I’ve been an upright (and uppity) atheist for a very long time. I’ve even wrote papers about it in college. I feel that Abrahamic religion is perhaps the worst scourge to hit humanity since its inception. Don’t even get me started.
I’ve also been a practicing Buddhist until I found it is lacking in its passivity. By Buddhism’s very nature, it’s simply not proactive. Therefore my interest in the Left Hand Path has been growing a great deal in the past few months.
But I’ve been having a hard time trying to suspend my atheism and skepticism in order to conduct even the simplest magick. However, I am a strong believer in the power of energy work and manipulation of the natural forces around us; it’s easily explained if one has any knowledge of quantum physics.
Is atheism a barrier any of you have had overcome, and if so, how did you do it?
When I was a school kid, I was an atheist because I found that Christianity, as it was understood by most people in my country, was really stupid (later in my life, when I got really into magick, I felt in love with Orthodox Christinianity and began to practice inner fasting daily). Later, I felt attracted by “dark” stuff and began to study Laveyan satanism, and from that point, I didn’t even realized when I got into Theistic Satanism, it just happened. However, my former atheism was never a barrier, as everything I practiced had immediate results, but not as strong as I wanted them to be, so I dedicated years to psychic development. I was initiated with a bunch of other people and something what made the difference between the members of that group was that for some people, including me, the demons showed special interest, so they did the effort to prove us that they were real and tremendously powerful, even if they had to prepare the stages of the play themselves sometimes. In fact, a reason of why people around me, despite being Christian, or atheist or whatever, respect my religion (yes, I call it a religion since its practices and paradigm are very well structured), it’s because they see the stuff I do manifesting in their lives and, most importantly, in my life. I think that if you find the correct allies in the other side of the veil, your atheism won’t stand for much longer, however, if you get to meet powerful entities and you don’t want to consider them your “gods”, it’s okay. I think that it is more rational the atheism of not recognizing any entity as a god to be worshipped or served (despite sometimes both things can, could, should or shall be done) than the one that denies the powers of the mind and the spirit. Also atheist in my country are very Christian, since they follow zealously the Christian morals, and they agree with Christian in that there is only one god, so they keep “fighting” that god, thus, if you worship/follow/like whatever deity that is not the Christian god, you can even support them when they harass the various species of Western Christians that roam the streets and the local internet.
I’m currently into a mixture of Demonolatry and Thelema, but I also practice Draconian stuff, Orthodox Christian stuff and Norse paganism stuff. You gotta find what works for you.
There is an atheistic magic and, although it does exist a current requiring to believe, in another one the magician simply practices: even suspending judgement on possible results, until supposedly a certainty about their nature rise up.
I’ve been back and forth through this gauntlet, for example when I was a kid I wanted to be a priest (figuring if what I was taught in Catholicism was real nothing else really mattered nearly as much - glad I didn’t choose that track though), by 20 I was agnostic and my sense of people and purpose through enough exposure had become extremely Darwinian, and by my late 20’s I would say I was an atheist materialist albeit not wild about the implications. My early 30’s saw spikes of activity that at least forced me out of reductive materialism, not necessarily out of nihilism however and as for the ultimate bit about deity or no deity - I’d at least say I can’t possibly be a theist at this point but something like Spinoza’s God, a universal mind, or Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris mathematically unfolding itself? Quite possible but simultaneously unrelatable and not something you can necessarily pray to or have much of a relationship with (a bit like ‘we are all one’ is useless if we’re all trying to smash each other for reproductive rights and whoever finds peace and unity gets smashed first).
I didn’t get your position on reductive materialism from the first post but there are a couple prongs to this:
First if you are a reductive materialist and are sure, like in your bones sure, that consciousness is just brain and that it’ll cease to exist a few minutes after your heartbeat stops, there are some authors and high quality magicians I’ve met who handle this work as something like getting lost in good movies or pursuing flow states. There’s a US author named Collin Campbell who, at least last I heard, follows that model and seems to enjoy deep-dives into the goetic lore and source material.
