree you have a perfect balance, a Perfect Harmony between: a) the “other-power” perspective embodied in the teachings of the Goddess and the traditional First Degree, and b) with the “own-power” perspective embodied in the teachings of the Horned God and the traditional Second Degree. In the traditional Third Degree, both of these perspectives are realized as simultaneously present and correct in every thought, every action and every experience. It is only through spending time exploring each of these perspectives in the First and Second Degree initiation and training, that one can truly appreciate the nature of the eternally present moment, which is at the same time both objective (other-power, prayer) and subjective (own-power, spell-casting), based on the two aspects of that Ancient Presence (Ancient Harmony) which has two simultaneous aspects, properties, or qualities: It is at the same time both perfectly Aware, though impossible to experience directly (the God), and it is also an infinite ocean of experience, though also impossible to know or describe in its entirety, being infinite (the Goddess).
In this manner, learning prayer and learning spell casting is learning about Who and What you really are, and learning to act like That. You are this Ancient Presence, That’s who and what you really are. You are both what is prayed to, and what does the praying. You are the Creator, the ultimate spell-caster. Learning to pray and learning to cast spells are learning to act like who and what you really are.
This describes the meaning of the top point of the Sacred Pentagram of the witches: the top point represents the Ancient Presence (the Ancient Harmony). It both radiates, and is supported or described by two lines (the God and the Goddess, or own-power and other-power, or spell-casting and prayer). The line on the right is the fact that this Ancient Presence is perfectly Aware (the God, own-power, spell casting). The line on the left is the fact that the Ancient Presence is an infinite ocean of potential experience (the Goddess, other-power, prayer). These two lines radiate from the Ancient Harmony, to define the four points which are the Elements, the Children of the God and Goddess. The four points which are the Elements, the Children of the God and Goddess support these two lines, the God and Goddess, which together define the Ancient Harmony.
Hopefully this gives some insight into the exact nature of both prayer and spell-casting, to their similarities and differences, and to the fact that they are inseparable: when you pray, you are also casting a spell, and when you cast a spell, you are also praying.