Damon Brand reveals his extraordinary thoughts about magick. I’ve known him since the eighties – we were at the same school, both exploring magick – and asking him some of these questions felt weird because I’ve known him for so long. But there were some interesting surprises. We talked for over five hours, so this interview has been heavily edited and will be published in two parts. – Adam Blackthorne
ADAM: What’s your number one tip for getting magick to work?
DAMON: OK, this might sound a bit weird, but I’d say your life has to be slightly magickal. Not in a weird way, but in a beautiful way. Be in awe of the world. Don’t be too cynical. Know there’s mystery out there. Feel that mystery and sense the magick that’s shaping your world. When you start doing magick, you’re not just solving a problem or getting some money or whatever it is; you’re reaching into the essence of all reality. To get to that point, you need to feel some awe.
ADAM: But how do you do that?
DAMON: It happens anyway, every day. The universe makes its offers. There’s beauty, synchronicity, coincidence, moments of strangeness and beauty and wonder. You just have to pay attention. Accept those offers. If you see everything as ordinary and mechanical, it’s going to stay that way. See the symbolism, the raw beauty of reality and things open up. Don’t get obsessed with the pipeline of bad news and information overload. Wake up, look outside and see the reality that’s around you. Life can be funny, absurd and distressing, but there’s always room for awe. Everybody gets into it in a different way. You don’t have to climb a mountain. Just be open to what’s already there, to seeing things from a different angle. And then do your magick with all your heart.
ADAM: Does it take a special skill or some kind of training to see things this way?
DAMON: If you’re interested in the idea of magick it probably means you’re already open to magick. You already have that ability to see beyond the ordinary. And that means you can feel the awe and wonder and unlock all that power. And then you work magick, which gives you an advantage you’ve never had before. Ask yourself, am I somebody who can make this work? Do I believe there’s more to life than the obvious facts? If you have an adventurous spirit, you find a way to try magick. And it changes the way you interact with reality.
ADAM: When you say ‘unlock all that power’, does magick power come from within us or from the spirits we work with?
DAMON: Sometimes it’s pure will, and sometimes it’s an angel or other entity that does most of the work, but even when an archangel is involved, it only prepares the way, sets up a reality that can become yours. The way you mesh with that reality is what counts. If you fight off change, if you resist and fear, nothing happens. But if you welcome change because that’s what you asked for, it will work. With magick, you create this fluidity of change, and it’s in this swirl that you have the power of choice. There are the powerful moments when you can make a decision that causes change. If nothing is in motion, if nothing changes, it’s harder to make your efforts count. It’s like pushing against a solid wall. When you live with magick, you are in a place of power where your decisions, thoughts, actions, they are all so much more powerful because everything is in motion, and then all you do is dip into that flow because everything is ready to change.
ADAM: What was your first impressive magickal result and how long had you been doing magick?
DAMON: I discovered magick by listening to my mother talk about weird stuff to my Auntie. So there was just this knowledge that if you did something in an altered state of consciousness, it would make things happen. I’ve often told the story of my first magick ritual, but I was going through some diaries last year and found that it wasn’t actually the first. I’d done more magick than I remembered, and not quite in the order I recalled. So, I can’t be sure what the first really good result was, but I think it was a time we were lost in the Lake District. We were so young, not even teenagers, and our parents let us get on a train and head for the mountains on our own. It was a different world! It’s just forty years ago, but that could never happen now – three kids sent off into the wilderness. We were pretty responsible, but we got lost, it was dusk, starting to rain, our torches broke, and it went so dark we couldn’t pitch a tent, couldn’t even find a way off the road which had these huge drystone walls either side. There were no cars, nowhere to get help. So we sat in the quiet, and I did a ritual in my head, sitting there in the dark. And then it was like a dream. Without anything being said we walked in complete darkness, finding our way off the road and walking to the most perfect place. It was dry, flat, and somehow in the darkness we put up the tent, and we slept so peacefully even though we hadn’t eaten. It doesn’t sound like life-changing magick, but it was so supernatural. We felt rescued. In the morning, nobody could remember how we’d managed to find our way through the dark and set things up. Apart from that one place, it was all rough ground, covered with rocks and streams, so I can’t imagine how we walked through that landscape in the dark. And we woke to a beautiful dawn with a perfect view of mountains. Magick had taken us there. Years later I heard an almost identical story from another occultist which was very weird indeed, almost like it’s an archetype.
ADAM: What did it teach you about magick?
DAMON: That it works, but something so much more important. When it started raining we were looking for a campsite – that was our absolute goal, to find that campsite, that one place. But in the magick I didn’t ask for that – I just asked for comfort and safety. Which is what we found. We never found the campsite, and that was a huge lesson. Don’t insist on looking for your one solution; accept any solution that will bring you peace.
ADAM: Do you think you were a natural occultist?
DAMON: No. I was just primed, ready for change and very determined.
ADAM: Are some people more talented at magick?
DAMON: Yes, but not because of anything to do with magickal ability; at least not at first. It’s more to do with your personality, the way you approach magick, how you feel when you first try. People often come to magick in a state of panic, desperate for one result and that result may be elusive. But if you sense that magick is real you just keep doing magick. If you like the idea of bicycle riding, you buy a bicycle and you learn to ride. Even if it takes some time to learn how to balance, how to avoid traffic, what to do when you get a puncture, how to recover if you fall off – you never stop bicycling. Treat magick like that. The results will come. And don’t forget the inner work. Change the slightest aspect of yourself that’s holding off your desired future, and results can just start cascading into your life.
ADAM: What about people who sincerely want to be good at magick, but find it just doesn’t work?
DAMON: It’s painful to hear about that, but I know that in most cases it’s only going to take one adjustment to make the magick work for them. Magick is ready to work, but sometimes we resist what’s offered. That’s why I talk about the inner work. You can attack a problem with fifty rituals, but if you’re resisting the result in some way, it won’t come. People do money magick, but if they feel too guilty about getting money, it’s hard to let it in. And the danger is that if people don’t get results tomorrow, today, right now, they give up on magick forever. That’s the risk in our culture. It’s all about instant gratification. Demanding that with magick can invite failure.
ADAM: So our books might put people off, if they don’t get instant results?
DAMON: I don’t think so. There are too many good stories. And I believe that magick appeals to those who trust it on some level. They seek it because it’s already a part of them, and they know it works, so they are going to be good at it. Anybody can pick up one of our books and it will work. But who picks up our books? It’s not just anybody. It’s the people who know, the people who sense that something is going on, that there’s something more to life than strain and effort. Those people, the people who sense magick, they are like us, they are with us, and that is why the magick works for them.
ADAM: How did you first magickal results change the trajectory of your life?
DAMON: The results almost didn’t matter. I had a belief, a feeling that magick was real. Even if it had taken ten years, I’d have kept going with magick. But I got lucky and found magick that worked fast. And I think my early efforts were partly driven by an uncomfortable life. We were poor. School was vicious. Family life was not great and I needed to find some control. I had a strong need to be something other than just another kid living in the shadow of angry parents. That motivated me. So I worked hard at the supernatural because the real world wasn’t good enough for me. It had to change.
ADAM: Where do you think life would have taken you if you hadn’t discovered magick?
DAMON: I can’t say, because magick and ambition went together for me, which was not an easy thing to live with. Where we came from, being poor was normal, and if you aimed for more, you were almost an outcast. The standard rule was: work hard until you’re almost dead, and don’t expect too much in return. When I was about fourteen I decided I wanted to be a writer and that did not go down well with my family. It sounds tame, because now kids write blogs and get famous overnight, but in a little village like that, back then, you got a job and got on with life and being a writer was unheard of. So I wrote in secret and I sold my first book while I was still at school, without my parents knowing, and without the publisher having any idea I was a kid. I had a typewriter that I’d bought with my own money, so the publisher assumed I was an adult. It wasn’t a successful book at all, but it got published and that meant I achieved a major dream before I even left school. For me, magick and writing were part of the same discovery; that you can do more than you’re allowed, more than is expected. But I can’t imagine life without magick. It had to happen. I think anybody who gets into magick has that feeling. You know your life is in chaos, and then you find something to light your way, to make it easier to see more. And as you see more, you dream bigger and see even more and magick just keeps guiding you to better things.
ADAM: How did The Gallery of Magick come about?
