One of the things that is often overlooked in Western practice (despite being a focus of a lot of Eastern practice) is physical health and its effect on magick. And it does have an effect. Years ago Dion Fortune wrote that it wasn’t at all important to Western practices. As much as I respect some of Fortune’s work, in this instance she was completely wrong. And judging by her photographs, I’d say she was led astray by personal bias.
As magicians, whatever a person’s personal beliefs may be, our bodies, minds, and souls are tools we use to perform our magick. They are the most important tools we have, and the only tools we really need. And so it’s important that these tools be kept in a good and healthy state so we can get the most out of them. Performing magick with a three hundred pound body is like using a chewed up #2 pencil as your wand. Yes, assuming you know what you’re doing, you can make it work if you really have to, but it won’t be as effective as a real wand.
And being healthy comes down to a few simple things. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly. And don’t smoke. I mention this last one because, despite being incredibly unhealthy and counter-productive to magical work, in almost every magical group I’ve ever seen the chain smokers make up the majority of the group.
Being overweight is unhealthy. Being thin isn’t the same as being healthy though. A lot of thin people are still unhealthy. Some are actually underweight, and this is usually due to a poor diet. You need to be a healthy weight. You also need to have some muscle mass and physical stamina, and most of us have to exercise to get that.
I’m not advocating that anyone try to achieve physical perfection, like say Batman did. The truth is everything is okay in moderation, and everything is bad in excess. You can eat unhealthy foods, you can be lazy every now and then, and you can even occasionally smoke. It’s not going to hurt you. In fact not doing these things may actually hurt you. Everything in moderation, and this includes your diet and exercise.
You don’t need to have a perfect body either. You don’t have to be a body builder or a super model. What I’m talking about is reaching an adequate level of physical health. Being height-weight proportionate. Being able to run up a couple flights of stairs without being out of breath. Being able to lift and carry seventy or a hundred pounds.
Magical Advantages to Being Physically Fit.
1. Magical Stamina – If you’ve done any strong or intensive magick, you’ve probably noticed that it can be exhausting. Your body is one of your tools, and when you’re moving and manipulating large amounts of energy, it can wear you down physically, not to mention the mental and even emotional strains you’re putting on yourself which will also tire you out. And as you grow as a magician you’re going to have access to larger amounts of energy and stronger magick, which means you’ll have to push your physical body even further if you want to achieve your full potential.
Guess what though, the more fit your body is, the longer you’ll be able to go before you get tired. This means you’ll be able to do more magick. You’ll also be able to do more powerful magick.
I’ve met magicians who were far more experienced than I was. They had a lot more natural ability than I do. They had a lot more knowledge than me. They had refined their skills far better than I had. Yet I was able to do stronger magick. If it came down to a battle between us, I could easily defeat them. The reason was my body was in much better shape than theirs. A spell that would exhaust me, something I’d be cured of after a nice meal and a good night’s sleep, would leave them physically ill for the next week, and depending on how powerful it was could even be potentially fatal to them.
Despite being at every other disadvantage, I could work with more energy and perform more powerful magick simply because my body was in adequate shape.
2. Longevity – Human beings have not really evolved as magical creatures. Our bodies are not designed to handle energy at the extremes that magicians typically do. Maybe if magick becomes more common place after a thousand years of evolution this will no longer be the case, but it isn’t something that’ll be changing in our lifetimes.
Manipulating energy and performing magick puts stresses on your body it was not designed to handle. It’s as unhealthy as smoking or eating fatty foods. Magick slowly wears your body down and, assuming you’ll die of natural causes, leads you to an early death.
But there are ways to counteract this. Eating right adds years to your life. Exercising adds years to your life. Not smoking adds years to your life. Right there you’re counteracting some of the damage that magick is doing to you. But when your body is healthy its also stronger. It can deal with having greater stresses put on it, and they don’t damage it quite as much. When you put everything together, you may even end up gaining a few years instead of losing some. At the very least though, your guaranteed to live longer than if you didn’t do these things.
3. Good Physical Health Promotes Good Mental Health – It’s a proven fact that people who exercise are more mentally fit. They’re more emotionally balanced and they’re less susceptible to depression. Likewise its been proven that diet has a direct affect on mental health. People who eat a well balanced diet, that is neither too much nor too little, are much more emotionally healthy than people who do not.
And our minds, like our bodies, are another one of our tools. And it’s important that we keep our minds healthy so they can serve us more effectively when we do magick.
