Someone once asked Oscar Wilde if he believed in God.

He responded by saying,
“No, I believe in something much bigger.”

I feel much the same about reality.

Philosophers have argued about reality for as long as there have been philosophers—what it is, how it is experienced, etc.—yet they are no closer to agreeing now than they ever were. Anyone who untangles themselves from all the theories, counter-theories, and general jibber-jabber can then see the obvious: if mankind were capable of thinking its way to enlightenment it would have happened long ago.

I still remember the exact moment that I ceased to believe in the existence of reality. It was when I discovered that scientists had proved it was absolutely impossible for the human body to run a mile in less than four minutes, and yet despite the fact that it’s impossible, people still do it on a regular basis.

Suddenly there were two realities—the one in which it is impossible to run a four-minute mile, and the one in which it is done. A third alternative is created by rejecting both, so that there are then three realities. It was then that my bones began rustling and whispering to me that reality is an outdated concept that has outlived its usefulness.

There have always been those who sought to penetrate the illusion of mundane reality.

The Buddha used meditation. Whirling dervishes use ecstatic trance. Hermetic esotericists use magick. Shamans consume consciousness-altering chemicals such as peyote. What they all have in common is the reliance upon direct experience to step beyond the boundaries imposed by the intellect.

One of the most famous hermetic esotericists, Aleister Crowley, said that when a person seeks to discover the true nature of reality he should do so “with the aim of religion, and the method of science.” In other words, seek unity with the First Cause, yet believe in nothing. If something is true, it does not require belief to remain so.

Through rigorous adherence to hermetic practices it’s possible to communicate directly with the intelligence behind what most perceive as reality, and in doing so we can become co-partners in the act of creation. We can discover that behind such outdated concepts as reality there lies only an eternal field of unlimited potential. The universe (and everything beyond it) becomes a computer that’s more than willing to accept whatever programs we enter into it. Anything becomes possible. Anything.

However, before it’s possible to bring about external manifestations of our chosen reality it’s necessary to undergo a series of internal initiations. Alchemists say that any outward manifestation of transmutation they perform is secondary to the inner evolution that made it possible. My own experiences have taught me the truth of this, and I have made it my mantra and my prayer: “As above, so below. As within, so without. As in Heaven, so on Earth.”

Damien Echols Magician

I’ve come to view the tarot card labeled “The Magician” as the perfect symbol of what is possible.

Artists and mystics of all sorts have come to identify with The Magician, and I have taken him as my personal patron saint.

The Magician faces the viewer, his right hand raised above his head and pointing a wand at Heaven. His left hand is extended to point at the ground. In essence he is acting as a lightning rod, drawing down the fire of Heaven and passing it through his body so that it can manifest on Earth. He has taken on the responsibility of shaping reality (or the outside world) to match the beauty he finds within himself. He is trading the mundane for the magickal.

It’s the same thing artists do when they give shape and form to their inspiration. Through that act the world becomes a more magickal place to live. I’ve had several encounters with The Magician, and he always tells me the same thing: “Live ferociously.” I try to follow his advice, even when I was trapped in a cell. It’s not that he encourages me to push beyond my boundaries; it’s more that he causes me to see they were never there in the first place.

Accepting a concept such as reality reeks of defeat to me. It means settling for less. Submitting to any form of reality is the opposite of living ferociously. Either I can accept reality, or I can storm the gates of Heaven and make off with its treasures. I have chosen the latter.