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The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical

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The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Paul Bradford 1/2/13 11:15 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Be Free Now 1/3/13 1:06 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Daniel M. Ingram 1/3/13 1:54 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Paul Bradford 1/3/13 5:11 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Some Guy 1/3/13 5:35 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Andy W 1/4/13 6:59 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Fitter Stoke 1/4/13 9:46 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Chris Coleman 1/5/13 9:18 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Sleeping Buddha Syndrome 1/5/13 3:10 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Tom Tom 1/5/13 11:08 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Bailey . 1/6/13 4:59 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Tom Tom 1/6/13 6:18 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Tom Tom 1/6/13 6:16 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Joshua, the solitary 1/7/13 6:03 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Tom Tom 1/7/13 9:52 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Jigme Sengye 1/8/13 2:30 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Eric Michaels 1/5/13 8:17 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Bruno Loff 1/6/13 6:45 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Some Guy 1/6/13 3:01 PM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Ona Kiser 1/8/13 9:47 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Mike H. 1/8/13 10:31 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Daniel M. Ingram 1/11/13 2:05 AM
RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical Lara D 2/4/13 9:43 PM
First of all, sorry that my first post on this forum is negative - I'll start off by saying that MCTB is a fascinating book and I think it will be very helpful to me.

That said, the section on magick suddenly made me very skeptical. It would be one thing if the book was just referring to vivid personal experiences, like experiences felt when taking entheogenic drugs. But it actually mentions "reading minds." My problem with this is that psychic powers like mind reading should be able to be reality tested, and as far as I know every experiment testing mind reading abilities has tested negative or been an error-ridden experiment.

If someone actually possessed these skills, they could do all kinds of crazy things. They could play high stakes Texas hold'em with rich professionals and beat all of them, and if morality is a concern, donate all the money to charity. They could generate massive interest in Buddhism by making their abilities public.

I'm afraid to say this section of the book might prevent me from recommending it to certain friends, because they'll think I'm a nut who believes in mind reading. If I do recommend it it will be with the caveat that this section makes no sense to me.

Is there something I'm missing/misunderstanding?

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/3/13 1:06 AM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
Paul Bradford:

That said, the section on magick suddenly made me very skeptical. It would be one thing if the book was just referring to vivid personal experiences, like experiences felt when taking entheogenic drugs. But it actually mentions "reading minds." My problem with this is that psychic powers like mind reading should be able to be reality tested, and as far as I know every experiment testing mind reading abilities has tested negative or been an error-ridden experiment.


Mind-reading is totally a skill that is developable. In my experience, the more I meditate, the more I know my own mind and moods, the more I know what other people's minds and moods are. You can tell what is going through a person's mind just by his/her body posture, speech, breathing patterns, energy fields. I mean, it takes a while to REALLY read a person's mind, but you can feel desire, you can feel hatred, you can feel ego and ignorance, no?

Paul Bradford:

If someone actually possessed these skills, they could do all kinds of crazy things. They could play high stakes Texas hold'em with rich professionals and beat all of them, and if morality is a concern, donate all the money to charity. They could generate massive interest in Buddhism by making their abilities public.


Who says these things haven't happened? Being able to perform Magick does not mean a person is awakened (see Devadatta). If you want some solid examples of Magick, see Dipa Ma, Ajahn Chah, Shabkar. Or read the suttas and be shocked by the Buddha's Magick emoticon

Paul Bradford:

I'm afraid to say this section of the book might prevent me from recommending it to certain friends, because they'll think I'm a nut who believes in mind reading. If I do recommend it it will be with the caveat that this section makes no sense to me.


Why narrow focus on just this one section and forget the rest of awakening? Why not just practice and see if it's real for yourself? It only matters what is on your mind when you recommend the book. Is it out of love? Or desire to prove something?

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/3/13 1:54 AM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
I totally understand your point of view and concerns. It is a fair critique. One could easily argue, as you are in a roundabout way, that I should have left that stuff out.

Except, the problem comes, what to do when you run into it, which can happen in high-intensity practice, as plenty have reported all too often, and is it better to give the really strong or just those who chanced into something early a heads up so that they do better, or should the book cater to those who are not yet that strong in concentration but might have gotten there if I hadn't mentioned things that were designed for those who were somewhat beyond them or had chanced into things they hadn't chanced into yet?