DAMON: It started at our school, where we had this ultra-religious teacher who warned us about the occult. I already had some interest and a tiny bit of experience, but this teacher warned me at the wrong age, because it fired up my curiosity. Our school had once been a boarding school (years before we were there), but it still had this huge library; amazing stuff. And off I went. You had to be careful who saw what you were reading. It was all very subtle, but after a while there were four of us who talked about magick, and I think we were hoping to find some magickal order that would initiate us. But that never happened. So, we bought books by mail-order, the sort you couldn’t get in shops or libraries, and we tried things out. The Gallery started as four kids at the same school. The rest, the big development, that came later. There was an increase in membership and activity when we were in our late teens and early twenties, because we found there were a load of groups doing magick quite publicly. Wasn’t hard to meet people. It was a bit unstable then, different groups trying different stuff, some silly rivalries. But we were doing magick and it worked.
ADAM: How did it go from being a bunch of kids to a true magickal order?
DAMON: Time played a big part. We got older. But The Gallery of Magick became something more serious when we met Gordon Winterfield. It got really experimental then, as well as more disciplined, and through Gordon we were fortunate to attract the attention of experienced occultists who wanted to help with what we were doing. We had a mandate to explore, to create, to simplify. We were already experimenting, right from the start, and now we were able to use some of the great secrets. Taking the old ideas and trying them in new ways. We ended up all over the world in our thirties, but the sharing and exploring never stopped. Some of the greatest work happened in the last ten years.
ADAM: Would you have been as successful in life if you’d been a solitary magickal practitioner?
DAMON: My life might have been successful, but I’d never have known so much about magick. My own magick, my focus on what I wanted from life, I think that would have taken me a long way. But one thing I love about magick is the choice, the range of approaches you can use. There’s so much magick, and something that’s always right for your problem, for what you want to develop. I feel fortunate that I found so much magick by knowing everybody in The Gallery. The downside of that is that we spent years trying things that didn’t work, things that went wrong. There were some hard times, but I was so fascinated by magick itself that when a result went astray, I wasn’t too bothered. Maybe I should have been, but I was young enough to make mistakes without wrecking my career. And things came together. We came to a place where we had a set of workable systems. And seeing everybody grow, so many lives change, that was amazing. And now we offer the books, share the magick that works. All that good stuff that came out of those years, we can offer that and it saves people decades of searching.
ADAM: You often mention using ancient magickal texts. How did you develop the techniques for using their magick, given that the methods aren’t in the books?
DAMON: Many of the methods are in the books, but they are encoded or described with allegory. So, time and insight and interpretation, that’s a big part of it. And intuition. But the real answer is that I got a lot of help. When developing magick, there’s a fine line between creativity (which can descend into chaos), and discerning what was intended by the original author. Sometimes there’s nothing, no clues. But answering this question fully would take a book. Working out which angelic names to use, how to use them, how to phrase a call, it can be a lot of work. Sometimes we’ve asked angels to help us know the best techniques, and sometimes they’ve answered, or hinted. Other times, it’s taken years to work out what a document was trying to imply. But you can never underestimate the importance of other people. Secrets are passed from person to person, when there is trust. The most powerful secrets; they were handed to us directly, as gifts. They have been gifted that way for generations.
ADAM: What’s the hardest part about becoming a consistent magick practitioner?
DAMON: You don’t need to be consistent. Use magick when you want. It’s not an obligation. You can do magick when you want, stop for years if you want. Magick is yours. It doesn’t own you. I think it’s hard for people today because there are so many distractions, so many other things to do. Why do magick when you can just bury your head in a stream of information? Changing your life, actually living it; I think that frightens people. Life is chaotic and filled with monsters of distraction and dissuasion, and there’s so much competition and aggression. There are a thousand ordinary things that can defeat you every day. But you don’t have to hide. Magick is a way of making your choice, selecting the future you want, deflecting the discouragement and making your way through the dark. You choose what you want, and magick can guide you to exactly where you need to be.
In Part Two, Damon discusses everything from his weirdest and funniest occult experiences, to the deepest secrets and the future of magick.
“I should be honest and say that results are nothing less than mind blowing.”
“Results are abundant and fast!”
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