Adam Blackthorne here, and in the next blog post I’ll talk about how to use the powers of inner and outer magick skilfully, but for now, here’s a look at strange magick, weird results and what it all means. This is the second part of my interview with Damon Brand. (You can read Part 1 here.) It was impossible to ask every question you sent, but there’s a lot covered here, and Damon gave away far more than I thought he would.
ADAM: What’s your most important or impressive magickal result, or something that’s so amazing it would sound unbelievable?
DAMON: My first results still feel the most impressive, because I was wrestling with that feeling where you know the magick’s working, but you doubt it as well because it’s just impossible. I have fond memories of eventually accepting the reality of magick, which made it work better. But if you’re asking what other people would find impressive or unbelievable, there was a project not that long ago, and I can’t give the details for obvious reasons, but imagine there’s this old theatre, loved by many people, and they’re going to knock it down to build luxury flats. There are protests and council meetings, but everybody knows the theatre is doomed. With ritual magick, I saved that theatre. Not just stopping the demolition but having it restored and turned it into a place where an emerging theatre company could run successfully. Now, that’s just an allegory, not what happened, but it was exactly like that. And it was one of the most impressive things because I could feel the magick working, feel reality being reordered on so many levels, affecting lots of people and changing minds. I wasn’t saving a country or saving a life, but what I did had a positive benefit for a lot of people, and it worked against extreme odds. It took a few rituals, but we got what we wanted.
ADAM: And the most bizarre?
DAMON: I won’t tell it in full, but after the ritual, I was sort of in two places at the same time, briefly. It’s hard to explain, but if you want a bizarre story, that’s it, and I can’t say much more than that or I’ll sound insane. Magick isn’t usually that weird. I’ll write about it one day.
ADAM: Somebody asked if angels ever appear in an unusual way, rather than as tall beings of light.
DAMON: Yes. Scale is fascinating because some people use crystals, staring at the crystal to see the angel or demon, and at first it looks tiny, but then somehow it all scales up like you’re diving into the crystal. But not always, and that’s why I don’t like the crystal approach. It can be like looking through this tiny hole at a distant entity. It all feels too small. I prefer to be there, in that space with the angel. Sometimes the way the angels look is not what you’d expect at all, and I think that’s because of how we filter what’s there, how we see. I’ve never seen an angel look ugly or horrific, but the power has come through in strange ways, for sure. Not dark, but revealing great power. It can leave you trembling.
ADAM: What’s the funniest story you’ve got about a ritual succeeding in an unexpected way?
DAMON: I did a ritual to make my car appear better than it was. I’m embarrassed, but I was young and surrounded by all these rich kids that year, and it came out of shame. That car was held together by string and tape, and it made me feel poor, and so I did a ritual to make the car look good. It worked in completely the wrong way. The car didn’t look better, but it attracted attention, so almost every night the police would pull me over for no reason. I just kept drawing their attention, and although I’d never done anything wrong, it was inconvenient. And then the car was stolen three times in two months. I got it back twice, but the last time it got burned out. I cringe now, telling that story because I was about twenty and should have known better.
ADAM: How can you do magick if you’re an atheist?
DAMON: Some people think magick is just a technology, and I have been through long periods like that. I grew up in a fiercely atheist household, and a lot of my early magick was a sort of Wicca, and that felt sacrilegious, which was helpful for me because there’s no way I was going to call to an angel. That changed with time. I now have a connection to a power, divinity, call it what you will, so I don’t think of myself as an atheist. But you can hear from the way I talk; I’m still resistant to that. If you’re brought up in a house where the church is openly hated it leaves you feeling uncomfortable when you talk about God. I keep imagining my Dad will appear and shout, ‘You’re not going to become a religious fanatic, are you?’ A lot of people who don’t believe in anything try magick, and when it works, you have to reflect on your entire reality. Is it just quantum fields and parallel universes, or is there something more spiritual going on? It doesn’t mean that if you do magick you’re going to become a believer, but I think it’s impossible to do magick for too long without sensing that there’s much more than a clockwork universe.
ADAM: Has magick given you insight into the big questions, like life after death?
DAMON: Glimpses, not answers. I’m as mystified as everybody.
ADAM: Does everyone have a true will?
DAMON: It’s a phrase that’s used in magick almost to mean ‘destiny’, and I don’t like that. It’s not like there’s one path set before you and you have to follow it. But it’s also true that some things flow more easily because they feel right, they feel part of you. You can spend ten years in a profession and find all that struggle was because there was something else waiting for you; something that just flows. True will is being honest with yourself, and doing what feels absolutely right for you, rather than being ordered around by people or circumstance. It sounds selfish, like you’re just doing your own thing, but being close to your true will is less selfish in a way because when you’re aligned with that, you connect better with other people. It’s important in magick, because knowing who you are, what you want, that makes it easier to get what you want. True will is about living a life where magick’s steering you toward who you feel you are and what you know, deep down, you should be doing.