It is a complex problem, and really involves who you think the audience of the book is. I debated putting in that stuff for a long time, and did so semi-relucatantly for exactly the reasons you outline, but plenty of my fellow adventurers and I have had all sorts of odd experiences in the territory that it describes and it is strange when you find almost nothing useful written about it. It could be easily argued that even what I have written is so scant as to be not nearly as useful as it could be, and it is a fair point, albeit the exact opposite of the one you are raising, and there is the problem.

Thoughts?

Daniel

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
Answer
1/3/13 5:11 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hey Daniel, thanks for your response.

I've not practiced concentration enough to have had these sort of experiences, so I can't relate to the other perspective, except from what I've seen in the psychedelic community. 

Regarding experiences caused by psychedelic drugs there are three basic perspectives:
A) These experiences are delusional and unhealthy and should be avoided completely
emoticon These experiences can cause the mind to think and the body to feel things in a unique and interesting way, causing intelligence and insights not found in normal everyday experience
C) These experiences can allow people to access hidden information in the world, including information that is unavailable to all of their sense organs. Some believe they can act in the world in ways that would be impossible using a normal human body.

I take perspective B, but a significant percentage of people take C. So for example, you have people trying to read minds, and I do not mean using emotional or body language clues, but just trying to read minds. Or you have people who think they're literally communicating with aliens when tripping. For example, there were a significant number of people in the psychedelic community who believed aliens told them the world would end or drastically change in 2012, and then took these experiences literally.

My opinion is that anyone who takes perspective C either in regard to psychedelic drugs or experiences from concentration practices is going to have delusions of grandeur and spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to use or develop their powers.

The book also mentions things like Wicca. I'm non-religious so this doesn't really bother me, but I know a lot of Christians who would hone in on that and then reject everything the book has to offer. Of course, this is a problem with the reader and even if you got rid of those references most of these people would find another part of the book to object to instead. But when my family asks me wtf I'm doing meditating 2 hours a day and wanting to attend retreats, I'll probably just tell them "Vipassana meditation," and not provide reference to this book, due to their Christian background which could cause them grave concern if they read the part in reference.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
Answer
1/3/13 5:35 PM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
I've had a similar dilemma at times- wanting to recommend the book to my friends among the "muggles" but fearing to offend their sensibilities. In restrospect, those people would not have been interested and didn't have the frame of reference to get much else from it either. My take on it is that most people who really grab hold of MCTB and follow through on it are touched by the discussion of the dark night yogi syndrome. For me, and I suspect a lot of other people who end up posting here and practicing and following the maps etc., it was that discussion that shed light on a lot of personal experiences. Part of what makes that flip possible is the principle of frankness behind the whole hard-core dharma movement. If Daniel were to write for the marketplace (and for free!) it would be a completely different book, perhaps deserving of one of those fruity joke covers people have been designing (Jane Rainbow, etc....)

The book also mentions things like Wicca. I'm non-religious so this doesn't really bother me, but I know a lot of Christians who would hone in on that and then reject everything the book has to offer.


That's... funny. If we're talking about skeptical materialists, that's one thing. They just haven't experienced things outside their worldview. But subscribing to one theistic mythology and looking down on others is something else. What would make such people receptive to "hard-core dharma" anyway?

Personally, I'd love to see a separate book on magick from Daniel. That would be one way to resolve the dilemma over sharing more or sharing less.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/4/13 6:59 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
I've had a similar dilemma at times- wanting to recommend the book to my friends among the "muggles" but fearing to offend their sensibilities.


MCTB was written for people already jaded with the mainstream dharma scene. It's therefore not really a book for people who have never meditated before. This is both a great strength - it has a wonderfully rebellious tone - and a weakness. I get lots of friends asking me to recommend meditation books, and am never quite sure where to turn. I can hardly recommend MCTB - that would have freaked me out when I was starting out - but recommending Jon Kabat-Zinn or Joseph Goldstein and hoping they'll find their way to the hardcore stuff eventually isn't very satisfactory. Bhante G's Mindfulness in Plain English is a good beginner book, but I'd prefer something dryer and more technical, without the bits of dogma he includes. We need a hardcore dharma book for total beginners.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
Answer
1/4/13 9:46 AM as a reply to Andy W.
Andy W:
Jason B:
I've had a similar dilemma at times- wanting to recommend the book to my friends among the "muggles" but fearing to offend their sensibilities.


