Anthony Alvarado‘s “D.I.Y. Magic” ran as a column for this website in 2010-11. In 2011, it was collected and expanded into book form through Floating World Comics, with 40 illustrations (curated by FWC’s Jason Leivian) and a cover designed by Lord Whimsy…
With that initial edition of 1,000 copies now sold out, Anthony has signed a deal with Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin, to bring a revised, second edition of D.I.Y. Magic to the public in Spring 2015. This new edition will have about 50 pages of new material, with accompanying artwork again curated by Jason Leivian.
Congratulations, Mr. Alvarado!
D.I.Y. Magic is the third book to see publication in recent years after debuting in some form in Arthur. The others are 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom (Abrams, 2009), a social history/polemic by Alan Moore based on his article “Bog Venus vs. Nazi Cock-Ring: Some Thoughts Concerning Pornography” from Arthur No. 25 (Dec. 2006); and the novel Zazen by Vanessa Veselka (Red Lemonade, 2011), which was serialized on this website in 2009-10. Zazen won Veselka the 2012 PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize.
D.I.Y. MAGIC by Anthony Alvarado 40 b&w illustrations, cover design by Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy First edition letterpress silver foil cover limited to 1000 copies, 176 pages, 5″ x 8″, $13.95 Shipping $5.30 US, $11 INTL, $8 CANADA Now available to order
What is magic? It is the fine and subtle art of driving yourself insane! No really, it is just that. It is a con game you play on your own brain. It is the trick of letting yourself go crazy, and when it’s done right, the magus treads the same sacred and profane ground where walks the madman…
We can read descriptions of myths, of the practices of shamans, but the descriptions we might read by a Pentecostal believer, or a voodoo practitioner ridden by the loa, will be meaningless to us unless we have already been in the state they describe. These are wholly subjective experiences.
If you take these many practices, from across countless fields, cultures, religions, modes of being and systems of ritual (hypnosis, song and dance, duende, speaking in tongues, enchantment, faith healing, divination, out of body experience, sweat lodges, drumming, yoga, drugs, fever and on and on), we find that we are really talking about the same thing: a state where the mind lets go of the normal way of being and is opened up to an experience of existence as a whole that is bigger and without time. These states are all really different forms of the same thing, or if not the precisely the same thing, then near and adjacent territories in a realm that lies parallel to this one, reachable by many means.
In short, rather than advertise this as a book of magick, it could just as well have been labeled a book of psychology hacking. Or a cookbook. Think of it as jail-breaking the iPhone of your mind. Teaching it to do things that its basic programming was never set up for. Advanced self-psychology.
Featuring over 40 b&w illustrations by: Lala Albert, Farel Dalrymple, Ines Estrada, Maureen Gubia, Kevin Hooyman, Dunja Jankovic, Aidan Koch, Jesse Moynihan, Luke Ramsey, Ron Rege Jr. & more!
“What makes this book vastly different from many other books on magic is that there’s no doubt in my mind that the author has actually done the things that he says he has. What’s more is that he has derived a great deal of pleasure and meaningful experience from the doing. And, so will you.” – Aaron Gach, Center For Tactical Magic
“Anthony Alvarado has concocted a cookbook for vivid living: poetry that’s lived rather than written. His “spells” are actually practical suggestions by which the reader may coax the extraordinary from the everyday—and from themselves.” – Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy, author of The Affected Provincial’s Companion
“Few books are as immediately useful as this delightful, inspirational tips ‘n’ tricks tome. I’m having a backyard betel nut party in five minutes and everyone’s invited!” -Jay Babcock, editor of Arthur Magazine
I recently spoke with John Zerzan, the leading voice in the Anarcho-primitivist movement, at his home in Eugene, Oregon. He is the author of several renowned books on green anarchy including Elements of Refusal and Future Primitive. Zerzan is well known for his association with the Unabomber but I wanted to hear what he had to say about the current state of primitivism and where it is headed. — Anthony Alvarado
(This interview has been shortened for brevity. Particularly a long discussion on the Paleolithic age has been cut from the transcript.)
In a nutshell, what do you believe in? I associate you with anarchy and primitivism. How do you define those?
Well, the stuff is called by those terms. Green anarchy and Anarcho-primitivism. Some native friends of ours call it neo-primitivism, or anti-civilization, and there are some differences but roughly there is one common current there. And speaking of the anarchist part there’s a big split and it’s not just here it’s all over the map, between the more classical, traditional left, red anarchist . . . one of the most fundamental things is their approach is self managed production, self manage the factories – well our approach is against industrial life, against factories qua factories for several reasons: one is the suicidal course of things – we can’t just keep industrializing, so that’s obviously where the green part comes in. There is a big split. Like say Noam Chomsky is on that leftist side.
