Belief is a powerful tool in magic, and in spirituality in general. Belief is a funnel for attention and intention. Whether you believe in something because you genuinely believe in it or believe in it for the sake of something you are trying to achieve, belief has a purpose in magical work. I find the following passage to be illustrative of the importance of belief in magical work:
Be it noted that we do not have to believe or disbelieve in the actuality of such inner agencies per se. what we must believe in is the possibility they exist in their own state of being, yet are capable of interaction with ours by unspecified means or degrees...We need not believe in 'spirit' unless we want to, but we positively must believe in our capability of living and behaving as if the energies available to such entities might be employed on our behalf. From Exorcizing the Tree of Evil by William G. Gray
In Pop Culture Magic 2.0 I discuss how to create pop culture systems of magic , but what I thought I would share here is the actual creation of such a system. I'm in the process of developing my own system around the Batman mythology. I picked Batman, because I've always liked Batman and felt a connection to that particular mythology. However instead of starting with the obvious approach of working with the characters of the mythology, I decided to take a different approach.
My initial work has been around connecting with the prominent places in the mythology Batman, starting with Gotham City, but also including places in and around it that factor significant into the Batman mythology. One of my reasons for focusing on the spaces of the Batman mythology is because of how the characters (and the writers of the comic) refer to those spaces as living beings. For example, there are numerous references to how Gotham is alive and how different characters need to be careful because of how Gotham can interact with them. Now this might be meant metaphorically, but what it creates is a mythological narrative around the actual spaces in the Batman mythology and that narrative can be worked with as well as working with the characters. I think it can actually enhance the work you do with the characters in this mythology and would suggest that you can apply this concept to any pop culture system of magic.
I read my first fantasy book when I was 7 or 8. It was The Hobbit and it conjured up a magical world of adventure that I was fascinated by. I didn't stop at The Hobbit. I read the Greek Myths and then I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and later the Dragonlance sagas. Inevitably my favorite characters were the magicians or the people who somehow or another got some magical object that gave them an advantage in the adventure. As I grew up, I never got over my fascination with magic or fantasy books for that matter. And as I read each book, I thought about magic a lot and wondered if it was real or just some element of fantasy. Yet it was because of fantasy books that I discovered that magic was real.
When I was 16, a fellow student in my high school sat me down and told me about his experiences on the astral plane. He later admitted that he told me his experiences because he noticed I liked to read fantasy books and he was hoping to freak me out. The last thing he expected was for me to ask, with baited breath, if I could learn myself and if there were books on the topic. The next day he brought me a couple books and I eagerly read them and did the exercises, to see what would happen. At last, I had found out magic was real and more importantly that I could do it myself. It wasn't the same magic as what I read about in fantasy books, but it was something and I took that to heart. I read every book I could find and talked with whoever else was interested in the same topics. I tested everything I read, eager to see what I could do and how far I could take it.
Lately, in my meditation group, we've been doing some work with space/time magic meditations and with spirits associated with space and time. In our most recent session I had the group do a meditation with Purson, a goetic demon who has some specific skills related to time. What I also told the group was that it's important to recognize that their experience of Purson is subjective and that he is only as real as that person wants him to be. That may seem like an odd statement to make, but the group was comprised of people that ranged from atheists to people who believe in the objective existence of spirits, and so I felt it was important to acknowledge that a wide range of experiences could happen that would nonetheless be significant to each participant and wouldn't necessarily invalidate any of the experiences. All the participants accepted that explanation and then we had our various encounters with Purson.
Spiritual experiences, by their nature, are subjective. For example I believe that spirits are objective beings in their own right. Note the word believe. Believe is a word rooted in subjectivity. That's what I believe, but I can't really prove it. I can tell you about my experiences and I can cite other people who've had experiences in their own right which tells that what they encountered is real, but its ultimately subjective. For that matter so is the argument that the spirit is just a psychological aspect the person is drawing upon. Again we can find a variety of people who will argue that position and draw on their experiences, but it's still subjective.
Every day I make it a point to give myself a moment of stillness. That moment of stillness isn't a short moment either. It's as long as it needs to be. Usually it occurs shortly after I've had breakfast and before I've started my work day. I do it then because I'm still just waking up and its an optimum time to still myself before getting into whatever the day will involve. This moment of stillness is my meditation time. I do a series of meditation exercises, all of which lead me deeper and deeper into a state of stillness, which unfolds within it non-conceptual awareness.
Non-conceptual awareness is the experience of being without doing, judging, categorizing or filtering anything. You just are. The value of that experience is that it allows me to just be without stressing about anything I need to do. Sometimes in the process of doing that work, some emotions will come up or some thoughts will happen and I don't go out of my way to dismiss them. I just let them be as well, because I find in doing that it really brings my awareness to where I need to be, present with whatever is coming up that needs to be worked through, accepted, or otherwise processed.
One of the reasons I apply process to my magical work is because with good processes in place, it makes easier to innovate and experiment with magic. I learned that in the business world and I've applied to my spiritual practices over the years to great success. You can actually learn a lot by taking the practice of one discipline and applying it to another discipline. In business, processes are used to solve problems, design and implement solutions, and to encourage creativity. Process encourages creativity by cutting out extraneous busy work, to focus on what really works, but in order to discover what works you necessarily need to work the process.
A lot of times creativity is treated as a chaotic experience, which occurs when a person is inspired. But in my experience, creativity is quite structured. Process provides the necessary structure for creativity to flourish in. Whether I'm writing, painting, or practicing magic, having a process in place allows me to work with my creativity as a resource. I'm not just waiting for inspiration to hit me...I'm actively cultivating it as part of my process.
Lately I've been doing a lot of internal work around aging. When I was at Pantheacon a couple weeks ago, I got into a conversation about aging and my realizations that in some ways I've been very resistant to it, wanting to stay young forever. I've never had an issue with dying or death, because I've had multiple near death experiences, but aging is something I haven't wanted to acknowledge. Yet at 38, I feel a difference in my body. I wake up and I need to stretch more than I used to. I have a bit of a belly now, and I eat less food because my metabolism is slower. I have less hair on my forehead and I realize I am changing. I am still relatively young, but aging happens and no matter what creams I put on my face, or how much or little food I eat, or what exercise I d0, I can't change the fact that I am aging. What I can change is how well I take care of myself.
In the Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts, Seth (an entity channeled by Roberts) makes the following observation about aging and people: "If you desperately try to remain young, it is usually to hide your own beliefs about age, and to negate all of those emotions connected with it." It's an insightful point that made me think about my own fixation on age. I realize I am so resistant to aging because I have this particular image of myself, this particular state of being, and what I see in the mirror doesn't reflect that. I'm changing and being in denial about that change isn't really serving me.