If you aren’t a reductive materialist necessarily or perhaps think there are some quirky or fundamental things about consciousness but don’t see good evidence for deities, angels, etc. you can always start by approaching the practice from the standpoint of animism and from that perspective some of the more shamanistic approaches might fit better.
The one thing that seems to hold true with this work regardless of which path you go down - its first and foremost applicability is self-authorship and what gets ultimately called internal alchemy but could really be considered the accrual of one’s long-term and persistent efforts to improve themselves and live their lives, internally and as much as life allows externally, in keeping with their highest core principles as well as improving on those core principles with time wherever possible. In that way though ceremonial magic ends up being more to attain the peak experiences or to discover something fundamental about yourself or the universe that you were unclear about and either grow or prune a heuristic. While you can try to perform practical magic to get results in the world I found that even the best rituals where you really throw your all in tend to just fizzle out as a crackle of synchronicities, that can be useful if say you’re stuck in reductive materialism and wanting to get out and find proofs to the contrary, but if you’re already there synchronicities are a bit of a eye roll like ‘Yep, that did f-all nothing’. Some people here perhaps have had better luck with the practical magic but my take is that it’s something that’s a bit like athletic talent - you either have it or you don’t.
Wow! Thanks to all of you who responded. What really blows my mind about the BALG forum is how eloquent and educated many of you seem to be. The LHP is NOT what many outsiders think it is. I think there’s a huge misconception about “us,” in that we’re selfish, spoiled little Marilyn Manson fans or people who couldn’t separate D&D from real life. This concept obviously couldn’t be further from the truth. We study this shit! Some of us most likely spend thousands of dollars on books and accoutrements, and countless hours of study, meditation, and practice. It also seems like the individuals who have the most success with this practice are the ones who really LIVE it.
Thank you (and any future commentators) for such lucid insights.
It just reminds me of the quote “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it” atheism doesn’t have to get in the way but if you don’t believe you can accomplish something than you won’t accomplish it. I mean what spirit wants to talk to people that don’t believe they exist? (Not accusing you of believing so it was just an example). I used to be an atheist too, now I just don’t have a religion but I believe in various deities though I don’t worship them. Try to see your magick as working with various energies, all of which are very real and supported by science. Hope this helped.
I’d say some of the best examples of that are bankers, economists, Wall Street traders, and people who like to hang out in Davos.
Thank you, MagickAndBreakz.
I also was raised Catholic by my mother (my dad was an atheist like me) and even considered the priesthood. But when I was about 13 I noticed that many of the sheep around me were merely worshiping to ensure safe passage to heaven, not to become better people. When I later read Dr. Daniel C. Dennet’s amazing book Breaking the Spell I learned that “morals” are more likely the result of evolution and not scripture. (Think about it: In a tribal society, it wasn’t a good practice to steal and kill–unless it was from other tribes, of course. And even then, it was often smarter to let other tribes go about their own business.)
Anyway, I got a bit tangential there like I always do.
I commend you for bringing up Stanislaw Lem and Solaris. Nice call.
I also was raised Catholic by my mother (my dad was an atheist like me) and even considered the priesthood. But when I was about 13 I noticed that many of the sheep around me were merely worshiping to ensure safe passage to heaven, not to become better people.
What got me was seeing people cut holes in it like paper dolls, do whatever they wanted to do, and the display of near perfect hypocrisy was so universally consistent that I eventually had to question myself rather than question them. This was also well before I had the chance to read the bible cover to cover with a historical lens to interpret it.
I commend you for bringing up Stanislaw Lem and Solaris. Nice call.
I actually owe the reminder on that one somewhat to John Gray’s Soul of the Marionette. Straw Dogs was one of my favorite philosophy books, helped wrap up something like 20 years as an adult learning how people were, it gave me the why, and Soul of the Marionette talked about everything from the secular reinvention of gnosticism (ie. myth of progress, Kurzweil’s ‘we’ll upload ourselves’, and all sorts of other reality-denial devices) in addition to talking about what sort of thing the universe may well be. A few people at least have said some things that have helped unpack that sort of cold mathematical deism from other directions.
