A old friend studied physics in the graduate program at Columbia University. He was also an astrologer. He had a particular talent — and respect for — daily horoscopes. Yes, the same sun-sign columns that run in daily newspapers and online. I questioned the method. “It’s a trick,” he replied. “But sometimes a trick works.”
Sometimes a trick works. Most spell workers and practitioners of chaos or ceremonial magick would agree. In fact, the sole question that really matters in all mystical or therapeutic methods is: does it work?
Often a treatment works or fails based on whether the wished-for outcome can reach you along “established lines.” Working with established lines is one of the subtlest and most important points in all of practical spirituality. It means you must pay attention to practical channels of arrival and fulfillment. Success author Wallace D. Wattles put it this way in his 1910 The Science of Getting Rich:
In creating, the Formless seems to move according to the lines of motion it has established; the thought of an oak tree does not cause the instant formation of a full-grown tree, but does start in motion the forces which will produce the tree, along established lines of growth. Every thought of form, held in thinking Substance, causes the creation of the form, but always, or at least generally, along lines of growth and action already established. The thought of a house of a certain construction, if it were impressed upon Formless Substance, might not cause the instant formation of the house; but it would cause the turning of creative energies already working in trade and commerce into such channels as to result in the speedy building of the house. And if there were no existing channels through which the creative energy could work, then the house would be formed directly from primal substance without waiting for the slow processes of the organic and inorganic world.
In practical terms, this means that your goal is likely to reach you along familiar or preexisting channels. For example, if you seek the cure of an illness, the likelihood is not that your illness will spontaneously lift, but rather that you will discover a network of treatments that will produce your recovery. If you are looking for work, the overwhelming odds are that you will make connections and find ideas and leads that will deliver you to what you need — less likely is that someone will just walk up to you and hand you, signed and sealed, exactly what you need.
Some practitioners of chaos magick take this principle a step further. When prescribing a spell or ceremony — which is really just a ritualized intention, no different from from postive-mind or New Thought methods — they insist that, in order for such operations to work, there must be a clear avenue of arrival. For example, if you wish for love but dwell as a hermit there is no obvious channel of delivery. But if you wish for love and actively circulate among people, you are providing an established means or channel for your fulfillment. (This is also a key principle for cultivating good luck — a topic for another day.)
Each individual must study and consider this step for him or herself. Are you asking for something that fits the context of your life, practices, and habits? Is there a foreseeable means of delivery? Or, put from a different perspective, are you neglecting or overlooking patterns of delivery — or perhaps the very arrival of what you want simply because it reaches you in unfamiliar ways?
I recently devised an exercise to help people work with this principle. I call it the 10-Day Miracle Challenge. It is very simple — but, as the title implies, potentially very powerful. It works according to these six steps:
1) Decide on something that you truly and passionately want in your life.
2) Write it down — your wish should be easily boiled down to a single-sentence, such as “I have a peaceful new home nearby.”
3) Set a fixed period of time — in this case 10 days — by which to receive your desired element.
4) Draw a grid of 10 boxes and consecutively cross one out each day to mark your progress toward your aim.
5) Every day, often as you can and as much as you can, pray, visualize, affirm, and meditate upon the realization of your wish.
6) Finally — and here is the most important part — watch very carefully for the arrival of your aim, and take care not to overlook or discount the means by which it arrives.
Your wish could reach you in a wholly unexpected manner, fulfilling your need but arriving in a very different fashion from what you pictured or expected. Or your wish could arrive along such seemingly mundane or ordinary lines that you are apt to miss it, and you overlook the realization of the very thing you need.
The point of this exercise is that our needs are often fulfilled, at least in potential, in ways that we are prone to neglect because the arrival doesn’t resemble our preconceptions, or it happens in such a seemingly mundane fashion that we discount it.
You may, for example, wish for recovery from an injury, but at the same time reject an invitation to a movement or energy medicine class, or the sanctioned advice of a teacher, therapist, or physician, which may set you on the road to wellness Remember: life generally works along previously established lines. Hence, the thing that you wish for may reach you in ways that seem ordinary even though they are the royal road to your fulfillment.
I want to share a joke that drives home this point. During a massive flood a clergyman fled to the roof of his church to avoid being swept away in the waters. A man in a raft came by and told him to come aboard. The clergyman refused. “God will save me,” he said. Someone rowed by in a boat and urged him to come on it. But again the clergyman refused. “God will save me,” he said. Finally, a helicopter appeared overhead and dropped a ladder. But the man waved it away. “God will save me!” he yelled. The floodwaters eventually overtook the clergyman and he drowned. Upon reaching heaven he protested to God, “I’ve served you all my life! Why didn’t you save me?” To which God replied: “I didn’t save you? I sent the raft, I sent the boat, I sent the helicopter…”
The lesson is: Remain open. Take the road when it appears. Reject nothing out of hand. And never neglect established means. Watch for them.
For more on the 10-Day Miracle Challenge: