Trance and the Two Powers
Concerning the Nature of Trance
Trance, or meditation, is the willed management of mental states. These mental states are often referred to as `altered states of consciousness', but in fact there is hardly any `normal' state of consciousness. Every day as we go through our lives and work, our state of consciousness changes according to our need. When we read a novel, drive a familiar route, focus on a project, daydream, we enter different mental states. In everyday life we have little control over such states, drifting through them by habit and native ability. When we begin to take conscious control of these states, we enter the realm of magic.
When we approach the work of ritual, it is best to begin with a specific basic, light trance. Basic trance is defined as a combination of concentration, relaxation and the suspension of the inner critic. This state is easy to achieve, with the simple exercises given below. Skill in this basic trance can be improved by practicing the relaxation and meditation exercises given in the second section. To this basic state is added the visualization of the Two Powers, in which the spiritual powers of cosmic Fire and Water are drawn into the personal body and mind. From that combination - basic entrancement empowered by the Two Powers - every sort of spiritual work can proceed.
Dion Fortune defined magic itself as `the art of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will'. While we may extend the definition of magic beyond that, it is certainly true that successful magic depends on the ability to reach the state we will call Basic Trance. Basic Trance is characterized by several things: a relaxed body, a mind open to inputs and a focused awareness. From Basic Trance we can develop many kinds of magical altered states, useful for energy-work in healing, vision-journeying and seership, invocation and spellbinding of all sorts.
The work of trance is work. It responds best to diligent effort, as surely as the body responds to physical effort. Begin with the basics, and the vast inner world of trance, vision and meditation will open before you.
The Complete Breath
The Wise know that to control the breath is to control the mind. To begin, sit comfortably, with your spine straight. Your tailbone should be higher than your ankles, your hands resting loosely on your lap or on the arms of your chair. Your eyes may be slightly open, or closed. You then begin a pattern of rhythmic breathing.
Proper breath comes from the diaphragm. When you inhale, your lower abdomen should expand, as though you were pulling air into the bottom of the lungs. Then fill the rest of the lungs, expanding the chest. When the breath is held, do not close the throat. Keep the diaphragm and chest expanded to let the air rest in the lungs. Exhaling reverses the process, emptying the chest then raising the diaphragm by pressing the belly toward the backbone. Again, the breath is held out of the body by the muscles of the chest and belly, not by closing the throat.
Tradition offers several patterns for rhythm of the breath. Many people like the classic 4/4 pattern - in for four beats, hold for four beats, out for four beats, hold for four beats. Another popular method is to take twice as many beats to exhale as to inhale. The speed of the rhythm is up to you. A little practice will allow you to find a pace that is comfortable, neither too slow nor too fast. Some prefer a pattern with shorter holds, perhaps in - 2, hold - 2, out - 4, hold - 2.
If you are beginning meditation, your daily practice need be no more than the practice of the Complete Breath, perhaps practiced as a preliminary to your devotions, until it is habitual and comfortable. You will find that it shades naturally into the core techniques of trance and meditation.
Simple Pre-Ritual Entrancement
- Stand firm, and take three complete breaths. Find and release tensions in your body as you breathe.
- Keep your breath rhythmic, and focus on the feeling of your feet touching the ground or floor. For a moment, let your whole attention be on the place where your feet touch the world.
- Close your eyes, and find the pulse of your heart; in your chest, in your veins, feel the salt flow of your life.
- Breathe deep, and feel the air flow through you, connecting you with the whole world.
- Stand firm, on the land. Feel the beating of your heart, and breathe deep. Finally, imagine that a cool white light is shining from your forehead.
- With your attention focused on these things, open your eyes, maintaining these concentrations, and begin your ritual.