He’s an anarchist?
Well perhaps, he’s . . . I don’t know exactly what he is. He froths at the mouth when people bring this stuff up in an interview, and they do all the time now because it’s spreading I think. He just really, doesn’t get it, doesn’t like it, he won’t have any discussion about it. In other words it’s not just some sectarian squabbling it’s a very fundamental difference.
What criticism does Chomsky have as an anarchist towards green anarchy and primitivism?
Well one of the things he always brings up – and I use Chomsky as a kind of foil or reference point because so many people know who he is, and they think – well they’re all Anarchists it’s cool and so forth– he comes up with the 7 billion people thing and that’s a reality obviously. He says we are genocidists, he really get’s kind of hysterical about it.
He’s saying “Well you guys have a plan to kill 6 billion people.” ?
Exactly! And consciously not just – that would happen as a result if you went that way but , I mean it’s quite amazing! The way I would put it though, I mean I’ve been around, I’ve even been in India a couple of times in the last few years, when I look at those tower apartment block things where people have been forced off the land into cities and if and when this crashes they’re gonna be dead in a few days. They have no land. They have no . . .when the power goes off, the food spoils, they have no water . . . we’re concerned about that. If you ask me the genocidist thing is just ignoring that and plunging on as the crisis deepens in every single sphere.
So this idea of returning to a society based on primitivism, based on sustainability, critics would say well there is no way we could do this without these cataclysmic violent changes – do think that there are alternative ways of getting there from here?
It couldn’t happen overnight. And nobody’s saying that. And Chomsky knows that. Yeah, it would be a process of re-skilling people and seeing some kind of autonomy instead of just the hopelessness that we have now where everybody is dependant on systems of technology that are quite vulnerable but we just keep blindly going along.
The Baal Shem Tov was the founder of Hasidic Judaism
The Dance of the Hasidim
At the festival of Simhat Torah, the day of rejoicing in the law, the Baal Shem’s disciples made merry in his house. They danced and drank and had more and more wine brought up from the cellar. After some hours, the Baal Shem’s wife went to his room and said:”If they don’t stop drinking, we soon won’t have any wine left for the rites of the sabbath, for Kiddush and Havdalah.”
He laughed and replied: “You’re right. So go and tell them to stop.”
When she opened the door to the big room, this is what she saw: The disciples were dancing around in a circle, and around the dancing circle twined a blazing ring of blue fire. Then she herself took a jug in her right hand and a jug in her left and – motioning the servant away – went into the cellar. Soon after she returned with the vessels full to the brim.
It is said the Sufi Muslim poet Jalaludin Rumi invented the whirling dance of the dervish when he was walking past a the sound of a goldsmith at work with his hammers. In the rhythm of the hammering he heard ecstatic music and he began to turn and to turn . . .
Towards a Jungian Model of the Supernatural, part one
Let’s talk about paranormal activity. I want to take a look at some well documented phenomena, ranging from UFOs and Bigfoot to Ghosts and fairy tales; the idea here is to look for commonalities. We are going to take a very brief survey of the history of the paranormal this month, and pay attention to the common threads. From this I hope to weave a tapestry using Jungian psychology as a working model from which to consider the occult. My idea is that within the proper framework, many of these seemingly different kinds of phenomena are actually different facets or paradigms of the same thing.
There is an old fable that goes something like this: three blind men encounter something in the jungle, and they are trying to figure out what it is. The first man goes up to it and feels its legs, which are huge, and he says, “Well, what we have here are a couple of really big trees.” The second blind dude feels the tail of the large creature and proclaims, “You’re crazy, what we have here is a simple paint brush.” The third blind man reaches out and, touching the nose of the creature, declares, “Both of you must be loco! Even a blind man could tell you this is a boa constrictor.”
I would like to suggest that part of why the accounts of the paranormal appear so mysterious (and as we shall see baffling to the point of appearing silly) is because when considered just on their own, for example a specific account of Bigfoot or a UFO encounter, often smacks of strange, whimsical, and ridiculous details. Consider cow mutilation for example – the idea that sentient beings capable of traversing Space-Time have nothing better to do then anally mutilate cattle! Likewise a person who tries to build a theory that accounts for the literal occurrence of every known paranormal activity soon is tied up in the most absurd, illogical and paranoid pretzels. That leaves a middle path that few have trod. It is only by stepping back and looking at the big picture, and allowing our minds to play with the inherent contradictions, that the true picture begins to emerge.