MCTB was written for people already jaded with the mainstream dharma scene. It's therefore not really a book for people who have never meditated before. This is both a great strength - it has a wonderfully rebellious tone - and a weakness. I get lots of friends asking me to recommend meditation books, and am never quite sure where to turn. I can hardly recommend MCTB - that would have freaked me out when I was starting out - but recommending Jon Kabat-Zinn or Joseph Goldstein and hoping they'll find their way to the hardcore stuff eventually isn't very satisfactory. Bhante G's Mindfulness in Plain English is a good beginner book, but I'd prefer something dryer and more technical, without the bits of dogma he includes. We need a hardcore dharma book for total beginners.


I didn't have a lot of meditation experience before reading MCTB. I had just finished an 8-week MBSR course and was scouring the internet for ways to deepen and extend my practice. More than anything else it was the tone of MCTB, and the emphasis on mastery and competence in opposition to people who cared more about feelings than mastery or competence, that convinced me to take up the practices. It wasn't so much my previous meditation experience that got me into the book than the fact that the book seemed to contradict my previous meditation experience, or at least many of the ideas underlying it.

By the time I reached the section of the book on the powers, I was already pretty immersed in the practice, having risen up through the first three ñanas by means of a heavy, aggressive noting technique. My first thought was, “Oh, another guy into magick with a k,” because I already knew or had known people who were into that. But unlike these other people, who I regarded as flaky and mentally unstable, Daniel seemed competent and like he was playing with a full deck, so I didn’t mind it. In fact, a few weeks later, I downloaded a copy of Kraig’s Modern Magick and learned and practiced the first few rituals out of the book. But I lost interest in all that as soon as I hit the A&P, which up until that point in my life was the most profound spiritual experience I had ever had.

In short, I wouldn't change much about the content of the book or its tone. If you're an adventurous outsider who's interested in dharma, you're going to get into the book, regardless of how much meditation you've already done.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/5/13 9:18 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I agree with the OP. I was completely into the book, enjoying and learning, until I got to the section on mind reading, etc. There is absolutely no question in my mind that this stuff is impossible. It would be the scientific discovery of the century if it were, and there's no shortage of people who have been motivated to prove something like this.

I simply read these passages as being a description of the subjective delusion of being able to read minds, etc, and moved on. The rest of the book is great. But I will admit these passages caused me to start second guessing everything else I was reading. Just my two cents, though.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/5/13 3:10 PM as a reply to Chris Coleman.
For those who might be skeptical, my suggestion is that you go out and practice a few years before you jump to any conclusions. Spending time at a retreat center with high caliber practitioners might be insightful as well.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/5/13 8:17 PM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
Trouble is, if you have strong concentration, perhaps even if you don't, you are bound to run into some of this stuff on the spiritual path. Daniel made the right choice by mentioning it in MCTB.

On one hand, I am skeptical about this sort of thing. You'd think that there would be something in the news if these powers were real. (Though I will note, we live in a society where this stuff is more or less ridiculed, while most other societies are more tolerant.) On the other hand, I have had experiences that certainly appear to be... paranormal?

Perhaps it would be wise to meditate and investigate these things for oneself, rather than debating on internet message boards. emoticon

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/5/13 11:08 PM as a reply to Chris Coleman.
There is absolutely no question in my mind that this stuff is impossible.


Go out into the woods or in a cave and meditate all day for two years without talking to a single human person for the entire time. Or you could be like a Tibetan and sit in a cave until death. But, don't do that, because I want you to come back and report that your skepticism is now gone.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/6/13 6:45 AM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
I think your reaction is understandable, and you should definitely hold on to that skepticism.

In fairness to Daniel, he does not write that "you might be able to read the thoughts and emotions of others." Instead, he writes that "you might begin to get the sense that you can read the thoughts and emotions of others," which is quite different.

I like Daniel's general approach:

Whether or not [the powers] are “real” is a question that I am happy to avoid, though these experiences can be so extremely vivid that they can seem more “real” than the “real world.” Much more interesting than the question of what is real is the question of what is causal, i.e. what leads to what

I have met people on and off retreat who were having difficulty with the kind of phenomena that are described in that section of MCTB, and I think that the section should not be omitted. I do agree that it requires some experience in unusual states of mind, or at least a particularly open mind, in order not to feel weird about that section. Perhaps the feeling of alienation can be subdued with a proper paragraph.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/6/13 3:01 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
This conversation is reminding me of other discussions I've been following about the figure of the Buddha in the Suttas and whether or not he really, really meant it when he spoke, repeatedly, in detail, and at length about rebirth.

