“You are perfect just the way you are.”
“If you believe it, the universe will make it happen!”
“You are all you need.”
The spiritual journey is often framed by two competing ideas: You must grow, change, and evolve—and–you are just fine as you are. Both are true, and neither are true. While that seems to be a contradictory statement, contradictory reality is part of the paradox of the true mysteries. Everything depends on the point of consciousness experiencing things, where they are in the process, and how they are interacting with it. Magick is a process.
We frame much of the Western Mystery Tradition as the Great Work, implying there is both inner and outer craft and that we are in the world to grow and change ourselves and the world around us. The mystery traditions require from us our ability to surrender, to let go, of who we were in the past, to allow who we will be to come forward. We can liken it to the process of the caterpillar making a chrysalis and emerging a butterfly, an intense cycle, but it’s not quite that easy. It’s not easy because magick is not cut and dried with clear, linear transformations. One truly immersed in the mysteries knows the process never ends. The butterfly of one stage is the caterpillar of the next. We must constantly be willing to let go of our certainties, our identities, and our sense of the old self to conjure the new self, one more in alignment with our true self. Becoming the transcendent within the immanent is like the mystery of squaring the circle. So the Great Work is in the doing. Is this true? Not if you think you are perfect the way you are.
From the other perspective, the process can be framed as not so much transformation, but surrender, letting go of all that has been built up around you. You are finding yourself, your true self, beneath all the expectations, identities, judgements, programs, and constructs you have accepted and had forced upon you. The process of unmaking is like shedding the outer layers. We might say we are “finding” ourselves on a quest, but in truth, you have nowhere to go but inward to find yourself. The metaphoric journey of being lost shows us time and again we were always here, waiting to be found. There is nothing to really do or make, other than to truly be. Is this true? Not if you think there is work to be done in the transformation.
We have the language of work in many of the Western traditions, and for those of influenced consciously or not by the Protestant Work Ethic of productivity, industry, and capitalism, we talk quite a bit about doing the work. Strangely, some, but not all, of our Western traditions speak of simply believing, or even in predestination.
We have a language of being from many of the Eastern traditions, emphasizing the yin, the receptive, in such a yang world, particularly when these teachings are brought to the West. Yet many of the Eastern traditions have strict, disciplined, and intricate work to be done on a daily level, work that is deeply challenging to the body and the ego, to put the teachings into the practice of life.
Everything is unfolding perfectly. There is nothing to do but allow it to unfold. Even if you struggle to prevent or change its unfolding, it’s going to unfold perfectly anyway, so just go with it, even when we have judgment that it’s not unfolding perfectly. Yet in that unfolding perfection, we are not passive. Everyone is participating on some level. Even the choice to not participate is a choice, an action. If it is not made, then something else would be occurring, so how can we think everything is unfolding perfectly because there are so many variations of what could happen? How can this perfection be true? It can’t, unless all options—all potential unfoldings—are also perfect. The virtue of being perfect is that is whatever is happening, it is happening, so we must accept it and participate in it to the best of our ability, striving to become the most conscious about our actions, both mundane and magickal. While everything might be perfect, nothing has reached its final stage of perfection, including you. Is the process of participation in the unfolding work? Maybe.
There is a part of us all outside of time and space that is perfect, but we are not consciously connected to it all the time. To bring its influence into our life, into our world, is to consciously bring more of the divine nature into creation, making it “more” perfect. Remembering our true self is remembering things, though releasing our outer shell is only one part of the process. Most mystery teachings have processes to build a greater vessel of consciousness to draw in that divine self. This is the building of the Great Work. This is effort. But this is also play if you are doing it right.
This upsets our notions that we don’t have to work at change. The idea that everything is all there within us is reassuring. But that is just phase one in the process, as we have to question where there is an “us” to be. Phase one is often about the individual, and recognizing and deconstructing the person to reveal something more authentic beneath or behind our personas of society. Phase two is the interpersonal, how we navigate this self in relationship, family, friends, and society. Each stage presents new challenges. It’s easy to think you are enlightened when you are alone. It’s not so easy to think you are enlightened when someone is triggering your unresolved complexes and you haven’t trained yourself to respond and ultimately process those energies in a meaningful way. Phase three is the recognition of the collective, the interdependent and interconnected unity of all things, all levels, while still in the paradox of the individual sense of self, of will, and of your journey. And these phases repeat again and again, often outside of linear order.
The work is the process of catalyzation. This is the purpose of initiation, the reason why so many mystery traditions, both Eastern and Western, use chemical and alchemical imagery of catalysts and reactions. All the parts are already there, we just bring them together in more and more refined stages. Catalyzation implies a chemical reaction, a change from one substance to another. Today, many seekers on the path ask not to be placed in places where reactions could be triggered or request complex warnings to precede them. I understand why, but sometimes that defeats the esoteric principle at hand acting as the catalyst. You can always refuse to enter into a process, but if you have consciously stepped upon the path of the mystery, you must ask yourself why when you stop, or when you seek to control the situation to suit your own needs and preferences. The path of mystery, like all life, is a path of potential challenge, witnessing, and training for whatever comes next that we can’t stop or control.
You are all you need. You are a closed system in the closed system of the universe. Everything out there is reflected in you. Everything is here in the form of raw material waiting to reveal its divine nature. You are perfect just the way you are, but we are continually becoming more perfect. The universe will make it happen, whether you believe or not, as the universe is all things happening, but what “it” is will change again and again
The Eastern traditions speak of the narrow way and the wide way. The narrow way is the way of rigid discipline and practice. The wide way is where all of life becomes the practice. Soon the two become one. Every moment becomes disciplined practice, even play, as the practitioner becomes the road, becomes the way.
In Witchcraft and magick we speak of the road of the mysteries—the golden road, the crooked path—and we practice our art, but soon realize we become the art. Our life is the spell, is the magick, and there is no division between us and anyone else, as we all partake in the Soul of the World, or the Witch Soul, whether we realize it or not. The way is unfolding perfectly, and we are perfect, as we are the way.
Edited by Tina Whittle
Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels