As well as preparing the physical area for magick, you also need to prepare your mental state. It is universally agreed that we have two hemispheres of the brain -the left, logical, and the right, intuitive, side – and that generally in the everyday world the left brain predominates. This may be no bad thing; after all, buying golden sunflowers and oils pressed from fragrant herbs may lift the spirits, but they will do little for us if we are so disorganized that we fail to remember the cereal and cat food – and the yowls of hungry children and cats ringing through the early morning air are not conducive to relaxation.
These demarcations within the mind have not always been so clear. Julian Jaynes, in his book The Origin of the Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, suggests that self-awareness in humans has existed for only about 3,000 years. In stating this, he was defining self-awareness as the awareness of our own separateness and our private thoughts.
This state of mind, normal in adults, is very different from the more primitive state of mind of small children, who keep up a running commentary on their actions. But young children are also incredibly skilled at mind-hopping and reading the thoughts of others. This is precisely because they do not have the adult’s strong sense of the individual and private self. In so-called primitive societies, the individual does not have the same importance: it is the collective responsibility that matters. So the rituals that are carried out to ensure the fertility of the crops and animals and the community are performed in a group.
In a sense, magick is about using the bicarmel mind, placing the brain’s right hemisphere in the driving seat, taking concentration, focus and determination from the more logical side as fuel and a map, and reconnecting our unified self with the undifferentiated universe.
You can carry out magick absolutely anywhere as long as you are in a positive frame of mind. But many practitioners believe that by entering an altered state of consciousness, you remove all the conscious blocks and allow the intuitive brain free access to the unconscious mind and with it the repository of human and cosmic wisdom. This brings about a state of mind in which energies can flow between the dimensions.
You are in your most relaxed state when your brain is generating alpha waves. They oscillate about ten times per second (the range is eight to 13 cycles per second) and are less common in our modern stressful lives. But they are naturally generated, for example, when you daydream, or sit by a fountain and let the rushing water fill your mind, or gaze into a candle flame, or have a lavender- or rose scented bath. Compare these with the traditional routine preparations of fasting and ritual bathing of practitioners of the craft and you begin to see why these are important.
Invoking your protective angels to stand at the four corners of your magical circle, performing the rituals of preparing your magical tools and, in more formal magick, casting a circle – these are all ways of marking the limits of the everyday world and the entry into this magical space in which all the normal laws are suspended. There are many ways of reaching this state, techniques to still inner turmoil and outer demands that block the easy access to the deeper psychic states.
At times when you feel unhappy, tense or anxious, you may need tranquillity; alternatively, there may be times when you need an infusion of power to meet a challenge, restore confidence or gain energy when all you feel like doing is sleeping.
Breathing in light and colours is a method of creating a cone or vortex of power, that can be released as magical energy or healing power in the cosmos. In addition, by absorbing the light of the Moon or Sun you may take in either tranquillity or energies for those moments when you are particularly in need. Perhaps you will find yourself in an artificially lit building, crammed on a commuter train or rushing to get the children to school and go to work. At such times you may feel like one of the hags from Macbeth, ready to turn the entire carriage of commuters into toads – that’s when good magick is what you need.