ADAM: People have asked how you learned to construct rituals.
DAMON: By learning from others, and then a mix of extreme study and experiments. This mix of adventure and precision, respecting everything that had gone before but trying to find the core of the magick. And most of what you see in the books isn’t just me; it’s everybody in The Gallery, and the work we did with the spirits to find the answers. There’s magick in the books that was explained to us – words, combinations – and they were given to us directly by the angels. It’s not been a small project. It’s been most of my life. Some of the good work we have now was created right at the start, but some of it took twenty-odd years to get right.
ADAM: What’s frightened you about magick?
DAMON: We took a lot of risks. I went through a period of trying wild magick, and I saw things I didn’t like. There are things you can do to scare yourself without much effort. That magick was left behind. And none of that goes in the books, thank God. [Laughs]
ADAM: Have you found ‘power spots’ in nature, and if so, have you worked magick there?
DAMON: This is a big thing for me, because absolutely yes, I’ve found places that are just sizzling with power. But those places are fluid, and you can go back another day, and there’s nothing. If I find a place that’s powerful and welcoming, and if it’s practical, I will work magick there. And these places are all through cities and suburbs too, but they’re easier to find in nature, because there’s less distraction and your guard is down.
ADAM: A lot of The Gallery books focus on Kabbalah and related magick. Have you worked with any other forms of magick?
DAMON: I did witchcraft and spellcasting in the early days, and then in the experimental years, all kinds of magick. They were strange times. But it’s a misconception to say it’s just Kabbalah now, because there’s a lot of background work from other areas of magick. It looks like Kabbalah because we use Hebrew letters and some structures from Kabbalah, but there’s so much more in the rituals. And not once have we shown a drawing of the Tree of Life. I have thousands of occult books, and I bet more than half have a drawing of the Tree of Life. And most don’t even explain what it is, or they spend thousands of pages explaining it badly. I’m not sure what’s worse.
ADAM: Do readers need to understand anything about Kabbalah to work with your books?
DAMON: Not at all. It’s a background power that helps it to work. You only need to follow the instructions. Kabbalah has a strange history, with all sorts of relatively recent developments in Europe, so it’s not like you’re always looking back to Eastern texts from pre-Biblical times. It begins that way, with very ancient documents, but there’s this process in Kabbalah where you accept that if something new is received and works, well great, we’ll use it. Kabbalah goes way back, but a lot of what we’ve got now is only a few hundred years old. It arose from much older materials, and it’s an ongoing discovery. It’s fascinating to see it change, and we use what works.
ADAM: Some people think everything we do is Chaos Magick, because it comes from so many different practices.
DAMON: In chaos, you take a belief for a while and use it. That’s not what we do. I believe in the angels. It’s not some post-modern illusion. I like what chaos magick brought; the simplification. But I don’t just play with beliefs. I experiment with systems outside my belief system, and then what I believe in grows.
ADAM: I’ve said the same thing myself. But the books have a focus on Western Magick. No plans for anything else?
DAMON: We write practical books of magick that are most likely to work for Western readers, just to keep it simple for us, so we’ve started with this style of magick. But then we get messages from India, Japan, Brazil, all over – it’s working there too, which is great. But other traditions and techniques, like I say, they are in the books already. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others. What’s coming next is different, I can say that.
ADAM: We know you’ve used magick to promote your novel writing career, but what rituals have you used to make your magick books more popular?
DAMON: None. Since the late eighties I’ve been doing magick to make my writing as good as it can be. Sigil magick in the early days, then mostly angelic work. But it’s only to make the writing go well. I’ve never done magick to promote the books. Sometimes people say they feel a power in the books, and that doesn’t surprise me, but that’s because of what’s within them, not because of anything I’ve done.
ADAM: You consult the spirits when writing books?
DAMON: Yes. If I’m writing about a particular archangel, I will work with that archangel to clarify techniques, expression, what should be said and shared. That makes sense.
ADAM: Is real-world effort more important than magick?
DAMON: No. Magick can be all you need sometimes. It will complement your efforts in the real world so beautifully, but sometimes the magick will do everything. You get a feel for that over time.
ADAM: What’s your vision of the future? Endless war and disaster or a change for the better?
DAMON: I have no idea and never spend any time trying to work it out. I’m not the world’s best person when it comes to divination. But ever since I started watching the news when I was a kid, there’s been endless war. It never stops. It might stop in your country, but there are wars everywhere. And here, for us, there are so many threats now, to consciousness itself. It’s not very original to point this out, but technology is affecting us in negative ways, and that may be worse for occultists than anybody else. The way people avoid reality by staring at their phones instead of being where they are. The impact of that is massive. You can’t change the world if you don’t experience the world. That’s significant for anybody who does magick. You need to open your eyes, feel the air, talk to people face to face. It can be a challenge in a world that’s promoting separation, but as occultists, we have to fight the disconnection. Yes, it’s hard to meet people, so you use a dating app. Yes, it’s difficult to cope with the world, so you swipe through your phone to see little moments of entertainment and pretty pictures. I don’t blame anybody. But it can freeze up your ability to cause change. Be where you want to be rather than staring at an image of where you want to be. That’s what magick is about. There’s no point in doing magick to get what you want if you disappear into your device and avoid the experience. I know why people do that. Experience is frightening. It makes you vulnerable. It’s so much easier to gaze at your phone than to risk having an experience.
ADAM: How do you get past that vulnerability?
DAMON: I will sit in a restaurant by myself, or any crowded place, and I will look around at the world. Learning to see, to feel, to experience the world; this is fundamental to magick, even though it can make you feel strange, even though a quick look down at your phone is easier. You want a few pithy stories or a text chat with a friend. That would feel great, but sometimes, that lonely moment is a bridge to a more magickal moment, where you see what’s really around you. The clarity is priceless.
ADAM: So you live without a phone?
DAMON: I have three phones and about five iPads. But it’s about how and when. I love the internet. We couldn’t sell a single book without it – it’s revolutionized occult publishing. We can reach people now in a way that no publisher would have allowed. Without Facebook, Amazon, without blogging, The Gallery of Magick would not exist for the public. So I love the technology, but in small doses. There’s a danger that we can stop enjoying what we’ve already got, stop seeing where we are, because the device is always saying, look at this, look over here. Magick can reconnect you to the world, because you open to your real needs, what you really want, and when you work to get it, you have no choice but to be more open to the whole world. I think people find this, that practicing magick can make everything feel more meaningful, more purposeful and so there’s not as much need to escape from it. I don’t sit around being spiritual and blissed out, but I live a big life, meeting people, setting up projects that bring people together creatively, and I do all this with my head up, not gazing at some information in the palm of my hand. The world is so precious, and when you live in the world it feeds your soul, your imagination, your subconscious. And that gives you more power than you’d think.
ADAM: Do you ever do full ceremonial magick with robes, wands and everything else?
DAMON: Not anymore. Those symbols and routines can help people. Like having a favorite cup for your coffee makes it taste better. If it helps, that’s ok, but I think most people can get what they need without any of that.
ADAM: Somebody asked about all the magickal paraphernalia that’s for sale online. How can you tell if an amulet is genuinely blessed, or if a ‘ritual for hire’ is the real thing?
DAMON: You can’t, but it’s difficult for me to talk about charlatans, because people will say that about us. [Laughs] If somebody gives a bad tarot reading, big deal, it’s not the end of the world. If somebody sells a bit of jewelry and it isn’t really charged with angelic power, well, I just hope it didn’t cost too much. Rituals for hire can work, but there’s no greater gift than giving somebody the power to do their own magick. Nobody needs me, you or anybody else to do the magick. You can buy a book, and in a few hours, you’re doing magick that works. We know this because we have heard thousands of success stories now. And when you do the magick yourself, there’s an intimacy, a connection that is so powerful. Nothing is more powerful than that intimacy. And you can get that just by reading a book and getting used to magick. Seeing this happen for so many people, it’s so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it would be.
ADAM: But there can be power in group rituals?
DAMON: It’s not an automatic thing where a group guarantees success. Group magick can be powerful, and when couples do sex magick, that brings unique energies. But working with others shouldn’t be a crutch. If you rely on their energy to boost your magick that can make you feel beholden to them, or helpless without them. If you always look to others for advice, it can weaken your intuition, your sense of self. You should always retain the power to do your own magick. What you want to watch out for are the charismatic individuals who pop up from time to time, and they seem so wise and helpful, not selling anything at all, and then all of a sudden, they try to turn you against everybody else. It’s a way of controlling you, limiting you. You talked about this on the blog. [See: Three Stories of Magick] That’s the cult of personality, when an individual wants to appear more important than the magick itself. I want to avoid that with The Gallery, in the books, in everything we do and it’s part of the reason I stepped down from social media. After a few years it started to look like I was saying, ‘Follow my wisdom,’ and I didn’t like that feeling. We offer advice, we show what works for us and for the people who buy the books, but we never want to say we are the only truth. Things get weird when you go down that path. We don’t own magick, and it’s always bigger than any individual, any group. I think I’m repeating what you said, but it’s important. Magick, however you find it and however you work with it, is yours.
ADAM: What gives people the right to call on spirits for help?
DAMON: The only way to answer that is to experience it, to do magick. And you will find the answer. Because you don’t just change the world and tinker with reality; you change yourself. I think the answer’s in there, in that change, and it doesn’t mean you automatically become super spiritual or anything like that. But magick is an invitation to be a part of the world, not just part of the chaos. Our lives are filled with chaos and threats and magick is a way through, to find peace and purpose. And there’s this beautiful progression where more and more of who you are becomes apparent, and you find out what you really want, and feeling that change, that tells you so much about why we can do magick that works.
Damon Brand’s most popular books are:
Archangels of Magick, The 72 Angels of Magick, and Words of Power