Every new impression that enters the sensory apparatus alters the structure of the nervous system in some small way. We have the capacity to take part in these changes by utilizing a symbolically structured approach to temporary or conditional truth known as belief. What we, as humans, believe shapes our notions of reality by coloring each of our perceptions and impressions through belief’s filter. In essence, practicing a belief reorganizes pieces of the nervous system in some small way so that these connections occur with each new sensory or other input, thereby reinforcing the initial belief. From this perspective, belief, in particular its capacity to alter the nervous system, has its place among other immensely powerful tools for engendering transformation, fluidity, and experiences of “the other”.
The difficulty with belief lies in the time it takes to develop it enough to begin its alterations. Daily practice of a belief, walking down the same neural pathways, will eventually yield the desired changes, but has the drawback of being harder and harder to return from the deeper one plunges into the rabbit hole. Each belief system one travels down creates a map of reality that, upon return remains accessible to the “meta person”. The “meta person” can be defined as the position of belief and personality from which one began the journey down a particular rabbit hole, ideally this position is similar each time one embarks on a journey of belief and remains as close to a passive observer as possible given one’s current state of practice. In Yogic philosophy this “meta person” has a name: Buddhi. A passive observer of the state of the mind. Great care must be taken so that the Buddhi does not become an aggregate of bits and pieces from the various beliefs that are undertaken.
The goal lies in continuously sculpting and changing the brain and nervous system in order to create flexibility holistically. An example to help explain: Crowley’s method involved picking a god or goddess to worship, surrounding himself with the incense, ritual objects, etc of that god and goddess. Constructing rituals to evoke and invoke them and having mental exercises, habit exercises follow him out of the temple to continue patterning his behavior and funneling it into a self-created reality tunnel where the specific god he was worshipping (creating) was the penultimate force in the universe. He would undertake these experiments, and once he achieved a super-real experience of the entity he was worshipping, he would switch to a different god or goddess. He would create an elaborate tunnel-reality, plunge himself into it, and return back via the anchoring effects of his journal.
With some practice in belief, the meta person has the ability to select at will from any of these prebuilt meshes of belief. Each representing a “lookout” or perspective from which our participation in reality unfolds. These maps are useful for understanding perspectives other than the ones that are developed through pure chance, habitus, early socialization, trauma, etc. They are also useful for remaining fluid and low tension even during challenging situations.
I worked in a woodshop for several years, ripping, cross-cutting, planing, assembling, finishing, installing cabinets and heavy appliances. The shop was in Greek Town in Baltimore in a decaying turn of the century (20th century) industrial complex. In the summer we’d open the doors and turn on all the fans in an attempt to gain respite from the boiling temperature. Despite our best efforts it was always at least 15 degrees hotter inside than out. There were 3 heaters we’d use in the winter, but the place was so big everyone had to intermittently go without heat depending on where they had to move around that day. A strange and insidious black dust fell from the ceiling constantly, filling our lungs along with saw dust and whatever finishing chemicals were in use that day.
I am a small guy, this seeming and self-imposed limitation was very difficult to overcome on my own. I did a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of applied force in cramped places. I’d come home feeling like the outside of my body had been boiled and toughened like leather, beaten and battered. I practiced hatha yoga, tai chi and qi gong every day after work like clock work to keep my body from giving up and to keep it adaptable. But my mind kept hitting the wall and I became more and more disgruntled every day. Anger and woodworking go hand in hand, it’s part of the process of wood working for most it seems, small rages while assembling seem to help the beetle kephra jump to an obvious solution. At the time I didn’t understand that, I didn’t like being angry so much that it made me more angry.
I was working in the back with a guy I only passingly got along with, because we worked together. One day we were joking around and I said something to the effect of, “wood working is devil worship”. I had made many off-color jokes with him over the year we had worked together and most were accepted with at least a little smile, I had mostly learned his language and although I never made racist jokes or jokes about women, I learned how to speak to him. This joke, however, was met with wide eyes. That was enough to provide an impetus for action and transformation.
I investigated Satanism, Luciferianism. They both seemed too dependant on a binary proposition for me to engage in, I was deep into tai-chi and qi-gong which has mostly ruined me for duality (that is to say it would take me a long time to erect a belief tunnel around a dualistic cosmos). I settled on a general diabolism and my practices followed suit, I walked down the tunnel and after a few weeks work got easier and I had transformed into something more than slightly sinister, even becoming more capable of using my left hand dextrously. The co-worker and I joked, but now he no longer lingered, and I became capable of objecting to his off-color jokes and my objections would shut him down completely. The aches and pains my body would suffer over the course of the (sometimes 17 hour) day that initially and for the first year were horribly demoralizing became like a badge of honor for having survived hell every day, they were a method for bringing me one step closer to demonhood. I left this job after another couple of years. I think that because I was practicing meditation, qi-gong and hatha yoga every day I was able to walk right out of this tunnel easily. Flexibility in the body can indicate flexibility in the mind. But you have to practice that way.
I believe many other unusual things today. These days I try to remain more practical with my beliefs (although, this itself grows wearisome). I like to think that emotions can get trapped in the physical body. This belief of convenience makes practicing stretching that much more useful because I can root out stuck emotions in my body. This phenomenon will probably never have a scientific explanation or examination to verify its veracity, but that doesn’t matter. I often explain to students that Qi-Gong acts as a psychosomatic exercise, literally. If you are able to imagine hard enough that you are holding some type of warm energy ball in your hands that you experience physical sensations than you are more likely able to fool your body into not feeling pain when you experience pain. Does that seem useful?