Some seem to feel that since they can understand and make use of everything else the Buddha said except rebirth, then the whole rebirth thing must be some kind of misunderstanding. It's the paradoxical bias of the rational mindset, imho. Our allegiance to reason is so great, that we can't look dispassionately at things that seem to undermine the comfort of our rational views.

Statements of faith to the effect that, if it were real science would have told me by now, are kind of sweet and very ironic.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/6/13 4:59 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I'm glad this thread was brought up. I feel strongly the same way for different reasons. The information on the powers/magik is extraneous and detracts from the core. We want the book to contain what it needs and nothing more. Bringing up the fact that "people might experience supernatural things along the path" and talking about them for a number of pages are two different things.

Just as Daniel was aware of the fact that talking about powers might turn people off, I am also sure he is aware of what I am talking about. Let's call the idea, mathematical "elegance", "if and only if".

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/6/13 6:18 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
The information on the powers/magik is extraneous and detracts from the core.


It's not extraneous if you see floating angels or 3D entites walking around and then you remember from the book where it says that your reaction is going to have very real and powerful effects on your life. Whether you choose to point these things out to other people (or mention these things to anyone for that matter) or get down and your knees and worship is going to have very powerful consequences on your future. If you remember this part of the book when this is mentioned and you relax and let it all pass and go away, then things will be fine. If this part is left out of the book then the consequences might be dire and severe if the former actions are taken. In general, talking about "enlightenment" turns people off too as most people don't think that is real (or at least attainable) either (most Buddhists too). Generally, if someone is reading a book about "getting enlightened" they're reading about weird "fringy" stuff anyways, so I don't see why people are so skeptical about magick/powers.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/6/13 6:16 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Generally, if someone is reading a book about "getting enlightened" they're reading about weird "fringy" stuff anyways, so I don't see why people are so skeptical about magick/powers.


Perhaps this is a sign of the times and good progress? That awakening is finally getting "normalized"?

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/7/13 6:03 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
Generally, if someone is reading a book about "getting enlightened" they're reading about weird "fringy" stuff anyways, so I don't see why people are so skeptical about magick/powers.


Perhaps this is a sign of the times and good progress? That awakening is finally getting "normalized"?


Awakening can never be normalised. At least, it has gone far in the opposite direction. Two thousand years ago a farmer who had any time not toiling in the field nonstop would either get drunk with friends or try to seduce some woman. Now we have video games, television and film, and the Internet. There are more mundane distractions than ever, and aside from fringe communities like this, where some people have followed through their will for awakening...blah blah blah nevermind.

Awakening was more accepted at any point in recorded history than now
Surely. It is as impossible to speak of, using zen koans or so called pragmatic language. To believe there was a time when the society accepted your place as a monk. What does one do these days? When one has dispassion for everything wordly what does one do? How does one live when everything but meditation is frivolous. It seems very noble to see the advanced practitioners here leading normal lives in the society but it is a mystery to me, how one can do it knowing the underlying absurdity.
I cannot stand it. There are some things I have understood. How seemingly magic powers are controlled by something like desire but not so arbitrary. But then again the Buddhist canon takes liberties such as representing delusion as a person.
Anyway, my point is that this world is hostile to enlightenment, that is its nature. Material improvements must mean grosser perceptions this was always a Vedic understanding.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/7/13 9:52 PM as a reply to Joshua, the solitary.
Awakening can never be normalised.


How do you explain the culture that arose in Tibet? Their entire culture revolved around awakening. Though I think what you're saying is awakening can never be normalized now in this fast paced, fast food culture? (Keep in mind people and cultures like to swing from one extreme to another extreme - case in point: 1950s and 1960s - in the usa).

"Traditionally large numbers of Tibetan males became monks and many families had at least one son who was a monk. In 1959, nearly a quarter of all Tibetan males were monks." -http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=218&

Anyways, I was referring largely to the smaller context of the activities in these online communities and their results. Previous buddhist websites (I believe there was one like e-sangha?) were much more dogmatic/"mushroomy."

