Solid-Void Theory and Magic (by Jason Miller)
Solid-void theory is a concept in architecture which holds that the spaces shaped or implied by the placement of solid objects is just as important, or more important, than the objects themselves.
If you are intent on designing your life willfully, its not a bad idea to keep some basic design concepts in mind. Mankind has produced innumerable practices for both magic and mindfulness. You can’t do them all, and you shouldn’t try, but a lot of people are telling me lately that they are feeling overwhelmed by the very practices that are meant to help keep them sane and improve both spiritually and materially. These practices are like the objects of solid void theory. If we have too many objects there are no spaces to move through or to dwell in.
Here is another architectural concept: suburban and rural buildings are freestanding objects in space. Urban buildings are often shapers of space.
Why is this important? Because the stage of life you are in matters. When I first out of college, my life was like a suburban space: I could choose whatever practice I wanted to do and just drop in into the space of my life. Become a Ceremonial Magician? Sure thing, I’ll start and end every day drawing pentagrams and hexagrams in the corners of my room right away! Become a Tantric Buddhist? No sweat, I will start now while I save up to move to Nepal for a while and train. It was as easy to drop those things into my life as it would be to build a shed on an acre of hillside.
My life isn’t like this anymore though, and yours probably isn’t either. Family, career, and other responsibilities make my life more like an Urban space. Whatever I add to this space can’t just be plopped in freestanding. Whether I want it to or not it is going shape the space of my life. The space I move and dwell will morph with every change.
Yet, most mindfulness and magical practices do not take this into account. Some were designed for full time contemplatives and now get marketed to stressed out westerners as the key to both peace and productivity. Others are complex and time consuming processes designed for a professional class of priests or magicians that not only were expected to do something that their clients couldn’t, but had both space and financial incentive to keep up. In short many practices that we now have access to were not at all designed for peoples lives whose lives look like ours.
Some spiritual practices are well aware of the way that they shape space in peoples lives, and use it for nefarious purposes. They count on separating you from the “mundane” or “unenlightened” so that they become the all important center. They count on the overwhelm as a method of initiation or “breaking down the ego”. My advice of course is to avoid such practices as they rarely have your best interest at heart.
I have always tried to be mindful of the space in which the practices I teach take place, and focus on practices that can expand and contract on a regular basis. The point is this: the practices you choose help shape the life that you live. If you join a tradition where the practice looks one way all the time, thats fine, as long as you are happy with what your life looks like as a result. If however you find yourself overwhelmed and frazzled by your practices, it may be time to re-evaluate the way that those practices shape the space around them.
Sometimes we think that the longest, hardest, or most complex practices are the best, and that if we are serious about what we do, that is what we should be doing. This is not true. What is best is what is most useful. What use is it to do something so hard that you can’t keep up with it? Does a Shaolin monk know Kung Fu better than someone who goes trains twice a week after work? Of course, but that doesn’t mean that if you want to learn some kung fu, you should give up everything to become a monk!
It’s also worth keeping Parkinsons Law in mind. Work expands to fill the time allotted to it. If you are trying to fit magic or meditation in to your life, you might get 85% of the benefit of doing just 40% of what a “pro” who has all the time in the world does. Sometimes, not all the time, things can be needlessly long, hard, and complex. Depends on the thing.
Louis Khan defined Architecture as the “thoughtful making of space“. I think that Sorcery should be mindful of the thoughtful making of lifespace. That’s all I wanted to say.