Counting Coup, Part Two : A chat with Ill Odor about life on the road, doing time, Bigfoot, cops & roadkill. Read Part One here.
Once upon a time, personal power was tested against the backdrop of the wilderness. In this age whatever environment you find yourself in will do. I don’t want you to think urban exploration is the only way to go – so I want to mention Bill Soder (aka Ill Odor), a fellow I met on a recent bicycle tour while camping in the Redwoods. At the age when many people retire & buy an R.V. he has been pitting himself against the adventures of the road and the wild continuously FOR EIGHT STRAIGHT YEARS – bicycling from state to state, carrying everything he owns, and camping night after night. Before he started he was terribly overweight and sickly, and suffering from regular seizures. One of those cases where the doctor pronounces, “the end is near.” One day while watching TV he was seized with the inspiration to ride his bike into town for a cup of coffee. He told his son he was going to bike into town and his son scoffed, “C’mon Dad, you’re too lazy and fat to make it into town.”
Whereupon he vowed, “I’ll make it to the coffee shop – not only that, I’m gonna bike to the original Starbucks in Seattle . . . and get a fucking cappuccino!”
Since he had never done any bike touring before, and he lived in Boston, this statement was an intention of Counting Coup. Thousands of miles later he called his son from the Starbucks in Seattle and had the barista confirm his location and order. Since that day he has lost a ton of weight, and is feeling in better health than he has his entire life, and he says he is also happier now than he has ever been. He has cycled coast to coast a few times, and been up and down the Pacific innumerable times, and has (in his sixties) explored the deserts of New Mexico and the snowy mountain peaks of the Cascades, all of which his doctors would have pronounced impossible for a man with his conditions. Castaneda’s Don Juan would have said he has grown in personal power.
Here is a short audio interview conducted with Bill Soder about some of his adventures. The interview was conducted at Standish-Hickey Park, California by the author as well as two road companions who can also be heard asking questions during the interview—and who incidentally went down into the tunnel described in Part One.
Here it is! I will tell you the big secret, what it all boils down to, the heart of the matter. I know, I know, this column is still pretty new and I should probably hold off on bringing out the big guns until later. But I feel (& hopefully acolytes of this periodic grimoire have already experimented with the lucid napping & Ganzfeld techniques, as proscribed in the previous two issues) you are ready to grasp the core issue here; the fundamental concept of magic to which we will return again and again.
That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below.
That’s it. The quote is from Hermes Trismegestus. Rather then get side-tracked with an investigation into the musty pedigree of the quote (a rabbit trail that too many texts on magic become entangled in) we can take that statement — as above so below, and as below so above – as a jumping off point. On the surface it seems simple enough, almost a tautology. However, like all big truths, it grows in profundity as we approach it, and like Zeno’s arrow we are always only halfway to fully reaching the truth.
This idea of correspondence between the above and the below is of course referring to the link between the self and the world, the microcosm and the macrocosm, the interior/exterior. The accomplished magus is one who realizes that by changing the one, she changes the other. It is as simple and powerful as balancing algebraic equations – what is done on one side must be done on the other.
(In the realm of magic this law is as basic as Newton’s 3rd law of motion, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; it is likewise elegant. Interesting to note that Sir Isaac Newton was himself an alchemist and well familiar with the writings of Trismegestus – even writing his own translation of the Emerald Tablet!)
Now let’s begin with a basic example – if you were to walk around the block with a pebble in your shoe, it would change not only the way you walk, but also the way you think and feel. That’s too obvious perhaps. Let’s zoom out. Picture yourself commuting to work. Do you drive? Then imagine yourself taking the bus. Already take the bus? Imagine if your commute took place by subway or train. Would you like it better, less? If you currently ride the rails, then imagine what it would be like getting there by horse. Now imagine bicycle. Depending on the distance and route you travel daily, some of these means of transport might sound preferable, while others would totally suck. We are affected not only by our environment but by the way we navigate it, and of course it flows the other way around. Take your bicycle for example: what is healthy for us is also healthy for the environment. It is cheap, efficient and contributes 0% pollution – it bears mentioning that at this point in human history if everyone on earth used a bike as their main mode of transportation it just might save the ecosystem of the planet. That is the Macro level. We could also go down one level and talk about what your hometown or city would look like right now if every car was replaced with a bike – no roads, just trails! Picture how that would change the dynamics of day-to-day life. Roads would be replaced with what? Promenades? Parks? Goat trails? The change in infrastructure this would have on everything from grocery stores and markets to shopping and business centers would be beyond revolutionary.