4. Poor Image – Magicians are supposedly part of the elite. They are superior people. They are masters of their will. They are masters of their emotions. They have control over themselves and are able to manipulate the universe around them.
So when a three hundred pound chain smoking individual tells you they’re a great and powerful magician, do you believe them? Keep in mind, this is a person who does not have the willpower not to eat several times the amount of calories they need a day, a person who doesn’t have the discipline to go to the gym six hours a week, and a person who doesn’t have the willpower not to smoke a cigarette.
Magicians have control over themselves. Magicians have discipline. So do you think someone is a successful magician if they don’t have the self-control and discipline to eat a healthy diet and go to the gym, even when they know that doing so puts them at an increased risk of developing serious health issues, decreases their activeness and quality of life, and decreases their attractiveness before even getting to the fact that it limits their magical ability and negatively affects their spirituality.
When you tell people that, as magicians, they should be better fit, they come up with a whole lot of excuses why they shouldn’t be.
The biggest problem is that we live in a society where people have been going around saying that it’s okay to be overweight and out of shape. It’s even okay to smoke. These things aren’t your fault. It’s because of genetics and psychology and society and advertising. Fat is beautiful and attractive. If you don’t agree, you’re a shallow asshole.
The truth is, if you are overweight, it is almost certainly your fault. If you smoke, it is definitely your fault. Every day you make choices to sustain these lifestyles instead of making choices to change them and rectify the damage they’ve already done.
And calling yourself a magician, or an adept, or a witch, or whatever means you can’t fall back on the excuse that society made you like this or it’s a psychological issue. Being a magician has a lot to do with control. At the very least you control yourself and the choices you make. You made the choices that brought you to where you are today, and you, and only you, are responsible. You also have the power to make choices that will change your life.
I didn’t write this post to be mean to people who are overweight or out of shape. I wrote this post to point out a fact about spirituality, that your physical health has a direct affect on it.
But Ho Poi Was a Great Magician and Fat
This is probably the best argument I’ve heard. Ho Poi was fat. His fatness is also a symbol of joy and happiness because it speaks to all the joy he got out of indulging in food. And he was a great magician. But Ho Poi was also fit.
Ho Poi is often depicted as a Travelling Buddha. The man is walking miles upon miles every day, and doing it with not only an extra 150 or so pounds of body weight, but also a huge bag over his shoulder. He’s also constantly depicted in various yoga poses. Not only could the man do yoga, but the more you weigh the more difficult yoga is.
If you happen to be obese, yet insanely fit and active, ignore this post. It doesn’t apply to you. However very few people are like this.
But It’s Genetics
Yes some people are better able to be in shape because of good genetics. However, barring a serious physical illness that prevents exercise, almost everybody can get in shape. The people who are truly genetically unable to become thin are extremely rare (far more rare than the large number of obese people living in just the United States).
Also let’s remember we’re not talking about being an Olympic star or a professional bodybuilder. We’re talking about getting in descent shape. Being a healthy weight. Having a bit of muscle. Having enough endurance to live an active lifestyle.
Most people who say they can’t get physically fit never exercised and followed a healthy diet for a good length of time. Figure six hours of exercise a week and a low calorie diet and I can guarantee you’ll see results after a year. The truth is most of these people do this stuff irregularly (which is useless since your body doesn’t have time to grow muscle or adapt to the changes) or they do it for short periods of time like a month (which again is useless, because you’d just be starting to develop some endurance and muscle when you quit).
But It’s Expensive
This usually goes hand in hand with “If I could afford to pay thousands of dollars for a personal trainer I’d have a great body too.” No you wouldn’t. Trainers are not magical fairies that grant wishes. If you don’t have the discipline and willpower to get into descent shape on your own, I doubt a trainer can get you into great shape.
The truth is, it’s not expensive to exercise. If you really think you need a trainer, most gym memberships come with some free sessions and most gym’s offer additional sessions that are within most people’s price ranges. If you don’t have money for a gym membership up front, most will be willing to put you on a payment plan if you ask for it (I actually paid every two weeks for three months, plus a small down payment, to afford my membership). And eating healthier is actually cheaper than eating unhealthy.
Even if you can’t afford a gym membership right now though, you can still exercise cheap. A $20 yoga mat is all you need to do any yoga pose, and you can also do sit-ups and push-ups and crunches on it. For about $20 more you can get some ten and twenty-five pound hand weights. These will let you do all sorts of exercises to build upper body strength. And a $30 pair of comfortable shoes is all you need to run around the block and get a good cardio work-out while losing weight.