If you’re ever in Portland, Oregon, I’ll make the coffee.
Not only was I an atheist but also a reductive materialist until I turned about 18-19. Then I started experimenting with psychedelics and reading RAW --> Crowley --> EA and it was all downhill from there.
To answer your question more precisely, though, you don’t have to be a theist in order to do magick:
belief in a god/gods isn’t necessary to cast spells or communicate with spirits. I wouldn’t say I believe in a God with a capital G, but I do believe in the existence of gods.
Working with Chaos magic is one option that doesn’t require a belief in a Higher Power. You might also consider Anton LaVey’s model that the ritual chamber is an “intellectual decompression chamber” and that magical ceremonies and rituals are a psychodrama, and an emotional catharsis. (But later on in his career LaVey admitted to tapping into a “an unknown something out there”.)
What flavor of Buddhism were you involved in? In my experience chanting the Lotus Sutra is a fantastic way manifest earthly desires. Anyway, speaking as a former atheist myself, I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that if you stick with this occult business long enough you’ll eventually drop the atheism nonsense.
PS I’m also in the PNW so PM me if you want to.
I’ve been working with chaos magick a bit. I basically got my start with the Gallery of Magick books, but I’m really not getting results. (I did a five day love spell that appears to have repelled her further away.) I’ll keep trying; that’s about all I can do. Like meditation (or just about anything else), magickal ability takes practice.
My Buddhist practice is Vipassana. It’s not only very old but it’s probably got the least amount of bullshit attached to it. The meditation has proven to have many physical and mental health benefits. I started with Soka Gokkai, Nichiren Buddhism, but I found the group to be more of a cult than anything. However, the concept of chanting does put one at a very different, almost surreal, vibration.
I’m trying to give up my 30-year cigarette addiction, so I chanted the enn of Haagenti while gazing at his sigil for about 15 minutes, if only to put my mind at ease about the whole scary process. We’ll see.
Isn’t Vipassana the one that has the 10-day silent retreat? I always wanted to do that, it seems very cool. I got my start with SGI too, years ago, but haven’t had anything to do with them in decades. Fortunately, SGI does not have a monopoly on the Lotus Sutra. I say if you still have an interest in it, get a translation of the Lotus Sutra, and of Nichiren’s writings (published by SGI - lol) and just chant the Daimoku. Nichiren Shu seems legit but I have no first hand experience with them.
But yea, you’re right that magical ability takes practice just like any other skill, so stick with it. Congrats on becoming a non-smoker.
Yes, there are all kinds of retreats in various Buddhist styles or sects. Really what I tend to practice is called Theravada; “Vipassana” is really the goal of Theravada, which is basically like a Zen state. Theravada Buddhists tend to not bother striving for “enlightenment,” simply because it’s so rare and one must devote their entire life to the practice—something most of us obviously cannot do out here in the real world.
I’ve always wanted to try one of the retreats, too. They’re expensive (and I don’t usually have a couple grand in my pocket that isn’t earmarked for bills, etc.), but they’re nowhere near as expensive as staying at a hotel, motel, or even a hostel. Nobody’s getting rich off what you pay for most retreats (make sure you look into the legitimacy of the organization first, of course). The fee is basically for meals and the cost of keeping the facility running.
And yes, I’ll probably return to chanting the Lotus Sutra, as I haven’t done it in awhile.
Thanks for your insights. Cheers.
The closest I’ve ever been to athiest is agnostic but from my point of view no simply being athiest is not a barrier to practicing magick. You could simply focus more on working with psychological archetypes or planetary energies instead of trying to evoke entities you don’t believe exist
But if you believe in yourself and your own psyche no reason archetypes shouldn’t work for you
If you believe in the ability to recieve and send out energy into a quantum field no reason planetary magick shouldn’t work for you
Don’t fight your beliefs work with them and you should see sucess
As some others on here have mentioned you would probably be interested in looking into chaos magick