My point is not to rally y’all to tear down urban blight … not just yet … but to consider the ramifications that change on the micro level proportionally affects the macro, i.e. more bikes = less pavement. The equals sign in the previous statement may be thought of as Psychogeography. A term which Guy Debord defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”
Finally, let us consider the profound effects that biking–not driving–has upon oneself: mind, spirit and body. You travel much more slowly on two wheels than four. You notice things. The spirit feels the freedom inherent in self-sufficiency as the body is strengthened rather than atrophied. With this in mind, I present today’s magic spell:
How to Get Lost in Paris Regardless of Where You Are
This experiment works just as well with a group as it does solo. It can of course be done on foot as a flanuer as well. It just depends on how much time you have. Really getting lost on foot, or at least finding yourself in a place you normally wouldn’t be, is hard. It’s easier on a bike since you travel faster. I can get lost on my bike in less than an hour! On foot, it takes all day. This spell will force you to see bits of your macrocosm (ergo yourself) that you are not used to seeing, as you don’t seek them out. If you can become completely lost while performing this spell, then consider yourself an adept – the trick of such magic is to be able to trick yourself.
There is of course a rich history to the art of the flanuer, the on-foot version of this exercise. It is the lost art of sauntering. Also known as going for a stroll. The potency of this magic is verified in that it is illegal – No Loitering signs are the most commonly posted law in the English language. “YOU MUST WALK WITH PURPOSE & DESTINATION; IT IS THE LAW,” sayeth the law. Therefore when riding or walking, we may meander and lolly-gag with mutinous anarchy in our steps. Take the time to experience just the “going” part without the “somewhere”.
For brevity’s sake, this tool for tweaking your psychogeography is focused on the art of the radonneur, which I am going to redefine for my own purposes as “sauntering on a bicycle”. The spell itself is quite simple. Take your map of, say Paris, in honor of the Tour de France (or anywhere where you are not). Now carefully consulting this map, choose a start location and an end location, e.g. the Champ-Elysees to the Eiffel Tower, and use the directions as dictated by the map to navigate your way from where you are, transposing the navigation of another place onto your current location.
Since you aren’t in Paris (if you are, use a map of Paris, Texas) you should hopefully be helplessly lost after a few turns. If not, keep going until you are. The map you choose and the directions are incidental, as long as you try to follow a route that is sufficiently complicated. You can even replace the map method with any number of means, such as rolling dice or flipping a coin at each intersection, or better yet, asking strangers for destinations rather than directions.
With a little bit of practice, you are ready to experience your environment as though you were a visitor. See it not as a place to traverse, but as an environ to explore and experience . . . go as slowly as possible. Unless you’d like to go fast; that’s good too.
* Have a burning question about magick? Email questions to email@example.com for our upcoming Q&A issue.
The Ganzfeld Technique or the Poor Man’s Sensory Deprivation Tank
Tools required : 2 ping pong balls sharp scissors or knife headphones an am/fm radio or a suitable recording of white noise a drawing pad and pencil
As a child I could spend many content hours studying the whorls and curlicues in the wood grain of my bedroom door. The arabesque patterns needed only the smallest prompting from my imagination to take on a fecund life of their own and blossom into a fantastic bestiary of mercurial faces and creatures, dragons, imps and gnomic animal heads, each knot of wood providing one eye. How easy it was to slip into the realm of pure imagination then; I practiced the art of daydreaming continuously in the classroom, grades k-8! Some might say this ability, to see forms amidst randomness, is only easily accessed with the imagination of childhood, but I propose this skill is still available to one and all—as adults we simply must approach the realm of the fantastic with a bit more intent. We must make the effort to clear away the clutter of the everyday mundane.
The Ganzfeld effect is one of easiest, quickest, and simplest methods for scrying that I have ever come across. Although it was originally developed for use in Gestalt psychology in the 1930s, and then used mainly in ESP research in the 1970s, its simplicity makes it perfect for our purposes of using it as a pattern generator for practicing Pareidolia.
[Pareidolia: the art of seeing something where there is “nothing.” Animals in the clouds, a man in the moon, Jesus on a tortilla, etc.—widely recognized as a sign of psychosis, and indeed many of the topics we shall discuss here are precisely that—a carefully modulated means of producing lucid madness. (In other words, depending upon the fragility/rigidity of yr own super-ego, proceed w/ these experiments at your own risk!).]
The images available to us with this technique are invaluable—Leonardo Da Vinci himself was a fan of the method.
