The Mirage of Failure ; Thai Occult Reflections Pt. 2

One of the most surprising and profound aspects of stepping into the currents of the Thai occult lies not in the power of the magic or amulets themselves, but the slow realization that there is no separation between the practices aimed at achieving results and those aimed at improving the devotee’s character and cultivating their virtues. Even the act of praising a ghost with whom one works contains within an element of Bhakti-esque adoration and gratitude. It is not so impersonal a relationship as that of an employee to whom one assigns a task, nor are the exchanges exclusively transactional in nature. 

As Jenx discusses in his guest appearance on Nightbird Radio Podcast, the magic of amulets open opportunities to us which we are then beckoned to grow into. The doors opened by the magic of amulets do not take the effort out of living, but push us to put forth even more through the new possibilities which unfold before us. This and the central dynamics of Merit, as discussed in my previous post, create a system which encourages virtue and kindness as a means to bettering oneself and actually making the magic work better, which is consciously for the sake of primarily the self however the necessary actions and changes in thinking this brings to one’s life has far more profound and far reaching effects. For the self, yes, but more importantly these changes unavoidably have a positive impact on those in our lives and communities. 

This perfectly illustrates the illusory colonial categorizing which draws a defining line through our Western practices based on the intent of the practitioner rather than the objective effect. If one improves their life through the use of purely results based magic and this alleviates suffering, providing the practitioner has a sense of connectedness and gratitude, does their comfort and joy not then radiate to those in their vicinity? Does a removal of hardship combined with the co presence of awe not create a sort of grace?

And on the other hand, does the theurge and alchemist not improve their luck by toiling in their inner work, shedding layers of trauma, static, and illusion? Does anyone actually believe that this doesn’t have dramatic life improving effects for both the individual and their relationships as well as the success of their magic? By clearing out the static of overactive egos, excessive thoughts and self reflections, are not all the results desired in life closer to reach?

The categorical split between theurgy and thaumaturgy seems, upon examination, to be yet another useless, excessive categorization which only further confuses our dynamic with the living world. Thinking in these terms is subtly suggestive in that it preemptively limits potential. The attitude and archetype of “make things happen for me” is, if not embedded, at least connected by cultural context within the concept of pure thaumaturgy. Perhaps not inherently, but when woven together with a Western psyche so shaped by commerce, commercial, and marketing that many of our first words were from TV, the danger of missing out on valuable lessons for the assumption that they do not exist within the current chosen modality, like a shadow beneath the colossus of capitalist selfishness, is a very real and present malaise.

Lessons exist anywhere we are willing to find them. And even more so with spirit work. Failure can only be measured by one’s inability to learn from the unexpected. Failure is literally just the unexpected happening to a person and their inability to address the invaluable data which is presenting itself. If one is capable of learning from each of their experiences, the concept of failure itself is a fallacy, as one advances more through the insight gained through the unexpected than when things go as intended. 

This is always true.

One must consider that these unexpected experiences may be gifts and our framing of them may prevent our acceptance and comprehension thereof. Which in a living world seems sort of rude, if we’re being honest. 

In the Thai occult, many Ajarns were ordained and trained as monks before embarking upon their magical training for the simple and obvious reason that it makes their magic work better. Here we have a total lack of imaginary line drawn between these two modalities. This is not an example of future thaumaturges dabbling in theurgy as it may seem, as monks are masters of many practices us Westerners would not hesitate to refer to as magic. This is about future magicians learning virtues and wisdom, connecting to higher deities, and developing their skills through practices that are undeniably worthwhile. This does not improve their magic, but the entire self. 

To be more capable, less vulnerable, and possess equanimity, combined with practices which improve intensity and duration of focus poises a future Ajarn to train under many masters without the ego preventing their progress. They have the stability to learn from mistakes without the ego knocking them off course. Their emotional tranquility prevents them from making enemies unnecessarily and closing off potential opportunities to them. And their intimate understanding of the very real metaphysics of Merit and Karma maintain their helpful nature and prevent them from taking advantage of others through their power.

To attempt to draw a line here between two types of practice would not only be silly, but damaging. It seems important to consider how far into our minds and metaphysics our subtle cultural and economic norms and resting philosophies have woven their tendrils. For our sake, and that of our neighbors.