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/8/13 2:30 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:


"Traditionally large numbers of Tibetan males became monks and many families had at least one son who was a monk. In 1959, nearly a quarter of all Tibetan males were monks." -http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=218&


An alternate explanation would be monasticism as a form of birth control and a source of unpaid construction work. When you have things like soldier monks and accountant monks, it's difficult to believe that all of these monks had dedicated themselves to awakening. I suspect that the situation is a lot better now due to everyone, in other words, all Tibetan monks (or at least the ones outside of Tibet) and their lay families being taught ngondro. I'm not sure that this was the case before.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/8/13 9:47 AM as a reply to Paul Bradford.
In my experience it's fairly common for people in meditation and other spiritual/contemplative practices to unexpectedly begin having weird experiences, ranging from frequent and unusual coincidences (what are often termed psychic phenomena) to intense visions, a sense of entities interacting with them, hallucinations or strange dreams, and so on. Depending on their cultural background this can be very disturbing. In my experience it seems to be very consoling in these cases for the person to be told by other meditators/yogis that such things are typical and they don't need to worry they have gone mad but can simply continue with their practice... or introduce supportive practices to help them overcome their fears so they can continue practicing... or indulge in goofing around with the phenomena until they get tired of it and move on.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/8/13 10:31 AM as a reply to Ona Kiser.
I would just chime in and agree with the sentiment of many here - it is good to be alerted to these mental formations in advance.

An example (that isn't even about perceptions of magick) - If I was not told in advance of lights/nimitta that can be seen in meditation, or of some of the manifestations of rapture, I would have been VERY weirded out. I sometimes have a very distinct sense of falling backwards, for instance. I usually see the descriptions of these phenomena only in more hardcore manuals like Mahasi Sayadaw's writings or MCTB - not so much in the writings by the founders of IMS, where they are hardly mentioned if at all (as far as I can recall).

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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1/11/13 2:05 AM as a reply to Mike H..
In case anyone is wondering, the powers section in MCTB2 will be much longer, for better or worse, but will be split into two parts, with one happening later, after the progress of insight section, so that at least people will have gotten the core stuff about the stages before they get freaked out. However, it is hard not to mention them in the A&P and Equanimity, when at least a few small powers-like things are relatively common.

Thanks for all your comments: they are helpful.

RE: The MCTB section on magick makes me feel alienated and skeptical
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2/4/13 9:43 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My sentiments were quite similar to the OP's. I'm a bit of a skeptic, too, and my attitude tends to be "false until proven true". That said, I've always recognized that I can't deny experiences, my own or other people's. So that does tend to mean I'm willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and suspend my disbelief for a bit. When I reached that section, my first instinct was to reject it. But after some reflection, I can also recognize that it probably has truth to it. There is plenty out there in the world that is way beyond my normal scope of existence and I'm not afraid of that possibility.

On the flip side, I was also quite happy to get to that section. I used to wish that magick were real when I was a kid; I'd go so far as saying that I'd still wished it to be true even as I've grown up. I would have LOVED to have known that. I was always a fantasy and sci-fi junkie, so this sort of thing would have been right up my alley. I always figured it was just the stuff of stories, though, and that reality is more cut and dry. Ironically, I actually started meditation to become more "in tune" with reality and everyday experiences. How strange it is to be delving into "real life" fantasy territory instead!

On a more serious note, though, the possibility that magick might be real and that I might be delving into A&P territory (hence, dark night territory) makes me a little bit reluctant to go further until I have more time to sort everything out. I'm a student right now and I don't know if I can really afford to go nutty and depressed for awhile. I also can't afford to be seeing visions when I'm trying to work in the lab. Perhaps the other bit, though, is that maybe I can't afford NOT to investigate more. I feel more and more that my spiritual development is probably gonna be one of the more important things I set out to do. Oh well. We'll see how it goes.

My advice to the OP is this... test it out for yourself. Investigate and see if there is any validity to the magick section. There might be more than you think, if you go in with an open mind. I've already experienced a good deal from meditation (and I'm only just now starting) and I can say that it's definitely way more than I bargained for... but it's also way cooler than I imagined too. I'm hoping that I won't get too lost in the spiritual mire and find my way through to enlightenment. I set out to be a better person and that's what I intend to do.