You should look at certain walls stained with damp or at stones of uneven colour. If you have to invent some setting you will be able to see in these the likeness of divine landscapes, adorned with mountains, ruins, rocks, woods, great plains, hills and valleys in great variety; and then again you will see there battles and strange figures in violent action, expressions of faces and clothes and an infinity of things which you will be able to reduce to their complete and proper forms. In such walls the same thing happens as in the sound of bells, in whose strokes you may find every named word which you can imagine.
Recipe: Take two ping pong balls and cut them in half; you will need two since they tend to have a small logo on one side, and you just want the blank half of the ping pong ball. Begin by cutting the ball in half. You can use a razor or penknife. They cut easily along the seam. The only other requirements are some headphones and white noise. You can use a radio tuned to a dead station, but be careful to avoid picking up bits of interference from stations, as well as EVP. I have come to rely on a free iPhone app called White Noise lite, but you could use pretty much any white noise source—a fan in the background, a passing rainstorm, etc. The idea is simply to block out the usual sonic distractions. You could also fashion a way to hold the ping pong balls in place, tape for example, although I have found that leaning back in a comfortable recliner or a field of grass works fine. Once you have the “goggles” & white noise ready to go, then congratulations, you have constructed a fully portable and efficient miniature sensory deprivation kit!
Now try them on, kick back, and let your subconscious get rolling. Be patient, because nothing usually happens for the first 15 minutes or so. Soon a flowing series of imagery will coalesce out of the static. Your brain is expecting to hear and see stuff because you are still taking in noise and the visual stimuli of a light source. Eventually it will begin creating images to make up for the lack of stimula. Note that in the original experiments red light was used. I have not found this necessary, but a rear bike light makes for a great ad hoc red light source if you want to try that.
I believe this to be one of the most elementary/introductory means for scrying. Later on we will address more advanced methods—such as reading tea leaves, or my personal favorite, Ornithomancy—but for now take some time to familiarize yourself with the feeling of turning off the ego and seeing what the rest of your brain is up to. Be receptive to the images that float to the surface, mold them gently; they are like downy feathers on the surface of a pond and the slightest disturbance will send them reeling. I recommend that for this exercise you don’t worry about trying to verbalize anything, but DO keep a pencil and sketch pad handy to capture any interesting imagery you experience.
I have appropriated this technique from its original usage in parapsychology. The Ganzfeld technique comes to us from Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Metzger’s studies in the 1920’s on the perception of a homogenous visual field. Ganzfeld being from the German for “entire field”. The most well-known Ganzfeld experiments were conducted at the Maimonides Medical Center in the 70s by Charles Honorton as a means of investigating ESP. In these experiments the person on the receiving end of the telepathy experiment would enter into the mild sensory deprivation of the Ganzfeld technique for about half an hour at a time, while the sender would focus on a randomly chosen target image. No doubt this means was also chosen as a way to combat cheating. Hornorton reported a statistically significant success rate (achieving 32% rather than the chance probability hit of 25%). For our purposes here, the effectiveness of the Ganzfeld as a means of telepathy is beside the point. If anything we intend to use this technique in a manner more aligned with its Gestalt origins, a holistic mode of psychology with roots in the ideas of Goethe, a truly original and holistic thinker, in many regards the first modern or last classic great Magus.
In case I still haven’t convinced you to give this a serious whirl, here is a teaser; the myriad riches available by staring at our own brains, as it were, are reminiscent of the epiphany Flaubert ascribes to his hero in The Temptation of St. Anthony where, at the end of the book, the saint peering into an ocean tide pool, experiences a rush of Pareidola stimulated by the brack and flotsam of the cradle of life itself:
A phosphorescence gleams around the whiskers of seals and the scales of fish. Urchins revolve like wheels, horns of Ammon uncoil like cables, oysters set their hinges creaking . . . Vegetable and animal can now no longer be distinguished. Polyparies looking like sycamores have arms on their boughs. Antony thinks he sees a caterpillar between two leaves; but a butterfly takes off. He is about to step on a pebble; a grey grasshopper leaps up. Insects resembling rose-petals adorn a bush; the remains of may-flies form a snowy layer on the ground. And then the plants become confused with the rocks. Stones are similar to brains, stalactites to nipples, iron flower to tapestries ornate with figures. In fragments of ice he perceives efflorescences, imprints of shrubs and shells – so that he hardly knows whether these are the imprints of the things, or the things themselves. Diamonds gleam like eyes, minerals pulsate. And he no longer feels any fear! He lies flat on his stomach, leaning on both elbows; and holding his breath, he watches.